Warning: Life vests may be ineffective in ankle deep water.

After a harrowing 10 minutes or so in trying to get away from the squeezing press of the other boats, our plastic toy of a boat chugs down the shoreline to anchor up next to another boat. I’m almost excited that we may be getting on a bigger boat.

But, we aren’t. He’s pulling up there to get a water pump to get the rest of the water out from the boat. That delays us for awhile again. By this time, it’ll well past 10 AM. Remember, we were supposed to be leaving the dock at 7 AM.

We head out into deep waters, our life vests clipped around our rapidly beating hearts, and there’s a boat that has stalled in the middle of the lake. Our boat shivvies up to it, and they’re instructing the stranded passengers to get into our boat. Oh heck no. We’re already beyond capacity.

There’s an argument, as the smarter passengers are refusing to get off the boat. We have about three people join ours, but they look less than happy. Once the boat drivers see that nobody else wants to go down with this ship, they take off again, and we’re puttering onto a thinner patch of water.

In the meantime, someone who doesn’t understand the physics of a toy boat, decides that he wants to take a picture of the stranded boat disppearing onto the horizon. He jumps up, nearly smacking his head, and throws his weight to the other side with his huge Nikon at the ready. Of course, the vessel tips heavily over to the side, so much so that its lip is skimming the water’s surface. People start screaming at him to sit down NOW. If he hadn’t, I’m pretty sure he would’ve been overboard.

The river we meander in to is low, as it’s the end of the dry season. Not the optimal time to take a boat, mind you, but everyone said it would be “okay.”

In the middle and sides of the river are floating houses and villages, skinny, surface-skimming longboats, lotus, weeds, fishing screens, and gigantic fishing nets on bamboo contraptions. There are massive piles of sticks and webs of fishing lines.

Around one bend, the captain line drives us straight up into a big pile of sticks. After much pushing and shoving from el capitano two, we are free to drive around the next bend and … SMACK! right into another huge beaver dam of sticks and the river bank.

This time, we are stuck like gum in the grooves of a gym shoe. El capitano two pushes in the mud with a big pole, and we rock the boat backwards to try and get us out of there. The men of the boat decide to roll up their pants and shorts and jump into the knee-deep muck and about waist high water. With them pushing against the boat, it finally groans and rolls back into the deeper bits of water. We rock precariously to one side, as if we’re about to flip over. That lifevest becomes a necessity – just in case.

The sticks scrape against the fiberglass bottom of the boat, nails on a chalkboard. We heave and scrape for about 20 minutes before the boat finally gets free of the muck and sticks.

Putter, putter, putter, vroom, vroom, vroom. We head deeper and deeper downriver, slowing down as we go through floating villages. Little kids appear on the front desks of houses, waving madly at us as we go. They are the beautiful part of this trip, the way they smile and wave and shout at us. We are the coolest things ever to them. I can appreciate their enthusiasm and their wonder.

As we head away from the villages, though, the river begins to narrow ever more. It’s almost a thin trickle where dangerous beacons of sticks jut above the muddy surface, a bony graveyard of trees.

The water is very low here, and it is only a matter of time before the boat shores up on a dry land because there is no water whatsoever.

We beach. We beach like a beluga whale on a sandy beach. Oh heck.

El capitano two gets off the boat and tries shoving us back into the spit of water. Nope. More shoving. Nope. It’s clear that there’s no way in Hades that the boat, with our collective body and luggage weight, is going to move off Gilligan’s Island here in the center of the river … or creek … whatever it has become now.

The men in our boat have decided to ditch modicum and are in their boxers – some of them, anyway – pushing us to “deeper” water. Soon, they’re shoving harder and harder, rocking us back and forth as we ladies redistribute weight to where it would be easier to move the boat.

We cheer happily as the boat’s engine catches on water again, and the guys have a great time trying to tip the boat over as they climb back in. Womanly screams ensue as we nearly capsize several times.

But, as one guy said to a girl desperately clinging to her lifevest, “Umm…the water only goes up to your ankles. I’m pretty sure a lifejacket is useless.”

Well said, well said.

However, I’m going to keep mine on – for now.

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