On the fourth of July we embarked on our greatly anticipated rafting trip down the Шуя (Shuya) River. This had been a trip that I was looking forward to even before I had left for Russia. Being from Wisconsin, and growing up right next to the Brule River, canoeing and kayaking were always activities that I loved. But whitewater rafting was something that I had never experienced before. So with this being something completely new to the rest of the students and I, we were all excited to get up that Friday morning and go rafting! So on that Friday morning we got up early and met at the university to board the bus at 10am for our rafting trip. It was around a 30-minute drive to get to the canoe landing, and when we arrived it was pretty cloudy and chilly so many of us weren’t looking forward to the cold water lurking ahead. After everyone had gotten changed, we walked eagerly down the trail barefoot and in swim trunks to see what lay ahead. As we got down to the boat landing we saw the beautiful Шуя River. There were three rafts and three guides accompanying us on the trip. We all got into groups and got into our rafts. I was up at the front with Devan and we were in charge of setting the pace for the raft. Behind us there were about eight other people and our guide who steered the raft in the back. We started off with a nice and relaxing ride down the river and that was when our guide told us we were approaching the first of three rapids. I was excited! Devan and I started rowing faster and faster ready to plunge right into the rapids. Suddenly all of the waves began to pick up and I could hear the girls screaming behind me as we took on the first wave. I. Got. Soaked!! We hit a huge wave head on and nocked the whole to the side and drenched the first few people in the raft. Back again we rolled down the wave and collided with another wall of water. This was the one that really soaked the girls so I was cynically laughing to myself. By this time I was already so soaked I didn’t even care about getting wet so I just kept rowing into the waves and it was so much fun! Then before we knew it we made it through our first set of rapids.
We then had another calm ride down the river again. We were sharing stories about our trip, then out of no where someone yelled “Sing us a shanty!” And Alina began singing the Drunken Sailor in the back of the raft. We all joined in for a while and then it gradually just died off. It was a beautiful ride down the river. It really reminded me of the northern Wisconsin area, from the trees and the climate. For a moment or two I actually forgot I was in Russia. No matter where you are in the world, you realize that people are just people. It doesn’t matter if were from the United States or Russia, we were all just people having a good time together. But once again while I was lost taking in the scenery and the culture our guide told us to get ready for our second set of rapids. This one was a little bit bigger, but he warned us to save some of our strength for the last set of rapids, the biggest, and most dangerous. We all got ready and cruised through this set of rapids. I’ll admit our raft got a little cocky. We thought we were the best whitewater rafters out there. This was until we came to the last set of rapids. We went into it with hot heads, and we kind of made fools of ourselves. We began picking up speed going faster and faster as we plunged into the rapids. Waves were crashing all over the raft and we were just getting drenched. But this time it was different. The raft started spinning. We didn’t just go down the rapids. We did a 360 as we went down the rapids. Style. As we were talking about how lame everyone else was (jokingly) by going straight through, we bragged about how we strategically maneuvered our raft to do an awesome spin down the rapids. This showed our superiority compared to the other groups. That was until we got hung up on a huge rock. Our guild told us to start bouncing. So here we are, the world’s best whitewater rafters, sitting in the middle of a river, hung up on a rock, bouncing on our raft trying to wiggle it free. I can only imagine how stupid we looked to the onlookers. Unfortunately the bouncing didn’t wiggle us free. So our heroic guide took one for the team and plunged into the icy cold river and began to push us free. I dug my paddle deep into the river and helped push our raft while he pushed us and we broke free!!! Everyone cheered, but that was short lived. After we broke free we looked back and we had left our guide! He was charging through waves (which I am now recalling in slow motion with dramatic background music.) He kept running as we were cheering for him to make it in time. With one more stride and a leap, the guide made it back on board and away we went down the river. We all laughed about that experience for the rest of the way down the river.
We were just about to the end and we were all exhausted and STARVING! When suddenly it began to downpour. (As if we weren’t soaked already) People jokingly said “Oh great now were going to get wet.” At the end we were proud that we had conquered the rapids. We made it to the landing and we all got out and carried our raft up a very steep hill and into camp. There waiting for us was a nice warm fire and a huge canopy with benches and some live music performed by one of our guides. He made it very clear that they had CD’s. Then some workers brought out food! We were so excited! They had this amazing fish soup, some pasta, salad, tea, wine, and vodka. We all sat around and talked to one another and just enjoyed the rest of the day. It was so relaxing and nice just to sit back and talk to everyone. It was around this time that Tia thought it would be a great idea to try slack lining. She accidentally slipped and had a bruise on her leg the size of an avocado!! We gave her a lot of crap for that the rest of the trip. Being away from the United States on the 4th of July, I always thought was going to be a bummer. But it was definitely one of my most memorable and exciting 4th of July experiences of my entire life.