Ok, so I didn’t nearly die. At the time, it felt like it. About a month ago, I decided to go canoeing with one of my favorite tour companies in Prague. They organize awesome outdoors trips around Czech Republic and Slovakia for really good prices. I’m more of a kayaker than a canoer, but I thought I’d give it a try. After a month of anticipating this trip, the day finally came. We set off in the morning for Beroun, where we’d get a quick lesson on canoes and safety and then hit the water for a 13 km paddle.
The first half, things were pleasant. We weren’t exactly great at steering, but that was part of the fun. We stopped about halfway through and some of the group went on a short hike, while I stayed behind and watched rock climbers (I forgot sneakers, so only had the Crocs I was wearing in the canoe). It was a gorgeous day and very fun to watch the people climbing. After the rest of the group returned, we paddled about 500 m down the river to a restaurant where we had a lovely lunch. We got back in the boats, excited for the next bit of the river which included a water step. We knew we were likely to fall out, but that’s where the fun is, right?
Of course, this is where things started to get hairy. When it was our turn, my partner and I set out to try to conquer the step. Needless to say, we failed. Our boat flipped and I found myself getting pulled under. Trying to stay calm, I remembered to keep my feet up and try to float, but the water kept pulling me under. I couldn’t see the ropes being thrown to me because I couldn’t stay above water for long enough. Luckily, I was in enough shock that I wasn’t too cold. After what felt like ages, but was probably only two minutes, the instructor was there to pull me out of the swirling water and to safety. I sputtered and coughed up the water that had tried to make its way to my lungs and then had a good laugh. It was all I could do. The instructors emptied our boat and we got back in to paddle to shore. This is where things really started to go wrong. We couldn’t go straight and kept heading away to the shore. We knew this was a possibility so we just kept trying to get close and find a place to land. We did for a second, but that didn’t last and we got pulled away. Eventually in these attempts, the boat flipped a second time and we got swept up in the current.
I caught on to a tree, which as it turns out you’re not supposed to do (thank you movies for misinforming me). I hung out there and was able to get my balance and even was able to try getting out. There just wasn’t a path. I had no clue where my partner or the boat ended up, but then I saw the instructor swim past and a couple minutes later I saw my partner emerge from the river. At this point, I realized people couldn’t see me and I started yelling for help. People from our group came and helped me out, but not before I had to go under water one more time to get past the branches. They pulled me out and I stood on shore shivering and shaking– and only half of that was from cold.
We walked back to where everyone else was and where our barrel with dry clothes was. I was pretty singular in my mission to get out of the wet clothes. Even after I got dry and warm, I couldn’t stop shaking. I was terrified of getting back in the boat. But I had to, because we had to get to the finish spot to go home. So, when it was time to leave, I took a deep breath and got back in. It wasn’t so bad. In fact, I started having fun again. Granted, my arms were dead from paddling and hanging on to a tree, but I was very glad I didn’t call it quits. But, I have decided that I am never getting in a canoe again with someone who doesn’t know how to steer and that in general, I’m going to stick to kayaks.
I love the water, I love rivers. I spent a lot of time on the river in high school as a rower and a coxswain. Never have I been so scared of a river. If I hadn’t gotten back on, I might have stayed scared. The last km was gorgeous, like the rest of the paddle, and while I won’t do another canoeing trip anytime soon, I am glad I went. Sort of near death experience and all.