It was a fine Monday morning, the type that's perfect for a great outdoor activity. And there's nothing more perfect to do that day than go white-water rafting! We're in Cagayan de Oro - we would be missing half of our trip if we didn't try this adrenaline-pumping adventure.
It's our fourth day in the City of Golden Friendship. The weather had been kind to us. While Manila and some parts of Luzon were ravaged by typhoon, Cagayan de Oro was warm and sunny. There's slight drizzle from time to time especially in the afternoon, but not too much to ruin our activities. In fact, we had a sunny and warm weekend and the first day of the week was just as good.
But we were lucky. We didn't have to do sun-dance to make the sun appear. And that Monday morning, the sky's clear. It was a glorious day, to say the least. Little did I know that 5 hours later, I'd be using that word to describe our white-water rafting experience. Glorious.
We left the hotel at around 6 to have breakfast at McDonald's. It was such a shame to finally break the no-fastfood-while-we're-in-CDO rule but we had no other option. The water-rafting company (http://theredrafts.com/) that we booked for told us to wait at Dunkin Donuts, where they were going to pick us up at 7. Between the two, we thought we could get a decent meal at McDonald's. The thought of having to wade through the wild river for four hours made me too anxious and excited that I had hard time finishing my breakfast.
More and more people showed up at the meeting place. We could tell that they're as excited as we were. Everyone was such in good spirit that nobody seemed to mind if the RedRaft guides were a few minutes behind the schedule. Their arrival couldn't be more dramatic and noticeable. Large rafts piled on top of the jeepney. Men clad in rafting suits. Looking at my own attire, I felt so under-dressed.
But Allan, our giddy and fun guide, had more important concern than our attire. "Do you guys know how to swim?" he asked us while the vehicle was revving up. "You should, because it'll come handy in case you fall into the river," he said in a dead-serious tone. Seeing the uneasiness on our faces, he slapped his thighs and burst in a fit of laughter. "I'm only joking!"
Our jump-off point at Sitio Ugiaban was the perfect backdrop for a day of rafting and sightseeing. The chirping of birds and the sound of the flowing river set the scene and intensified the mood. After the quick water-rafting tutorial administered by a Jek (who needs practice in delivering jokes), we began the bumpy ride to the rapids with a few practice but essential strokes. By the end of three to four minor rapids, I was beginning to feel a little more adventurous and hoped for stronger currents.
I got what I wished for. After all, Cagayan River is a 20-km river stretch that consists of 21 major rapids. Most of these rapids have great current and intensity which required us to paddle harder than usual. It was a good thing that we chose the Advance Course because it quenched our thirst for extreme adventure. If you want a more extreme experience, you can opt for the Extreme Course (Advance Course is still required and you need to be a very good paddler).
The real purpose of white-water rafting, by the way, is to give raft passengers thrill and excitement. Allan, our quirky guide, wanted us to have 'thrill and excitement.' For every turn and drop (each rapid has a name), he would make us do the 'high-five' using our paddles. He would also let us swim in some parts of the river where there's not much current.
"Just be careful," he'd shout at us while we're enjoying the cool waters, "you'll never know when our friendly pets are going to come near you!" By 'pets' he meant alligators. Again, he's only joking but he sure gave us a fright.
Allan never runs out of interesting tricks and trivia which made our ride exciting and memorable. "Do you see that small hut in the distance? It's actually a factory."
"No way!" we would say in disbelief.
"Yes, it's a baby factory."
Just when we thought we we're good paddlers to have survived more than 10 rapids, he decided to put our survival skills to a test. As we approached the seemingly ordinary rapid, he asked us to move backward. None of us was a buzzkill so we did what he asked us to do. When the five of us were settled at the back part of the raft, he executed his 'plan.'
It was the most exciting part. The next rapids after the fall were a breeze. Nobody got hurt and everyone had immense fun.
At the end of the tour, we were mightily tired and shaking from extreme hunger that we devoured the food, which included chicken inasal, grilled tuna, buttered shrimp and banana, in just a few minutes. Glorious. I'm going back one day, that's for sure.