our regularly scheduled program of (see 21 july entry) has been interrupted today by a near death experience white water rafting on the dalaman river. we woke up this morning at 6am and after grumpily throwing pillows at tsafi’s head while he tried to wake me i finally relented and we went on a walk during sunrise. we walked on paths east that we’d never walked before. there were country cabins with huge maroon pillows set on elevated wood platforms over the water. i photographed footprints in sand, flower petals and the shimmer of sunrise on the water as i successfully fought off the beginnings of a cold. we past a man training a happy dog and partygoers without a hotel room passed out on beach furniture. we stopped into the travel place across the street fro our hotel and spoke to our favorite marmaris-ite, james, who lives in istanbul…”his name is james like my name is your mother” tsafi said, insinuating that he fabricates his name according to which country the tourist is from…. but we played his game. i was called leyla and tsafi was ahmet. we would be known by these names the rest of our time in marmaris.
we booked the 7 island cruise and other escapades from him. so we stopped in at 8:20am and struck up a deal for $66 for both of us to go rafting today and then $30 for us to go horseback riding tomorrow. by 8:45 we were on a bs through the mountains of turkey. air conditioning here is not like it is in other parts of the world…it’s like a very subtle cool fan on you, if at all. nowhere is it overly-conditioned like you might find at nj malls.
so we climbed higher on the mountains seeing marmaris get further and lower from us. we were still on paved roads at this point. we passed hoses tied high on trees with falling water that later i would guess it was a primitive yet just-as-efficient car wash. these hoses always seemed to be on which leads me to believe that turkey does not have a water shortage. in fact, i found out that just 2 days ago it was raining all over turkey up til just north of us.
we passed turkpetrol gas stations, trees growing from rocks and bright pink flowers growing from those trees. the bus struggled uphill as we took to the unpaved roads. dark gravel and nothingness until we got to ecoraft’s base camp where we were fitted for helmets and life vests, both of which were too big on me. the helmet fell into my eyes…but that’s what they gave me.
so we sit at tables, around 50 of us and get briefed by matt, the wonderfully funny indiana-jones-wanna-be who is ‘originally from london, but rode the rapids in new zealand for alot of time’. he has an arabic tattoo around his wrist that says ‘god protect me in the water’. he said the expression ‘excellent stuff’ alot; like a tic in a cute accent.
he gave us some safety tips…like if you fall into the water, ride the rapid lying on your back looking at your toes, never try to swim or to stand as your legs will rake all the rocks. he showed us scars on his legs as proof. and basic stuff like never taking off your helmet or life vest. we all split up and jumped in smaller safari vehicles for the rugged mostly-steep uphill terrain towards ther rapids. we each had 2 rafts strapped to the roofs. it was an hour and a half journey through raw turkey…. (raw turkey! lol… hee hee)
we saw naked little boys in teva sandals wave to us wildly from the edge of stone squares that had water filling up in it. each house had one black tube spewing water into old stone squares near the house. i don’t know if that was their water supply or for recreation. dusty overdressed muslim women scowled in our direction. a young boy maneuvered a wheelbarrow up a steep hil. there were landslides, narrow rugged pathways sandwiched between mountains and a stone’s throw away from death. there were a few times i even cowered away from the window, unable to take my gaze from the turning car tires and an inch to the left of dropout to a bottomless cavern. my ears popped as we rode the pathway to the beginning of our 14km playground. one of the safari buses broke down midway.
so we get to the starting point; tsafi and i walk to the chalky luminescent green water to test the temperature; freezing cold to him, refreshly perfect to me. this was his first time white water rafting!
the guides set up the rafts in the shade and we got more safety tips…”don’t put sunscreen on your forehead.” matt said, “the water will put that excellent stuff into your eyes'”. “don’t put sunscreen on the backs of your legs,” he continued, “the sunscreen is oil-based. the rafts are rubber-based and pretty soon you’ll be river-based.” he was very funny like that. had us all laughing. so we have cake and hiC punch; tsafi leaves my favorite polar bear always-stay-cold thermos on the (wrong) bus (which later disappeared) and then we get paired up. we were 7 all together. our turkish guide, onur, and a group of 4 from holland. (most tourists here are from holland). he teaches us commands like “forward” and “back pedal” where we synch up our ors to whoever was in front of us and then “jump left” and “jump right” where we immediately had to sit practically on the person opposite from us to affect the weight distribution on the raft.
we were shown how to bring someone up from the water, by the lapels of their life vest adn how to use the ors with one hand over the T square and the other gripped mid-way.
