The Mary Celeste

This is the moment when Mike and Phil recovered a raft, upturned and floating down the Soça river, just about to enter the Slalom section, where it was probably about to have quite an exciting time, all alone without a driver. Top river booty!

As you can see, despite starting our trip quite definitely in Europe, we had been inexplicably transported to the misty Mekong. We could only presume that the crew of this ship had been looking for a despotic American-military-man-turned-local-warlord, and had been shot with poison arrows and abandoned, left gurgling in the swirling water, their last mission in vain.

Luckily for us, the poison arrows had miraculously all missed the rubber inflatable craft entirely. So we resolved to run the slalom course in our new toy – a good road test, which we were looking forward to immensely. First, nevertheless, we felt we should really head upstream a little, in case any of the drowned crew hadn’t actually drowned yet, or were still busy gurgling through their punctured lungs, and would like a biscuit, or a throw-line, or some helpful pointing and shouting. Our only clue to the former inhabitants of the raft was a pair of old converse trainers, tied into the seat well by their laces, a poignant reminder of the doomed former occupants. Ah me.

Well, you will be pleased that the story did not turn out quite as tragically as we had feared. After some interval, the pilot, a local raft guide, turned up completely unscathed, undrowned, not surrounded by the murmuring pale ghosts of dead adventure day-trip clients,  and clearly hoping to be teased mercilessly for a long time by English kayakers repeating the same jokes again and again and again, and holding his raft hostage. By hard bargaining and nifty negotiating skills, Phil and Mike cleverly persuaded the raft guide into promising us a free raft trip: (“Yes, yes! I understand! You want a raft trip for free. Yes, that’s fine. I speak English. No need to ask again, I understood the first time. I already agreed. Stop repeating your hilarious ‘jokes’ about the autopilot not working. Mercy.” ) And then equally cleverly noticed that we didn’t actually want a raft trip with a company which flips its rafts and leaves them to float unmanned downstream, with us swimming in the river – After all, who wants to go down a river totally without a boat, huh?

So Phil and co left the grateful raft guide to his own devices and went canyoning instead. We’re not stupid.

Photos by Sara and Penny

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