White Water Rafting in Bali

16 05 2014

Today we were up bright and early to go whitewater rafting.  Irini was our driver, yet another very cheerful chap, and he had been learning to speak English for the past three months.  His conversational skills were very good, and they were a hell of a lot better than our Indonesian!  A father of three, Irini worked from 6am – 8pm each day, had two days off per month and earned about AUD$150 per month.  On top of that, from 9pm – 11pm each night he went to his English lessons.  Boy do they work hard in Bali!

Again we savoured the view as we traveled to our destination about an hour and a half away.  As we made our way up into the forested area and headed towards the Telaga Waja River, the rice fields began to appear more frequently and in the stalls along the roadside men appeared to be hard at work forging masonry, brick or clay materials over black smoking fires.  As we begin to climb up into the hills, Bali’s huge volcano, Mount Batur, appeared on the skyline before us surrounded by a ring of clouds.  It was a spectacular sight.

Before long we arrived at the Alam whitewater rafting base, and on out entry into the base, a great bronze gong was sounded to announce “The Powell’s have arrived”, and men in traditional golden baggy pants and sashes bowed to welcome us.  Once we were all kitted out in our rafting attire, all the groups meandered through the rice fields down to the launching area.  From a distance, it would have looked something like a scene from Platoon or Tour of Duty with the soldiers walking through the long grasses.  However on this occasion, in place of M16′, flack jackets and army issue helmets, we had paddles, life jackets and happy yellow safety helmets.  It was almost as treacherous as walking through a mine field, a number of rafters slipping and falling off the path into ditches and almost twisting ankles on the way down.  This could explain why there is also a flying fox at the Alam base office that some rafters were riding down to the river.  We later discovered they were testing this piece of equipment, and I believe that now this has become the method of transport down to the waiting rafts.  Looks like a lot of fun and what a shame we didn’t get to have a go!

On the river bank we had a brief introductory lesson in rafting etiquette and how to respond to the following phrases: lie down, duck, paddle, relax, jump jump and boom boom.  The latter command was the means our rafting guide would use to communicate “We are going backwards, you can’t see what I can and we’re going to hit something big.  Hang the f*&% on!”

As we were waiting to get into our raft, I noticed that my paddle was faulty – in fact one good swoosh in the water, and it would snap clean in half.  I gestured to one of the guides, held up my paddle and pointed at the great crack in it.  “Oh no,” I mouthed.  “Replacement?”  I had no idea how good his English was and hoped that my gestures and facial expressions would communicate the problem.  Roger thought I looked like I was trying to talk through a pane of glass – you know when you talk really slowly?  And kind of stupid?  Yeah, that was me.

The Australian girl behind me understood just fine.  “Oh my god, you’re going to die on the river!” she taunted a little too loudly, chuckling to her mates at her ‘witty’ comment.  I stared at her, my disdain evident.  “I don’t think it’s that serious, but I’m not going to be much bloody use am I.”  She was wrong to judge me.  No, I wasn’t a prissy princess who was stepping out of her comfort zone for the first time to do something some might consider “death defying.”   Oh no, I was a hard-ass Kiwi, raised in the wop wops of Middle Earth where floating down the Waitaki River on a tractor tyre tube, fishing, camping and pooing in a long drop was my childhood.  At that moment, my replacement paddle arrived.  I grasped it firmly in my white, smooth, nicely moisturised hands.  My Trans-Tasman competitive streak kicked in and I took a mental snapshot of her raft team and guide.  I’m going to beat you down this epic river Australia, I thought.  Even if I do have blister prone hands and one Brit and two Indonesians who have never rafted before!

We clambered into the boat – Rog and I at the front, and our two Jakartan friends behind.  Our guide, Jakey, took the stern and we were off.  He did a fantastic job steering our raft downstream, richocheting us off rocks and cliff faces to achieve the perfect line down the river.  Although Roger would have me believe that he was doing this all on his own.  He’s paddling hard enough, I thought, so let him believe what he wants.  After an hour, I was a bit sick of “Did you see that?  Did you see what I did there?  I’m steering this whole raft by myself.  My sea kayaking skills I’ve honed off Hillary’s have definitely paid off.”

