“Oh God! Please help us” I prayed like never before. I prayed with my eyes open, although it didn’t matter, as it was past midnight and I could see nothing. The wind blew violently across my Kayak and I tried valiantly to keep it afloat.
It was a cool, wintery, midnight in Puerto Rico, on my first Kayak trip where a boat trip was turning into a nightmare. My family got sucked into one of those tour hawkers that greet you as soon as you get off a plane about all the awesome trips their island has to offer. Well the ‘Bio-luminescence Kayak trip’ sounded pretty good to the eyes and ears. They described it as an underwater world of lights and the pictures they shared were breathtaking. People travel silently on Kayaks into the lagoon, in the middle of the night for this experience. So upon my sons’ insistence we also took the plunge (Literally!) and made reservations for the midnight tour.
Just before midnight, we arrived at the rendezvous, as advised in our swimsuits and found many people there waiting for the tour to begin. Soon enough the tour guides came up and gave us directions on what to do and not do on the ride into the lagoon. They warned us that sometimes the Kayak would topple over and we just had to simply climb back on top and get going again. Sounded pretty simple. At that point of course we had no idea that we were soon going to part of the statistic that includes toppled Kayaks.
It was pretty exciting as the four of us got on top of the Kayak and were soon underway, silently slithering over the cool waters. At some spots we seemed to be travelling between a tunnel of trees and vines and we could hear the creatures of the night, making their presence felt. We were not very good rowers and we kind of straggled behind the other Kayaks. There were two guides with the expedition, one way up in the front leading the pack and one a little behind us.
As we reached the middle of the lagoon, I felt little raindrops on my skin. Slowly, I could feel the heaviness creep up my chest and I tried to ignore it. Then the wind started to blow. I now left the oars and held on to the side of the Kayak. I was starting to let the fear creep up. The wind blew even stronger and the Kayak started to shake. I was sitting up front, so I turned around to look at my husband and kids. Everyone had fear painted on their faces. The little raindrops turned into rain and with that I saw my little one allow his tears to silently flow down his cheeks. I was terrified for them and started to pray. “Oh God! Please help us”.
And then it happened! There was a sudden gust of wind and all of us toppled over like a house of cards. We went head first into the water with the Kayak over us. All the panic buttons in my body were pressed. I forgot we all had life jackets on. I forgot we were all trained swimmers. I forgot the lagoon was only 8 feet deep. I forgot we have swum in oceans before. I forgot there was a guide close by. It was dark; I couldn’t see my kids and I could hear my insides scream under water. All I cared about was for my kids to be safe. I scrambled up for air and immediately looked around for my kids. I caught hold of my older ones hand and told him to hold on to the Kayak. My husband had gotten hold of my younger one and I saw them holding on to the Kayak on the other side. We were all above water. I took a deep breath; at least everyone was above water.
The guide came to us soon enough and tried to help us get back on the Kayak. That part was another ordeal in itself. He helped my husband to get on the Kayak first, then together they helped both my sons get on the middle but the trickiest was getting me on top of it. I tried to get on it and the Kayak toppled over again! I was in tears and my sons were in tears. They were so worried for me. They got on it again and when the guide asked me to climb up, I was hesitant. Each time I put some weight on the Kayak it seemed to wobble and I would let go for fear of toppling it again. I refused to do it. I thought I could just swim along the Kayak until we got to land. The guide tried to coax me back on the Kayak but I refused. Finally he whistled for the other guide and then they both held on to the Kayak from both sides and held it steady, while I climbed back on it carefully.
Finally, we were all on the kayak. We were too numb with shock to row back and so the guide had to tie our Kayak to his and we sailed along in silence behind him. No one noticed the lights in the water or the chirping birds or the cool wind blowing so softly. It was an unforgettable experience, just for the fact that, I think it is my first memory of fear and panic. I had never faced it before and I don’t think I want to ever face such sheer panic again.