Baños and the river

The half hour drive from Baños centre that cut through and wound around the jagged and curvaceous Andes gave us chance to get to know the other would-be rafters; two graduates fresh from university in Belgium, an English teacher based in Northern Spain and a family of four from Germany traveling Latin America. With the exception of Alicia this was everyone’s first time white-water-rafting.

We arrived just after 10am a short walk from the cold unrelenting river. There we quickly changed into wet-suit, life-jacket and helmet. The Belgium couple were quick to off-load their camera onto our grumpy, elderly elastic-faced driver for him to document their time on the water. Although initially reluctant, the old man was soon crouching on wet uneven rocks attempting to get the best shots of the surroundings. The blossoming photographer soon wandered off with the couple’s expensive piece of equipment deciding to photo-document the geology and biodiversity in the area. Whilst he was getting a feel for the camera we attended a brief and entertaining training session. Before the talk started we were joined by an additional two groups who were also taking to the waters, together we listened intently as the instructors went through the safety protocols. Upon his return, the driver was so lost to creativity, he completely disregarded the two from Belgium and photographed everything and everyone but the them.

With the briefing over, we had a quick practice on dry land to prove our competence before being sent down to the water’s edge. The river looked fast, cold and inhospitable. One last snap from the driver and we were away and heading downstream. In front of us an experienced kayaker was signalling to our instructor the way ahead. The raft and us took a beating as the waters flung us around, but as the adrenaline pumped our confidence grew. For us, the ending came far too quickly, but here are some of the highlights.

* Various companies offer rafting half-day excursions in Banos. We again chose Geotours, for $30 we were provided with transport to and from the river, all the safety equipment, a tutorial and lunch.

©John Brownlie

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