On a day when the clouds knitted tightly together to form a dark blanket in the sky above, four brave souls set off on the adventure that was unique and exhilarating, and for me, one I will never forget. In a car packed to the brim with all the supplies necessary for a great time, and three of the most wonderful friends I have met along my way, we set off to leave our mark on the famous Delaware River area. As the car started and the miles slowly rolled by, the time for napping had begun. With four young adults and the highly demanding lives we lead it was expected, well for three of us anyway, the driver had to keep her eyes wide open, for safety reasons and such.
With a couple of miles behind us and stomachs rumbling for food to occupy the empty void we made a stop at a local burger joint in Pennsylvania. When stomachs begin to speak to you, which mine will often do, it will do you well to give in to the demands that it requires of you. If food is what it wants, food is what it will get. The local burger joint proved to have a supply of outstandingly delicious food, which satisfied all my cravings. I must confess though that while here, I did not have the typical burger and fries but opted for something really different. The owner of this fine establishment was Polish and so some of the dishes offered on the menu where ones I had never heard of in my life. Being the daredevil that I am, notice how this is the over statement of the century, I tried the traditional Pieroggies. Kate, one of the friends who came along and who is also from the Czech Republic gave me a lesson on this spectacular food item and so sealed my choice and my lunch time meal. If you ever have the chance to try Pieroggies I suggest you run out and try them as fast as you can, this is one choice you will never regret.
Stomachs fed and satisfied we made our way to our lodgings for the night. A campsite near the river. After checking in and ensuring we were all set for our stay, we headed over to the site to make our humble abode for the night. I was ready, with sleeves rolled up and prepared for a long time of getting a tent all set up. The sky above us looked rather ominous, but with three South Africans we were sure to have a tent set up in no time. As we got to our site, there in the clearing between the trees sits a beautifully, completely erected tent. What?! What magical fairy had appeared to do all this work, not that I’m complaining, but this sure was something different. I am never first in line for setting up tents on family vacations back home, rather I will find anything, and I mean anything else to do. But far away from family and among friends, you kind of want to prove that your parents did actually teach you a thing or two about camping. Being from South Africa this is very important, when family holidays are spent along bodies of water with fishing poles and tents that seem to outdo the houses we live in, we have to know when given a huge sheet of canvas and some poles that what is required of us is a tent that will stand tall and withstand all the elements of nature. This was a little different for me, but I could get use to someone doing all my dirty work. We unloaded the packed car of bags of clothes, blankets and food to feed the entire army and some. And then set off to find the nearest grocery store. Yes we had food, but you could never have too much of it. You just never know what could happen out there in the wild; we had to be prepared for anything.
As the late afternoon approached, we made our way back to camp and a fun hour of bike riding in the local area. This was supposed to be an easy, relaxing ride, but if the only exercise you get is lifting your bum out of bed in the morning, this will prove a tad more difficult than expected. It did however strengthen my resolve to put in those gym hours I had been promising my poor body for months. The ride along the empty roads was really scenic with a small forest lining the road on either side. You could really forget that you were far away from the bustle and chaos of the big city life in a place like this. The bike ride was such a fun time of my day, where I got to see some of the local area in close proximity and meet a little turtle friend who had crawled all the way onto the road. Like all good things, the bike ride had to come to an end.
It was supper time. With hot dogs on the menu for the night I couldn’t wait to dig in. But one small problem presented itself, how were we going to warm these hot dogs up? I am all for trying new things, but cold hot dogs will definitely not be one of those. With Nadia and Kevin’s great fire making skills we quickly had a toasty fire up and running. And then came Kate’s genius idea. We all found sticks and cleaned them up as best we could to roast our hot dogs on. I must admit I acted like a real snob, preferring to buy sticks rather than find my own. I quickly got over it when the price of a stick in a shop was almost the equivalent to buying a small country in Africa, well almost. With Kate’s great idea we got closer to nature and more in tune with our ancestors of the primitive ages. All in all it was a fun experience. And we managed to get done just before the heavens opened and unleashed her heavy load of rain. When the rains subsided for a while we made our way to the communal area, we had our showers and then joined the kids for movie time. Alvin and the Chipmunks proved to engross us just as much as it did the little kids. I guess all it takes for our inner child to come out is a couple of chipmunks shaking their booty’s on a stage and singing in squeaky voices.
The next day broke clear, with the sun shining down gloriously. It seemed that our water rafting adventure would be hailed in with magnificent weather. We all got ready for the adventure in wetsuits that seemed to suck the very air out of you, which I did not understand quite so much. If I was going to drown, shouldn’t there be air in me so I could at least float a little? After getting all the dressed up in wetsuits and life jackets, we were on our way in this movie-style, yellow school buses, down to the river and the start of our rafting expedition. Most rafts required at least six people on it, so as there were only four of us we had to make friends with two other people. The lucky people who got to spend a wonderful couple of hours in the presence of three South Africans and a Czech was a mom and her college aged son from New Jersey. They proved to be really interesting companions for our ride down the river.
It started off as a truly mesmerizing ride, with the clear water below, the blue sky above and the trees surrounding us on all sides. I surely could not have imagined a more wonderful place. The ride downstream was challenging at times, what with having to figure out how exactly to use my paddle to row forward and backward. When the thinking of this got too much for my poor brain I would have to stop and rest for a while, much to the annoyance of everyone else. With many of the people doing this tour being first time novices we had many stops along the way. So with those of us who could not quite wait patiently and behave ourselves, we armed ourselves with buckets and declared war on ships of rafting victims passing by. There was a war and no one was getting out unscathed in this one. We had our last stop before lunch as we were awaiting the arrivals of the troops that had taken the time to appreciate nature rather than make a speedy trip down river. Sitting in that little raft I had a thought. I have a bunch of thoughts all the time, most often not to brilliant. Would we end up in the same spot, with our rafts, which we had begun in? I made the momentous mistake of voicing this thought out loud. With a reply of, “Rivers don’t run in circles!” I was quickly thrown overboard. Here’s a time for another confession, it took me months to figure out my comment and the reply to it, but when my aha moment came and I realized the stupidity of my ways, I vowed to become a smarter person. I am still working on this. Our lunch spot was on this great big rock on the side of the river and proved to test our steering and rafting abilities to the limit. In the end we all made it with few mishaps. Lunch was over before it had ever really begun and we were back on our rafts and on our way to finishing up our long day on the river. To my surprise we never did end up where we started off, but a great deal of things will surprise me in life. As we ended our journey on the long Delaware River we said excited farewells to this fantastic place that had granted us a day of wonderful memories and loads of fun. Back at camp we packed up our belongings, climbed into our car and made the unwanted drive back home. With such an exciting adventure coming to an end, who would ever want to think about the practicalities of work the next day?
Richard Bangs once said this about rivers, “Wild rivers are earth’s renegades, defying gravity, dancing to their own tunes, resisting the authority of humans, always chipping away and eventually always winning.” This river, the Delaware, surely had a mind all its own. We never told her how fast or slow we wanted her to go, she told us exactly what she was going to do and we could do nothing about it. But I felt that at the end of that day with a troop of wet humans emerging from the river, we had conquered a small piece of that Delaware River.