Published: September 14th 2011February 13th 2011
Pumping up the raft
Sam lending a hand to the taxi driver who had been given the task very willingly, he looked like he was having a great time!
The weekend before my birthday Sam and I wanted to do some activities. The first was to hire some motorcycles to go up into the countryside that was a short but very steep 20 minutes away from the centre. The second was to go rafting again. From about the start of February the rainy season really started to kick in, this put us off getting bikes but we still decided to book the rafting as you get wet doing that anyway.
One of the volunteers we were with at the school recommended to us to go with Swiss Raft, the only rafting company in Cusco to actually hold any health and safety certifications and thus the only one that is recognised by UK insurance companies. It was a little more expensive than the rest but we wanted to do it properly and they were the only ones advertising that it was 4/5 class rapids, which was what we wanted. We booked it for the Sunday.
The weekend turned out to be quite dry. We arrived at the office 8am Sunday morning and a few minutes later we were joined by one of the guys, he turned
out to be the safety kayak man. We got taken to the car, which was a taxi with just the kayak guy the rafting instructor, who looked like the rock, and the taxi driver. All the gear was loaded on the roof. We were told that it would be just us two as a group was going to join us but had not yet returned from Machu Pichu so it would just be us!
We took the winding road out of Cusco through the valley, through familiar places of Saylla and Tipon and then continued for a further hour or so. We then came off the tarmac road and made a steady descent towards the river bed of the Vilaconta River (part of the Urubamba River that flows through the sacred valley where we had done our last lot of rafting). Here the men started taking all the equipment off the roof whilst we got handed some wetsuits, life jackets, wet boots and helmets to get in to. The raft that we were using was a little smaller than usual ones as there was only the two of us.
The safety kayak guy got in first. We then
got in to the cool waters and had a little practice at the side before setting off.
I mostly wrote this post so that people could look at the video, taken from a camera on the head of the raft instructor.
We made our way down the river encountering some quite quick places. Our first challenge was actually synchronising our strokes so Sam took about counting, which did help. It was even more impertinent that we rowed well as we were the only ones in the boat and we, other than the instructor, had a lot of influence on the course of the boat.
The scenery was also amazing with the hills either side of the river and the sun shining.
You can see some of the time in the raft. There were no times that the bat was close to flipping or when we had to dive but we did do some ‘surfing’. This is where at a point where the water rushes over a rock you can get lodged and held up in the air. However, due to the lack of weight in our boat we kind of got stuck there. At first it was
fun we were made to sit at the font of the boat whilst it was filled with water but then as ‘The Rock’ tried to free us and it continued and we weren’t going anywhere we were told to jump to where he was at the back of the boat to try to shift it! We did eventually move!
It was quite hard work and we would stop at places to catch our breath and look up at the hills.
Near the end of the course we were allowed to jump out of the boat and float down in a ball shape, so our legs would not hit any rocks. The safety kayak guy then pulled us in to the side.
We got out and we thought that was it. However, probably the biggest challenge remained. We stopped at a bridge which was about 40 feet high. He said that we could jump off but had to stay straight and once we hit the water we had to try to swim to the bank on the right side. This was easier said than done.
I went first and froze as I got to the edge and
looked down to the fast water below. I stepped off after being counted in and the fall seemed to continue for ever, by the time I hit the water I had gone completely rigid. The water pulled you down stream and it was so difficult to swim right but the safety kayak was there to rescue.
Sam went next and with his fear of heights he said it was difficult for him to jump. He did so and with less screaming than me. He did better at swimming to the river bank.
We got out and dried off and out of our wet things. We then had an amazing nutritious lunch under an awning by the side of the river. Once we had had our fill the equipment was loaded back on and we made our way back to Cusco feeling quite tired after all the excitement and adrenalin.
The vids were too big to upload but have a gander at the photos!
There are more photos below