EVERYBODY SAY JUMP JUMP – CANYONING IN BAÑOS ECUADOR

I have viewed waterfalls from afar in places like Honduras and rafted through one or two including the monster at Iguazu Falls in Brazil so why not rappel into them or better yet jump 40 meters down into one!!! There are a lot of names for this kind of adventure including, but not limited, to abseiling in Germany, rappelling in France, canyoning here in Ecuador, kloofing in South Africa, torrentismo in Italy and barranquismo in Spain but in essence you travel into canyons using a variety of techniques that may include other outdoor activities such as hiking, climbing, jumping, swimming and/or technical descensions into waterfalls.

You will be suited up in wet suits, with ropes, helmets, harnesses, carabiners and the like and, in our case, a very sexy orange diaper-like apparatus. Most importantly, you are handing your life into the hands of another human being and praying that the anchor bolted into the rock holds and no one has dropped your carabiner causing a hairline fracture thereby weakening it before you use it. A RUSH? OH HELL YEAH!

Who did I hand my life over to today? Gabriel and Reinaldo at Fanaties Sport Travel Agency in Baños, Ecuador.  They were safe, informative, spoke enough English to teach us what we needed to know and most importantly a hell of a lot of fun.  Or is that the most important thing…..I never can remember…..hehehe….

It was a short drive in the back of a pickup truck from Fantaties Sport Travel Agency to the waterfalls followed by a quick 10-15 minute safety briefing and ‘how to’ training session followed by a short, but often dangerous and very slick, hike across rushing rivers and pounding waterfalls to the top of our first of 4 waterfalls all the while the nervous energy building from the tips of your toes to the top of your head, your heart racing and your gut clinching.

I have rappelled many times before as I’m an avid outdoor rock climber and as what goes up must come down, more often than not I’m rappelling down from a climb but what we did in Baños is a WHOLE NEW STORY. Why? All things are slippery when wet right? And what is the most slippery thing do you think? Rocks covered in moss perhaps? And how is it getting so wet and slippery? The raging 30 plus meter waterfall slamming you in the face while you descend.  I learned right away that danger has a new name as rappelling down a dry cliff side is nothing like rappelling down into a waterfall. Planting your feet flat on that wall, bending your knees and leaning back like you are sitting upright in a chair but with your back to the ground may be the only way to get through this activity uninjured. That, of course, and remembering that hand clinging to the rope behind your back is your brakes. You don’t want to go plummeting to your death right? I’m just messing with you a bit. Know this – you are going to be fine as even if you let go of the rope you are not going to fall as you are fastened in at the top. I do, however, recommend that you never let go of that rope because if you do lose your footing you can turn around and just use that slick, moss covered, waterfall bashing, rock face as a water slide. Click here to see the action.

We got to rappel down two waterfalls and slide down one before doing the final insane feat – saltando a/k/a jumping backwards off the waterfall 40 meters down before swinging for 2-3 minutes or so back and forth into the rushing waters.  Say goodbye to your contact lenses…say goodbye to your sanity…and say goodbye to your fears because you will leave all that behind standing on that ledge all alone before plunging into this next extreme adventure. Click here to see what the jump is like.

Since I survived yet another adrenaline pumping extreme adventure, you can write me to learn how or comment on this post below but then go Unlock the Travelirvana in You.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Semuc Champey, Guatemala: Day 5

 

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If you have that little devil inside of you whose thirst for adrenaline and adventure must be quenched, then today is a day for you

If you have an incessant little angel inside of you, seeking tranquility, beauty and perhaps some rest for your body, mind and soul then today is a day for you.

If you have both, well lucky you because this will be one of your favorite travel days ever. It is in the top five for me!

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I awoke to the sound of birds singing and a glorious sunrise from my outdoor bunk bed at Utopia in the mountains of Semuc Champey, Guatemala.  Had breakfast overlooking none other than the epitome of tranquility. The theme, however, for the day was “Uno, dos, tres” as I must have repeated these 3 words today more than ever prior to jump uno, jump dos, jump tres and so on and by the end of the day I wasn’t certain whether today ranked uno, dos or tres in the best days of my journey thus far.  Indiana Jones himself would have been jealous.

 

We (Sam, Stephanie, Suzy, Clemence, Tomas and I) started with a 45 minute hike to Maria’s restaurant for none other than a swing from a platform to flying in the air and jumping into the river – Jump Uno. Suzy and I then proceeded to enter -with nothing other than a candle – a cave where we swam and climbed in pitch blackness. Jump Dos at the end of the cave, while scary, had nothing on Jump Tres because in Jump 2 our guide lit up the pool of blackness below with a headlamp while at Jump 3 (which was several meters higher) he decided to go first leaving me to jump with no light whatsoever. In a situation like this all you’ve got is one way down and the courage to murmur uno, dos, tres before following suit 😉 Do this. No matter what. There is nothing in this world more liberating. Jump Cuatro was the seated swing outside the cave. Again, uno, dos, tres and swing, jump, fly.

