October 25, 2005
Tom, Henry, Lisa, and I got up early today and boarded a bus to go to the Urubamba river for our two-day rafting excursion. Another group of four people who had chosen to go for only one day went along with us. After riding the bus for an hour or so, we arrived at our campsite. It was a quiet place on a little lake near a small town. We joked that the lake was where we were going to begin our trip. It turned out that we weren't that far off.
When we booked the two-day trip, we had all pictured going down good rapids the first day and even better ones the second. However, the tour agency saw things differently. We were told that the people doing the one-day trip would get to do class 2 and 3 rapids while we would start our first day on the class 1 rapids further down the river. What a horrible plan! It's not like they had any more experience than us, and they would get to do a better trip than us simply because they were paying for one less day. After we did some complaining, the tour guides agreed that we didn't need to sit through three hours of training on class 1 rapids and allowed us to do the same run as the other group. The only downside would be that we would have to go down the same section of river for day two. No big deal.
After settling our agreement, we dropped off our stuff at the campsite and got back in the bus to go up the river. At the starting point, we put on our wet suits while the guides pumped up the rafts and the locals across the river laughed at us. After about thirty minutes of preparation, we were ready to go. The other group got in their raft and left. Next, it was our turn.
After putting our raft in the water, we heard a strange bubbling noise. "Maybe it's normal," I thought. No dice. There was a hole in the raft. We flipped the raft over and began pumping more air into it to try to figure out where the hole was. Meanwhile, one of the guides ran away in a frenzy and returned a few minutes later.
Ten minutes after the guide got back, a very fat, sweaty man lurched over the bridge in our direction. I think they left at the same time. The fat man had the perfect solution for a hole in a raft: a wrench wrapped with duct tape.
The guide began unraveling the tape from the wrench and applying it to the hole. Slowly but surely, the hole was plugged. However, after trying to pump air into the raft again, we noticed that there was another leak. It was obviously a high quality raft crafted of the finest material available.
The fat man was getting visibly flustered with the whole ordeal. He kept complaining that the guide was wasting all of his duct tape. Sure enough, the wrench was getting low, but I though he was doing a good job of rationing it. The next thing I knew, the other guide came over and the shit really hit the fan. The guide took about a foot of tape and covered the entire seam of the raft with it. The fat man was drowning in his own sweat by this point. When the guide grabbed some more tape and accidentally folded it over itself, rendering it useless, the fat man's gut popped out from under his shirt. I thought he was going to have a heart attack. How could a man who was obviously very liberal with food be so conservative with material goods?
After thirty minutes of testing, patching, and sweating, the raft appeared to be fixed. We flipped it over and took off, holes be damned. The first few minutes of the trip were spent on learning the commands of the guide, who was driving the raft. "Back," "forward," and "stop" were basically all we needed to know. Then we hit the rapids.
A lot of the rapids were fun, but not too extreme. I would guess that we hit maybe one or two class 3's the entire time. It was the river's low season, I was told. We did make it more interesting, though. There was a lot of pushing of others into the water, and the guide was constantly telling funny stories. A few times we tried to navigate the tough rapids with precision, but we ended up looking more like a pinball machine than a fine-oiled machine the way we bounced off the rocks. Maybe it was a good thing the river wasn't higher.
For the last thirty minutes of the trip, I went into the ducky, a small kayak-like raft that could only hold two people. Up till that point, another guide had been riding in it in case anything went wrong with our raft. The ducky required a lot more effort on my part, but it was also a lot more fun than the raft. I got soaking wet going through every rapid, and I almost fell out a few times.
When we finished the trip, we got changed and packed up our gear. We were told that we would be able to take the raft without any holes in it for the second day. Next, we headed back to the campsite for lunch.
When we got to campsite, the tents, including the eating tent, were already set up, and our amazing lunch was soon served. We each got soup, salad, and a large main course, followed by dessert and a large bottle of Coke. I couldn't believe how much food there was for a camping trip. Then I was informed that at SAS (the company we booked through), all meals were like this. I could get used to this pretty easily. Unfortunately for the other rafting group, they had to leave when they were done eating.
After lunch, a bunch of local kids began playing soccer and volleyball near us. We joined them for a bit, but then I remembered my frisbee. Henry already knew how to throw, so I began throwing around with him. Then the kids joined in. Next, the rest of our group wanted to play. I suggested a game of "hot box," an Ultimate game you can play with limited numbers. The game was a major success, attracting lots of attention from the kids. Maybe I'll start a trend here.
Later, we took a walk into town for some supplies and returned to eat supper. Again, it was great. The only problem was that everyone but Henry started to feel sick. It seemed that we had too much fun going into the river earlier in the day. We played some cards and went to bed early, hoping to feel better in the morning.
The photo album for this entry is here.