Getting ready to go
There's some stuff to do in Leh itself, but not tons. The main activity seems to be using Leh as a starting point for other trips -- trekking, jeep safaris, whitewater rafting, etc. Whitewater rafting caught Anita's fancy -- she'd never done it before (I'd done it once and loved it), and the idea of saying we went whitewater rafting in the Himalayas was very appealing.
The day had an inauspicious beginning -- Tenzin, the owner of the agency that made all the arrangements -- showed up at 7:10, having told us to be ready between 7:30 and 8:00. I was in my robe and Anita was in the shower. He gave us the impression that everyone else going on the trip was waiting in a van downstairs, so we ran around like lunatics to get ready.
I was very happy to see this kayak later
We both forgot to bring things that would've come in handy later. When we got downstairs, it turned out they weren't waiting -- they were sitting at a cafe up the road having breakfast. Granted, they were
waiting for us, but at least they were in a relaxed spot, and they were very chill about it. Turns out Tenzin oversold the trip, and we were one too many in the van. We liked him a lot, but boy was he quite the salesman. Anyway, we piled into the van and we were off.
It was a rare cloudy day. We already knew the water would be freezing, but this wasn't a good sign. We drove along the rapids we'd be rafting and saw a few rough spots. When we got to the top, the guides unloaded the raft, oars, and other equipment from the roof and proceeded to inflate the raft.
After getting lifevests, helmets, and brief instructions, we got in the raft for a few minutes of practice, and then we were off. Not 10 minutes in -- at the first rapid we hit -- wham! -- I was thrown out of the raft so quickly I didn't know what was happening. Underwater it was so confusing. It definitely took me a few seconds to understand that I was trapped underneath the boat. It hadn't capsized, so there was no air pocket. I kept putting my hands above my head, only to feel the bottom of the raft. I realized I was running out of air in my lungs, and even though I knew I couldn't breathe underwater, my body's automatic response to was breathe in -- so I got water in my lungs. Finally I kicked a foot above water, and I think someone grabbed it and pulled me up.
The raft continued, sans me
Thank goodness for the lifevest. I was floating on my back, gasping for air. Two guides were with us, one in the raft and one in a kayak; the kayak guy was by my side in an instant, telling me to grab on. He paddled me over to the raft, and a few people pulled me up.
But get this: Both contact lenses came out! I'm blind as a bat (850/20 if that means anything to you), and there was no way I'd be going down any more rapids without seeing them coming. (I haven't seen the eye chart on the wall -- let alone the big E, it's just a big white space -- in over 20 years). But there was no river bank, and we were quite far below the road. I stayed in the raft for a few minutes until we reached a very small bank, and then the kayak guy loaned me his shoes and walked me up a crazy steep rocky hill to get to the van.
Not a bad shot considering I couldn't see!
Rachel, one of the other girls in the raft, got out with me; she's asthmatic, and though she didn't have an attack she was afraid she would if she fell out of the raft again. Thankfully I'd brought a change of clothes -- though not my eyeglasses or a spare pair of contact lenses -- so I changed and sat with Rachel in the van for a couple of hours. The van followed the raft along its route; when we could see it (to me it was a blue blob in the distance) I pointed my camera and clicked. The pictures are surprisingly good considering I couldn't see what I was shooting. At least Anita's in them. When the raft finally came to shore, everyone was freezing though they hadn't capsized or fallen out again. I can't recall anyone saying "That was fun!" but I think Anita was glad she did it. I can't say the same since 1) I only did it for about ten minutes, and 2) being trapped underneath that raft is one of the scariest moments of my life. It makes a good story, though.