Friday, March 9, 2012


I have never been too fond of adventure. No roller coasters or fast cars for me. I am not much of a swimmer either: just manage to keep afloat and do a few light strokes. But, white water rafting on the Kelani River has banished my fear of adventure for life! Approximately eighty km from Colombo, on the road to Nuwara Eliya is Kitulgala, a small town whose name is derived from the ‘kitul’ tree which abounds here. This town’s claim to fame-it was the location for David Lean’s 1957 classic” Bridge on the river Kwai”.

We are a bunch of women, of varying ages with a quest for ‘something out of the ordinary realms of our experience’ and our guide recommends this ‘thrilling’ activity. Visions of being thrown overboard and battling the icy-cold waters haunt me. I think of the thriller ‘River wild’ where Kevin Bacon held Meryl Streep hostage on a white-water trip! We strap on our helmets and life jackets with some misgivings, and listen to safety instructions from our guide, Nisanka.
The Kelani River is rock-strewn and the rapid that we are going to tackle is 6-5 km in length. There are seven rapids with intriguing names like Virgin’s Breast, rib-cage and Butter Crunch! We  paddle forward towards our first rapid and as Nisanka yells,” Forward!” my adrenalin pumps up and I grip the paddle tight and hold on to the leash on the sides of the raft. The foamy cappuccino like waters and the light-as- a wisp raft seem to have a life of their own...I am lying flat on the floor of the raft and still on board! I am admonished gently by Nisanka, for flouting his commands.

 We float along, listening to the instructions for the next rapid, which has low overhanging branches (therefore called the Head-chopper). Some deep breathing calms my insides and the next rapid makes me proud! I duck from the branches and paddle as instructed-Nisanka beams at me and I feel like an Olympic runner on the finish line. Not quite, as the next one is the double rapid- the Ribcage. As we paddle furiously, my raft-mate loses balance, falls on me and we are both lying flat (again) on the floor of the raft. Alive and kicking, though dunked in the icy cold waters again! Nisanka offers to let us float for some time on the gentle stream now, and a few of us jump in and float peacefully with our life jackets on reassured by this slow pace.

We float past the foundations of the bridge which was built and blown up for the movie ‘The bridge on the river Kwai’.I yearn for a waterproof, disposable camera! Next time? I am actually contemplating another white water experience? As we reach the end of our journey, I bask in the glow of achievement and I alight from the raft with the cool-dude swagger of a professional rafter! Courage is after all one more moment of fear.

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