The well-tanned guide with long messy hair, tied negligently in a tail, grabs his little dog, the size of his palm and puts it in the front of the kayak. I am just settling into mine when I feel a push from behind and hop – I am in the river floating on my yellow kayak, trying to figure how to use the paddles without revealing I have no clue what I am doing.
“Have you kayaked before?” Alex, the guide, asks me.
“Ummm, yeah sure, several times.” which stands for “I have been in a kayak with someone and I saw what they were doing.”
“So, this thing… the kayak… is it easy to flip over in the water?” I ask.
“Nah, it’s very difficult to flip really, I wouldn’t take my little dog on, if there was anything to worry about.” responds Alex and starts rowing and moving onto the water as if he never did anything different.
The rainy season is just at its end, it has apparently been a wet year because the Mangroves are quite submerged in the muddy water, Alex explains. While he doesn’t seem like anything above 30-years old, he has been taking tourists to the Mangroves for some years now and he knows everything about the flora and the fauna in the area.
The Mangrove trees are something rather unique. They grow in coastal areas and when the tide is low or there isn’t much rain, they are rather exposed, but they are usually flooded by the ocean water coming in. Their most unique feature is their entangled root system, which crates a beautiful root labyrinth above the water.
There is something mysterious and very beautiful, but also rather disturbing about this forest. The swampy river is quite wide in the beginning, not requiring too much skill for me to move forward but it quickly becomes narrower and starts requiring some maneuvering. Furthermore, due to the recent rains and the proximity to the mountain, the water flowing through the trees is rather dark brown, than transparent, so it seems like the perfect home for caimans.
I get more and more confronted with the fact that I am scared and I need to compose myself, otherwise at the next root passage, I will prove the “impossible” – that I can actually very skillfully flip over and fall in the sludgy Mangroves. I get angry at my inadequate reactions.
I decide to take up a new approach. I lay back in my kayak and let the current float me through the trees. I start feeling the scent of the Mangrove trees and the wet earth. I see a big blue bird, perhaps a Heron, says Alex. I finally manage to start enjoying my experience, seeing how amazingly beautiful and unique this place is, and immersing in the green and brown work of art.
Just like it happens in real life, though, when you decide to simply go with the flow, you go somewhere unexpected, and not necessarily desired. Not after long, I hit another complex root and get seriously stuck this time. I cannot go anywhere unless I fight. I don’t know what to do, how to row, how to balance. My heart rate increases and I start sweating and trembling. My transition from awe to vulnerability is quick.
Determined, I manage to catch some distant directions from Alex, blow my messy hair off my face and wipe my sweaty hands in my loose bright pink beach top. I grab the root bending above my head with my rather tender and skinny left arm to push myself away, while using my right one to row backwards with the paddle. Magically, I find myself out of the roots and still sitting firmly on my kayak.
I have overcome something today, something to scare me and put me outside of my comfort zone. Now I can keep going, not with the flow this time, but in the direction I want.
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