Monday, 3 October 2011

White Water River Rafting

One of the more spirited adventures I've always wanted to try is whitewater river rafting.

What's great about it is that, despite being a really exciting outdoor activity, it is also safe enough to take even a novice person along for the ride.

Which is why, last weekend, I coaxed my husband along on a drive up to Lytton, where the Hyak River Rafting Centre is located. Although it took us three-and-a-half hours, starting at 6: 30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, it was well worth the drive.

With coffee in hand, we embraced the chilly morning with more than 60 other thrill-seekers, dressed in shorts, T-shirts and waterproof jackets.

We were greeted by "Big Wave" Dave (otherwise known as Dave Taylor), who said he had been working with Hyak for more than 20 years. He imparted a few sage words of advice before we headed over for our introduction to the rafting experience, which included, "Expect to get wet" and "Wear one of the wetsuits because it can get really cold on the river."

He then directed us to the main guide, Sophie Brochu, who gave our group an overview of the day. Her main concern was proper footwear. I had on my walking water shoes; however, some who were wearing flip-flops were told they would not work on the raft (they'd fly off too easily). Also, wetsuits were encouraged and provided by Hyak along with water-resistant jackets.

We were suited up with lifejackets, helmets and handed an oar - and ushered onto a bus with "Big Wave" Dave for a half-hour bus ride to the Thompson River. With music pumping and nervous chatter surrounding us, the excitement was palpable.

As we exited the bus, and walked down to the river and our waiting rafts, and everyone soon silenced. As we each took our seats on the raft, we were advised by our guide, Joe Kerrigan, of the dos and don'ts while onboard.

With eight of us in the raft, we had to be mindful of our oars and working together as a group during the ride through the rapids. He instructed us how to get to the centre of the raft, as well as how to forward and back paddle, when needed.

There were 27 rapids we would come across, which had names such as "Jaws of Death," "Cutting Board" and "the Witch's Cauldron." There was 36 kilometres of river that we would be covering, and the ride would take approximately four-anda-half hours to complete.

After about 20 minutes on the water, we encountered our first rapid. It was swift and powerful and took my breath away. My paddle was a bit hard to operate through the first one, as I had to get used to the motion. It took me three rapids to figure out how I should be leaning and paddling as each one hit.

Every rapid we met was different and unique - and offered its own set of challenges.

The parts of the river that were quiet allowed riders an opportunity to bask in the sun and take in the views of the deep canyons surrounding us. As we passed by waving fishermen, who were fishing for salmon right off the rocks, it gave riders a glimpse of a different kind of serenity that few people ever have the chance to appreciate.

Our group also had the opportunity to jump into the river and hang onto the raft as it went through some of the "tamer" rapids on the trip. It was cold but fun, as we were able to experience the thrill of being right "in the thick" of it.

Getting back into the raft was a bit of a chore; however, each of us pitched in to help one another slide back to safety.

The last thrilling rapid we went through was so powerful that it almost toppled our raft. However, once safely through it, we all let out a cheer, waving our paddles high in the air.

And with tired arms and a smile pasted on my face, I knew I would have many stories to share of my adventure on the Thompson River for years to come.

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