Students take waves on the Thompson

One student’s experience in an International Student Activity Program adventure

Stepping off the bus and into the beautiful sunshine of the B.C. interi­or woke me up like no cup of coffee ever could. My exhaustion from the combined forces of a late night be­forehand and a long bus ride to the Kumsheen Rafting Resort was in­stantly replaced by an aura of antic­ipation.

Students in the ISAP group on the Thompson River, launched from the Kumsheen Raft Resort near Lytton. (Photos by Wade Tomko/The Omega)

Students in the ISAP group on the Thompson River, launched from the Kumsheen Raft Resort near Lytton. (Photos by Wade Tomko/The Omega)

Muhammed Al Johani is a TRU business student from Saudi Arabia, and unlike so many others on the bus, he was no amateur. “I went last year,” he told me. “Waiting to hit the big waves is the best part. I heard about this trip a few months back and have been excited ever since. If I’m at TRU next year, I’ll be one of the first to sign up for another day of river rafting.”

Looking out the side of the bus, you could see monstrous rapids below the craggy cliffs. Seeing the white­caps and swirling eddies down below invigorated me with a renewed surge of adrenaline. With the temperature almost reaching 40 C, I wanted to be one of the first in the water.

Once off the bus, International Student Activity Program (ISAP) coordinator Jillian Folk marshalled us to the back of the resort, where we were supposed to gear up in wetsuits. The heat that day proved too much, and our Kumsheen guides decided against making us suffer in the black Neoprene water gear. Instead they encouraged us to just wear our bath­ing suits. Getting a little too enthu­siastic, I stripped down to the pair of board shorts I brought – something I later regretted, with peeling sun­burns.

It would be a little while before we set out. I killed the time playing frisbee with TRU students Louis Ritchie and Vincent Gagui, both of whom had caught rafting hysteria.

“$30 to go river rafting – you can’t say no to that. A deal like that is as good as it gets,” said Ritchie.

tomko2At our launch location we would put on the necessary safety equip­ment (life jackets and helmets) before joining a few of the family groups on the beach for further instructions. The surplus of river gear Kumsheen had brought along did little to quell the fears of one student. Anya Dens­more had never been white water rafting before and personally admit­ted that this would be her first time on a river, whether in a boat or not. But the bravery of her friend, Rebec­ca Jean Ascah, would prove strong enough for the both of them and soon Anya would be at the forefront of our group, not wanting to give up this special opportunity.

The first half of our day would consist of paddle rafting down the Thompson until we reached Nicomen Falls for lunch. But be­fore we could paddle away down the Thompson, Willis, the most experi­enced of Kumsheen guides briefed us on how to work as a team and what to do in the event that you go over­board. How to pull someone back in the raft was something that would come in handy multiple times on our quest down the Thompson. Though I found Willis’ humour and insistence on using himself as an example quite entertaining, I could see that some of his darker jokes distressed more raf­ters than it reassured.

I was lucky enough to get in a raft with all the friends I had made that day. Louis, Vincent, Muhammed and I added a warrior spirit to our boat as we were determined to be the first ones to Nicomen Falls even if we were the last to leave. And the last to leave we were. Natalie, our boat’s guide, wanted to make sure we could properly row as a team before setting off.

Our inexperience showed, much of the trip to the first set of rapids involved us floating backwards. But once we were in the more turbulent waters of the Thompson, our enthu­siasm and utter fearlessness prevailed over any lack of skill. Amongst the rushing rapids we would pass an­other boat full of ISAP students. We made our victory well known with some timely cheering as we drifted by them. Unfortunately it was the only boat we overtook that day, as we hit slower waters before making up the distance to the next boat.

This calm did give us an extend­ed period of relaxation, though, and provided an excellent opportunity to dive in for a swim. We took turns jumping off the prow of our raft, div­ing in the silliest of ways. After one too many cannonballs, Natalie de­cided to teach us something new: the Salmon. Which turned out to be not so much a cool new trick to show off at pool parties, as it was practice for swimming up river.

tomko3We floated into the inlet below Nicomen Falls due to Natalie’s ex­treme skill more than anything else. Louis and Vincent were the first two to get out. Climbing onto the rocky shore, they held the boat in place un­til the rest of us could get out. Slowly, we made our way up the road towards the famous Nicomen House situated perfectly between the river and the falls themselves. The view of both from the old hotel was absolutely stunning, and an excellent place to stop for lunch.

Our respite didn’t last long though, after a hearty helping of Caesar salad and an over-stuffed burrito, we were on our way back to the inlet.

During our feast, our Kumsheen guides had pulled the paddle rafts out of the water and put in the motorized power rafts. In a rush to get back into the water and out of the sun, I got split up from my original group and found myself with a completely new crew led by the little-bit-crazy Willis. Wanting to take the initiative, he had us out of the inlet before the other boats even had the chance to start their motors.

Hungry for the biggest waves, our guide led us through what could be termed as “hell and high water”. More than once I thought we would cap­size with our raft becoming almost vertical on the more intimidating of waves. Unlike paddle rafting through the calmer rapids, where you wouldn’t necessarily get soaked, the deluge of water here was unavoidable. With horsepower instead of manpower at our backs we raced from rapid to rap­id. Few times in our trip to down the river to Lytton was our boat not vio­lently rocking from side to side. For some of us it was a struggle just to hang on, but my ego had me holding onto the safety rope one handed; this was just too much fun.

But before I knew it, the muddy waters of the Fraser River were in sight and I knew my trip was at an end. After beaching ourselves where the Thompson meets the Fraser, we sat down for some well-deserved water and congratulations. As the certificates we would get back at the resort would say, we were fully ac­complished “Kumsheen River Rats.”

As my first ISAP trip, this was much more than I could ask for. The ISAP is a phenomenal initiative, possibly one of the greatest things our university has to offer. And don’t think for a second that it is exclusive­ly for international students – do­mestic students are just as welcome. Folk’s commitment to the program and the students she takes with her make every ISAP adventure incredi­bly unique, though ISAP will be back to Kumsheen again.

“This is our third year with Kum­sheen. They’re perfect because they do paddling and power rafting,” she said.

Other ISAP events planned in­clude a visit to local Okanagan win­eries, rock climbing and possibly ziplining in Chase. ISAP updates its Facebook page with upcoming events, or students can stop by their kiosk in the International Building.