We awoke to the shrieking of birds that seriously could have been made by the Teradactyl in Jurassic Park. It was horrendous. That's one thing about the jungle: it is loud, and no place for a sleep in! We made haste packing our bags and scarfing down some breakfast and then dragged our bags up the hill to wait for the van from the tour company. We weren't quite 100% sure they'd even be coming, as the confirmation had been less then assuring. But, sure enough, before long a mini van came rolling down the road and stopped to ask if we were the guys for canyoning and we loaded up.
The ride down into the canyon was longish, hot and at times pretty hairy. The road was dirt and, of course, narrow and void of any guard rail...yet again our lives were in the hands of a local driver with a few teeth missing. The nerves hit the hardest when we got to the hair pin turns that were too sharp for the vehicle to make without a 3 point turn. It would be a lie if anyone in the car said they weren't at least a little nervous as we backed up a few feet with a huge cliff behind us to complete each of those turns.
Finally we pulled up to the stop and after the guides loaded some equipment we set off for the 20 minute hike down to the canyon of waterfalls which we would be rappelling down. The hike passed a few local farms where our guide pointed out coca leaf plants and coffee plantations amongst many other crops.
It was hot and steamy by the time we got to the tiny hut where we suited up into our wetsuits and harnesses. After standing around sweating and uncomfortable in our wetsuits for way too long we headed for the cool water and a little relief from the heat.
We kept waiting for the guides to give us some instruction, but it never really came and before we knew it we were being clipped in and about to be sent rappelling down the first waterfall. Luckily, one of my summers spent at Camp Jack Hazard was as the Adventure Director meaning I have taught rappelling to a few hundred people in my life. Our guys got my quick run through on what to do only moments before stepping off the first waterfall. Apparently it was enough because we all got down unscathed.
We proceeded down the next and the next and 8 waterfalls later we had successfully navigated the gorgeous, fern covered canyon. It was a very, very pretty place and we were all super pumped by the time we were done...everyone was rappelling like Bear Grylls himself by the end.
The trip continued with a little hike and swim down the river to a small cove that led back into a great big swimming pool filled by an amazing waterfall that plummeted 40-50ft into the pool. We passed a little over an hour swimming and jumping off the numerous, different sized cliff jumps. We all jumped with grace and skill, but one of the rambunctious Aussie early-20-something's who was on our trip nearly took himself out. He jumped off the highest cliff and came within a foot or two of the opposite wall which would have meant a serious injury. It was definitely no place to get hurt: a secluded river, down a canyon, with no road access in Bolivia and with only 3 non English speaking guides to get you out of there. I cringe to think about what could have happened, and we all steered clear of that dangerous jump.
After our swim we had a quick lunch and then started the [alleged] 20 minute walk back up the hill to where we would meet our van. The walk was steep and as we were all feeling fit, 5 of us made it up in about 25 minutes. The Aussie kids were right behind us, but as we looked back we saw Guapo trudging far, far below followed closely by one of the guides. We gave him a few cheers of encouragement and watched as he climbed closer and closer in anticipation of the guaranteed expletive filled tirade that was sure to come spewing from his lips when he finally reached the top. I'll leave it at saying that he looked far less then pleased when his head popped over the hill, but I think he was too exhausted to muster the tirade.
Back in town we picked up our bags and waited at the tour office for a few minutes before the van taxi came to pick us up and we started the 3+ hour slog up the hill to La Paz. Thankfully they have a paved highway built now so we didn't have to ride back up along the Death Road and risk finding the fate of the SUV we had seen the previous day on our bike ride down who'd gone over the side in a late night rain storm. Nope, it was smooth sailing all the way back to La Paz having completed our Extreme 48 hours of activity...