Day 4: Flatwater - Diversion en el Rio Antigua

Trip Start Feb 06, 2009
1
4
9
Trip End Feb 14, 2009


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Where I stayed
Aventuras Sin Limite
What I did
whitewater kayaking
yoga
tortilla making

Flag of Mexico  , Veracruz-Llave,
Monday, February 9, 2009

Today was an early start because I decided to take part in the optional yoga classes which was held at 7:30 a.m. at Esprit. Anna is a certified Hatha yoga instructor and she lead us through a sequence of sun salutations and asanas for an hour.

At 8:30 a.m. we were served a delicious breakfast of huevos a la mexicana, which is scrambled eggs, onion, chilies, peppers and cheese. We also had fresh papaya, granola and yogurt. After eating we went back to our rooms to change into our river gear and met Anna on the corner at 9:45 a.m. by the traffic bridge in town. We walked across the bridge and down the steps to the put-in while our kayaks were being driven to the location.
 
Before getting in the water we all did several stretches to warm up our bodies. We then carried our boats to the river and got in. We put-in a nice large eddy that was directly below the bridge. An eddy is a calm spot of water ad-mist rapids and other whitewater. An eddy is formed when a rock, or other obstacle, blocks the flow of downstream current, water then has no choice but to fill in the area by flowing upstream. An eddy is usually very calm water and a good spot to rest or stop your kayak.
 
Anna, Mil and Karine did a short safety talk before telling us what we were going to be working on. We finally got going about 10:00 a.m. First we began with the forward stroke. The forward stroke is the most common stroke in kayaking and obviously used as a means of propelling oneself forward. Unfortunately its one of the easiest strokes to do wrong. Most people attempt to use their arms to pull the paddle through the water. The correct technique is to rotate the torso away from the side you are taking a stroke on, plant the paddle and unwind the torso to pull the kayak through the water.
 
Torso rotation is very important in the forward stroke because using the larger muscles of the torso is more efficient than using the smaller muscles of the arms. Anna had us practice several torso rotation drills so we could get the feel for it. First we partnered up and the one partner held one paddle blade of the other person's while that person rotated their kayak in the opposite direction using only the core muscles. Next we did a drill where we kept both arms completely straight while taking a stroke, forcing you to have to rotate your upper body to finish the stroke. The final drill involved keeping the upper hand planted on your forehead while taking a stroke forcing you to turn your upper body to finish the stroke. These were all helpful drills. I found I do not rotate enough when taking a forward stroke so this was something beneficial for me to work on.

Next Anna covered the back stroke. The back stroke is not often used in kayaking, especially whitewater kayaking. But it sometimes can come in handy if you really need to halt forward motion of your kayak because of an obstacle. The back stroke is done by planting the blade behind you near your rear end and rotating your torso to draw the blade to front of the kayak near your feet. We practiced this stroke so we would know it but also because it works the smaller muscles in the back that are not often used.
 
Since we learned how to make the kayak go both forward and backwards it was now time to learn some turning strokes. The first of the turning strokes we covered were the sweep strokes. There are two, the forward sweep and the reverse sweep stroke. The forward sweep looks similar to the forward stroke. You begin by rotating your torso in the opposite direction of the side you are taking a stroke on, you plant your paddle but instead of the paddle traveling close to the side of your kayak it instead makes an arch in the water and you release the blade just before you hit the stern of your kayak. If you do a sweep stroke on the right side your kayak will turn left and vice versa. The reverse sweep is also a turning stoke and used very infrequently because you lose momentum while paddling but it is very effective at quickly turning the kayak. To do a reverse sweep stroke you plant your blade behind you by the stern and you use to non-power face of the blade to form an arch in the water ending near your toes and releasing the blade before it hits the bow of your kayak. When you do the reverse sweep stroke your kayak will turn in the direction of whichever side you started the sweep on.

The next turning stroke we learned in the stern draw, its a very quick and effective stroke and is often used to turn a kayak while in whitewater. To do the stern draw you spear the water on either side of you, rotate your torso and sweep the blade toward your stern. This stroke quickly produced a sharp turn in the opposite direction.

