Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cagayan De Oro's River Wild

AND she’s back. Here’s my good friend, Ianne Borillo, guest blogging again with another episode in her continuing great outdoors saga. This ain't your kid's Rio Grande Rapids.

By Ianne Borillo.

Cagayan de Oro is synonymous to white water rafting: the kind of adrenaline-pumping activity that sends you rapidly going down the stream and holding on to dear life with a paddle. It’s no coincidence the famous Mindanao province’s name is derived from the word “Kagay” which means river and “Oro” which means gold.

As per the old folks’ tale, the river that separates Cagayan and Bukidnon, did have gold back in the day. It might as well be so as river rafting seems to be one of the major tourist attractions of the city and bread and butter of various outfitters.

I have had numerous river runs with the Redrafts, one of CDO’s pioneers in the sport. I progressed from being the official entertainer to an extra paddler. Entertainers throw in fun facts, trivia, occasional jokes and whatever stories they can muster to keep the energy level up when passing steady waters. Extra paddlers come in handy for a relatively weaker team (group of old folks and or kids). I have come to know that the integral part of rafting lies in the hands of the river guide who possesses the skill and knowledge to get their passengers through the activity safe and sound but more than the expected criteria, they too must be very good in assessing a team of rafters.

Each participant will be given a helmet, a paddle and a life vest. Once everyone is fully equipped, the designated speaker slash senior guide will gather all the participants and brief them on safety precautions and demonstrate the right way to paddle.


If you fall into the water, do NOT try to swim, just float facing down stream, relax. Your river guide is trained and equipped to get you at all costs. Bottom line: IF YOU PANIC, YOU DIE. It’s that simple.

Briefing is also the time for the senior guide to assign another guide to a particular team of rafters. The more daring guides are usually assigned to the equally daring team. It’s incredibly scary until you’ve passed the first rapid. The water looks so intimidating you’d want to back out soon as you see it. Lesson learned: when the guide screams “LOCK YOUR FEET, SHUT YOUR MOUTH!!” you better do so. I was so overwhelmed I forgot to shut my mouth. I ended up swallowing a good amount of murky river water. I was more relaxed though after the my first taste of a decent rapid.

The usual river run starts at Aura, which boasts of 14 rapids perfect for beginners. The more adventurous ones can start at Ugyaban with seven additional wilder rapids. Either way you get to enjoy varying rapids of increasing levels (or from level 1 to level 3). In between the blurry battle with the rapids is a relaxing sightseeing activity where your guide’s people skills come into play. Yes, it’s like watching National Geographic live! You come across giant fossils of clams (apparently the river used to be part of the sea), snakes, caves, naked locals bathing, lava rocks (where the locals wash their clothes, get it?) and a wide assortment of trees, animals and flowers.

Towards the end of the activity, the guests have an option to take one last challenge: To climb and jump from an 18 feet rock aptly called “the graduation rock”.  It’s not much to look at from a spectators point of view but it’s way intimidating when you’re at the peak and looking down at the cheering crowd below you.

Even scarier is the guide’s warning to never swim to the left as the current will take you tumbling like a piece of laundry in a washing machine. Some climb up and jump. Some climb up, wait, then jump. A number climb up, wait, wait some more and finally climb down. At least there’s something to look forward to the next time they go rafting.

As with any water sport, the 3 hour activity is likely to leave you starving. The Redrafts offers packages that include such food varieties like barbequed chicken, shrimp and tuna belly, fresh fruits, steamed rice and a bottle of Cagayan’s unique blend of Pinakurat (local vinegar made from coconut and spices) served picnic style by the river replete with white and red checkered table cloth. Everything is prepared by the time you get off the raft and ready to devour almost anything. That plus your well-deserved sense of accomplishment is what makes this daring activity something worth going through at least once in your life.

For reservations and inquiries call Lyle X (Redrafts) 09179045298 or Rex 09228973175

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