Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. -A. A. Milne’s “Eeyore” from “Winnie the Pooh”-

I am back from the rafting expedition in the depths of pahang. no pacat, thankfully, but I am so damn bloody burnt! the flames of sunburn are still ravishing its moment on my knee. Both legs are so red, if you really must know, from my toes to my thighs, the worst being on my right shin and my left knee.

What the fuck did I do? Well, rafting la. It turns out that the camping trip was an expedition the length of the pahang river. 300 over km in eight days. There are check stops along the river where rafters will camp out for the night. Rafters go up to between 30 to 60km per day.

I joined in for only two days. Thank god I was assigned for just two days. Did you see my sunburnt legs? You can just imagine my arms and nose!

On my first day, our raft did 32km in eleven hours. Which is a grand estimate of 3km per hour. I could not believe it either. We pushed off at 8am. There we five on our raft and we were paddling like sakais and we still got there well past 7pm.

There were 90 rafts in total and on that first day, we got number 50 or 60 something. It is not a race, but people try to be quick anyway. The river is damn wide, roughly the width of a twelve lane highway. Rafts tend to get separated from one another along the river.

Like I said, I have no idea why we were going to damn slowly. We even had a strategy and all. We would target two or three of four rafts ahead of us and paddle until we overtook them before resting and then targeting others. We even had a local navigator to look out for currents so we did not have to paddle so hard.

And like I said, there we five of us on that raft, including me. Our aforementioned navigator was called lion. He enjoyed eating lion brand ice-creams. He downs at least seven sticks a day. Hence his call name. Chills is a tour guide working for a local travel agent. He is fun to be with loads of stories to tell about how he brings tourists around and the sort of thing he has to deal with. He is also questionably gay and has an I don’t want to know ringtone. The other two on my raft were pros in water sports events and were just power paddling the entire length of the leg which I should remind you lasted a total of eleven hours.

Meals were delivered to our raft via motor longboats.

The raft was made out of two rows of bamboo tied together so it is damn heavy. When the raft comes upon shallow water, like it did a good six times on that first day, everyone has got to hop off the raft and wade through the water and heave the raft across the particular raft I was on was not very solid either. I joined the expedition on day three and I understood that on day one, the raft had an accident which resulted in the knots holding the bamboo together to coma apart and on day two, the raft capsized. Now you know what I did not bring my camera on the raft and hence there are no pictures of me wading in the river.

Day two (for me – day four for them), we kinda given up on racing and decided to just have fun throughout this leg of the expedition. The target was 30km but through less shallow water and less bends in the river. There were trenches (points of very deep water) and slight rapids however, but hey, all in the name of natural appreciation, eh?

We found another raft of sickos and decided that we would tie the two rafts together and paddle in tandem. The upside to this is that we now had double the number of paddlers, at least five a side with one dude navigating the rear. And the numbers does wonders to the spirit, I tell you. On the downside, tying two rafts together gave us most mass and the combined weight of the rafts was hell to push through shallow water even though there were not as many as the first day. At one point, we needed to untie the rafts because it got too bloody heavy to push across and then tied them back together in deeper water.

It drizzled that day. For about two hours. And rafts have no roofs. We paddled in the rain. They told me that this was not so bad. The day before I arrived, there was a storm. They paddled through the storm. That must really suck.

But like I said, the two rafts decided to take it easy that day. We still had that strategy of selective overtaking, but we also spent a great deal of the time swimming and kayaking. It might be the sun, but at midday, we started singing. Because of the diverse mix of rafters on the tandem raft, we could not find too many songs that everyone knew the words to. We ended up singing a string of patriotic songs, the kind you hear on local radio channels, like the budi bahasa song, the jalur gemilang song, the cinta i.t. song and the fikirkan boleh song. Like I said, I blame the sun.

On that second day, our raft was second last to reach the checkpoint jetty.

But the trip really ain that bad at all. I got to meet heaps of people and seriously, the natural forestation fringing the river is beautiful. Many a times, when we were paddling close to the banks in search of currents, I would look up and see the sharp contrast of dark, hundred year old trees against the playful blue skies. I was fish traps, saw how the locals made them, used them, and hooked fish in them. The fish they caught were huge! I got to see river life, birds, monkeys, small rodents. All in all, nature is beautiful and it is something I would always happily return to.

My poor legs still sting. It is three days later already and the skin is beginning to peel, which I am told is a good thing. It is still pretty red and I have been told that it is pretty scary sight. It feels stiff especially on the shin and knees because that is where the joints are. It is not itchy, it is just the burning sensation that I am getting pissed about. I feel like one of those steaks that you take off the grill but still continues to sizzle.

The words steaks and sizzles reminds me of debates. Anyone wants to go crash the council meeting this thursday?


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