Monday, July 28, 2008

PRISE Wet'n Wild: I

I know that this happened weeks ago, but it was just too fantastic to overlook. That afternoon turned out to be one of those golden moments in life that deserve to stay forever emblazoned on an photo album prominently displayed for every one in the (cyber) world to see. What is this Hallmark moment I'm referring to? Well, you can perhaps guess from the title (no, it's not the whale watch - that's the upcoming PRISE Wet'n Wild: II).

On a dazzling summer afternoon, when the right number of clouds and the ideal amount of sunlight mixed to form a perfect outdoor atmosphere, 16 of us PRISE fellows opportunely decided to go kayaking up the slumbering Charles River (thanks to the suggestion by Megan Blewett).

Upon receiving Megan's email, I was thrilled about such opportunity because this would be my first time kayaking (or for that matter maneuvering any kind of motorless water vehicle). As excited as I was when I first tried driving a car, I donned the appropriate attire (flip-flops and shorts) and raced downstairs to meet the others. The trek to the kayak rental place was by no means modest: We had to cross the river towards the football stadium and circumscribe half of the enormous soccer field - a good 30 minutes of walk.

Already warmed up for the exertion that lied ahead, we took a kayaking safety quiz upon our arrival, passed it, put on life jackets, chose our paddles, stored valuables in waterproof bags, and precariously climbed into our double kayaks.

At the beginning, paddling the kayak was easier than I expected, at least in terms of moving the apparatus on the water. Controlling its direction, however, was another whole story. Because I was lighter than my roommate Charles, I sat on the front and was responsible for steering the kayak in the right course. To keep it in going straight, we both had to time our strokes with painful precision, in addition to paddling with the same strength, both of which we failed to accomplish. As a result, instead of easily gliding in a straight line, we awkwardly zigzagged left and right, expending more energy than ever necessary for experienced kayakers.

Aside from burning arm muscles, the ride upstream Charles (the river) was almost ethereal. Water gently gurgled beside us as we broke the placid liquid surface with our paddles. The tree tops were painted orange by the slanted sunrays. Geese and families of ducks crossed our paths (or rather we crossed theirs), and lily pads undulated with the waves. The entire experience was pleasantly pristine until we encountered plastic bottles, tennis balls, and unidentifiable gunk floating in the water. From time to time, a putrid smell would waft up into my nose, especially when we traversed under the bridges dabbled with graffiti.

(Deliberate) splashing was of course inevitable. Whenever we surreptitiously approached another kayak, Charles and I used our paddles to beat water onto the unsuspecting PRISE fellows. By the time we decided to turn around and head back downstream (after a good 40 minutes of paddling), puddles of water accumulated in our kayaks. I could feel the lukewarm water continually lapping my butt.

Anyway, the way back downstream was easier, but not significantly. Charles river at that location did not carry a strong current, so the decreased paddling effort was hardly noticeable, if at all. The return ride did seem quicker, but I presume such impression was partly psychological, since since we were more familiar with the surroundings and kayaking in general.

After roughly one hour on the water, we docked and payed (correct me if I'm wrong) $15 per person, a very affordable price it appears. With our waterlogged clothes, we headed back towards good old Leverett G-tower carrying our stuff and the smell of Charles River, but not before we posed for an irresistible group photo (very FOP-py).

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