I suppose that this story only just makes it as a boating story, and the title is a little misleading, however it has been a standing joke within our family for over thirty years.
When our children were quite young and inquisitive about the wide world we took them on a trip through Asia and some of the Pacific Islands. It just happened that Manila was our last stopover. We had become tired of the grubby Manila with its traffic, its constant beggars, and searches for bombs and weapons every time you entered a shop. So one of the more adventurous things we could find to do was to go up into the mountains to one of the fast flowing rivers and shoot the rapids.
With the constant talk about this little adventure the children had become excited, but on the day our five year old daughter seemed just a little apprehensive, and rather mystified as to why we should be heading for the river.
Down at the river we were allocated two dugout canoes, June and our son in one, and me and daughter in the other. Each canoe had two boatmen to paddle, pole, or get out and push as was necessary.
At first the river was quite wide and slow moving, and we made good progress. But soon the river narrowed with high cliffs on each side, and here the boatmen had to use their poles in the faster current and shallow water. When we reached the first set of rapids the boat men were forced to climb out and manhandle the canoes around the rocks, and at one particularly difficult spot we had to climb out so they could drag the canoes over the shallow fast moving water. I found this a relief as a dugout canoe certainly is not the most comfortable form of transport.
Here on each side, vines and trees grew on the cliffs, and waterfalls drenched us as we passed under them. We were given the job of bailing as water was constantly coming into the canoe. Up ahead there was some trouble. A canoe with a very large American woman in it had capsized, fortunately in shallow water, and seeing as the woman’s beam across her buttocks slightly exceeded the beam of the dugout, a lot of trouble was being experienced in removing her. She was refusing to squeeze back in again. How they managed to get her back to the launching place again is a mystery.
After about an hour and a half we came to a spot above the series of rapids where the river was wide and slow again.
It had been tough going for the boat men, amounting to an hour and a half hard work. I couldn’t find any photos of real dugouts
like the ones we were in, although this photo appears to be in the same area, but with more modern, beamier, fabricated canoes.
After a brief rest the canoes were turned around to head downstream and tackle the rapids. We flew past the places that had been so tough coming up, and several times it was necessary to bail as we nosedived into swirling water. Almost back to the starting place, and I tapped my daughter on the shoulder and pointed to a wild goat high up on a cliff face. She had been strangely quiet since leaving that morning. Look Jenni, a wild goat! Her reply, “DADDY, WHEN ARE WE GOING TO SHOOT THE RABBITS ?”
To make a short story a little longer, we arrived back at the hotel to find that a bomb had gone off in the men’s downstairs toilets, and there were guards with rifles on watch outside the hotel. Two Arabs were taking a walk around the grounds with armed guards on each side of them.
We were relieved to be leaving the next day.
At last at the airport and safe in the holding lounge, we were tired of being accosted by the locals begging, and being chased down the street to buy something. I even had a man trying to untie my shoe laces and sell a pair of shoes in the middle of the road while dodging the traffic. They drove us mad trying to sell things.
Our call came to board the plane, and a policeman approached. He was only up to my shoulder. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Do you like my police badge?”
“Oh yes a lovely big badge.”
Enough ! Goodbye Manila.