Laura Peveller tells The Gap Year Travel Guide about the time she went on a trek across America and went whitewater rafting in Tennessee.
You know that kid in class who was scared of everything? The one that wouldn’t climb to the top of the climbing frame, ran away from spiders and squealed when the ball came towards them in rounders? Yeah, that was me ten years ago.
So, when I decided to embark on a three-week trek across America I was definitely out of my comfort zone. But I wanted to challenge myself to see new places and try exciting things, so when the TrekAmerica ‘Southern Sun’ tour began I knew I had to sign up to all the optional activities. I’d even paid extra travel insurance to get grade one sports cover so that I couldn’t back down when I got there.
Facing My Fears
The first activity on the list was whitewater rafting down the Ocoee River in Tennessee. I thought I might as well throw myself right in the deep end— quite literally! We were told to wear an old t-shirt and buy some water shoes or else wear a pair of flip-flops that we weren’t bothered about losing since they were likely to get washed away in the river. All these little warnings made me feel on edge and that little voice inside my head was asking me why on earth I was doing this. When it came to putting on our helmet and lifejacket the nerves really started kicking in. I was silent the entire busy journey there, despite the fact that we got to ride on an awesome American school bus and all the rafting guides were really friendly.
But the most frightening moment had to be when we carried our raft down the steps to the river. The first time I saw the river we’d be going down my heart momentarily stopped. I felt sick. One of the girls in my group found this hilarious and took a couple photos of my panic-stricken face. I do not look impressed! All I could think about was figuring out how I could stop myself from falling out. Thankfully, Jeremy our guide was great at putting us at ease and went through all the safety regulations before we hit the water.
Riding the Rapids
So when it was time we walked the boat into the river and hopped in, then the fun began! It was strange how quickly my nerves turned into pure excitement. As soon as we started moving, I started smiling.
We all soon got the hang of rowing in time with one another whenever Jeremy shouted ‘forward one!” in his thick Tennessee accent. As we went down the river, he explained the various names that each section of the river was given based on the speed and level of the water, the surrounding rocks and the shape of the river itself. I seem to remember being apprehensive about ‘Double Trouble’ and ‘Broken Nose’ but most of all it was the finale ‘Hell Hole’ that filled me with dread, especially since I’d managed to make it all the way down the river without falling out! Whenever Jeremy shouted “hit the deck!” when we approached a dangerous part of the river I clung onto the raft for dear life and held my breath. The other group of people from my trek group weren’t as lucky, as their entire raft got caught on some rocks right at the beginning of the river, but with help from the other guides they managed to get moving again!
Thankfully I made it to the end of the ride all in one piece, plenty of laughs later and flip-flops still firmly on my feet. I felt really proud of myself for facing my fears and I’m so pleased that I did it. The guys at Adventures Unlimited were fantastic and now I can’t wait for the next opportunity to grab a paddle and hit the water. I might even attempt a river with a higher grade!