This is a fairly comical question almost every river guide is asked. In actual fact whilst working in Switzerland, it was a question I was asked on a daily basis. I guess it seemed strange to the Swiss that somebody might spend their life guiding people down the world’s best rivers. So what is it, a guide actually does?
River Professional: Far and away the most important job your guide will do each day, is safely navigate you through the rapids on your adventure. They will have you honed together as a finely tuned team of individuals paddling together in unison to tackle rapids, catch eddys and rescue swimmers if necessary.
Knowledge Guru: Let’s face it. The main reason we like to travel is to learn about other countries, their history. their flora and fauna, their geology, astronomy and their people. It is important to have our local guides along with you to share with you, the love of their own country. You’ll be fascinated by the knowledge of these guys and girls.
Chef: Many guides love the challenge of preparing world class meals on the riverbank. They all have their own favorites, whether is be pizzas, a freshly baked chocolate cake for a birthday or anniversary, or a big tray of pre-dinner Hors D’Oeuvres. So don’t expect baked beans on toast on your next adventure holiday, you may just get lasagna baled in a cap oven on the banks of the Karnali.
Musician: Sitting around the campfire is a pretty conducive time to listen to one of the guides play the guitar, or even didgeridoo! They are people with many hidden talents on your trip and we have had some people with some pretty good skills before! In my early years guiding in New Zealand I even took Bono and The Edge rafting! Although such superstars aren’t guaranteed on every trip, its a pretty fun way to spend the evening under the stars.
Storyteller: Guides are great story tellers. Many of the stories will be from their trips around the world and their experiences along the way. Some will share their outcome over adversity, like a landslide getting to the river in Nepal, or others may involve great groups they have rafted with. Whatever the story is, we are sure it will all be true and very little artistic license used!
Toilet Designer: The guides take a great deal of pride on where to put the loo with a view, or ‘groover’ as it is better known in the US. We normally give this task to our safety kayakers (given they have the best job on the river). Perhaps they will use a local cedar tree in Morocco as the toilet roll holder. We always continue to be surprised and amazed at their ingenuity to provide a discreet and private place with all the comforts of home (well almost)
Dish washer: Well when dinner is done and Stan is spinning a yarn or two around the fire, there are the pots to wash up. This tends to be one of the most social jobs on the trip. Whilst we ask guests to partake in washing their plates, the washing up station tends to have a pretty nice ‘riverside’ view. Who wouldn’t want to wash up in this environment?
Listener: People go through many personal hurdles, anguish and highs in their lives. Sitting down on a rock contemplating life on California’s Tuolumne River, can be a great spot to have a chat with a fellow adventurer or guide as to what might have shaped you. We have always been pleasantly surprised at how the river environment seems to allow people to chat more freely about their lives.
So, you think that is guides in a nutshell? It is only just scratching the surface. We look forward to introducing them to you on your next adventure.
by Hamish McMaster
Hamish McMaster is the Water By Nature owner. He has spent the past 25 years exploring and playing on the world's great rivers. He still loves nothing more than getting out there and sharing adventures.
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