Thursday 07 May 2015

I LOVE WHITEWATER RAFTING! Review of My 18th Time in Venezuela Last Week


Whitewater rafting is by far my favorite sport in the world. Also one of my all-time favorite hobbies, and what I always look for in travel destinations. Put it this way – if somewhere has some huge whitewater, or super scenic/unique whitewater rafting (doesn’t HAVE to be huge!, then I AM THERE! How many times have I gone whitewater rafting? Good question, let me count!

Colorado – 2x (same river)
West Virginia – 2x (different rivers)
Costa Rica – 2 days (same river)
Peru – 3 days (same river)
Dominican Republic – 2x (same river)
Japan – 1x
Colombia – 3x (2 different rivers)
Guatemala – 1x

And this current trip that I’m writing about:
Venezuela – 2 days (different rivers)

That’s 18 days of whitewater rafting on 12 different rivers, in 8 countries! Yes, I love this sport, and yes God has blessed me with lots of opportunities to travel. I owe it all to Him! 2 things before proceeding with the tour review:
– If you don’t know Jesus, you need to meet Him ASAP! Email me
– If you’ve never gone whitewater rafting, you need to go ASAP! Email me

As discussed in the last 3 posts, I’m still traveling around South America. On this trip we will be in Venezuela, Brazil, & Argentina. We left Venezuela a few days ago, and I’m writing this from the Amazon Jungle in Brazil.

1. Heading to South America for 1 Month – Details
2. Venezuela’s Black Market Money Exchange
3. Busses, Canyoning, & Paragliding in Venezuela – OH MY!

We stayed at the Guamanchi Posada in Merida, Venezuela, and they are also an adventure tour company. We booked the 2 day rafting trip with them for 1,500 Bolivares ($187 USD). It included everything – 5 hour transport (roundtrip) out to the area of Barinas, Venezuela area where the rafting canyons are, lodging 1 night at the adventure camp, all meals & basic drinks, a ziplining tour, and 2 days of rafting with gear & guides included.

The ride out to the rafting was the only rough part about the trip. Rough because you sit  in the back of a 4 wheel drive off-road jeep that’s been gutted in the back with 2 benches put in for seats (1 on each wall). You are sitting facing your adventure partners. 30-60 minutes in the jeep, easy… 5 hours? Or what took almost 7…… Not so easy! That’s okay, I’m young, my butt will recover!

We had an awesome travel group of people that we had met while traveling in Venezuela. It was me, Kate (my friend from Iowa), Santiago from Colombia, & 2 guys from The Netherlands (I don’t want to butcher the spelling of their names here!). Awesome group of people representing 3 continents, and lots of cool cultures.

We played a game on my iPad on the way out to the adventure camp where you name logos of companies. Without the Dutch & The Colombian, we would have NEVERRRR answered some of the foreign logos correctly. Props to them for that!

The adventure camp was pretty incredible, and I’ve stayed at a few! They had a large property in the mountains with a home-made outdoor rock climbing wall that they were adding bouldering routes to while we were there, several creative dorm buildings with private rooms for guests, a sheltered eating hall, and another separate building with a bar, pool tables, foosball, and all the buildings had hammocks hanging everywhere to relax. The property was covered in various fruit trees, so needless to say we were spoiled with DELICIOUS fruit juices from the most fresh fruit!
The food was absolutely incredible too!

Day 1 at the camp after arriving we were scheduled to do a short half day of rafting on the smaller Class III river, and we were promised that Day 2 we would raft over twice as long, on a different, bigger Class IV+ river.

For those unfamiliar with whitewater rafting gradient scales it goes from Class 1 to Class 6. Class 1 is a current with a few rocks creating a small amount of ripples in the water and bumps on your ride. As the classes get higher the water gets bigger, steeper, faster, more rocks, more technical, and more dangerous. Class 5 is the highest you can raft with a commercial company. Class 6 is generally un-raftable, or just too dangerous. Things like waterfalls or extremely dangerous obstacles are Class 6. You can sometimes kayak Class 6 portions, and you can view videos of people doing it on YouTube. Pretty incredible!
Just because Class 5 whitewater isn’t Class 6 whitewater, does NOT mean that it’s not dangerous, huge, or exciting though! In fact it’s all of the above. Do exercise caution when rafting, and do not underestimate the power of a river in rapids. Many people die each year in this sport.

