As clueless beginners, we naturally pressed Matt for the scariest whitewater disaster stories he knew before we hit the first rapid. He obliged, and we were silent as we weighed the invested $250 course cost against the prospect of Really Bad Things.
´But don’t worry too much,’ he said, ‘you know, statistically, you’re much more likely to die in the truck on the way to the river.’
We survived the first day, and the second, which posed much more danger because it took place at an Ecuadorian water park. In the pool we shivered through endless unsuccessful tries at rolling while Matt shouted ‘Hula hips! Hula hips!’ As a reward, we were allowed to go down the water slide, although he warned us to try the chute on the right only, to keep the helmet, life-jacket, and nose-clips on, and to edge to the left on the final bend no matter what. This seemed a tad extreme until I got the following note today from my friend Adam Stein, who did the same kayak course (and almost the same whole trip as me, in reverse):
The third day, we took our new roll skills back to the river and finally ran a proper Big Boy’s Class II/III rapid. It probably seemed as threatening as a pool of baby drool to real kayakers, but we felt like heroes of the Amazon, and were still grinning a kilometer or two downriver, where the water was wide and shallow.
Then I heard a honk on my left. Coming towards us, in the river, was a very large yellow dump truck. We were in its path and it wasn’t stopping, though the wheels were nearly submerged. The driver leaned out the window and shouted at us to get out of the way, and we paddled like blenders against the current until we were clear.
Statistically speaking, it would have been an interesting death.