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We went from high flying adventure to rest and relaxation in the radiance of the cerulean infinity pools before tubing through the sometimes calm and sometimes raging rapids and ended our ride right at the door of Utopia.

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Utopia is the perfect name for this hostel and even more perfect name for Semuc Champey. The 12 or more hours to get there and out of there was worth it. As I said, today is one of my favorite days of travel after 15 months and 69 countries which is saying an awful lot.

That’s all for now with a “DON’T SKIP SEMUC!” reverberating throughout my entire body.

 

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Roatan, Honduras: Day 1

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Listening to Red Red Wine on the balcony of the Landing Restaurant in the West End drinking a strawberry, limeade, mint smoothie and eating shrimp and avocado tacos surrounded by palm trees, blue waters and sunlight, I began to make my very specialized plans for Roatan i.e. to face an old demon.

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My friend and padi certified scuba diving instructor offered up his lovely two story house with a private pool in Roatan for the week in an effort to share his love for Roatan’s underwater world with me so I signed up for the elearning class at padi.com and signed up with West End Divers to complete my open water scuba diving certification. Doing this is actually very difficult for me as it forces me to face a traumatic childhood experience from when I was when I was originally certified. At 14 years old, during my first open water test, my ears didn’t equalize and I suffered a pain at 33 feet underwater that was so horrendous that when I think of it today my eardrums begin to actually hurt again. My fear manifests this physical anomaly. Like probably most people would do in this situation regardless of their age or training, I panicked and tried to rapidly ascend thinking my ears would pop back to normal. My scuba buddy grabbed my ankle and yanked me down and tapped on my goggles and pointed up. My head had been a mere few inches from an overhanging rock structure before he halted my ascent. The good news is I completed the dive back when I was 14 and fell in love with life underwater. The bad news is the extraordinary pain in my ears lasted for weeks. I learned afterwards it was a mistake to finish that dive so long ago. The instructor should have ended the dive to avoid long term serious injury to my ears among other things given the lack of a controlled ascent. The even worse news is that I never got back into scuba gear again until David started my confined water dives in the pool last year some 27 years later. IMG_5306With David we worked on overcoming my fears one on one in the pool at the Gigglin’ Marlin in Houston and now it was time to get back on the proverbial horse. The truth is I should have straddled that horse decades ago as I am a firm believer in attacking your fears immediately rather than carrying them with you. In any event, I was going to try to face them now and after one of the top 3 sunsets I’ve experienced in my travels at the Sundowner, I headed back to the house and until 3:00 in the morning did my online padi assessments in preparation for tomorrow’s “horseback ride”.

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So for those of you who have a traumatic experience to work through (i.e. all of you), please send some prayers and positive energy my way as we need all the help we can get when battling fear. Fear is a healthy thing and generally a gift from above and should not be discounted lightly but when it is debilitating we should make an effort to face it. That’s what I’m going to do – make an effort and what better place than the Caribbean underwater paradise of Roatan.

That’s all for now from paradise in Roatan, Honduras.

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Little Corn, Nicaragua: Day 11

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Between the morning bagels and muffins to die for made right here on the island at the Bagel House, finishing the book I’ve been reading on the beach while watching the impressive skills of the Sheldon kite surfers, rooting for Little Corn to beat Big Corn in the championship baseball game and all the goodbyes to all my new island friends nay my island family, I managed to hike almost the entire island in search of a lot I might soon call my home and I did all of this with a faint sense of premature nostalgia as I’m catching the panga tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. back to Big Corn in order to catch a plane back to Managua and then head to Country 65 – Costa Rica.

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It is a strange sensation to leave a place you feel destined to return to. It’s different from the typical excitement I feel when heading towards my next country and my next adventure. I finally understand the phrase “bitter sweet” as I sit on my terrace with nothing and no one but the night lights sparkling from heaven above, the sounds of the waves crashing against the shores, the wind whistling its enchanting songs of mystery through the jungle trees and the fireflies to keep me company. My mind drifts into its most restful state unapologetically repeating there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home and I realize it may not be my mind but the ocean waves, the birds, the insects, the wind, the trees, my island that is symphonically whispering this to me and next time I close my eyes and click my heels together 3 times, I may return back to this magical place.

That’s all for now but sending you all  lots of love and magic from perhaps my new home.