Rafting the Nile . . . and Living to Talk About ItAdd Comment
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I was on the trip of a lifetime. Add Comment
It was a beautiful, sunny day, a perfect day for rafting the rapids.
Best of all, I was in Africa!
My two friends, Tammy and April, hiked down the hill with me toward the river. We were going to raft the rapids of the famous Nile River, the longest river in the world. I couldn’t wait!
I jumped into a big raft. Tammy and April jumped in too. All the other people in the boat were strangers. (I didn’t care about that right then, but I would later on.)
A very cool, young Australian guy announced that he would be our guide.
Everything was looking good so far!
He gave us a piddly training exercise: “This is how to use your paddle.”
“This is how to fall out of the boat. Here’s how to get back in.”
“See that rope on the side of the raft? If the raft tips over, grab that rope.
Whatever you do, no matter what, don’t let go of the rope!”
We weren’t paying much attention to the instructions. We wanted to get started! The water was blue; the sky was clear. Wild, adventurous Africa beckoned.
We started off, with April and I paddling in the very front. Who wanted to sit in the back and see Africa after the others? Not me. Whatever happened, I wanted to experience it front and center.
And boy, would I ever.
With each new rapid our guide shouted directions.
“Row harder to the left!”
It felt great getting through each rapid without tipping the raft over. We were getting pretty good at this!
The water got calm for a while. We relaxed and sort-of paddled while our guide told us stories about the crocodiles in the river.
Nervously we started looking around.
“Did you see one over there?”
“I think so. I’m not sure. Maybe.” We all were half hoping to see one, and half hoping we wouldn’t—especially after the guide told us about foolish boaters who left the main route of the river and got a chunk bitten out of their boat!
As we floated along, the strangers in the boat started feeling a little restless, a little bored. Things weren’t exciting enough.
“Let’s tip the raft and see if we can flip the boat over!” they decided.
“OK.” When the water was calm like this, I was all for it.
“No, let’s tip the boat in a rapid!”
Well, that was a bad idea. It wouldn’t have been so bad tipping in the class 1 or 2 or even 3 rapids we’d gone through. But we were headed straight for a class 5!
Now, if you ask me, class 5 is not fun. Class 5 is the most intense rapid you’re allowed to raft without it being just plain too dangerous to be legal. We heard stories about experienced guys who died when they got stuck in the rocks below and the rapids’ violent current kept them down, like a baby’s tiny sock in a huge washing machine, totally helpless.
I did not want to tip on a rapid, and I definitely did not want to tip on a class 5.
“I don’t think this is a good idea.”
The strangers in my raft did not agree. “Come on! It’ll be fun!”
What could I do? Everybody else wanted to do it. Our guide had a gleam in his eye that made my stomach churn.
It was too late to back out now. I’d picked the wrong boat to face adventure in, and now it was taking me down a path I didn’t want to go.
We went faster and faster, straight toward the rapid. The sound of the waves got louder as we got closer. And my fear got bigger right along with it. If this was a contest, I knew the water would win and we would not.
Our boat raced over the edge. For a moment it felt like we were hanging in midair before we fell, facefirst, toward the rapids.
“Aaaaaaah!” we all screamed.
After falling straight down about five to 10 feet, we hit the water.
Our raft tipped. It flipped upside down right in the middle of the swirling, crashing waves.
And I got trapped underneath.
I couldn’t breathe. The boat pushed down on me from above, and all around me swirling, angry water was trying to kill me.
I was drowning. I remembered the guide saying, “Whatever you do, don’t let go of the rope!”
But I was stuck under the boat! I was certain that if I didn’t let go, I was going to die.
I let go. Seconds later I shot out from under the boat.
“Help!” I screamed.
My friend Tammy saw me.
“Take my hand!” She reached out for me.
I stretched my hand out with all my might and almost reached her. But the water was too strong and too fast. It threw me away from the raft and pushed me down the river.
The water swirled and rushed, pulling me with it. I was going so fast. I kept telling God, “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.”
Finally the river stopped rushing, and eventually my heart stopped rushing too.
I drifted, all alone.
After I floated for some time, thinking about how lousy this wonderful adventure had turned out to be, a young guy in a kayak came to my rescue. He wasn’t exactly Prince Charming there to pick me up and carry me to safety. Instead, he told me to get on, and waited rather impatiently as I tried to lunge myself up onto the back of his kayak, which was not easy.
I had a humiliating ride hanging on to the back of his kayak back to the raft. The raft that was now right side up, with all those people in it.
Amazing, I thought. I was the one who didn’t want to tip, yet I’m the one to get “caught” by following along with their bad choices.
I finished the ride that day (not that I had any choice), but it wasn’t fun anymore. I just wanted to go home.
An important decision
So what did I learn from my scary trip running the rapids of the Nile River?
First of all, I learned that who you get in the boat with matters. I shouldn’t have followed along with people who wanted to do stupid stuff. I guess it’s like that in life, too. I’m not going to pick friends who will pressure me to do things I know aren’t smart—especially things that displease God. It starts out feeling fun, but sure doesn’t end up that way!
Proverbs 13:20 says: “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”* And it doesn’t mean just walking—it means paddling a boat too!
The biggest lesson I learned is that who you pick to be your guide is really, really important. My guide that day looked cool and fun, and I had wanted to be in his group because supposedly that made me cool too. But he didn’t really care about any of us. He wanted to have fun, and he wanted to follow what everybody else wanted to do. He sure didn’t care about me.
In life I’m going to stick with Jesus as my guide. He loves me and really cares about what happens to me. He won’t lead me into anything that He won’t give me the strength to overcome! God says that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
So I learned the hard way. If I ever go rafting the rapids again, I’m going to pick the right guide and the right friends.
And we’re going to have a great time!
*Scripture quotations in this article are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Kimberly Rae writes from North Carolina.
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