After working on so many concepts it was time for some fun. Mil and Karine paddled down the eddy away from us and Anna explained that we were going to do a relay race using all the strokes we just learned. First we had to do the forward stroke until we got to either Karine or Mil depending on what team we were on. Then we had to paddle around them, then we had to make a full circle with our kayaks using the forward and reverse sweep then we had to do the reverse stroke and paddle backwards and tag our next teammate to go. There were four women on each team. I started out our team and got us a really good head start. The relay race was alot of fun and my team won.
 
At 12:30 p.m. once the race was finished we loaded our kayaks back onto the trailers and walked into town to Esprit to have lunch. Earlier in the morning we saw a huge line of locals lined up around the block. We asked what was happening and were told that this is the time of the month that the government hands out assistance checks to those that qualify and that they were waiting for their checks. As we walked across the bride a big market or a type of fair had set up on the streets in town. There were people selling fried chicken and drinks and you could pick up anything from a dvd, bras to cookware.
 
Again we asked what the festival was all about and were told that on the days that the government checks are given out that its not uncommon that local farmers and merchants set up booths to try to make some money. As we walked to the restaurant we took a good look around to see if there was anything we were interested in. I spied some beautiful earthenware crookery similar to the dishes that Esprit used. After kayaking I wanted to get a good look at those.

Back at Esprit we were served bagels and there was pastrami, cheese, lettuce, tomato and various condiments that you could construct a sandwich from. There was also watermelon, cookies and a great local juice called Hicada, that was made from hibiscus flower.
 
After lunch, at about 1:45 p.m. we returned to the river. We began our afternoon by working on bow-rescues in current. When you flip upside down in the river its not nearly as nice as in the pool. The water is colder, its moving, its darker and much harder to see, all of this causes a bit of disorientation. This is where Anna's previous suggestion of repeating a mantra to ourselves came in handy, it gives you something to focus on besides your lack of oxygen. That is why we spent some time really working on our bow rescues and trying not to panic and pull our skirts and swim before someone could rescue us.
 
We then began working on ferries. A ferry is a maneuver used to cross a current of water, going from one side of the river to another without being flushed down river. At first a ferry can be somewhat intimidating because you are in a nice calm eddy and you must point your kayak upstream, going against the current, and maintain a pretty hard 45 degree angle and a downstream tilt to be able to get to the other side. While practicing ferries I learned that I do not look in the direction that I am going nearly as much as I should so that gave me something to work on.
 
Once we reached the opposite side of the river we were told to walk our kayaks upstream that we were going to run a small set of rapids. Walking while carrying a kayak can be tough because almost always the side of rivers are filled with large boulders and other debris that trips you up, you have to be very careful. Once we got further upstream Anna stopped us and talked to us about river reading. River reading becomes an essential skill for any river kayaker. The river has tell tale signs that point you in the direction you need to go, if you can read it. Anna showed us the down stream V. The down stream v, or tongue as its sometimes called, is formed where the current is the fastest and deepest, it is the best line for you to follow since it is relatively devoid of obstacles. After discussing the rapid and the line we should take Anna asked for a volunteer to go first. Everyone looked a little apprehensive so I volunteered since I've run rapids before. What is was going down into was only a class 1 rapid so it wasn't really anything to worry about. Rapids are rated on a class 1-6 scale. Class 1 being the easiest and progressing in difficulty to class 6 which is considered high risk even for expert level paddlers. The downstream v in this rapid was easily seen and I made it through without any problem. Mil and Karine were waiting down river in the eddy for us. All the ladies made it down the rapid with no problem. This ended our day on the river at about 3:15 p.m.
 
