And a Happy Raft It Was

By Rachel Gulden

AJET’s first excursion of the year left us pruney, exhausted, but blissfully happy. The first year rafters, myself included, had been properly prepped by the veteran JETs of the adrenaline- pumping, shriek- inducing, wild rafting adventure we were about to embark on, but I think I can speak for us all when I say Happy Raft– the company who guided us– exceeded our expectations. Unencumbered by the constant rainfall, the four hour trip down the Yoshino River led by experienced guides was filled with wide-eyed screams of terror and jaw-dropping scenery, but what was perhaps most remarkable to me was how quickly friends were made. If you’re looking for a quick way to make lasting friends, I recommend taking a 4 1/2 hour ride down 10 km of rapids. Here is why:

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Wearing skin-tight spandex wet suits really brings people together. If you want to break down social barriers make 27 20-somethings squeeze themselves into wet suits, lifejackets, and ill-fitting helmets. All inhibitions are immediately disregarded when everyone looks equally ridiculous. Somehow our guides managed to make the ensemble look effortlessly bad-ass, while the rest of us waddled around like penguins.

Jumping off a 30 foot cliff really brings people together. Just 5 minutes into trip the guides stopped, pointed at the towering cliff to their left and gave us a nonchalant dozo. My boat of 7 looked around at each other and giggled apprehensively, but as the people in other boats began to file up the rocky cliff we followed. I could hear the calls of support and cheers of congratulation after each brave soul ahead of me made the plunge and it was that encouragement (or peer pressure) and, well, the absence of another way down that got me to jump.

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Careening down rapids in a blow-up raft really brings people together. I was a useless paddler and spent most of the 4- hour ride flailing about the boat while everyone else made sure we did the work, so man, was I grateful to have them there. With each rapid came new instructions and new hazards. The thrill-seeking guides never wanted to make the ride too easy for us; much of our time was spent clutching the raft or each other for dear life while they skillfully flipped our boats in the churning rapids. Our screams of terror and delight were evidence that there was never a dull moment.

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And finally…

Bagels really bring people together. Alas, all good things must come to an end, but the end of the last rapid didn’t mean the end of the fun—there were still bagels to enjoy. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a group of people so happy to eat bagels in my life. We were in serious need of fuel after being thrown out of boats all day and Happy Raft certainly delivered; the sight of the mountain of bagels, toppings, and (of course) mayonnaise after returning to base brought as many cheers and high-fives as the 2m drop down one of the rapids did. We showed no modesty as we scarfed down our bagels (one rafter ate a record-breaking FIVE) and we smiled contently at each other once our bellies were full.

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So you want to make good friends in a short period of time? Go white water rafting. The weekend was filled with laughs, adrenaline-rushes, a few new bruises, and many new friends. The rafting company’s title is certainly appropriate—a Happy Raft it was.

Rachel, is pictured third from the left.

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