River rock scrambling

Photo: Chris McLennan

Right at this moment, sitting hurts. I lean against the wall, both legs flat out on the sun bleached wooden walkway, toes just slightly hanging over the edge, but leaning perceptibly to the left. My right butt cheek is bruised like it hasn’t been in quite some time and so I enjoy this rare moment of repose balanced carefully between relaxed pleasure and excitement-numbing pain.

It was a rock that started it. A large black stone worn smooth by the constant flow of falling fresh water lurking beneath the water flow to slow my descent and give me something with which to physically remember the river. We stepped off the boat to find a fleet of mountain bikes perched on seats and hand grips just begging for a workout. Naturally we obliged their wishes, flipping over, hopping on, and pedaling away up a steeply paved road to a monument celebrating the crossing of the International Date Line.

Jenni Flanigan, Kaley Swift, and I, goofing around somewhere between today and tomorrow.

Back on the bikes, back down the hill, giddily savoring the first scent of adrenaline in an at least a week, particularly after noticing my back wheel breaks were all but inoperable. Turned a corner then up a steep dirt track with loose stones and sand that caused my back tire to spin uselessly despite my focused effort. Finally at the top we ditched the bikes in the thick bushes and followed a trail along a river as it wound through alternating pools and falls. Our guide vaguely gestured up river describing waterfalls that could double as waterslides allowing us to glide down the smooth worn stones.

I took off eagerly, barefoot, in just bikini top and boardshorts, to take part in one of my all time favorite activities – tropical river rock scrambling. I purposefully avoided the trail preferring to use both hands and both feet to climb, scurry, leap, cross-step, side-step, and shimmy my way to the top. So caught up in the moment, I went well past the designated starting place to the more intriguing fall at the top. Once I stepped to the center and carefully lowered myself to sitting, letting my legs dangle over the edge, caressed by that cool water, I had my first doubts. It was high and looked a bit rough. The landing didn’t appear as soft as described.

I yelled down to the guide who was just out of yelling range, trying hand signals to ask if it was ok to slide here? His response was ambiguous and I paused a few moments longer, allowing the two photographers to take their places. Cameras raised, they encouraged me, and eventually I suddenly decided to go. I tried bracing with my feet, but it was smoother than it looked and I sat back, mouth open in an exuberant smile, til that rock popped up to give me a slight bounce before splashing into the pool. Ouch!

Photo: Chris McLennan

The pain was forgotten in a flush of adrenaline and pure moment-embracing delirium. I slid and climbed and splashed and sauntered and scurried until the bruise started stiffening and the pain set in. Other than the mountain bike-perched descent down that loosely packed dirt trail at a speed just below out of control, the ride was done while wincing through a dull but growing pain and now sitting here I try to focus my mind on feeling it, on savoring it. I mentally connect it to the feeling of living. I could just as easily be sitting here without the again re-opened scrape on my shin, the slightly stuffy sinuses still hosting river water, and the tender tush, but then again, I also wouldn’t be looking out at the passing island with these electrified eyes.

To see the video from the adventure including video footage of the fall slide that led to a bruised backside, click play below:

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