Each successive rapid allowed me to gain more stability and confidence in my kayak. I soon found myself flipped less often and when I did flip, I could right myself much quicker than before. I was also looking to learn extra skills on the sides so I could practice while in between each of the rapids. My desire was soon met as our guides taught each of us who were interested how to surf holes.
In our first attempts at surfing, we all buried the noses of our kayaks and flipped, but with each attempt, we were able to keep our kayaks from flipping just a little longer. During one of my failed attempts, the water was too deep for me to push off the bottom to right myself, but too rocky for me to get my paddle in place to roll. My helmet bounced off rock after rock and my paddle kept getting knocked out of position before I could roll. It was the only time I had to bail from my kayak since I learned to roll.
I clearly was not an experienced kayaker, but I still had potential—it was only the second day. After several more attempts, I could surf as long as I wanted before exiting a hole.
Since we ran the same portion of river multiple times, we were driven back up river in the jeep after each run. While I carried my kayak from the road to the water, I had to pass guides from another company. Those guides called me Eric Jackson (aka Jackson Kayaks Eric Jackson) and said I look like him. I thought that was pretty cool, but mostly I just wanted to be able to paddle as well as him (although that can unfortunately never happen with as little as I get to kayak).
For the rest of the day we continued to practice our skills. On the last run of the day, we saw horses standing on the bank of the river. They were free-roaming and absolutely beautiful. We also saw a man who had just caught an iguana for his dinner. I hopped out of my kayak and asked him, in Spanish, if I could hold it for a picture. Once the picture had been taken, he stuffed the iguana in his backpack and walked into the woods (what an odd encounter).
When we came back to the river the next day, we split into two separate groups based on how each person was doing with the kayaking skills. I went in the more challenging group and practiced my surfing skills (and rolling ability) a lot more. By the end of the day, I was permitted to kayak when we moved to the Rio General for the next days of kayaking, not everyone would be allowed to because the rapids there were much larger and more dangerous. I gladly accepted the offer. One other guy from our group who was allowed to use a kayak chose to; the others opted to switch back to the more comfortable and stable duckies.
Once we were done kayaking for the day, everyone piled into a van and headed towards our last home stay near the Rio General. After a flat tire and our first taste of soda in weeks at a little bar on the side of the road, we arrived. There we saw Santiago’s children again and we met Felipe’s daughters as well. We stayed at their mother-in-laws house (they married two sisters) and got ready for they next day of kayaking on the Rio General.