I slapped on an orange-colored life vest, put on a helmet, secured my waterproof camera and picked up my yellow paddle; I’m as ready as I can be for a ride at North Luzon’s mighty Chico River.
Our jeeps descended on a zigzagging dirt road down to Malaking Bato, and met our next highway, the Chico River. The rafts were untied and inflated while we were briefed by Sir Argel; the group was divided into those willing to get dunked down the water and those who are not really good swimmers. We were taught the proper way of paddling, how to get back to raft if ever we get thrown off and how to get out of mini whirlpools. Mini whirlpools eh? That decided it; I chose the non-swimmers group even though I know how to swim.
Like the caving experience in Norzagaray and the topload ride to Tabuk, whitewater rafting is another first for me. So I guess it’s normal to be filled with excitement and not a little bit of hesitation as we finally boarded our yellow rafts and was pushed towards the center of the river.
The first mini-rapids we encountered were just a few seconds away and it really was not so bad! I immediately forgot about my fear and started enjoying the ride!
We encountered different kinds of rapids, from bumpy weak ones to angry raging ones. But most of the trip was spent on calm waters where we got to enjoy the very scenic view on both sides of Chico River.
Verdant green mountains, abstractly carved rock formations that you’d think was created by humans, towering trees filled with bird cheeps with the deep green color of the river itself cutting through it all. The scenery was really fantastic, Tolkienesque in its grandeur in fact. Like what I previously posted on my Lakbay Norte Daily Updates, it was almost impossible not to expect two gigantic Argonauts to appear at the river bends with their arms outstretched.
The ride was really not the Rock-&-Roll-Per-Second type that I was expecting it to be and I was almost envious with the guys on the willing-to-die boat. I was wishing for more rapids and less calm stretches.
And then I got my wish, we passed through one turbulent stretch and almost toppled over! Everyone’s heart jumped to their throats! But alas, our group really was just too synchronized that we were able to stabilize the raft in no time. High five! It was a good scare nonetheless!
Halfway through the ride, we docked on a sandy portion of the river and snacks were passed around; sandwiches, bananas, soft drinks and water. The respite was brief; we were paddling our way down the river again in no time.
Not a few spills from the willing-to-die group, gazillion of water fights whenever our boats got close enough with each other and endless eye-popping landscapes later and we were at the final leg of our rafting adventure.
Our guides told us we can swim the rest of the way to the rendezvous point if we opt to. But it was not gonna be an easy swim since we were still gonna pass one more rapid; it is manageable if done properly. The way to do it was with our head and feet above water and our bottoms below the water.
Almost everyone jumped out and practiced the proper way of navigating the rapids by floating. A few minutes of bobbing through Chico River and the current started to quicken. We were soon engulfed in a turbulence of water. It was sky, water, a mouthful of water, sky, water, a mouthful of water for what seemed like eternity. I think I got three gulps of Chico water before the water calmed down again. Our asses and sides took a beating from the shallow rocks and we felt like clothes whirled through a giant washing machine; it totally rocked!
We were nearing our rendezvous point and the problem now was how to stop. I was not wearing sandals and the bottom was very rocky. Trying to brake using my feet was totally painful and I really don’t know how I was able to stop. I just found myself try to walk through the slippery rock bed to the opposite bank where our jeep was waiting.
After three and a half hours, our Chico River whitewater rafting adventure ended on a picturesque shoreline in Tabuk. It really didn’t feel like it took that long; we were totally bushed and cannot wait for our hot lunch but everyone was still hung up on the ride, we totally digged it!
Adventures and Expeditions Philippines Inc. (AEPI)
29 Burgos St., Tuguegarao City
(0917) 532-7480 | (078) 844-1298
LAKBAY NORTE IS AN ANNUAL MEDIA FAMILIARIZATION TOUR AROUND NORTH LUZON
ORGANIZED BY NORTH PHILIPPINES VISITORS BUREAU