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Of Leeches and Stitches

What makes someone dripping blood, who had gotten stitches a few hours ago, anesthetic still not worn off and a chipped tooth ask “When are we coming back?”

Or why a Class IV kayaker takes a trip with beginners to a river much below his level?

Or why a paddler travels 7 hours on a bus through the back roads to help out on a trip?

I don’t know what makes people keep coming back to the river. At the end of the day, bruised and beaten down, muscles aching, but always grinning, eager for the next trip. There are cheaper thrills elsewhere. Thrills which give a bigger adrenaline rush. Thrills easier to get to.

Maybe it’s because while the water flows under your boat, the river flows through your soul.

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Day 1 – Iruvanjipuzha

After an uneventful journey, we finally reach the Kayakers’ Bungalow at 10am, eager to get on with the day’s activities. The plan was to run the Iruvanjipuzha today and the Chalippuzha the next day.

We put in a pool right below Malabar express. The water levels were higher than what I had paddled the last time. After getting the boats and paddlers in the water we started with some basic ferries to warm up. Bhavpreet decided to get his impromptu t-rescue practice done as well.

Manik decided Elvin was not ready for the run today, and asked him to sit this one out.

So with 2 experts and 3 beginners, the Kayaking Karnage Klub (formed in Dubare a couple of months ago) decided to get the party started. Even though there were only 3 members of the club remaining, we were more than adequate to test the mettle of Manik and Varun.

Bhavpreet took initiative and started flipping left, right and center on every rapid. While that was happening, Indraneel got stuck in the strainers. While Varun was helping Bhavpreet, Manik got stuck in a strainer himself. Manik exited the boat to empty it, and decided he hated the boat enough to send it downstream.

So Manik swam to the next eddy and all of us met up with him there. We landed all the boats, Manik and Varun took a walk through the jungle looking for Manik’s boat. It was hopelessly pinned to a strainer further downstream. Manik came back and got into Varun’s boat. And we decided to continue on.

After the next rapid, Bhav and I took the sickest line ever making the last move backwards. Manik also joined us in the eddy below. Indraneel, deciding that we weren’t having enough carnage, goes straight for the biggest wave he could find and flipped sideways, with an aerial move. He faked a t-rescue and when Manik got close to him, he swam.

Bhav and I landed and got some sun, while Manik went chasing after Indraneel and his boat. While we were enjoying the scenery (we saw a Kingfisher), Varun and Manik show up and ask us to take a hike through the jungle, while they would paddle our boats down.

With a script straight out of an old school Indiana Jones flick, Varun started giving us directions. We had to swim for a few meters, catch the eddy, trek through the jungle till we see a big black rock. Beyond that there would be 100 meter canal, after which we would have to pull a lever and avoid a big boulder, swing over the pit of fire, steal the medallion, dodge the arrows of the natives and fight off the dogs.

Once we did all that, we caught up with Indraneel, who was in a philosophical mood. After the successful rendezvous, we trekked through the rubber estates to where Indraneel and Varun were. We decided to take a break while Manik and Varun went to retrieve Manik’s boat with the help of a local.

The local just walked into the river and freed Manik’s boat, which Manik then paddled to where we were.

After we thanked the local, we were all regrouped, and were also joined by Indraneel and Elvin. The group finally was full and ready to tackle the next rapid. This was the rapid just before the strainer section and looked pretty straight forward. It was just Elvin, me and Bhavpreet who flipped on it. I thought I had made it to the end of the rapid, but there was two hidden waves right after the big one. Lesson learnt – never relax until you are in an eddy.

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I swam with the boat and paddle lost. Swam to the eddy on the left. Manik and Varun went chasing after Elvin’s and my boat. Bhav’s boat was stuck in a strainer, his paddle nowhere in sight. After struggling to free his boat, we couldn’t budge it. Manik showed up and walked the boat out to the left bank. We got Bhav’s and Elvin’s boat out of the water and walked it to the road.

I went ahead to the bridge. At the bridge I met up with Indraneel and was relieved to see my boat and paddle were safe. So at the end of the day, we had lost one paddle which Bhav was using.

