Davao’s River Wild

There was a moment in the 3-hour-12.8-km white water rafting adventure as I was floating on my back with the slow-running river current, and staring at the blue sky blemished with wisps of white clouds when I got this feeling that the Davao trip and my first in Mindanao was going to be a terrific kick-off to the last summer of my twenties.

I wasn’t wrong. The entire rafting experience was a blast which almost got scrapped after I and 3 other travel buddies – Dong, Lawstude, and Bluespot – were enticed to try out Lake Sebu by GenSan bloggers (more on them on a future post) and the purported awesome view from its newly constructed zipline.

Common sense prevailed and by mid-morning on a Sunday, after a 2.5-hour bus ride from GenSan and 1 hour to the put-in area within Davao City, we had our helmets and life vests on raring to go navigate the rapids. There was a short lecture on the rafting basics: how to properly handle a paddle, what to do when you fall off the raft or when the raft capsizes, how to lift a “fallen” comrade off the river among other things.

The put-in area had a magnificent view of Davao’s flora. Almost the entire surrounding was covered in green and the color trickled down to the water. I initially thought the current would be raging on the get-go but it was surprisingly placid-like with only a tiny bit of hint that the water was downstreaming.

It was the perfect place to try out what was taught a few minutes back. We took turns sliding off the raft with our paddles, getting saved, and doing the saving. The water was cold but not shivery-cold. It was a welcome respite from the heat and jolted me awake having had very little sleep for more than 24 hours. It put me in the right kind of mood.

After each had their chance to dip in the waters, sort of a rafting baptism ritual, we were off to the rapids. Although they weren’t as intense as in the rainy season we still had the grandest time paddling hard forward and easy forward and feasting our eyes on the expansive scenery before us.

A few times our guide barked out a right side hard forward and left side hard backward combo-instruction (to the uninitiated, this means those sitted on the right side of the raft should paddle forward and those on the left should paddle backward) and we practically froze, each of us bewildered on which way to paddle. All of us burst out laughing each time.

In between rapids are stretches of placid-like waters. During these stretches we deliberately jumped or slid off the raft with the main guide’s approval. We floated on our backs or on our stomachs and allowed the river’s current to carry us.

We did this a few times and it was exhilarating. Peaceful. There was even an instance when after giving out the drifting signal all 6 of us jumped off the raft inside of five seconds. We felt like 5-year-old kids allowed by our parents to play off in the rain after minutes of incessant pleading.

The entire course allowed us to traverse through some poor communities in Davao who reside near the river. There were women washing clothes and throngs of kids either taking a dip or simply playing. Kids waved and yelled out babai (Bye-Bye) and we did the same.

At last at the 3-hour stretch we arrived at the take-out area. Similar to where we took off, the place was picturesque and the water placid-like. We were then famished and gobbled up the free lunch that cam with the package we paid for. It was a gratifyingly memorable experience overall.

By the way, something tells me I will be trying out the rapids again within the year, when the water level is higher and the river more frightening.

*****

Details on the team running the rafting adventure on my next post.

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