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June 27, 2005
Oddly enough, the rock formations beneath the waterfalls were not slippery. Hence, Mike would have us walk right to the edge before diving in. The one exception was a narrow fall that, because of the curvature of the rock, he braced his leg across the fall for us to position ourselves. He was very specific about taking three running steps and then going into a dive position. As I swam toward two that had gone before me, I was asked if I was all right. I asked if it looked that bad. I had cleared the rocks, but I knew I hadn’t taken three steps. It just seemed like I would be running in mid-air and my mind couldn’t grasp that. Mike chided me later for what I had done.
Other falls we rappelled down such as the mushroom shaped one where we going to rappel to at the edge of the dome and then have to push off and let go and drop into the water. The key here was to place your knees against the ledge and not your face.
And there were some falls we jumped from the slippery, muddy side of the falls clearing a height of some 40 feet. This was the highlight for most. We had to rappel down the 50-foot one because on that particular day, Mike said the water level was so high that we would be sucked behind the falls, where he pointed to the churning whitewater.
We even experienced a horizontal cable along the side of a gorge where our only way around was using our carabineers and finding footholds. I made two attempts and would return to the beginning because I felt I just wasn’t "getting it". The guide was still helping others behind us, and the gentlemen next to me was a climber and explained I would have to lean way back, almost making myself horizontal using the bottom of my shoes not my toes. Now I got it and away I went.
By the time we stopped for a 20-minute lunch break, we all wanted rest. Some juice, power bars and we were ready to go. Actually, sitting still for too long, even in a wetsuit, was a bit chilling.
After all the physical exhaustion, we reached the end, where we had to climb up a narrow, muddy trail back to the road. What a finale to a great adventure.
From journal Canyoning Cabarete, DR
Whereas cascading tours require no equipment, canyoning includes helmets, seat/chest harness, belay device, carabineers, a wetsuit, and mind-over-matter attitude.
Okay, I just had to pass on the half-day Magic Mushroom and the full-day Pleasure Dome canyoning tour and choose the full-day Big Bastard. Only the latter had an age requirement of 18, with prior knowledge, good shape, and swimming knowledge. Well, I did qualify for the first requirement. Good shape over 40? I dive, but swim? Where would I have gotten prior experience?
We drove up a winding mountain road until we reached a restaurant where we were given hot beverages and pastries to fortify us for the trek ahead. We got suited up with all our gear that seemed almost too warm in spite of it being early in the morning. We were told to take absolutely nothing--no sunglasses, cameras, jewelry, hairclips, or watches. Not only was there the possibility of losing items but also the impact from the high jumps that we would be encountering.
Walking down a damp, narrow, zig-zagging path, we reached the river. At this point, we didn’t receive much along the line of instruction. Instead, we were told how physically demanding it would be and that there would only be a couple of places where you could choose to not to continue.
Heading upstream in 1 to 2 feet of water wouldn’t have been difficult, except for the fact that our guide Mike moved quickly through the slippery rocks. He had obviously done this many times. I had talked to him at the restaurant to find out that he had done the same tours I had in New Zealand with regard to abseiling and underground rafting. This, he said, was different still.