October 1991: I was on a raft, floating down a river in Nepal, the Himalayan mountains towering majestically above me. I was in that hazy, dreamy state, feeling tranquil and highly receptive to an epiphany…
“Forward paddle, forward paddle!”
Our river guide’s orders jolted me back to reality. We were about to propel ourselves into the swirling waters ahead of us. I gripped the oar and wedged my foot against the inside of the raft.
This was no time for daydreaming - the epiphany would have to wait.
Earlier that day, our Nepalese river guide gave us clear instructions about staying out of the water: Don’t panic.
“If you do fall in, hold your breath for 10 seconds,” he said, “The current will eventually push you out of the rapids.”
We glanced nervously at each other, horror etched across our faces. Wasn’t this meant to be a pleasant trekking holiday in the Himalayas?
We screamed when the raft bounced through the water, waves splashing over us as the swirling current pushed us through the first set of rapids. We abandoned the paddling and desperately clung to the rope, concentrating on staying on board instead of falling overboard.
After a brief respite, we were paddling frantically again through the turbulent waters. We bounced through sections called “Upset”, “Monsoon” and “Surprise” and inevitably lost some people who vaulted overboard. Buoyed by their yellow life jackets, they bobbed along the current until our guide hauled them back on board.
“It’s important to do exactly as I say for the next rapid,” our guide warned us, “Otherwise, we could slam into those giant rocks along the river’s edge, or capsize the raft.”
The river beckoned us into its turbulent waters. We tightened the grip on our oars, bracing ourselves for the oncoming challenge. The raft bounced again, sending icy water onto our faces. We sped through the current as everyone rowed madly – almost as one.
“Back paddle! Back paddle!”
We strained to reverse the raft as the whirlpool sucked us into its frenzied current, sending us dangerously close to the rock face.
“Forward paddle – now!”
We struggled to change direction with our oars. Somehow, we steered out of the whirlpool, inches away from capsizing the raft.
The river swirled through the next set of rapids, “Electricity”, “S Rapid” and “Ping Pong” before it finally calmed down.
“You can relax now,” said our river guide.
We rolled out of the raft and floated effortlessly with the lazy current, buoyed by our life jackets.
I gazed up at the incredible sight of the Himalayan Mountains, breathing in the beauty of nature around me.
In that peaceful moment, the epiphany came - not as a bolt of enlightenment, but as a slow, gradual realisation: there was more to life than the stressful routine of a 9 to 5 job.
There was so much more to life!
Three months later, I was on a plane again, heading to Japan on a new linguistic adventure.
Sucked into the whirlpool of life
Life is an adventure, full of ups and downs and being bounced around by the current. Sometimes we're sucked into the whirlpool of life and feel out of control, in danger of capsizing or slamming into a wall.
But then, there are calm waters and we float effortlessly through life, with plenty of quiet time to appreciate this amazing world around us.
Where have your adventures taken you?
New Zealand 2008
New Zealand 2006
United Kingdom 2004
Athens Olympics 2004
Beijing to Athens 1994
I acknowledge the traditional Custodians of the land on which I work and live, the Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi and Joondoburri people, and recognise their continuing connection to land, the waters and sky. I pay my respect to them and their cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.
© 2023 HARI KOTROTSIOS