We walked back to Aventuras and got changed. Lorelei, Karen, and I decided to check out the market in town since it was only going to be here today. Our first stop was at the booth with the earthenware cooking bowls. They were so cute and both Lorelei and I bought one. I thought it would be a great souvenir from Jalcomulco and great to use as a salsa dish at home. We walked all throughout the market and there was everything there. They sold clothes, dishes, bras and underwear, dvds and cds, tools, it was sort of like the mall coming to you. Ofcourse no one here spoke English and our Spanish was painfully below par....so we were often forced to play multi-lingual charades to get our point across.....sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't.
 
We walked into a local convenience store and bought some beer, there were some cute white guys there. I think they may have been some of Esprit's guides. We drank our beer on our way back to Aventuras. Since there was still time to kill before happy hour at Esprit I got showered and changed. At 6:00 we made our way down to Esprit, for happy hour they were having pina coladas, I opted for a Sol instead. We were served chiles rellenos, a fantastic stuffed poblano pepper filled with cheese and spices and then deep fried. We also had arrachera which is a type of beef, it was made into patty form and stuffed with jalapeno seeds and covered in cheese, spices and salsa...very hot but good. While we ate we saw a slideshow of the photos Eileen took of us throughout the day, we also got to review the video taken of us performing bow rescues and ferries. Anna offered advice to each of us on what we could improve upon.

We were all invited to Berta's house for a traditional Mexican dinner. I was excited because it allowed us to see inside their homes and a glimpse at how they lived and cooked. When we got there Berta had everything all prepared. She had tortillas with rice and refried beans, a mixed green salad with star fruit and balsamic vinaigrette dressing, and pollo barbecado in banana leaf and lime tort for dessert. All of the food was fantastic and very fresh.

Once we were done eating we were invited into Berta's kitchen for a tortilla making lesson. Mexican custom dictates that a woman is not ready to marry until she can properly make tortillas. We watched as Berta demonstrated how it was done. She took the dough and began folding it back and forth in her hands to flatten it, the she transferred it to a table top and began to spin it in circles with one hand while slapping it with the other. Next she took the flattened mass in her hands and gently dropped it onto the grill to cook. She made it look easy. We each had a chance to make a tortilla under the watchful eyes of Berta. Between the Coronas and the tortilla making attempts there were alot of laughs in Berta's house!
 
After our tortilla making lesson we sat around talking. Connie and I asked Anna about going zip lining one day since we did have some time after kayaking. Anna talked to Milissa and she said we could definitely do it the next afternoon. All the ladies in the group wanted to do it so we set up an appointment with Aventuras Sin Limite to zip line the next afternoon.

We had a discussion with Anna about fear while on the water and she really has some helpful insights about trying to figure out if your fear is rational or irrational and what is making you feel that way.

Once the night was over we returned to Aventuras and Helen and I sat in the hammocks and talked about kayaking for awhile before going to bed.

Things Learned on Day 4 in Mexico:

1. An eddy is a calm spot of water ad-mist rapids and other whitewater. An eddy is formed when a rock, or other obstacle, blocks the flow of downstream current, water then has no choice but to fill in the area by flowing upstream.

2. The forward stroke is the most common stroke taken kayaking. Its a means of propelling yourself forward.

3. Torso rotation is very important in the forward stroke because using the larger muscles of the torso is more efficient than using the smaller muscles of the arms.

4. The forward sweep, the reverse sweep and the stern draw are used to turn a kayak.

5. The Mexicans have alot of really refreshing drinks make from local fruits, water, ice, honey and sometimes even flowers.

6. A ferry is a maneuver used to cross a current of water, going from one side of the river to another without being flushed down river.

7. Mexico has an assistance program, similar to welfare in the US, where those qualifying get help from the government. On the days that the government checks are given out that its not uncommon that local farmers and merchants set up booths to try to make some money.

8. The down stream v, or tongue as its sometimes called, is formed where the current is the fastest and deepest, it is the best line for you to follow since it is relatively devoid of obstacles.

9. Rapids are rated on a class 1-6 scale. Class 1 being the easiest and progressing in difficulty to class 6 which is considered high risk even for expert level paddlers.

10. Mexican custom dictates that a woman is not ready to marry until she can properly make tortillas.
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