Tuesday, June 4, 2019

My Bali Holidays - May 2019 : White Water Rafting in Aayung River

My wife and me along with my sister and brother-in-law (all senior citizens) went for a week-long holiday in Bali Island (Indonesia). Thai International Airways flight took us from Mumbai at midnight and reached us to Denpasar International Airport in the afternoon via Bangkok. The timing suited us as most of the hotels and resorts in Bali have afternoon check-in time. We had two-night halt at Ubud, about 40 kms from Denpasar. Thereafter, we stayed 4 nights in Kuta which was a short distance from Denpasar airport.
Denpasar International Airport,, Bali, Indonesia seen from the aircraft.

During our 7 days in Bali, we visited all the popular tourist spots of southern, eastern and northern Bali which included temples, beaches, water sports, Mt. Batur, sunset and dinner cruise, handicrafts, cultural shows and of course shopping. In this blog, I will cover my first experience in white water rafting in Aayung River.
In Bali, white water rafting is done mainly on Telga Waja River and Aayung River. Both these rivers flow from North-Eastern mountain region and meet Bali Sea on south-eastern coast. While white water rafting in Aayung River cater to the Class I ( for the beginners with small cascades in rapids and easy drops) and Class II ( the next level with moderate cascades in rapids and somewhat deeper drops than in the Class I requiring some manoeuvring in paddling). Generally, the depth of the river during the non-rainy season is round 4-5 feet.  
White water rafting in Telga Waja River caters  to Class I, II and III levels. Of course, in rainy season (January-March) the difficulties in white water rafting in both the rivers may touch to Class IV level.
Since we had gone on a package tour, white water rafting in Aayung River was included in our package and was scheduled for the next day after reaching Ubud. The going rate as I understand from the agency ranged between US$ 20 to 30 per person for about 2 hours of white water rafting  depending upon the package one select (like pick-up and drop at hotel, lunch after the end of rafting etc. will cost more).
We started from out Hotel in Ubud around 9.00 am and reached the rafting agency's centre around 9.30 am. Here we deposited our sacks with extra cloths which the representative of the agency would bring them to the finishing point by vehicle. We were earlier instructed to come in beach wear and leave cameras, mobiles and purse in the sacks. I, however, took my mobile with me, secured in a small zip lock plastic bag.
At the agency's centre, we were given helmets and life jackets to wear and carry paddles. All these formalities took another 30 minutes or so. By 10.00 am, we were ready to start walking to reach the starting point of the river rafting which itself was as adventurous as the white water river rafting.
     The group is ready to walk down about 400 steps to reach the base of the River Aayung for the rafting. I am second from the left holing red raft peddle.
My wife and my sister did not venture into rafting as descending about 400 steps to reach the base of the Aayung River would have put strain on their already weak knees. Also, at the finishing point of rafting, one had to climb about 200 steps to reach the road head.
Myself and my brother-in-law started descending about 400 steps which passed through the dense rain forest. In fact, this is a part of what is popularly known as Monkey Forest. In about 20 minutes, we reached the base of the River Aayung which is the starting point of the white water river rafting.
On the descend of about 400 steps in the dense forest, from the road side to reach the base of the river.

There were about 20-30 persons already waiting for the allotment of guide and the rafting boat. Each available rafting boat had the capacity of accommodate six persons. The allotment took another 15 minutes. Before occupying our seats, we were asked to remove our foot wears and deposit with the guide. The front two seats of the rafting boat were generally allotted to children or persons with lesser weights. The middle and the last two seats each were given to persons with normal weight /overweight. The guide sat on the edge of the boat after the last seat.

