Baños Firsts and Extremes – Part II

Birthday Week was in full swing, and I had another thing I was psyched to try – white water rafting!  I know; can you believe it?  This nature girl (and her golden boy) had never been white water rafting!  Now what’s up with that??  Too cold, I suppose, would have been the explanation – they say you can really only get decent rapids in the Lehigh Valley of PA in the Springtime, and April is not a particularly warm time of year in PA to be submersed in water.  I was sure Baños would be hot and perfect for white-water rafting.

Well, I may have been off on that assumption.  Or maybe Mother Nature was just off of her typical weather patterns.  Our hostel owner did say the weather had been “crazy” in Baños in October.  Should have been real hot.  But, just for Elliott, Baños was having a coldish spell.  Luckily it was my Birthday Week, and that meant I had a lot of leverage with what I wanted to do, even if it was cold!  He was a great sport.

It was a much longer drive to our white-water rafting spot than it had been to canyoning.  And as we listened to the speedy Spanish phrases flying around us we were picking out a few key terms such as “dangerous” and “high.”  Hmmm.  That crazy Baños October weather had brought a lot of rain.  We asked about the rapids, and yeah, the river was high.  Our guide said the route that normally takes two hours was going to take us 30-40 minutes.  Hmm.  We hadn’t been at all anxious about rafting.

We arrived and started suiting up.  My first question as we were putting on the same type of sleeveless wetsuits we had worn for canyoning was, “Um, where are the rubber jackets?”  It was drizzling again.  And chilly.  It didn’t help that the wetsuit they gave me was actually still wet from the last… I tried not to think about the last *what* in too much detail.  We were going rafting!

We did some dry-runs on land.  Elliott and I got as much from the Spanish guide as we could, but when he started reviewing emergency procedures, like what to do when your raft flips and you get caught underneath it (yikes!) we were getting lost.  It was a relief after we said, “No entiendo!” to find there was one guy who knew some English.  Whew – there almost always turns on to be one guy (or girl) who knows a few words.  Mostly we just needed to know to paddle forward or backward, and to stop paddling, but when a big wave is coming at you and someone’s yelling at you in a foreign language, it’s easy to get those things mixed up in the panic.  And I asked about the flipping thing, and, ya know, exactly how often *do* people just sort of fall out of the raft?  The answer was maybe once a month.  On a day when the water is really high.  A day like today.  Hm.

It was go-time.  We had exactly ten people and no couples wanted to split up, so that meant six in one raft and four in ours, plus a guide in each.  There was no – turning – back – noooow.

I’m not sure we could have won any rowing awards.  Our “team” wasn’t super in-sync or even especially strong.  But we gave it our all, and when our guide gave an order, we followed it.  Sometimes we rowed backwards when we were supposed to row forward and vice versa, but we were quick to correct ourselves (and it wasn’t just us non-native Spanish speakers getting mixed up!).  And it was a total blast.

I am positive we would have not only capsized but all drowned if it weren’t for our guide, who was incredibly skilled.  His directions never made instinctual sense, and yet they were always right.  I’d think we’d need to row forward and he’d say backward.  I’d think we need to go right to avoid the swirling water and he’d tell us left.  Most times I thought we were headed for complete disaster but I followed instruction anyway and somehow we always avoided it.  He was a river god, and I can only aspire to be like him one day.

We were in the water much longer than 30 minutes, which made us all very happy once we got the hang of things.  We got waaaay wetter than I thought we would.  So many waves washed right over us and our boat I still don’t know how we didn’t flip or fall out.  You heard me – no one fell out!  It was a triumph.  And yet… we had to make up for that somehow, and we did so by jumping out when our guide told us to.  Just part of the fun I guess.  It was freezing.  And we were still all goofing, splashing, being silly, having a great time.

3+ Baby!  (Rapids level for you river geeks.)  First time.   Awesome scary tornado-y waves and beautiful jungle scenery.  We can’t wait to do it again.

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