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Monday, January 30, 2006
WHITEWATER RAFTING ON BALI'S MIGHTY AYUNG RIVER
A very long time ago I used to work for ARTA, a non-profit corporation dedicated to preserving wild rivers, a goal they work towards by bringing people on whitewater rafting trips. I used to love it and I had wild, raucous trips on the Rogue River in Oregon, the Salmon in Idaho, and the Tuolumne and American Rivers in California. Oh, but that was a long, long time ago. I wasn't looking for wild, raucous times when I decided to go to peaceful, groovey Bali. And my companions, Rebecca and Brad, were even more determinably dedicated to peace and harmony and then I was. Brad's so full of peace and harmony that he'll pretty much agree to anything good. And Rebecca... well, she was less sure about whitewater but liked the idea of the pretty, peaceful jungle the river went through. And, besides, she was looking forward to a quid pro quo elephant safari later in the week.
Our trusty driver, the aforementioned Anwar, made all the arrangements with a rafting company called Sobek. (That's not a detail I'd usually remember but a few years earlier Roland and I had spent a month on a Nile cruise and we kept going to temples dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile god and I'm afraid of crocodiles so I remembered.) Anyway, Anwar had drove us way up the Ayung for a couple hours to where the rafting company had their headquarters in Begawan. We got all geared up and then climbed down and down and down through the incredibly beautiful rain forest to the rver bank. I kept thinking about what a drag it was gonna be walking back up from the river bank when we got to Kedewatan, about 7-8 miles down the river.
Once we got to the boats, the guides divided us into crews of about 8 people. Of course, at first everyone was all stiff and kind of hoping to not get too wet. That lasted about 5 minutes. They give you some quick dos and don'ts and safety tips and pretty soon we're floating through some gentle, easy water looking at the exquisite scenery. When the rapids come-- there were about 2 dozen in all-- they never get beyond Class III but most people manage to fall overboard at least once or twice; well maybe not most, just the ones who like wild, raucous fun. Eventually everyone is loose as a goose and huge naval battles ensue. So much for peace and harmony. I was all for ramming and drowning. (I think that side of me scared Rebecca a little.)
There were some nice waterfalls and the environment never went below "incredible." The Ayung is the longest river in Bali and the part we were on-- remember a couple hours away our house was also on the Ayung-- runs through an otherwise inaccessible tropical rain forest, which is basically untouched by modern civilization. The guides were great, very professional and fun. It's the kind of thing that can work for anyone too-- I mean small kids or old people do fine (and no one goes overboard who doesn't kind of want to). They serve a lunch afterwards but we knew we had a feast made by the best chef in Bali waiting for us back at our villa so we climbed back up to the road and someone was waiting to take us back home. It's a great way to spend half a day; I think it cost us around $50 each.