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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

A Rope & Harness, 27M Waterfall, We Feel So Alive!

VIETNAM | Tuesday, 17 July 2007 | Views [3539]

Dalat is an outdoor adventure sport enthusiasts dream.  The climate, the mountains, rugged landscape and spirit of the people have all come together to develop a great outdoor sporting infrastructure... so many cool things to do, so little time.  We chose a day of "canyoning" with a small adventure sports company called Phat Tire.  The kids running the tours are all in their 20's, and a lot of fun.  We weren't quite sure what canyoning was, but we saw a picture of someone abseiling down a waterfall and thought, yep, this is for us.  

So the kids pick us up around 8:30 a.m. with two other guys from the UK- Jafar and Jet.  We drive 20 minutes to the falls area and trek along the river and gorge up to our practice and skill building area.  It is a short, rocky hill where we practice hitching ourselves up to the ropes and harness, and then rappelling backwards down the side of the hill.  Once we had the techniques and skills down, we hike up a narrow trail to our first set of falls, which was a 25M cliff.  Darrin and I are both not so fond of heights.  We hoped that we'd be fine for abseiling, as we'd be rappelling down with our face to the cliff, and backside to the open drop.  Darrin goes before me, and with the very supportive and compassionate coaching from our 20 year old guide, he makes it down with ease.  As I am about to clip myself onto the rope, a bee flies into my shirt and stings me.  Those of you who know me well, know that I'm deathly allergic to specific types of bees (yellow jackets, honey bees, white and yellow faced hornets and wasps).  I hope that I had pulled the stinger out early enough to escape a full release of venom.  It flies off, so I'm not sure what type it is.  I have my epi-pen injector in hand, ready to give myself the shot if I start showing any signs of an anaphylaxis reaction.  However, as others susceptible to anaphylaxis shock know, you should keep your heart rate calm, to prevent the toxins from pumping through your blood stream.  Great... I'm sitting here hanging my body over a 25M cliff and trying to keep my heart rate even.  Good luck!  I don't even remember getting down.  Somehow I made it, but I missed the trill of the experience, more paranoid to sense if my throat and tongue were ballooning up, and if I was having trouble breathing.  I rest a bit at the bottom, and after about 5 minutes, and several reality checks later, we climb upwards to the next cliff, along a slick narrow, rocky trail, to the spot where we engage in our next "canyoning activity"... sliding down a waterfall on our backs with life jackets and helmets.  First slide is feet-first facing front-side up, second slide was facing head-first, front-side up.  We let our young guides demonstrate, once we saw they made it through unharmed, we each took our turns... it was good fun and refreshingly cool.  Next challenge...  we're ready for the big one... the 27M waterfall.  The abseiling ropes here are anchored to metal eyes that have been drilled into the rocks, under the raging waters at the top of the slick falls.  All we can see is the water rushing from the upper falls over the flat 5M stretch in between the two falls, and then the edge just drops before us.  Our guide warns us to make a cautious descent.  "Very slippery, and lots of water," he says.  Half way down the cliff ends - yep, no more wall to inch our feet down, and our guide instructs us to use our jumping skills we had practiced earlier on the short test run.  

We all sat and ate a picnic lunch while our guide set up the ropes.  My bee sting luckily has limited swelling, so I think I'm in the clear to let my adrenalin race down this next fall.  Darrin goes before me, steadily lowering himself into the main stream of the falls.  Soon he disappears over the edge and all I can now see is our guide giving him the occasional thumbs up, or hand signal to shift left or right.  Then our guide can't see him any longer; he's beneath the water and cliff drop off.  I see him, finally, swimming to the rocks- he's made it safely.  I breathe a sigh of relief.  I go last, after our European friends.  It was much scarier than I thought it would be.  The pressure from the water over the edge of the cliff keeps forcing my feet to prematurely slide down the super slick rock.  It is so forceful, it causes the arches in my feet to cramp.  I keep looking up to our guide, who gently coaches me to move left, then right, and ah, finally the thumbs up.  Ok.  I feel like I'm in slow motion, crawling like a snail down a long descent.  I think of my friend Mary who does adventure racing with her husband... and this activity they do against the clock, fearlessly and quickly scaling down the sides of mountains and cliffs.  I feel like such a wimp!  Then I look down to see where the cliff ends, but there's way too much water spraying in my face to see anything.  Looking down takes me off balance, and I lose my footing, now I'm dangling from the rope.  I now cling to the rope, my right hand in back of my lower back holding tight, breaking any slippage of the rope.  Although not doing a very good job, as I can feel the rope burn on my lower right back as it slowly slides.  My left hand holds tight and firm on the rope in front of me, trying to balance and keep my body facing the fall, but the water is way too strong and I body slam the slick cliff in front of me, struggling to hold onto the rope and get my feet back onto the rock wall.  I finally manage to stick my feet back on, but only for a short distance more, as the cliff ends with a big drop-off.  I bend my knees and spring off into a jump, just as we had been taught, and let out the slack in the rope, plunging into the pool of water below.  Wow!  I'm alive!  What a feeling, what a rush.  My legs are weak, and it was touch to climb out, but again, our trusty guides are there with a helping hand.

Our next canyoning activity is walking through a chest-deep river, and then up a steep trail to our next thrill... the jump.  As we wade through the river, I think of crocodiles, and then about all the Vietnam war fighters who Lived in rivers like this during battle, dodging bullets, avoiding Viet Con laid wilderness traps, and bombs.   We make our way up the slope, and then use ropes to hoist down a 10M shelf jutting off the cliff where we each get to jump into the pool below.  We wade our way through another river area, up a cliff and reach our last waterfall, wedged in between two cliffs.  This is by far the most technical descent.  Just 7M down the one cliff, we are faced with the end of the wall, and the need to hoist ourselves down, and then free fall in between the narrow crevasse of the two rock cliffs, through the rushing convergence of the two streams of waterfall, and land our bodies in a thin pencil dive, feet first, submerging from the pressure of the falls hitting the water.  The force from the water eventually pulls us out through a narrow underwater passageway to a large pool of water.

Half way down before dropping myself with the rope, into the raging waters, I have the unsettling, out of body thought that I really shouldn't be doing this, and how sleepy I was feeling at that very moment.  I told that negative voice in my head to shut up, that there's no going back, no other way out but down, and refocussed on the task at hand.. not quite sure when I am supposed to let go of the rope, and not really wanting to let go, as it appears to be my only lifeline to the surface of the water, I awake to reality of our guide yelling to me to jump.  I let out the slack in the rope, lean back and push off the edge of the wall, into the strong cascade of water, dropping myself in, trying hard not to make my body spin and slam the cliff behind me.  I slide the rope through my hands, dropping into the water, remembering the guide yelling to those who went before me to "let go of the rope."  I let go, take a deep breath, and fully submerge, and feel the rush of water forcing me through the rocks into the pool.  This area our guide fondly calls the "washing machine" and it does feel like what I imagine going through a rinse cycle would be like.  I see Darrin on the rocks across the way, I'm sure he can see the sheer look of terror on my face, and the melting away of the fear into relief when I see him and take in that first big breath of air.  What a rush!  We survived and really enjoyed our day of canyoning adventure, and will definitely seek out more rappelling adventures along the way.

A mimi-commercial for Phat Tire Adventures... these were the best guides we've had... great technically, and compassionate coaches.  I think the adventure coaches we've had here in Vietnam have taught me much about how to take people beyond their natural edge in a way that's compassionate, encouraging, and gets people to safely extend beyond their envisioned limits.

Tags: Adrenaline

 

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