“When I yell right, everyone jump to the right side”. It sounds weird, but that’s exactly what Tigre, our rafting guide in Banos, said. Always listen to your instructor, so as we came out of the next rapids and he yelled, Right!, we jumped, turned and flipped. Falling backwards, I looked at Tigre, huge laugh across his face, holding onto the raft tightly.
Banos is the adventure capital of Ecuador. You can do everything from bike riding to bungee jumping, canyoning and even play in a treehouse. Today I decided to do whitewater rafting.
“Forward, one, two,” yelled Tigre as we approached the first rapids. “Stop, inside”, smashing into it, water drenching us. “Yeow” I screamed as we bumped up and down. We popped out the other side and as i looked back, everyone was grinning from ear to ear. How awesome it is to be alive!
Tigre barked instructions and the six of us followed. I was always going to sit in the front of the boat, I needed to feel the action. Digging the paddle in deep, I looked up at the canyon walls. The mountains rose up, covered in plush green trees, the tops hidden by grey clouds. Occasionally the sun snuck out, casting a vibrant glow across the valleys, sparkling off leaves and flashing across broken water. The sound of water smashing across rocks echoed through the valley. “Left back” Tigre barked as we spun around. Leaning back I dug the paddle in and followed orders.
“Left is a level 4, right is much easier”, smirked Tigre. Left it is then. The sound of his voice changed as he explained that we needed to do what he said, when he said it. I paddled, stopped, paddled again, totally obeying his orders. Water smashed across me, rapid after rapid, icy cool water soaking my face and dripping from my eyelashes.
As we dropped down another level, we hit a rock and popped into the wrong channel. Because of this we were going to hit the waterfall side on and certainly flip. I paddled as hard as I could to turn the boat as Tigre back paddled on the opposite corner. We span on a dime and went straight over the waterfall, water smashing over the front, drenching the entire boat . Flying back up into the air, I held the rope and my whole body lifted off the raft. Moving to the side, we waited as the last safety kayak made its way down. “Los Tigres” we screamed, smacking our paddles together in the air. There was loads of hooting and hollering, even from Tigre.
After an hour and 15 minutes, we ended up at the rock pools. The excitement was over, so we lugged the rafts back to the van and cooled off by jumping into one of the pools. We went for lunch at a local restaurant and chatted to the instructors about where to go drinking. The journey home was filled with memories of paddling, spinning, laughing, water splashing across my face and the cheeky laugh of Tigre as I jumped right and fell backwards off the raft.
I’d like to thank the New Zealand owned Ultramoto Expeditions for a complimentary spot on their rafting tour. As always, all opinions are my own, yet the tour with them is a step above other operators in regards to safety. My tour included 4 safety kayaks (the other operator had none), which meant we could safely do higher grade rapids.
Rafting tours run at either 9am or 2:30pm daily. Total tour time is 5 hours, with an hour and fifteen minutes on the river, half an hour to gear up and do a safety briefing, half an hour at the end to swim and gear down, half an hour in the restaurant and the rest driving. I’d recommend the morning.
Ultramoto Expeditions is located at 16 de Diciembre y Luis a Martinez, Baños, Ecuador. Please visit their website for more information.
Feature image by Karl Nechy – follow him on instagram @karlnechy