Saturday, June 23, 2012

23.5: Rafting the Jordan

Today, the Jordan was tamed.  Our raft was the last of our group to enter by about 10 minutes.  Six other rafts entered before us and we waited a bit because of a possibly sick volunteer.  Everyone returned unscathed and we were cleared to enter.  Our crew was comprised of myself (a.k.a "the muscle"), Jocelyn (a.k.a:  "the first mate"), Josh ("the sturdy oak"), Shua ("our captain"), and Cameron (a.k.a. "short round").  Did I make these nick names up on the spot?  Most definitely.  Am I making up the adventurous tale I am about to relay?  Most certainly not.

We entered with a splash and quickly began paddling.  Our task?  To catch the front raft, which had launched about 15 minutes before us.  We had two paddles and rotated who served as steerer and fronts-person.  We dug in, ignoring pain, rapids, and any self doubt that might arise.  We truged ahead as we passed other rafts by the droves.  The rapids were light but fun.  We were able to stop paddling from time to time as the rapids and current took us.  The trip was a total of 2.5 hours (or, might I say, was supposed to take 2.5 hours--it took us 2).  We passed a couple of our fellow rafters around the first hour mark.  The first two we passed were pointed backwards, desperately trying to turn forward or unmoor from the side.

On our journey, we met many interesting people.  Though each raft we passed spoke a slew of different languages (Arabic, Hebrew, and English), it turns out a common greeting was to splash each other in the face.  What first surprised us turned to delight as we entered splashing wars with our competitors as we flew past one another.  A second interesting caveat was all the picnickers along the banks.  Those enjoying the weekend sat in the water about ankle high with makeshift tables as they dined, drank, and partook of the nargilah.

About 15 minutes prior to our journey's end, we met with the second to last raft--one containing three strong men and three paddles (each raft was limited to two paddles but they had found a third one on their way).  Our eyes locked and the challenge was laid without a single word being uttered.  We each set off with reckless abandon as we tore down the river.  After about five minutes, all of us were exhausted an a truce was declared.  We joined rafts and spirits in amicability.  We joked, we splashed, we rejoiced.

Our journey on the Jordan had ended but as it turns out, our day was only beginning.  I had helped carry some lunch supplies to Shua's car (she had driven it to help transport lunch and have a vehicle if need arose).  I rode back with her, Jocelyn and Josh.  We decided to stop for a quick bit to eat when we asked Shua how close we were to the Lebanese border.  Shua said pretty close and asked if we wanted to see it.  We answered with a resounding yes.  After about ten minutes we had reached it.

Based on the news, I had expected to see a vacant demilitarized zone void of life save for the soldiers who patrolled it.  On the contrary, a sprawling pastoral and farming land spread before us.  In fact, unless someone had told me a border existed, I would not have know it were there.  Shua then commented on though the two countries were not on the best of terms, how the people who lived on each side of this border were likely fine (if not amicable) with one another.  It was the governments who disagreed--not those who lived on each side.  This experience, along with others from last year and this year, have given me a very different perspective on the Middle East and politics.

With all joking and hyperbole aside, today was incredible.  Rafting was a blast (as well as visiting the site of Chorazin this morning), but standing on the border between Lebanon and Israel was an almost other worldly experience.  Conflicts between the two nations are something that litter the news but all I saw today was a sprawling countryside abutted by snow capped mountains in a hazed distance.

I have pictures from today, but I am unable at the moment to locate my SD card reader.  I will have to add these tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be our last 4 a.m. Sunday as we continue on our final push on the site for the season.  Four will come early, but I am ready to begin digging again after being sick a majority of last week.