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Published: April 24th 2012
Whilst in Mendoza, it seemed there was actually more to do here than just drink wine and hang out (although this was fine by us), when we noticed a sign for white water rafting. Having done it a few times before and thoroughly enjoying it, Donna and I were keen to try it again, and so to was Matt having never been before, we saw this as an opportunity to get out of the city, and have some outdoor fun together.
So, we booked it all up and before we knew it we were being fitted for our safety gear and being giving paddles. A fairly short but deliberate safety talk followed, and we were suddenly thrust into the raft. The weather wasn’t the greatest that day, and it was in fact a little cold, however this was nothing compared to when the first wave of water spilled into the raft upon us all soaking our previously bone dry bodies. It felt like the water was ice cold here, and every time we were about to hit a rapid, we all braced ourselves for another sub-zero drenching. After about half way down, we were all smiles and giggles, and the
shivers and shudders from the cold water had turned to adrenaline pumped roars of joy. We were then informed by the guide that the next section was the best of the lot as it consisted of 3 major rapids one after the other, and was the fastest part of the course. This brought whoops and cheers from us all in the boat, and we were ready to face the fun. The first rapid was a belter, and we came through it clean and fast which was swiftly followed by a ‘high five’ with our paddles in the centre of the raft. Then came the second rapid, and that is where the fun turned into one of the scariest 5 minutes of my life so far.
We hit the rapid and were then instructed to paddle forward by the guide. He was clearly taking us back towards the rapid we had just cleared in order to have a little fun, where we would all get soaked, however as the water was flowing faster than usual due to the bad weather from the previous couple of days, our raft soon took a huge hit to the front right of the boat,
and it very quickly sent the raft diving nose first into water. I was in the front whet this happened, and before I knew it I was out of the raft. This has happened to me before, however this was the first time I had been out of the raft whilst actually in a rapid. The current from the water was unbelievable, and I was quickly being sucked under the water. My first thought here was ‘where the hell is the surface of the water’ it seemed to be a million miles away, and I just couldn’t seem to get to there. After what seemed like an age, I finally found myself above water, and managed to take a big breath before quickly being sucked under for a second time. I remembered the safety instructions, and quickly tried to face forward with my legs up so I didn’t hit any rocks, however this was proving a lot harder to do than it seemed due to being in the rapids, and whilst trying to do this, I hit my ankle hard on a rock underwater. By now I was quite panicked, and that’s when I heard a voice telling me to
‘hold on’. To my absolute relief, there was a safety kayak next to me, and I managed to grab the front of it and hang on with all the might I could muster, whilst trying to get my breath back. I was far from out of the woods here though, as we still had another rapid to negotiate and I seemed to be a million miles from the raft, so I would have to come through this one whilst in the water, and whilst trying to hold onto the kayak. When we eventually hit the rapid, I was again drifting down the water on my own as the kayak had to roll in order to negotiate the rapid and this sent me flying off the front. So now I was drifting back down the river with my back to the direction of the water which was when my back took a large hit from a large rock under the water. Thankfully it wasn’t too bad, and again managing to lookup, I caught site of the kayak once more and grabbed hold again for dear life. This time I managed to hold on as we were finally out of the rapids
and heading for the shore. The guy instructed me to swim to the edge and get out which I managed to do and finally I was out of the water and on terra firma once more…..it felt good! I was a little disorientated and had a few bruises and scrap’s, but overall I was OK and just a little shaken up. I did manage to lose my flip flops on the way down, however at the time, this was the last of my worries! My savour from the Kayak got out and asked if I was OK, to which I replied ‘yeah I think so’, and I promptly shook the man’s hand and thanked him profusely for saving me from that experience. For him, this was just another day at the office and he made it seem like he had simply held a door open for me or something, but for me, this guy was my new hero!
I walked back toward our raft from the shore and saw everyone there waiting for me. As much as I was still shaken up from the tumble, I still felt a little stupid due to me coming out the raft, I
had technically ruined everyone’s fun in the best rapid as they had to pull over for me. It was when I met up with everyone else from the raft that I realised that I hadn’t actually been the only one to fall out as I had originally suspected. As it turns out, everyone in the raft had fallen out at the same point as me except for one Argentinian guy, and therefore everyone had a similar experience. Fortunately, Matt didn’t fall too far from the raft (although he did first surface under the raft) and was rescued pretty quickly by the remaining fella. Then his mate was quickly thrust back in too leaving just Donna and myself in the rapids. After hearing this I quickly turned to look at Donna as I realised she must have also had a similar experience to me and asked if she was OK. Donna was looking pretty dazed, and just replied ‘I think I just nearly died’ …Not what you ever want to hear from your future wife. Donna then proceeded to tell me of her events over the last 5 minutes or so, and having been thrown from the raft before me, Donna
suffered a similar fate to me, however it was a fair while it seems before the Kayak could reach her. Therefore Donna had also been tossed around in the rapids underwater gasping for air in the freezing river completely unbeknown to me.
Once we had all had a little time to sort ourselves out, the guide was eager to get going again and hit the water, and was surprised when we all asked for a little more time to sort our heads out, and get back into the water. But, after a quick breather, we all got back in the raft, and were on our way down again. We were all a little apprehensive, but we eventually made it to the bottom in one piece and on getting out of the river, quickly ordered a well-deserved beer. On reflection, I’m sure it was no way near as bad as we thought when in the water as we were with experienced guys who do this every day, and see this go on all the time, and always had the situation under control, however all I can do is write what was going through our heads at the time, and for
us, it was pretty scary! To make the situation worse, both Donna and Matt had lost a flip flop each to go with my missing set, when a random guy turned to me and said ‘is this yours’…..it was one of my flip flops that he had rescued from the water! Therefore, we all had a little memento from the experience, and once back in BA, would have to all buy a new pair of havaianas!
After this exhausting experience, we all decided to do very little that evening, and simply went next door for a steak, a bottle of wine, and discussed whether we wanted to raft again…..It seems this experience only fuelled Matt’s desire to partake in this again! Donna and I weren’t so sure at the time!
For our last day in Mendoza, we decided to take it a little easier than the previous one, and along with a kiwi guy from the hostel went to a little wine tasting place in town. In this little haven away from the bustling streets, we had a fantastic afternoon of sampling Malbecs and chatting about our adventures of the past couple of weeks or so. It was
a great way to spend a day, plus Matt finally got to have his wine tasting session ion Mendoza without seeing it again 10 minutes later…..
After tasting, we headed for lunch in a place where they had tables on the street and was just tucking into our food when two young lads approached us asking for money by holding their cap upturned in front of us. Noting that the kids had Nike t-shirts on, we decided that they probably didn’t need the money as much as they were letting on and told them that they wasn’t getting any money from us. As they walked away Tim, (the kiwi guy we were with) leapt up and grabbed the kid who was holding the cap. Looking round startled we wondered what was going on, when Tim grabbed the kid’s hat and produced his Iphone that was previously laying on the table…. Sneaky little thieves! We didn’t report them or anything, however it was just a shame as we were just that day remarking on how amazingly safe Argentina is in general, only for it to be tarred by this unfortunate little incident……
So, after an amazing few days in
Mendoza, we reluctantly had to board the bus back to BA in order for Matt to be able to catch his flight back to the UK. The bus itself was really comfortable, and almost as a sending off present for Matt, during dinner on the bus, the guy produced cups for everybody before asking a question we never thought we would here on a bus ‘ Would you like some Champagne Sir’ ….a fitting end to an amazing adventure!
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