I’m not exactly the sporty type. Every once in a while, when an opportunity presents itself for me to do something physical, I’ll do it. I’m also prone to accidents and getting lost (i.e. my hiking trip in Vilcabamba.) On my last trip to Baños, I saw a rafting tour that I really wanted to go, but it rained a lot that weekend. And sadly, all rafting trips were canceled. Two months later, I found myself in Baños again, but this time, I had plenty of sun and four other people who were willing to join me.
My four rafting team included Dan, the birthday boy, Dan’s university friend Max, Max’s traveling buddy, Jack and Cherry, my friend living in Quito. With our used fake Converses, wetsuits, helmets and very wet lifejackets in tow, we ventured off to the starting point of our rafting adventure.
Our guide, who didn’t introduce himself, gave us a 10-minute lesson on the basics of rafting. When he yelled “forward”, we paddled forward. When he yelled “backward”, we paddled backward. And when he yelled “chicken”, we quickly sat inside the raft.
Our hour-long journey down the Rio Pastaza began pleasantly. We went through the rapids, followed our guide’s instructions and got splashed with copious amounts of water.
At one point in time, we stopped to jump off a bridge and into the water.
We got back on the boat and rafted down the river. I commented that it was having fun and asked the group if they wanted to go rafting the next day. Then we went through a rapid, and a big splash of water flew into my face and took me into the water. The irony…
I don’t remember going into the water, but somehow I flipped in. When I came up, I saw my boat meters away, and somehow, I was still holding onto my paddle. Thanks to my lifejacket, it was still afloat. But the river was fast-moving and swimming against the current was next to impossible.
In the 10-minute rafting lesson, it included what to do when we are in the water. There were several kayakers who acted as our ambulance who went alongside our boat. However, when I was in the water, they were nowhere to be seen.
While in the water, I just kept gasping for air and tried with all my might to swim to the side of the river. I just kept drifting with the current thinking I may die there. I really don’t know how much time passed before my emergency kayaker was next to me.
In the safety demonstration, if I found myself in front of the kayak, I need to assume the “sexy position” or hug the kayak. On land, this position is very doable. In a rapid-moving river, not so much. Of course, this position is also impossible to do while still holding a paddle.
Once I flipped my ambulance and my 15-year old rescuer over into the water, he pulled me to the back of the kayak where I managed to hold on for dear life in the “Superman position”. I didn’t really feel very Superman-like as we went through a very rough part of the river. Water just splashing onto my face and I couldn’t see much. I really wanted the trip to end.
Another raft pulled up to the kayak, and somehow everyone on that boat yanked me up while going through the rapids. My helmet came off and my lifejacket came undone, but I was on the boat. I sat in the boat in shock of what had just happened. Then I heard voices from behind telling me I had to go sit with them and paddle. With my heart pumping like there was no tomorrow, I got out if the “chicken” position, crawled my way back to the side of the rafting and paddled with my new crew.
Within 10 minutes of my rescue, the rafting trip was done. I was on land, exhausted, and with my heart still running on adrenaline.
My rafting team arrived a few moments later asking if I was OK. They said they didn’t immediately notice I had gone into the water because I was by myself in the third row. Only the guide saw me go in and kept apologizing for maneuvering the boat to a rock where I bounced off the boat.
It took a good 30 minutes for my heart to beat at a normal pace again. We were taken to a restaurant where we feasted on empanadas and hot chocolate before returning back to Baños.
This adventure will indeed go in the next chapter of “Elaine’s Misadventures in Sports”. As I try typing with my swollen right hand, I don’t think I’ll go rafting anytime soon. Perhaps in the future when I learn how to get into the “chicken” position faster rather than take a dive into the water.
- I booked the rafting trip through my hostel, Hostel D’Mathias. They run a travel agency called Expediciones Amazónicas. The trip cost $18/person if you stay at the hostel or $20 if you are not a guest. The rafting trip can be done in the morning at 9:00 or in the afternoon starting at 14:30. The morning trip includes lunch and the afternoon one includes an empanada.