Day 33, 02FEB2017
What a rush!
Today Josh organized a white water rafting tour for the two of us. We commenced our day over breakfast at our AirBnB: dry toast with butter, dulce de leche, and coffee.
The tour included door to door pick up and drop off service from Mendoza so at 1000 our guide grabbed us from outside our little brick home and we were on our way.
Along the drive we picked up a fellow rafter, Jimmy, from Holland. Jimmy spoke great English and we became fast friends. Our driver was extremely nice, but did not speak a lick of English. What she did do well though was drive like crazy! We sped along the highway, a 110 km/h zone at 180 km/h. Luckily the roads were flat, sometimes straight, and definitely empty.
She pointed out the mountains, the river, the lakes, various wineries, and a few wild horses as we whizzed by them. We arrived at Poterillos Explorer just after noon and proceeded to gear up and slather our faces with Surf Butter. (Tip: if you’re interested check out Surf Butter on Instagram @thesurfbutterco for Josh’s sisters Lucy and Imogen and his mom’s start-up).
The explorer outpost is set amid gorgeous scenery. Surrounded by the Andes, the tiny shack lined with a lazy porch and even lazier dogs, overlooks a large crystal blue lake and bakes in the warm summer sun. Our guide spoke English and cautioned us through the gamut of precarious conditions we might face while engaging in this extreme sport.
Before piling into a rickety van lined in water proof plastic carpets we rolled wetsuits and splash guards on. At this point, sitting in the very back of the van with our guide speaking to us in English while the remainder of the van packed to the rim with non-English speakers listened to the rules of the river from a Spanish guide I couldn’t help but begin to worry we weren’t getting the full spiel.
Once everyone piled out of the van at our disembarkation point I began to feel better. The water didn’t look too crazy, at least not where we were getting into the water. Of course, this makes sense right? Start people off in a calmer locale of course!
The large group was divided among two rafts; one with a Spanish guide, the other with an English speaking guide. Our raft thus included Josh, Jimmy and I plus a family of four with a Spanish mother, German father, and kids who were fluent in French, English, Spanish and German. Seriously, I need to improve my language skills.
I may have been a bit nervous at first regarding white water rafting, but as soon as we floated into the chocolate-milk-colored water I found pure excitement. While the waters were still relatively calm we practiced all our safety measures and procedures. Josh volunteered to fall overboard and Jimmy came to his rescue. Our drills complete we set off down Rio Mendoza for Class II – IV rapids.
The first few iterations were “tame” but splashed us with 09 degree water nonetheless. I focused all my energy on paddling and tearing the water with the paddle. This kept me from thinking about the “what ifs” like “what if we hit a rock?” or “what if I get sucked under the rapids?” Thankfully our guide knew this portion of the river extensively, so much that I’m sure he knew exactly when to have our eyes and bodies focused on paddling to distract us from the torrent of waves and silty rapids that surrounded us. At one point we actually had to all climb into the raft and hold on for dear life. My side of the raft filled entirely of chill-you-to-the-bone water, and Josh claims it nearly took me and the Spanish mother since the water was well up to around our necks.
We all survived though, with exceptional experiences and recollections! At the end of the ride we were given the option to jump overboard and float alongside the raft. You’d think the cold water would have deterred me, but I couldn’t let Josh be the only one who got to go overboard today!
The river was surrounded on all sides by towering rock edifices, on some edges massive willow trees dipped their branches into the water, on others the remnants of long-forgotten aquifer and irrigation projects sat crumbled and destroyed. Regardless of the scenery, the river was beautiful and the sound of the gushing water was actually rather comforting.
When the hour and a half ride concluded, we piled out of the rafts, loaded back into the van, and navigated back to the hut outpost.
At this point, Josh, Jimmy and I were guided to the final part of our day’s trip: a four course steak lunch. This meal was incredible! We started with two huge platters of cheese, fruits, and salads, it was followed by a fresh salad and bread segment, then the main meal of steak with either a pepper or Malbec sauce and potatoes. We whiled away a good hour at this picnic table overlooking the dried creek bed below, and after a few beers our dessert of three-tiered ice cream was presented.
Our driver rounded us back up as the evening began and she returned us to our respective homes in Mendoza.
Since lunch was eaten rather late today, when we returned to our AirBnB and were met with our new Scottish friends Andrian and Jenn, we decided to forgo dinner tonight and instead hit Vilanueva for some happy hours.
Lucky for us, Argentinians enjoy their evenings out much later than we are used to, and in sleepy Mendoza this equates to happy hour running from 1700-2200. Five hours of discounted artisanal beers paired with free peanuts or equally cheap French fries just can’t be beat!