Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dipping our toes in the river.

While we were in Panama debating whether or not to go to Colombia, CNN international helped make up our mind. Colombia Tourism had made a heavy media buy. And every commercial break we were treating to the ad which declared “Colombia – the only risk is wanting to stay”. As you know, we decided to take that risk but with a hopelessly out-of-date guidebook that didn’t say much about Colombia (except not to go), we didn’t really know what to do or where to go. But with the help of fellow travelers and bloggers, we were slowly plotting our way south to Ecuador. In fact we were in San Gil on the advice of Jillian and Danny who gave it the big thumbs up. Of course, they’re completely crazy adreniline junkies, and San Gil is a hot bed for adventure sports. And Adrian and I? well, we’re a bit more ahem, risk-adverse, but here we were in the adventure sport capital so I guess we were going to have to try something.

After our late night, we weren’t in a hurry to get out of bed and then to leave the hostel, let alone do something wild and crazy. So we spent the rest of the morning chatting with the other guests and taking pictures of the view from our window (photo above). The hostel was one of the most social we’d stayed in so there were plenty of opportunities to get pointers from others. Of course most of these conversations involved talking about which wild and crazy activity they had done and which one they were doing next. It was enough to finally convince me to try one of the activities. I consulted the bookings board and book. Bungee jumping? Not a chance. Paragliding? I don’t think so. Waterfall repelling or canyoning? Rushing water and sharp rocks, I think I’ll pass. Which left white water rafting. Now most people do the Class IV-V rapids up here. But as a complete beginnger, I wanted to start off easy. Shaun, the owner, helped us book a Class II beginner’s outing at 3pm, letting us know that it would just be us.

That gave us some time to kill, so we went three doors down for some breakfast. And then spent the rest of the afternoon chatting to various folks. Two Aussie girls, Lauren and Jo, decided to join us on the whitewater rafting. They were old pros looking for a rush but they were too late for the trips to the bigger rapids. Plus the beginners’ trip was super cheap (about $10). At 3pm we piled into a taxi which took us on a crazy ride down the river to meet the raft and guide. I’m sure my knuckles made dents in the dashboard from where I gripped on for dear life. Not exactly, the calm I needed before the dip in the water. But we did arrive at the raft in one piece.

We met our guide Jaime and his friend who was going to follow along. We were given our safety gear and then Jaime gave us a quick lesson in the different strokes and the orders he’d be using. Luckily Lauren and Jo had done this before. And then it was time to get on the water which was really really cold. That gave me yet a good reason for wanting to stay in the boat, well that and not wanting to drown or break my head on the rocks. But I needn’t have worried, the river ride was really tame with the majority of the hour spent floating between rapids. It was still fun and just the right amount of excitement for nervous me (sorry no pictures). And thanks to Jo and Lauren it was fun too. Jo even jumped into the river to try hydrospeeding (essentially white water rafting without the raft) but was happy to get back in the boat and out of the cold water.

The trip ended when the raft stopped in the botanical gardens in town from where we walked back to the hostel, dripping through the streets of San Gil. Jo and Lauren said good bye and headed to their hostel and Adrian and I changed and headed out for 3 courses of food for $5 at El MaƱa. It was almost two much food which made walking back uphill to the hostel a little difficult. Rather than head out for a night of debauchery, Adrian and I stayed in (quel surprise) in preparation for our next day’s exciting activities.

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