Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Sambar negotiating a riffle
Posted by Hello

What Was I Thinking?!

I am not entirely certain I want to go out for an overnighter on the river again. If it’s not my fellow campers, it’s the damned river.

Sambar’s plan was brilliant in theory, but somewhat erratic in execution. Rather than renting the kayaks on the river, we’d pick them up from EMS (the sports rental, not the dead communist) in Exton; then hoist them atop our cars and drive to the put-in (for the uninitiated that’s where you get into river). At a third the price of the rental at Dingman’s Ferry the deal at EMS was a steal.

In all honesty, I think Sambar’s earnestness got the better of him, not to mention our out-of-wack scheduling; for it was 2 pm when we left Exton and almost 6 pm before we pushed off the gravely shore at Dingman’s Ferry. Being summer in the Northern hemisphere we still had decent sunlight, but never likely enough to cover the 15 miles the “king of kayak” hoped to get us to cover on our first day on the river.

The idea, and I swear Sambar is totally wedded to this, is to cover 28 miles or so between Dingman’s Ferry and The Gap (as in the Delaware Water Gap) in two days. Not impossible for the well muscled and madly motivated, but somewhere in the realms of fantasy for underpowered nerds with minimal motor skills. Sambar, who works out fairly regularly, exorcises his samurai demons each weekend, clearly does not answer to this description; but his cousin, his friend and I most truly do.

Still for a bunch of novices we did all right covering about 12 miles in about two hours on the first evening. I attribute it to early enthusiasm.

We ran a few riffles, walked the water with our hands over a dead stretch or two, but overall, I think the evening flow, aided by the release of water upstream and some well-muscled rowing did the trick. Once again, the sun was well over the hills by the time we got around to looking for a campsite. And this time I cannot blame Sambar, since Naren and I rode point. Sambar was playing Yoda to Praveen who appeared clearly ill at ease.

The site we picked this time was about three miles upstream from our spot last year, and a whole lot more accessible. We took out (kayak-speak for got out of the river) around 8pm, and being able-bodied men and otherwise agreeable, had the tent set up and tea ready in about 15 minutes. No chit-chat, we drained out the water and hauled the kayaks up a short incline close to were we pitched the tent.

The light went out like someone had flipped a switch, and suddenly all the ambient sounds seemed amplified. There was someone stepping on a twig, the water babbling over the pebbles on the river bed, the chirp of the insects and the rustle of the wind through the trees.

I love this part, camping in the wilderness -- wading out into the river in darkness, from the cool of the night into the warmth of the water, from the dry sand onto the nibble of tiny fishes and tickle of the weeds. If only I could drive up to the campsite and pitch tent. There was a bright moon high in the sky this time last year.

This year the moon was cloaked up in a cloud bank and the spring chill had not quite dissipated. Somewhat damp clothes and late spring breeze kept us from getting comfortable By 9:30 pm we had a decent campfire going, but that seemed cold comfort. Warm tea and parathas were nice, but by 10 pm we were clearly cold, and aching – all of us, except Sambar, who was checking out the black emptiness as the fog lay down over the water.

Bengeys, Tiger balms and ibuprofen bottles did a quick round, before we crawled into our sleeping bags. It seemed like forever before we went to sleep. It was cold, dark and I ached in a million muscles. And for some God forsaken reason Leonard Cohen kept singing in the Tower of Song in my head …

“Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I'm crazy for love but I'm not coming on
I'm just paying my rent every day
Oh in the Tower of Song
I said to Hank Williams: how lonely does it get?
Hank Williams hasn't answered yet
But I hear him coughing all night long
A hundred floors above me
In the Tower of Song.”

And then it all went dark.

Posted by Hello