Rafting the Coldest River In The World
"It's perfectly safe," I told myself. But in the end, someone almost died.
Wait. Don’t I need to sign a release?
I’d come to Konjic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, to raft on the Neretva River, and the man in the rafting office had just finished outfitting me.
He gave my lifejacket a couple of yanks and said in his heavily accented English, “Okay, you all set. Have good time today.”
I wasn’t thrilled by how red the helmet was.
With my complexion I’m going to look like Mr. Tomato Head, I thought. On the other hand, if I fell out of the raft, I’d be easy to spot.
But what about that release form? I didn’t see any papers or clipboards anywhere around. Didn’t they do that here?
But this wasn’t America — it was Bosnia. And if Western Europe takes a more casual attitude toward its citizens choosing to take risks, then Eastern Europe is positively cavalier. I could probably refuse to wear the helmet and lifejacket, and also juggle axes, and I’m not sure anyone would have cared.
I wondered what Brent would think. He was in the middle of a project and had stayed back at the apartment.
My guide was a young man named Džan.
And when I say “young,” I later learned that meant, “still in high school.”
Džan gave the group some very simple instructions on how to paddle on his commands. But unlike rafting trips I’d taken in the U.S., he didn’t say anything safety-related. He didn’t even mention what to do if you fell out of the raft.
But so what? I wasn’t going to fall out of the raft.
The people in my raft included a young French Canadian couple and two twentysomething male friends, one from Poland, the other from Albania. I had a sneaking suspicion they were a couple.
There was also a Dutch woman traveling with her husband and teenage daughter. The older woman quickly gave everyone an impromptu lesson in raft safety: if we flip, let go and push away. If you fall overboard, keep your legs pointed downstream.
See? Even without waivers, everything was going to be just fine.