Ad[vuong]turing into the Watery Wilderness





Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t do the outdoors. I do not like the feel of sand in-between my toes because it is inevitable that the sand will get wet and just scratch me like sandpaper, so the beach is out.

Anything muddy is out of the question, as I am a huge germaphobe (a germaphobe’s survival guide for Shanghai is available for perusing courtesy of yours truly). Snow is fine, until it melts and makes things muddy, which just leads me back to my previous problem. Now that you understand the context that is me, I would just like to share my weekend of outdoor adventuring.


Creek Crawling

I have never heard of creek crawling until they were describing this weekend’s activity to us. Even then, I was not completely sure what it entailed. They kept stressing that we did not have to do any of the activities and that we could turn back any time. Their sincere concerns were more like challenging remarks rather than comforting suggestions. My stubbornness is stronger than my distaste for the outdoors. I did not know exactly what I was going to do at the creek, but I knew that I would not be turning around or choosing to sit out.


We stopped at a restaurant to change before going to the creek. Swims suits and shoes were instructed to be worn. When I exited in proper attire, I was handed a lifejacket and a rain poncho. Yes, it was raining, but we were also told to wear a swimsuit, so why were we given a rain poncho. I decided to ditch the poncho because I thought it was counterproductive to wear a floatation device and a plastic bag that would make you sink. In hindsight, I think I made the right decision.


We walked down to the creek, and then we walked into the creek. The water only reached my knees, so it was fine. Then it reached my hips, but I was still chill (mainly because the water was fairly chilly). Soon it got deep, like I could not touch the bottom deep. (Yes, I am only 5’3, but my taller friends also could not touch the bottom so.) Other people got out to walk along the shore, but this is when I committed. I swam across that little area. This set the tone for the rest of the weekend.


We were near the end of the group, so when we got to the big rock, we saw people jumping. So logically, I wanted to jump too. (Therefore, to answer the question if my friends were to jump off a cliff, would I? The answer is definitely yes!) It was so exhilarating. I actually did it twice on to different rocks that I would say is somewhat comparable to cliffs.


We made it to the end of the creek and just relaxed in the little natural pool. We got to take off our life jackets and actually swim underwater. I can say I did a flip underwater in a random place in China. Too soon, we had to head back. The route was the same, but I definitely took my time, not because I was being cautious like before but because I wanted to take in everything. The misty weather added to the ephemeral experience. Just a note. The water was extremely clear. This may have been why I was not too concerned about swimming it in. This was not the case for the preceding bodies of water.



“Let’s just go backward,” I sighed in defeat after we spent five minutes trying to rearrange ourselves. It was actually pretty exciting to slide down backward. I do not know if we were allowed to, but we did it so. We were rafting down a half man-made, half natural river. I am sure the river was already there, and people just added the ramps to make the rafting easier. And for that I am grateful. I began to look forward to the ramps. Not just because it was actually super fun to slide down them, but it also meant that we did not have to paddle for a bit.


I loved it whenever there was someone there to help guide our boat down the ramp. They typically positioned people at the steeper ramps, so for the smaller ones, we had to figure it out ourselves. This meant a lot of struggling to get our boat to align with the ramp. This was made more difficult if there were multiple boats in the same area. One would be blocking the entrance and everyone else would be blocking that boat from rearranging itself.


Rafting was also a bit like bumper carts. We would run into other boats. It was actually kind of funny because this would usually happen whenever someone was trying to turn back the right way. After the boat goes down the ramp, it will usually spin a little and rarely will it face the right direction. Imagine five or six boats in the same area trying to turn the right way. It was both funny and frustrating. Our raft was almost flooded.


It was as if we were sitting in a kiddie pool. One of the workers actually made us get out the boat, so he could flip it to get all the water out. I still don’t understand how we got so much water. When we made it to the end, we did not want to get up yet, so my friend and I just spun our boat in circles. It was so dumb but so fun. We went clockwise then counterclockwise. We were just trying to prolong our time because we definitely sped through it. I thought the rafting was going to be longer, but obviously not.




“Oh. My. Gosh. Is that a dead fish?” It was a rhetorical question. It was definitely a dead fish floating past my paddle. I have kayaked a few times in Austin. Lady Bird Lake has calm, clear waters. This was the opposite. The water was rough enough that it would splash against my face. The clarity of the water was nonexistent. I was rowing past a huge steamship that could just decide to play battleship with my kayak and we would have sunk.


We were instructed to paddle 2km, then if we felt like we were capable, we could paddle around the 8 km circumference of the island, if not we could paddle back. Before we got in the kayak, I had already made up my mind that we were doing the whole thing. We were already here, might as well. I was originally going to do a two-person kayak, but they ran out of those, so we just got a three-person kayak.


Setting off, things were fine. Maybe one kilometer in, I was getting kind of tired, but nothing alarming. It did take us a while to reach the two-kilometer mark. There we met up with all the other people who were deciding what they should do. It was there (luckily or unluckily, you decide), a huge spider decided to crawl from the middle of the boat to the front (aka where I was).


While I did not see it, it had to have crawled on me or at least really close to me! (If you cannot sense it, I am second degree hyperventilating again just recalling the experience.) I somewhat calmly asked someone from a different kayak to help me. I mustered up the most basic Chinese skill that I could while my body was deciding how to ‘flight’ (since I could not fight this spider) when I am in a kayak in the middle of a river. Thankfully, he did get the daddy long leg (or at least that is what my also terrified kayak partner identified it as.)


Finally, a kayak took off and that caused a ripple effect. It was nice to kayak. I would not say it was relaxing because the water kept splashing in my face and all I could think about was all the dead fish that were in that water. I am also weak, so I was already tired. But I am also stubborn, so I pushed through.


I tried to take secretive breaks, but it was super obvious since I was sitting at the front. Eventually, I stopped caring and would just half paddle whenever I felt like it. We all took a break at one point just to admire the scenery. It was actually so pretty. It looked like something out of a traditional Chinese story, with a random building in the distance. I wish I had pictures, but I was not going to risk my phone falling into the river in the rare chance we were to flip.


We came in third! Not that it was a competition, but when we rounded the last corner, I was surprised at how close the end was. If I had known it was almost over, I would have slowed down a bit more, not that I was contributing that much. However, I was also very grateful to be able to rinse off before everyone else finished.