|Aidan Schmer in front of Chiang Dao Mountain|
By Prisana Nuechterlein
The older German couple paddling beside my husband and I looked perplexed. Perhaps they were wondering: “Who is this Eddie Out?” Their English was "not so good" and our German was nonexistent. I pointed over to the shore and paddled ahead toward the calmer pool of water, signaling for them to follow me. Behind me I heard a rush of exchanges and caught a familiar word "kaput", which obviously had the same meaning both in German and in English.
|Eric and Prisana kayaking the River Ping|
|Kayaking in Northern Thailand|
We ventured forth, practicing our various training maneuvers. Our river guide Aay was the leader, while Aidan paddled toward the back of our string of bright kayaks. I followed practically in Aay’s shadow, benefiting from his close supervision especially when he taught me to point my kayak sideways as we entered the numerous twist and turns of the winding river. Far behind me, I heard Aidan shouting commands at a young man from Holland, who had gotten stuck on yet another boulder. In between the calm stretches of water, where we floated unobstructed, were far more challenging episodes of Man verses Rock accompanied by Aidan’s intimidating, but well meaning shouts.
|Prisana shadowing river guide Aay|
|Thai River Guide Aay|
A few hours had passed, when I noticed what appeared to be a small dam downriver. Aidan paddled quickly by us and said something, but I only caught two words: “very important.” The German couple looked at me quizzically. Apparently, "very important" was all that they had heard as well, but none of us had a clue as to WHAT was important? No worries, we were four hours deep into our kayaking adventure and felt confident that our fearless leader would not lead us astray. We bravely forged ahead until we saw the couple from Holland abruptly stop in front of the dam, where Aidan was standing in the river prepared to guide them over the top of it.
With Aidan’s help we conquered the dam and paddled a short distance to a secluded location along the river bank where we enjoyed a delicious Thai meal at a thatched roof, open air restaurant. The lifeline of Chiang Mai flowed onward without us, meandering through the vibrant countryside. For a few brief hours, we had escaped into what Aidan called the “edge of civilization” where the past and the future were replaced with only the rare sanctuary of present time.