Photos- Marcos Ferro
“So let me get this straight, you want me to put in my kayak an actress, and take her down a class IV river in rainy season? Your nuts!”
But the truth is that there was no doubt in my mind, not every day you get to mount in your boat a top-model. On the other side of the lien was Ernesto Rivas, a good friend and another of adventurer soul. He was organizing the Desafío Estado de México 2010, by Altius, a new TV program for which he’d embark three celebrities for one week, on assorted incredible adventures. And the last day, Monsterrat Olivier got to ride on a Duo kayak with me.
We arrived at Valle de Bravo with all the gear on the roof of the truck: an individual kayak for Miguel Lerdo, who would run safety for us throughout the day with he’s life-long river experience, a small raft for the cameramen, and 12 ft of tandem boat. Before putting on the river, an early practice in the hotel’s warm pool was important.
“If we flip over, you hug the boat with all your guts, and the last thing you do is think about breathing” I told Montserrat, before practicing the roll. We came back afloat without problems, this woman besides her beautiful traits and her 6 ft of height, is a full athlete. And I have to confess that I was left with no option but raising up my seat a notch in order to look over her shoulder, like the little stools at the movies.
The Río Temascaltepec was flooded. The sky had fallen down in drops the previous night, and now we were getting ready for the adventure. We slid down next to the town’s center all the way to the water, while around 15 local government figures and another 50 curious people waved at us and took pictures with their mobile phones.
Rivers are classified in a scale from I to VI according to the difficulty, being class VI definite death. Montserrat and I speared through the class IV rapids, her in front paddling like an expert, and myself in the back trying to choose our lines over her shoulder. The raft with the cameramen was guided by Mariano Castelao, the expert in charge of making this woman survive the weeklong adventures. Now he maneuvered between rocks, waves and trees fallen the former night, in order to save his crew. In his boat, Miguel assured his own survival and then ran safety for us.
All of a sudden, we spotted a big rock right in the middle of the river with the whole flow pushing hard against it. “Let’s shoot left! Paddle hard girl!” I shouted, while cranking the boat around aggressively. The water pushed us furiously to the right. And the rock came closer by the second. Just about the most dangerous situation with a long boat like this is pinning sideways against a rock, letting the flow chain you down to the very bottom of the river. And if anything happened to Montserrat… “Go harder!!” We had no way around, the rock was next to us. In the last moment, I threw the boat towards the rock (Kayaking Manual, chapter X, “when everything else fails”). First hit the camera in the bow, then she barely managed to lift her elbow to dodge the rock, and finally I grabbed the obstacle to push us away from danger. “Rafa! The camera came off!” And she was not lying, it dropped to the bottom of the river. But I just relaxed: we made it out.
We kept paddling down the mighty rapids of the Temascaltepec and some hours later we made it safely to the end of the run. We carried the boats and raft out, to find the politicians and curious that had waved farewell 5 hours earlier. Miguel and I packed up quick; I could still make it back to college for my 8p.m. class. We said goodbye to the crew that also departed for the last adventures. I hugged Montserrat tight, my kayak companion. I never thought I’d meet such a cool personality 6ft high, any given Thursday.