They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but what if an experience leaves you scared, even scarred? What then? Get back on the horse, or maybe a pony?
Almost two decades ago, I was thrown out of a white water raft in a class IV rapid in Nepal. I wound up in a cast from ankle to hip. I learned the hard way that the safety standards for extreme sports in developing countries simply aren’t the same as at home.
I grew up in Ottawa, and returned there after my injury. I was invited to go rafting at least half a dozen times in the rapids just outside Ottawa, near Cobden, but I couldn’t convince myself do it. The more time that passed, the less willing I was to get back on the horse.
Recently, I heard about an urban rafting experience offered by Ottawa City Rafting. It was called family-friendly, very safe, and a fun way to see the city in class I-II rapids. Could this be the pony that I needed?
I felt reassured that this activity would be safe for my children, wouldn’t trigger me, and would be a fun, athletic way to be a tourist in my former city.
We left from Britannia Beach in the afternoon, after a safety briefing, and launched onto the Ottawa River. Our raft quickly took the lead out of the four rafts, and became the first to hit the Deschenes Rapids.
Paddling hard, the nose of the raft dove down into the rapid, but quickly rebounded. It was a thrill, but not scary, and it never felt like the raft would flip or anyone would be ejected. I relaxed into the rhythm of the paddling, enjoying sightseeing from the water, and hearing about the area’s history. Who knew that logging was still happening on the Ottawa River until 1990?
In the next rapid, my teens and most of our boat of eight people jumped in and body surfed. Then, as we latched the rafts together and learned more about the area and river, they handed out cold drinks. Some of us rode between the tethered boats like in a recliner chair.
Soon we were rewarded with a view of Parliament Hill. Near Remic Rapids, all but one passenger in our boat chose to float down the windy section they dubbed the lazy river. Then we rounded the corner and were given the option of “cliff jumping.” My son and I climbed up for the highest jump, just shy of 20 feet off the water. It was terrifying… but thrilling.
Then we floated to the extraction point, helped load the rafts onto a trailer, and got into the shuttle for a ride along the parkway back to the beach. We’d covered seven-and-a-half kilometres on the river on our three-hour tour. I knew there were muscles that would remind me over the next few days that I had indeed rafted.
I was back on the metaphorical pony…perhaps even a small horse. Thanks to Ottawa River City Rafting, I faced my fears of rafting, and my dislike of heights with the cliff jump, and now have the memories of the whole experience to share with my teens.