Finally, while having evening tea, I noticed blood on my left leg. It seems during the trek, a leech decided to taste some kayaker blood. So all said and done, we lived up to the reputation of blood drawn on the first day.

Day 2 – Chalippuzha

After the adventures of yesterday, we were still bummed over the lost paddle. Manik and Varun decided to run the Iruvanjipuzha and look for the paddle while we were waiting at the hanging bridge on Chalippuzha. Manik and Varun triumphantly returned with the lost paddle and started the festivities for the day.

It was a calm paddle with no incidents. We spent some time in a pool, practicing our rolls. Elvin got his first roll and rolled seven times after that.

We decided to amp it up on the Game of Thorns. I was having a pretty fun ride till now. This is where I decided to make my mark felt and flipped after the first rapid and decided to tackle the rest of the rapid underwater. To spice things up I got intimate with a rock on the way down and banged up my nose.

Indraneel who had gone before me had flipped at the end of the rapid, in the pool below and took a swim. Bhav and Elvin decided to take things slow here and made it safely through.

Now comes the rapid I like to call the “Chipped Tooth”, also known as the bridge rapid. After the first hole, we catch the eddy on the left. After that there is a nice pool on the right. You peel out from the pool for a smooth ride to calmer waters.

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Bhav and I made it to the eddy. Next up was Elvin, who wanted no part in this eddy nonsense, and flipped right after the hole. He then went sliding all the way down, in the process he chipped his tooth. Not content with the carnage, he also decided to puncture the lip through and through.

Both Bhav and I got first row seats to the carnage and was easily the highlight of this trip, out performing Indraneel’s flip from yesterday.

Bhav and I made it to the pool. Bhav flipped at the bottom but got his roll. I made it down in style but decided to join the festivities and also flipped on a hidden rock (not really hidden). I also got my roll and Manik was suitably impressed.

While Indraneel took a break below the bridge, Varun and Manik were checking up on Elvin. Bhav and I decided to play in the hole. Bhav went too far into the hole and didn’t lean enough and got flipped hard. He got stuck next to a rock, and since all of us can roll only on one side, his roll failed. His contribution to the day was his bruised shoulder. After a t-rescue from me and we decided to continue to the bridge and see what’s next.

We decided that Elvin needs to go to the hospital for stitches. So while Elvin and Varun left; the rest of us decided to paddle to the house.

After the bridge is a simple wave train which all of us made it through quite easily. There is a wave at the end and Manik was showing us how to surf. While Bhav and I had enough for the day, me bleeding from my nose and Bhav with the bruised shoulder, Indraneel stepped up to the plate.

Now what follows is one of the most bizarre things I have ever had the privilege to witness. Indraneel puts on his nose clip and enters the wave perfectly. Apparently he didn’t like it there and flipped. He tried a roll but couldn’t make it. He then asked for a t-rescue. Manik was there but Indraneel was having none of it. Manik decided to give him a hand of god and roll him over. Manik had to leave his paddle. Now both boats were upright with only 1 paddle between them.

As they were heading into a strainer section, Manik gave the paddle to Indraneel. Indraneel was not quite done yet. He took the paddle from Manik, got stuck in a strainer and asked for a t-rescue again. Unknown to him Manik was also stuck in a strainer with no paddle and no way of reaching him. Indraneel swam and Manik used his paddle and rescued the swimmer and the boat.

We lost Manik’s paddle in the process and searched for it in the strainers for half an hour but couldn’t find it. We decided to head to the house as it was getting late. The rest of the journey was uneventful and we reached the house take out point safely. Elvin and Varun were waiting for us on the bridge.

Bhav and Indarneel wanted one last hurrah before calling it a day. Now the house take-out is slightly tricky as you need to catch the eddy which is a few meters from the main flow. Bhav and Indraneel both missed it and went downstream backwards with Manik chasing after them on the bank. They went around 50 meters downstream before getting on a bank.

And that brings to end our adventures. Bhav with a bruised shoulder. I with a bloody nose and a leech bite. Elvin with a chipped tooth and a punctured lip.

On the way back, with blood still dripping from his lower lip, Elvin asks – “When are we coming back?”

Epilogue

Varun found Manik’s paddle the next day and that means we haven’t lost any gear. Yet.

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