DAY 9 - SATURDAY 11TH AUGUST
Were up early
today and out of the house by 8.00am, theres no way Tam is
missing her white water rafting again.
The actual distance to Cherokee Adventures is 50 miles, but only takes an hour and a quarter even on the twisty Tennessee roads as Tam has been up all night memorising the route. This time on the way we see a long eared sliver fox ambling across the road.
We are given an introductory talk about what to expect on our adventure and some rules about safety. Basically, drowning is viewed as a bad thing.
Our guides today are Ronnie and Keith and they are certainly a couple of comedians, I thought jokes of this standard were banned under Tennessee law.
We are asked if we want to go in funyaks instead of the rafts. The Nolichucky River is at a low level and this makes it difficult to navigate with a full raft, so we all agree to ride in funyaks. These are a sort of inflatable single kayak and Georgia is more than a little nervous about this, especially as we are going to encounter class 4 rapids. Now, Im no expert on rapids, but I believe class 4 falls somewhat in the brown trouser category, not as difficult as the oh my god were all going to die class, but definitely ahead of the punting on the Thames category.
We are kitted out with life vests and helmets and clamber aboard an old school bus for a drive of 30 minutes or so to the start of our river adventure. On the way Ronnie tells us stories and cracks jokes and also reiterates the safety information.
One story he tells is when the good folks of Erwin (the local town) had a fair visit the area in 1916. There were lions and tigers as well as the usual circus acts, including an elephant. To cut a long story short the elephant went wild in the ring and trampled to death one of the townsfolk. The town officials, being none too bright, put the elephant on trial and found her (the elephants name was Mary) guilty of murder in the first degree.
The only problem now was how were they going to execute her. Some bright spark suggested hanging, so poor Mary was duly hung using a chain and crane.
The most ridiculous thing about this whole story is that its true! There are old newspaper cuttings on the wall of the restaurant at Cherokee Adventures detailing the story and showing pictures of the unfortunate pachyderm suspended in the air.
All the equipment is unloaded from the bus and we each drag a funyak down to the river to have a little paddle around and get used to them before we set off. Georgia is still a bit dubious. There are two other rafts, one manned by Ronnie and carrying all the supplies and the other with 3 people and a guide.
Off we set at approximately midday and the first section is fairly gentle with some mild rapids. Here we learn that the funyaks frequently get stuck on the many rocks and boulders that stick out of, or are submerged in, the river. You basically have to get yourself free in whatever manner you can, either by pushing yourself off with your paddle or wiggling like a mad thing until the boat comes free. Let me tell you, this is not the easiest thing to do when a raging torrent of water is pinning you to a rock.
The photos in this report will not be the best quality as they were taken with a waterproof camera.
Our first class 4 rapid is encountered. Woohoo! Talk about a wild ride! Mostly you pick your own course, but in the really rough parts the guides direct you where to go.
Georgia and India are much more confident as it becomes apparent that these little funyaks are incredibly stable. Thats not to say that people dont get turned over, several do, luckily we all remain in our boats.
Georgia riding the rapids.
The countryside is very beautiful as we ride along the bottom of the gorge for many hours without seeing a house or a car. There is a railroad track running alongside the river and carries huge goods trains containing many carriages.
After 2 or 3 hours (nobody has a watch on for obvious reasons) we stop for lunch. The food is very good with tortillas and bread with all sorts of meats and salad things. We all really like the BBQ beef and India is in raptures over the homemade peanut butter.
After lunch we swim in the river and Im amazed by how warm it is, running water is normally freezing cold.
Back in the funyaks we hit more rapids. After you get through each section the guide halts the flotilla until all are assembled. After one particularly rough and long section everybody is through except India. We all wait patiently, but she is nowhere to be seen. One young lad in the group tells us he saw her stuck further back up the river. Keith goes off to find her. 15 minutes later she shoots the rapids and joins us. She was wedged firmly between 2 rocks and couldnt move. Tam tells her she had visions of her getting out of the funyak, hitting her head and drowning. India looks at her like shes stupid.
Onward we go. And on. And on. The sun starts getting lower in the sky and we are now grateful that the water is so warm.
Towards the end there are 2 people who are always last in the group. Tam and a rather large lady. The ladies weight does not help and she gets stuck on more rocks than most. I feel a bit sorry for her because she must have been expecting to sit in a raft all day, not work hard trying to get off rocks. Tam says her funyak seems to have a lot of water in, which is causing the same problem. I diplomatically keep my mouth shut.
At one point Tam is falling well behind, so I leave the girls with the main group and paddle back to keep her company. Shes working her way through a set of rapids and keeps getting stuck. Let me tell you, its tiring work wiggling around trying to free yourself. Shes swearing at the boat and at the rocks and doesnt spot a couple of rednecks enjoying a spot of fishin by the side of the river.
Billybob, theres a woman over there a cussin worse than Ma does.
Fetch my banjo and my rifle
You may think this is slightly unfair, but when you listen to the local radio stations there are jokes about rednecks all the time.
By the way, its been in the 90s again today, with the sun beating down non-stop. Tam and Indias legs are quite burnt despite applying loads of sunscreen.
We eventually reach the end of the journey at 8.00pm, 8 hours after we set off.
The boats are hauled from the water and loaded back up onto a bus that is even more dilapidated than the first one.
We are dropped back off at Cherokee Adventures wet, sandy, slightly sun burnt and exceptionally tired. Its been an incredibly long day, perhaps a couple of hours shorter would have been better, but an amazing experience. India and Georgia have been brilliant; especially George who was so worried at the start, but was flying down the river like a veteran towards the end.
We change our clothes, Tam buys a T shirt in the shop and we jump in the car and drive 75 minutes back to the house, arriving around 10.30pm. Just at the bottom of our drive is a huge deer grazing away.
We all have showers and baths and I fire up the BBQ at 11.15pm. We bought a large slab of pork loin earlier in the week and there is no way Im throwing that baby away as this is our last night here. Slices of pork along with sweet corn, salad and bread are hungrily consumed before we all turn in around midnight.
Just a 6 hour drive to Hilton Head to worry about tomorrow.
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