In the end, I blotted out his mosquito drone and let the sounds of the Balinese jungle fill my ears.

Our Rafting Team

Rafting down the Telaga Waja River

The duration of the rafting excursion was 2 1/2 hours (16kms) and for US$88 this was extraordinarily good value!  We went head long into cliff faces, got stuck on giant rocks, were swiped across the legs and faces with hanging tree branches and had mammoth paddle/water fights with the other groups.  Roger kept us all hugely entertained losing his balance and falling backwards, legs flailing in the air, right at the moment when we passed the camera man!  Our Jakartan friends and guides laughed so hard they too nearly fell out of the raft!  “I see your sea kayaking didn’t teach you how to balance Rog!”  I chortled.

Thank goodness he had boxers on underneath!

Ahhh, all the finesse of a sea kayaker!

And then amongst all of that excitement the scenery was stunning.  There were times when we just sat back and let the river carry us through paddy fields, dense jungle and rock faces.  We smiled and waved at locals washing their clothes and children swimming, men working the fields and turned our faces skywards as waterfalls cascaded from huge heights down onto us.  It truly was magical!

Then we came to Bajing Dam….

Kiri didn’t know about the dam.  Roger did.  He had researched the rafting website and knew all about it.  So when we stopped on the river and Jakey said, “Lie Down, Lie Down – Big Boom!“,  I began to get a little concerned.  Once we were all in position, we started drifting slowly towards what I soon determined to be a very distinctive drop off.

As we got closer, I could see a cluster of farmers further down river who had decided that what was about to occur was far more exciting than gathering their rice.

We drifted closer and closer.

Next to me I heard Roger say, “Yeah – now these are the rapids I was hoping for!”

As for me, I was trying to peer over my sandaled feet dangling over the front of our raft, all the while thinking What the hell is this?  How high is this bloody thing?  I can’t see anything.  Those farmers look like they are a long way down.   Oh……..Oh……..Here we go……….

“BOOM BOOM!  BOOM BOOM!” Jakey cried excitedly from the back.  What the hell?  Is he standing up?!

Eyes front…….over the top……………..OMG!!  HOW F*~#ING HIGH?!!!

DSC_0412

Going over the top of the Bajing Dam

And we crashed over.

Now Roger loved it, and while I enjoyed it, forewarned is forearmed – particularly when photographs are being taken.

And had I known that my husband was going to use his Adobe Photoshop to take a close up of this photograph and insist that I post it here, I would have tried for a more cooler, got-it-all-under-control facial expression.

Although the contrast between the two of us is pretty amusing……I guess.

The Close Up - two quite different reactions, don't you agree?

Pleasure and Pain – can you tell who’s who? LOL

(I would like to point out that I have evidence of a Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios in LA in 2004  where the roles are reversed in a photograph very similar to this one.  Just ask for it – I’m more than willing to slap it up here…..close up included!)

When we finally arrived at the finish (having blitzed my Australian nemesis along the way I might add – although reflecting on the photograph above, I don’t feel quite so rough, tough and stuff now!), we were treated to an orange syrupy drink.  I wondered if it was to combat the bugs that had gone in through our mouths with the water, which we had done so well to avoid since arriving in Bali.  This was followed by a yummy buffet lunch and a certificate of achievement.

After the adrenalin had passed and the sunburn had set in, we climbed back into the mini van and made our way back to Seminyak.  We attended to our sunburnt legs, went for a 90 minute massage, popped into a local restaurant for a bite to eat and then spent our last evening relaxing in our villa.

It had been an amazing three days and we had loved everything that Bali had to offer.  Our plane was due to leave at 8.30am the next morning.  Which brings me to my reflections on Bali…

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