I rafted the Gauley River (Class 5+) in West Virginia when they release high flow from the dam in the Fall of 2010 (they do it each Fall). That Fall High season killed 3 rafters & kayakers. In just 1 short month! My friend Brenton and I survived the trip and my face only went white a couple of times :)
You run over half a dozen Class 5 rapids on the first half of the river and over 40 Class 4+ rapids! Needless to say, it’s madness.

This was my raft on the Gauley River!

On a 3 day excursion in Peru on a Class 5+ river with my friend Brad, we saw a few different Class 6 rapids that we would have to pull the boats out and hike around on the side of the river. Sometimes they would just send the boats down without people and we would watch the carnage. Once we saw the guides take a boat down, and one got ejected. It took about 15 seconds for his head to surface about 50 yards downstream!
Also on that trip, our guide told us that his Dad was a guide and actually had died on one of the Class 5 rapids on the river.

All that to say that rafting is extremely exhilarating and fun, but you do need to exercise caution, learn all the safety positions, and do what your guide tells you to do.

On to the Venezuelan rivers…

They said we would raft the Class 3 river the first day, and raft the Class 3 river we did! I wasn’t expecting much really, b/c I have a lot of experience on Class 5 whitewater, but man, was I wrong! We left pretty late in the day after the long drive and it was definitely getting a little dark by the time we finished.

This short Class 3 run of only maybe 90 minutes, was packed with lots of really fun wave train rapids and small drops. The river was pretty small so there were a few tight squeezes. The craziest part to me was how many times we fell in! I think I fell in 3 times!! I remember it took me like 6 whitewater rafting trips to fall in once, and here I go falling out in this Class 3 river every 20 minutes it seemed haha! We had lots of swimmers, which helped us practice our rescuing for the bigger river the next day.
The safety boaters were rafting in inflatable kayaks, which was a first for me to see, but the river isn’t too big, and with class 3 rapids, safety kayakers aren’t totally necessary.

That night we enjoyed some delicious dinner and kept ourselves entertained with games of pool & cards before bed.

Day 2 at the Adventure Camp we had breakfast and then went on a short ziplining tour that was included in the package price. There was only 4 or 5 cables, but we didn’t have to pay extra so I can’t complain! A couple of the cables you swung over the bigger Class 4 river that we were rafting that afternoon, which was exciting. A nice way to start off a day of adventure.

We left for the rafting trip and everybody was excited. It was a couple of the guys first weekend rafting, so they felt that they had graduated after yesterdays trip to bigger whitewater on this day. Bigger whitewater we received!

This river was much more of a whitewater river, in a canyon with massive rocks, some the size of houses, waterfalls pouring into the river, streams feeding the river, and beautiful scenery and hanging bridges here and there. About an hour into the trip we reached a hanging walking bridge where we pulled out. There were 2 waterfalls on the side, and the bridge was straight out of Indiana Jones with boards of the floor missing, made from real rope, and looking rickety as possible! A true jungle bridge. See for yourself:

What should we do?! :)

Obviously we couldn’t just stand on it, we had to jump! Here’s a video of one of my jumps:

Later we did a group jump off of this bridge. I think bridge jumping is a great time! We didn’t touch bottom, so I felt pretty safe about it.

We finished the rafting trip with a couple bigger Class IV rapids, and we found a big surfing hole to surf. We ended up surfing it for probably an entire minute or two before I fell out and got rescued! Weeee!

Canyon gets narrower!

A few more Class IV rapids, and then this river actually runs into the same river that we ran the day before. So we re-ran that section of whitewater again, which was a lot of fun. The ironic part is we had more swimmers (again) on the smaller Class III section than the Class IV section.

I had a blast!

After the rafting for the day, we packed up our stuff at the camp, and they took us all to the bus station in Barinas, Venezuela, where we all had tickets to different locations in Venezuela to continue our travels.

Kate and I were taking a 15 hour overnight bus to Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela where our next trip will begin. That trip is a 3 day excursion into Canaima National Park to see Angel Falls, the tallest waterfall in the world!

(Disclaimer: I was not compensated anything for reviewing this trip or company, and all opinions are strictly my own)

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