On the first day we just wandered around the town and soaked in one of the many hot springs. It was very “tranquillo”. And on the second day we figured we could do some white water rafting since adventure travel is one of the main attractions in Baños.
When I came up I grabbed onto the rope on the side of the upside-down raft and held on. The rapids were still very intense and we were headed for a massive rock. Someone quickly grabbed my lifejacket and pulled me up right as I bashed my leg into a stack of rocks (I am ok). Once I got up I quickly pulled one of the last few people up and we were all sitting on the upside-down raft with only a few paddles.
Our guide enthusiastically suggested that we paddle hard and try to ram the big rock. I don’t think anyone was that excited to do it, but we did anyway. Paddles in the water we soared toward the rock, up and almost over the top, when a second raft (there were five I think) came up behind us and T-boned us while we were almost sideways in the air. All I saw were paddles flying, someone's foot high in the air above me, and then I was high in the air above someone else and bam, into the water. Again I didn’t get a good breath before going under, but this time it was almost worrisome. The rapids were very strong here. All I could feel was strong current tugging at me in different directions, and all I could see were white water and bubbles. Just when I thought I wasn’t going to be able to hold my breath in any longer, I popped up. I wasn’t close to the raft at this point so I just tried to orient myself so that my feet were downstream and I could see what was coming up in hopes of dodging anything nasty. All I could see were people everywhere, paddles all over the place, one empty raft floating ahead and lots of white water. It was exciting! Within probably less than a minute another raft came up and grabbed me.
When we all got back into our respective rafts (because the other raft that rammed us had flipped as well), we had a brief moment where the rapids weren’t as crazy to do some checks on ourselves. No one was hurt too badly except for one girl that either got punched or kicked in the face on the way down, or hit a rock while in the river. She most definitely has a black eye now. The rest of us all have multiple bruises, but nothing serious.
For the rest of the trip (because that was all within the first ten minutes) our guide promised that we wouldn’t flip again and apologized for both events that he apparently did not plan on. I was happy to not go back into the water, mostly because it was freezing cold! And also because I didn’t like being around panicky people in the water. But other than that it was pretty fun, I have to admit.
We continued to ram rocks whenever the opportunity presented itself but we were more careful to make sure there weren’t any other rafts nearby, and we smashed through the biggest currents and rapids whenever available, but were careful not to turn sideways through them. It was absolutely an adrenaline-filled couple of hours with no rest (which was awesome!). When we got to the end and saw the buses waiting on shore up ahead I could hear some sighs of relief from the people sitting next to me. I was also ready for a break at this point, and could feel a lump forming on my knee that I wanted to examine.
While changing out of our wet suits the debriefing conversations that were going on were very excited. Everyone proudly compared their bruises and tales of the events from their perspectives. All in all I think most people were happy and enjoyed the day, except for the girl that got hit in the face, understandably.
Did I enjoy flipping the raft both times? Yes and no. At the time it was exciting, but conversely none of us had any safety training or advice for this type of situation. I think there was potential for some more serious injuries. Would I do it again? ABSOLUTELY! And I think Andrew would agree. He came up both times outside of the raft (not under) and at one point was on the downside of the raft which was potentially dangerous if the raft were to hit a rock and sandwich him. He has a good bruise on his knee from bashing something along the way but it is healing up well now. The day after rafting we were a bit worried that he would be limping for a while.
Overall our time in Baños was very enjoyable. Even if you aren’t into crazy white water rafting there is something to do there. The town itself is a Roman Catholic religious centre and the churches and architecture are very stunning, especially with the volcanic peaks as a backdrop! The streets are lined with colourful shops selling Andean clothing and art and there are several nice cafés and restaurants. We really enjoyed our short time there.
Next we head to Quito, another Andean city, but much larger and located at an elevation of 2850m above sea level with surrounding volcano and mountain peaks reaching 5897m. Time to climb! Andrew is excited because a friend of his from Toronto will be visiting Quito for a conference. We plan on having some beers and seeing the sights, should be a good time!
See you in Quito,