Ciarán & Elaine's Travelog

Monday, October 17, 2005

White water rafting on the Apurimac river - Day 2

We´re woken up when the sun rises at 5.30am and immediately pack up the tents and get into our wetsuits ready for a thrilling day on the river. Unfortunately the Israeli lads don´t have as much enthusiasm as us and again we´re an hour late setting off.

Before we do anything we have a quick practice of commands from Pancho. He´s the manager of the rafting company and has over 20 years experience so we´re all quite confident. Our team is really strong and straight away we´re working well together. Just as well considering our first rapid is a 4+ (5 is the most difficult you can do). We learn throughout the course of the day that one of the most important things we need is a strong team who can communicate, work together and follow commands as some of the rapids are extremely powerful.

The morning is completely hectic with grade 3, 4, 4+ & 5 rapids every five minutes. It´s so exciting and such an adrenellin rush every time we get through another rapid, we´re having a fantastic day. Pancho is happy that we´re a strong team and decides to teach us a new command named ´high side forward´, this involves the six of us diving towards the front of the raft at the same time. This move causes the raft to stand on it´s nose and he tells us that later on we´re going to go surfing the rapids in our raft - can´t wait!
Then he lets us go body rafting which basically means going through a rapid without a boat! Good practice in case we flip or bounce out on a rapid...

Some of the rapids are grade 6 which means that only experienced guides can go through them so for these ones we all get out of the rafts and clamber over the boulders along the bank, this is easier said than done as many of the boulders are over 12 foot tall and we´ve to climb up and down them to get past! Watcing the guides go through these rapids is fantastic, they´re all so skilled in the water but even they have difficulty on some of the rougher parts.

Because Pancho is the manager, our raft is going last today to ensure that the other rafts get through all the rapids safely. This means that we are in the position to watch the others before we have to do it ourselves - really gets the adrenellin going to see what we have to do! On one 4+ rapid we saw the entire team being thrown from the boat near the beginning of the rapid. They all had to body raft through the rest of the rapid (which happened to be the longest on the river, about 100 metres). It was really rough with lots of boulders and rocks in the water and they were all fairly shaken by the time they were rescued.

We did it perfectly - such a rush!

We stopped for lunch on another beach it was SO hot and there was no shade at all so we were glad to be back on the water but one of the girls who was thrown from her raft was so upset she wouldn´t get back into her raft and we had to swap Nick into her boat and take her instead. She was fairly rubbish at paddling and following commands and as you rely so much on the team we weren´t very confident about having her in our boat.

The first rapid after lunch was a huge 4+ and we could hear the water roaring before we could even see it. We watched the other rafts go through and saw one of them trying to turn and paddle back into the rapid, the water was too strong for them and they couldn´t get back up so they turned back and finished the rapid.

Then it was our turn, we raced through the water, following the commands Pancho roared at us, this was a real tough one and as we got over the first big drop Pancho directed us into an alcove in the rock at the river bank. He told us to turn the boat and suddenly we realise he wants to take us surfing in the rapid. We´re so excited about this (except for the scared girl, who´s terrified). We charge back into the rapid with every bit of strength and energy we have. The water is churning like a washing machine but eventually we make it back to the cusp of the rapid and Pancho roars ´high side forward´immediately the six of us dive towards the front of the raft. The boat stands on its nose with the water gushing in on top of us but theres nothing to hold myself and Emma into the boat (we´re at the back with nobody lying on top of us!). We tumble forward over the boys and upside down into the swirling rapid. The water spins us around a few times before the floatation in the life jacket turns us the right way and we´re body rafting (sooo fast) through the water. The safety kayak comes after me and brings me to another raft where they pull me on board.

Meanwhile Pancho has instructed Ciaran and the lads left in the boat to get back into position. The boat drops back into the water and Pancho tells them to charge forward. They paddle like mad until they reach the centre of the rapid again. Pancho shouts high side forward and they all dive forward. This time the boat tips onto its nose and they ´surf´the rapid for about 5 seconds before the raft eventually flips and they´re washed through the rapid.

What an adrenellin rush, such a mix of exhilleration and fear it´s definitely one of the most amazing things we´ve ever done. Everyone is on a high as we set off down the river to set up camp. Can´t wait to do it all again tomorrow....


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