RIPPLE, DRIBBLE AND PLOP
After turning Mavis, the camper van, down a steep track in the middle of the forest, the group pulled up at a parking area that had a gravel path leading down to the river. The aroma of warm pine needles filled the air. All the while, the river flowed unhurriedly amongst ancient trees smothered in moss and lichen. Reeds reached for the sky along the river bank while kingfishers perched on branches and swans gracefully glided up and down.
‘You see that little shoreline made of pebbles? That will be our paddleboard launch. Notice that it’s very calm; there are picnic benches and a barbecue area there. It should be a nice and easy paddle to get to Splashdom’s secret entrance.’ Auntie Joanna turned to the group and appeared eager. ‘Right let’s get into the wetsuits and go. It is already one o’clock and we need to get moving. It gets dark by nine-thirty and we need to be back before your bed time kiddies.’
‘I don’t mind staying up late,’ said Tingle.
‘Me too,’ said Josh, who accidentally yawned as he said it.
‘Children always want to stay up late and adults want to go to bed early. Strange eh?’ Auntie Joanna replied thoughtfully.
‘Darlings you are both already tired. Let’s see how you feel a bit later,’ Dianne said, amazed that her children hadn’t taken a nap after all the morning’s inflatable action!
‘Right let’s get ready. We can use the camper as a changing room because you can close the curtains,’ Auntie Joanna waved the children in the direction of the camper.
Putting on wetsuits was quite a struggle. It was like wrestling with a big Wellington boot. Tingle fidgeted again in her wetsuit while her mum secured her life jacket. Dianne stood studying Josh and Tingle, was there anything else they needed?
Auntie Joanna and Tingle’s Dad carried the paddleboards and paddles down to the edge of the river. The pair stood for a moment and glanced at the sky. There were a few fluffy clouds wafting across the blue sky and no wind. They were the perfect conditions for paddling.
‘Right I think the best way to do this is have Josh and John on one board. Josh can sit at the front. Dianne and Tingle on the other board. We then put the main wet-bag on my board with the singing bowls. Or can you think of a better way?’ Auntie Joanna asked.
No one said anything.
Dianne shrugged, ‘That seems sensible.’
‘I think we need to have easy access to the head torches,’ said John thoughtfully. ‘I think we also need to have a small pack on each board with water, snacks and head torches,’ he said.
‘Makes sense,’ said Auntie Joanna.
Josh wanted to make sure his dinosaur was kept on top of their bag too. It needed a full view of the watery adventure.
‘So before we do anything, we need to make it clear what is happening,’ said John. ‘We need to understand the rules of the paddleboard.’
‘So Josh and Tingle, we paddle on the right side of the river. You will have to sit very still because paddleboards can tip. You both have life jackets on, so if something happens where you fall in then lay on your back and we will come and pick you up.’ He paused to make sure the Tingle and Josh heard him. ‘Also if you fall in, the water can feel cold and make you feel shocked.’
Tingle frowned, ‘Why?’
‘Well the cold makes your body go stiff. You are wearing wetsuits so they will help you stay warm.’
‘What do we do?’ Josh asked.
‘You relax, breathe and pull your legs into your chest. Your body will adjust – all the time focus on breathing. You are wearing wetsuits that are designed to keep you warm. We just need to make sure you are aware that the cold water will make you go stiff and it’s best to remain calm and relaxed. Do you understand?’
‘Yes,’ said Tingle. ‘Calm and relaxed.’
‘Calm and relaxed,’ Josh said to his dinosaur.
‘Good. So… if you need to change position on the board then you must let us know because your mum and I will need to balance the board, or drop to kneeling. So what do you do?’ He asked to make sure they understood.
‘We tell you when we need to move,’ Tingle repeated. She just wanted to go now.
‘Good…’ said Auntie Joanna sensing that the children were desperate to get on the water. ‘Now sometimes a big wave comes along and will make the board bounce, that is usually when there is a boat. We call it a bow wave. Now if that wave comes along sit and relax and let the board bounce over it. Your mum and dad may sit down or kneel down if they notice a big wave is on its way. Now if the board tips and you fall in, then you hold your breath and kick to the surface. If the board is close then you hold onto the board.’ Auntie Joanna said.
‘What happens then?’ asked Josh.
‘We will then correct the board, pick you up or put you on the board and climb on after.’ John said. ‘We just need to make sure you have this clear in your heads. I know you are both very good swimmers, but when we are on water we have to make sure we all know what is going on and how we deal with things,’ said John. ‘Now do you have any questions?’
Tingle glanced at Josh. Both shook their heads, they couldn’t think of anything.
‘Just remember you need to be still and not wriggle,’ Auntie Joanna said. ‘If you fall in you can hold onto the board. Just make sure you relax and lay on your back until we come and get you. An even better option is not to fall in. This is a slow moving river and we will be going against the flow to get to Splashdom, and will be going with the river on our return. That way, even if we are tired then we will drift back. Now if anything happens and we get separated the name of this area is called Splasher’s Launch. There is a stone bridge over there which is a marker. The other marker is the waterfall and cave.’
‘That cave seems familiar,’ said Dianne.
‘I think that is where we launched when we were small.’ Auntie Joanna sighed as she tried to remember. ‘I am sure granny mentioned that it had a hidden secret.’
‘The water is really blue too!’ said Tingle.
‘It is probably because it’s shallow over there…’ said John. ‘Actually have you ever just drifted into the cave?’
‘I don’t think so!’ Auntie Joanna appeared thoughtful again. ‘There is something more to the cave. I just need to remember… Right we are getting distracted. Are we ready?’ Auntie Joanna asked.
‘What is it called?’ Tingle’s mum asked Josh and Tingle.
‘Splasher’s Launch,’ they repeated.
‘Okay, I think we are ready…’ John said glancing at his wife and Auntie Joanna.
‘Ready!’ They all replied together.