The Raft that Didn't Float

December 13, 2006
Day 441

Kaieteur Trek Day 6

Craig had been talking up the idea of building a raft for awhile, so I figured what the heck, I'll give it a shot. Our first task was to find wood. A few large logs were scattered here and there, and we got some more wood by disassembling part of the abandoned mining camp.

Next, we threw each of the logs into the water to test their buoyancy. The first three sank into the abyss of the river. The fourth one finally somewhat floated. We continued testing wood, but most of it sank. Still, maybe we'd have enough floaters to make it work.

We tied a bunch of the logs together, threw some planks we found on top for seats, and gave it a test run without our backpacks. When we sat on the raft, it slowly submerged into the water, then reached an equilibrium about a foot down. "Looks good, let's go," Craig said. I seriously began to question his sanity. Heading down the river on a raft would be cool, but not with water up to my chest and a backpack to worry about.

I went back to the campsite and started preparing my backpack. I inflated my mattress as much as possible inside my backpack, put whatever I could into plastic bags, and threw in a couple of plastic bottles I found scattered around to help the backpack float. I was seriously considering biting the bullet and flying out, even though it would mean an additional 8-hour bus ride back to Mahdia to pick up the gear I left behind. Suddenly, a motorboat came up the river and docked next to our raft! We hadn't seen anyone on the river for days, yet here was this nice, big aluminum boat, ready to head back down. The driver and his friend claimed that they were there to transport a ranger and his family back down the river, but they needed to go up to the top to buy fuel. We agreed to a price, gave them our money, and they took off.

We figured they'd take about four hours to return with the fuel, but as the day droned on, it became more and more likely that they weren't coming back down. Finally near sunset we set up camp and began cooking dinner. The boat was sitting in the water next to my tent, so there didn't seem to be any way possible for the driver to take off with our money. Maybe the raft still would have been the better option. At least we'd be partway down the river by now.

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