 My brother-in-law and me waiting for the allotment of rafting boat and the guide at   the starting point of white water rafting at the shore of Aayung River, Ubud.
After we  six sat down  in the rafting boat with paddles in our hand, our guide started giving basic instructions for rafting. First,  he demonstrated as to how to hold the paddles while paddling. Second, how to paddle to take the raft forward, backward, turn to left and right sides. We were also instructed to remove the paddles from the water and hold them vertically inside the raft while encountering the rapids. Just before the drops, we were instructed to hold the rope attached to the tube of the raft to prevent falling in the river.  In case, any one of us falls in the river due to heavy jerks while passing through cascades and drops, we were told to keep our head above water and bend slightly backward.
Another requirement was that at least 4 persons should paddle while the raft is in the calm water. The manoeuvring during the time when raft was moving in rapids and drops was mainly done by the guide.
 White water river rafting is a team work requiring each individual  to paddle in synchronisation with other individuals in the raft. In our case, apart from two children who were paddling in their own rhythm, the remaining four of us were doing the white water rafting for the first time. It took about 2 kms of sail to achieve some semblance of synchronised paddling by which time we had passed through about a dozen rapids and some easy drops. 
As we moved further, there was some tricky rapids with a few gentle drops. It was mainly our guide who successfully manoeuvred our raft during such instances. After all, it has been his daily occupation for years. 
When we were covered around half distance of about 4-5 kms of rafting, we passed through a stretch of tricky rapids followed by  a gentle drop to an artificial whirlpool created by some rocks in the river. After spinning to 360 degrees twice, the raft got stuck in between two rocks. Our guide got down in the river to manually manoeuvre out of the rocks. While he was doing his job, unfortunately, another raft which was at a distance behind our raft, hit our raft with a high speed since it also passed through rapids.  The impact of the hit was such that one lady from raft that hit us was thrown out of her raft in the river. Being in rapids, she was swept away in no time out of our sight. However, later she was safely brought out of the river to her raft without any injury. 
But the force of the hit on our raft made it to lean on its left side to almost 90 degrees. Our guide instructed four of us to quickly sit on raised side of the raft so that it does not take a summersault in the river because of our weight. After about 10 minutes, we were transferred to  another raft and taken to a drink break point. Our struck raft could be retrieved only after it was depressurised. It was brought to the drink break point and again filled with air to continue our ride in the same raft.
It was interesting to observe that when our raft was stuck in the rocks and it was dangerously leaning on one side, none of us panicked. Even two children sitting in the front side were cool.
  This is the drink-break point at the shore of the river almost half-way from the finishing point. There are sacks that serves beer, soft drinks and even coconut water.
In the Aayung river for photo shoot,  taking the two waterfalls as background. 
After the drink break, we encountered many rapids and drops but they were easy to handle. At the same time, each of the rapids and drops gave us thrilling experiences like jumps, spinning, ups and downs of raft, complete drenching in water etc.
We were so engrossed in our rafting that we forgot to fully enjoy the scenic beauty of this 9-km ride.  On both side of the river were cliffs covered with dense rain forest. We were told to use sun cream due to strong sun in this tropical island. But due to dense vegetation, we hardly felt the strong sun. In fact, the weather was pleasant with temperature around 27 Celsius. I was told that some of the rocks on the cliff side of the river had carvings depicting the story from Mahabharata. However, I missed those carvings.
We came across a couple of waterfalls on the rafting route, one of which was a huge one. However, despite taking with me my mobile, I could not click the pictures. It was impossible to take the pictures while we were rafting. Some riders even got out of their rafts to swim in the river at places where there were smooth flows.
Luckily, our rafting agency had deployed professional photographer at a couple of vintage points of the rafting route. One of them took a picture of our rafting while we were passing through the rapids.

 This is one of the several rapids and drops we  passed through during river rafting of 9-km distance. As we were rafting, one of the professional photographers of our rafting agency stationed at the cliff took his picture. Our guide is at the back and I am sitting just before him.urs
It took almost 2 hours to complete our 9-km of rafting. But the adventure was not over. We had to climb about 200 steps to reach the road head where the agency's rest room, bathrooms and changing rooms were located.  By this time, my wife and sister were brought here in the agency's car along with our sacks of cloths deposited earlier. While most of the riders took bath and dressed up in dry cloths, we decided to take first lunch  in the restaurant which was adjunct to the changing rooms and  take bath after returning to our hotel room in Ubud. 
White water river rafting was one of my cherished wish whenever I used to see young ones doing it in River Ganga near Rishikesh and in Zanskar river in Ladakh. But my wish remained unfulfilled. Perhaps, I was destined to do my maiden white water rafting  in Aayung River in Bali at the age of 74. 


1 comment:

krishna said...

very adventurous! I've never been to Indonesia.