so that was it! we began the journey…. we started heading on down the dalaman river… all the rapids were grade 4 out of 6 (6 being death). there were impossibly placed rocks and raging water. 2 of the 8 rapids nearly killed some of us and left some crying. we were approaching a rapid called “slingshot”. as i explained in english-teacher-eeze to tsafi what a slingshot was, onur warned us that sometimes those on the right side of the boat fall out so us, on the left, were quite relaxed.
we hit the rapid and it thrashed us…i saw the right side come up and in one quick motion everyone on my side had fallen out mid-rapid. i’m talking raging rock-ridden swells. i see tsafi’s face in confusion of how to grab me and over i go… i was pushed up for one big suck of air and then i’m under the water…
everything turned into a sea green slow motion. the force of the current was keeping my head down and when i went to pop up in the direction that i thought was God, i hit my head on the underside of the raft. i kept hitting at the same soft spot in the middle and to my horror, realized that i must be travelling at the same speed as the raft. my only hope was to pull my legs up to try to race past the raft. all this time rocks were having their way with the lower half of my body.
in this slow-motion panic, i saw clearly that i had two choices; preserve my air by relaxing my lungs and hope for sky soon or breathe in the water and let go into a fate i must have chosen.
i felt tsafi search for me from the other end of the raft. he was the only one left in the boat at that point. his urgent arms grabbed me and in one smooth movement, he threw me head-first into the raft.
he would later paint me the whole picture of how he saw me go under the boat and picked me up on the other side just before my body would have slammed into jagged rocks, literally a second later. “didn’t you feel the slam into the wall after i threw you in?!” he asked. no, i hadn’t. i first stared at my hands to make sure i was all there and then i swung wild realizing we were still mid-rapid and everyone was fending for themselves. tsafi’s army training came out as he valiantly asked “who’s next?” but by that time there was nothing left to do. one of the dutchmen climbed on board. i tried to grab him by the lapels but you could tell his pride wasn’t going to let himself be saved by a girl.
we were out of the rapid and managed to beach ourselves amid a caboose of worried rafters already there. another guide had jumped on board to help us maneuver and as was customary after a rapid, we hi-fived with our ors in the air with a great big shout of adrenaline. in our case it was actually a hi-three but loud nonetheless. the rest of the rafters applauded and i curtseyed in true princess adventurist fashion. what was there to applaud? i almost friggen died! there just was nothing graceful in that slingshot rapid, except of course my amazing tsafi that saved my life.
the others were bruised and battered; one sweet girl with a bleeding and swollen leg was crying saying “this sucks!” but then managed to get in better spirits with the reassurance that the worst was over… but not yet…
the very next rapid had us heading into a lagoon with rushing water and a jagged rock shelf coming straight at our chests. “get in the raft!! inside! inside! jump down!” screamed onur, our guide, whose fault it was that we headed that way in the first place! we were still shaking from our last rapid experience and here it was that everyone fell out of the boat AGAIN, as raging water filled up the raft. i clung to onur who was holding onto the boat and the jagged edge at the same time… and tsafi, unwilling to let me out of his sight, held onto the raft until he started to swallow water and then onur shouted at him to ride the rapid, to let go… so he did and i turned to onur full of fear asking what to do. the water was pounding us into the crevice in the mountain and just very smoothly and unexpected he grabbed me and let go of the raft and we rode the rapid together with my heart pounding out of my chest like a squirrel monkey in a thunderstorm.
the raft caught up to us and we beached again to reassemble. some people were ready to be done with the whole thing while, i, thankful for onur’s help really began doubting his skill or maybe it was just that we weren’t paddling hard enough. regardless, i reset my expectation button and tried to shrug it off making jokes about us all being on survivor.
some rapids were so treacherous because of a recent landslide that we actually had to walk around them. i mean grabbing for rocks hoisting yourself up and around the rapid. my knee was turning colors and decided to quit on me so i used parallel rocks as crutches.
the rest of the rapids were cake. i would rest my knee in cold water to stop anymore swelling…but it was very painful. the last rapid was for swimming through it as it was deeper than the others. i stayed in the raft and hobbled up to the ecoraft base camp where we all ate together. rice, chips (fries), salad and some meat yucky thing. we chatted with some people. the holland friends were very nice. they will email me photos they ordered from the overpriced ecoraft photographer that followed us around all day in a kayak. i stuck out my tongue and gave the devil hand sign through some of the rapids. i hope they ordered those! hee hee….
we talked more with matt, the indiana jones character. he has infectious boundless energy.
we headed back to marmaris in two buses as the sun was setting. our bus, of course, broke down and as we all stood next to a decaying carcas of a dog roadside, the guides called for another bus that would meet us at the next petrol station.
so we all pile into the crowded second bus and head off. tsafi and i stay on all the way to marmaris, get off and give james, across the street from our hotel, a huge smile and a thumbs up.
“it was awesome!!” we tell him…as tsafi picks mud from my eye….