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Thursday, April 19, 2012

White Water Rafting

Oh yea! It’s fun!

There are some unique benefits to Peace Corps life. Every month we get $24 and 2 days of vacation! In addition we are allowed to take 2 out-of-community days each month.

Given that this is National Testing week and there is NO reason to go to school because all my teachers are at a different school – well, I went white water rafting and camping with some of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers.

We met up at Sarah’s house in Probolingo and her host dad gave the 10 of us a ride to the rafting company. Sarah’s host brother had been a rafting guide for several years. Current volunteers who are reading this blog and want some of the action can check it out at

We camped out near the totally awesome shelter / food serving area. We took a hike up the river and then it started pouring rain and the river looked like it was straight out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. After dinner the staff made a bon-fire and we roasted corn then played a game that Erika taught us about made up murder mysteries.

In the morning, after breakfast we put on safety helmets, life jackets with a little flap at the back to keep your head up, were given a bottle of water, a paddle and instructions. Then we all loaded into the back of a truck and drove about 20 minutes up the road. After about a 15 minute hike we were at the river.

No way! It looked like the trail just disappeared and they were sliding the rafts down a steep embankment, but as we re-assembled I could see the little steps down the mountain to the water. There was a painted water level on some rocks and we were within the safety zone so it was a “go.”

There were 5 “tourists” and 2 guides in each raft. In addition there was another raft with 3 guides who scouted out each set of rapids and strung rope across if it was really treacherous. I never quite figured out the rope deal – maybe that was to catch us if we all got dumped.

And we did get dumped! Well, let’s put it this way, we went swimming in the river 5 or 6 times. It was totally fun. At the sort of calmer places the guides had us stand up on the raft and spin us around, or they just dumped us out for fun or we sort of fell out of the raft and they pulled us back in.

Our raft was really good at scooping up water and splashing the other raft and not so good at following the guides directions – left side forward, all forward, right reverse, etc. But I did understand BOOM – which meant pull your paddles in and HOLD ON. It was like being in a pin ball game only these were giant boulders we were going over, around and crashing into. Some places we all had to duck because vines and branches were dangling into the water and we were zipping by too fast to move out into the main part of the river. Some places the river just disappeared as we went off the edge!

One time we all got out of the rafts and climbed up to an overlook spot and ate fried dough things and drank fresh coconut milk. Then they showed us how we could cliff-dive! Okay. I am totally afraid of heights. I just made up my mind that it was now or never, I would absolutely never be in a place like this again with crazy 20 something year olds so I screamed as loud as I could and JUMPED 4 or 5 stories up into the raging river. This may be the highlight of my Peace Corps experience…face your fears and go with the flow... It was incredibly fun!

All of us made it safely out except that lightweight Maggie kept drifting by and people needed to save her.

A little farther down we saw several Komodo dragons by the river. The guide jumped out of the raft and tried to catch one, but it was too fast. Scott said he thought they were monitor lizards but everyone else agreed that they looked like the Komodo dragons in the Surabaya zoo.

Even after we saw the wild animals in the water (which, by the way, like to eat live goats and I’m not sure what a pair of legs sticking out of life jacket looks like underwater but it sure wouldn’t surprise me if we resembled goat legs) anyway, even after we saw the Komodo dragons we still went “swimming” in the river.

We also floated past some ladies doing laundry and some naked men, who carefully held their private parts.

We got a certificate (this is Indonesia after all) that said that the rapids on the Pekalen River that we had just successfully navigated are rated at Class III+. I was impressed!

I’ve been rafting before but I have to tell you, this was absolutely the best!

If I can get some of the pictures Allison and Maggie took, I’ll add them to this blog.

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