Big hearts, big rivers, big adventures in Texas
“On the advice of three Texan girls, whom I met by chance at a paella cooking class in Barcelona some 12 months earlier, I was on the search for the best tubing river in America. The search had led me into the scorching Texan sun; walking along the side of a melting ring road that encircles the small town of New Braunfels, between Austin and San Antonio, trying to find the turnoff (that seemed much closer on the map at the bus stop) that would lead me to one of the many camping grounds that have sprung up along the Guadalupe River.
With my full hiking pack on my back and an extra bag on my front, every stereotypical gas station was seen as a chance to buy a litre of Gatorade to fill each hand, to try and replenish the fluid leaking though my skin that was beading down my arms and stinging my eyes as it flowed from my unwashed, travel-length, mop of hair. On dusk I found the turn off I’d been looking for. Well I guessed it was the turn off, and headed down a narrow barely-made road, deserting the cleared track on the approach of vehicles into chest high grass to avoid a pedestrian-vehicle near-miss in fading light.
Finding my destination it was now dark, the office of the campground showing only a faded light and a sign ready to read closed. On paying my fees they asked of my vehicle and were shocked. Texan’s as a general rule of thumb don’t enjoy walking, and definitely not with baggage. They had never had anyone stupid enough to reach their established patch without a vehicle. They made up a fee, just for me.
Pitching my sky blue two-man tent (better suited for backyards and children) in the dark was proving a chore, when a local gentleman my father’s age offered me their lantern. I reluctantly accepted, that it may make what was becoming a mammoth task much simpler.
That night, while listening to the invisible river only metres away, I met a group of Navy recruits enjoying with fervour their last weekend with families before going to Afghanistan, a group of teens home from colleges across the country who I still keep in contact with to this day and the tequila-swelling best friend of the man who had offered me the lantern.
It was, by chance, Memorial Day Weekend, and these people had all made their annual pilgrimage to their favourite place in all the world. At that moment I was sure that all of them would feature as part of the river adventures of the coming days.
When morning came I gained my first glimpse of the crystal clear, blue waters of the magnificent Guadalupe, rocks towering on the other side of the river offering the perfect platform for peer-pressured teens to jump into the water below – and with a borrowed tube at the ready, a breakfast of fruit juice with a hint of tequila supplied by the aforementioned best friend, and the offer of esky space for my local beer with those of the Navy families; I was ready to set out on one of the best days of my life – and half of the adventure had been getting there!”
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* photo by Ben Smith – Intrepid Photography Competition