Cagayan De Oro Adventure: Day 1

Nez and I have barely recovered from the Amazing Race we did the week prior when she invited me to go along with her for a weekend trip to Cagayan de Oro. It seems that it’s becoming a tradition for the two of us to have last minute trips. Because of the expense and other worries, I nearly passed the opportunity. Thank God I didn’t.

We left Manila on Saturday morning. Travel time is about an hour and twenty minutes. From the airport, we went straight to Cagayan de Oro river for our white water rafting adventure. Thanks to the awesome crew of Red Raft for arranging to pick us up and take us on.

Not Quite Like the ride in Enchanted Kingdom
In theory, I know how to swim. However, I am prone to panicking when the water closes in on me, hence my fear of falling into the water. More so if I’m unfamiliar with the water and if I cannot feel the ground beneath me. My worst fear for this trip was a capsized boat and being carried away by the current. I immediately told our guide, “Kuya, kung matangay ako, rescue mo ako ha?”

From Cagayan de Oro – July 2011

We suited up with personal floatation devices (PFDs, or life vests) and helmet, and grabbed our paddles. Nez, Char and I were the last of the group to arrive. Everyone else was already by the river and being briefed by Alan, one of the guides. We were also the only girls in the entire group. The Red Raft team had four rafts: Two with three people each, the other two with more than six (I didn’t take count). Because of this, we were dubbed the “Tres Marias”. Alan, however, called us “boys”.

After being briefed for water safety (I made sure to listen well), we were off. Each raft had one lead guide and an assistant guide. They’ll be the ones to tell you when to paddle and what sort of paddle you should do. There’s three basic paddles: the forward, the fast forward (I’m not sure if that’s the real name, but it’s similar to the first) and back paddle.

Cagayan de Oro’s rapids range from level 2 to level 4, so it shouldn’t be hard for a beginner. Nez decided to pick the advanced course, which had me in a panic. However, at the end of the course, I feel like an old hand. I do admit that there were times when I’d scramble to find a solid handhold if I feel the boat will tip or if our guide had this certain grin that indicates he was up to something.

From Cagayan de Oro – July 2011
From Cagayan de Oro – July 2011

In the end, he pulled Nez out of the raft and into the water. I have to give him props for taking my fear into consideration and did not try to tip the boat (well, he did try once). We easily exchanged jokes with them, although when they start talking in Bisaya I feel they’re making fun at our expense. No problems though.

The guides of the other rafts were also game to joke around with us. Most of the other riders were quiet, and my best friend was very chatty (she commented on their quietness and the guide said, “Ma’am, we’re on a spiritual river tour. Nagba-Bible study kami.”). When their rafts would float near us, they’d talk to her and joke around.

Not quite like the one in Xbox either
The course we took lasted about five hours. We started at 9 AM, and finished around 2 PM. There are 22 major rapids, and a few minor ones. Every time we’d come to a major rapid, our guide would go “Lock your feet.” I’d stuff my right foot into one of the locks on the raft and paddle for dear life when told to. Most of the rapids were really strong that I couldn’t help but think that we’ll tip over. Some of the rapids were shallow, and we could stand up while going through it. If you’ve played the Xbox 360 Kinect game River Rapids, you’ll get the idea.

In some parts where the the water’s calm, the guides would tell us to jump off the boat and float along with the current. I did it once, but like I said, there’s something very daunting about this kind of water. Even though I had a PFD and the guide nearby was well trained with rescue and first aid, I preferred to be on the boat. After a few minutes of floating, I climbed back. Still, it was an experience. Had I been more confident, I’d have stayed in the water longer.

From Cagayan de Oro – July 2011

A good part of the course is pretty calm waters. After all that paddling, it was nice to “chill” (also an instruction to stop paddling and just enjoy the ride). In those instances, we’d sit and chat. It was a nice interlude between rapids. Speaking of interludes, one of the guides had this joke. He shouted (after the first rapid) “Are you having a good time?!” then said, “Interlude lang, parang videoke.” Took me a few seconds to get it, to which I replied “So dapat sa dulo nito, 100 ang score ko?” They got it and laughed.

We also saw various creatures along the way. A snake cut across our path, swimming casually in the river. There was a green snake up in the cliff wall, a lizard on another and another lizard sunning itself on a rock.

What was interesting is seeing people along the shores. Here we were, going on a wild adventure while these folks find it rather ordinary. Some kids would be swimming along the shallow side of the river, calling out to us and waving. Others would be doing the laundry. It was nice to see signs of regular life along the river.

From Cagayan de Oro – July 2011

Towards the end of the ride, we were just sitting in the raft and not rowing. Our guide had somehow moved up to the front of the raft, while I was sitting at the back and we were just chatting. I pretended to be the guide. Later, when we were near our stop and everyone else had jumped into the water for a final swim, we “boys” paddled as fast as we could because we wanted to have our lunch. My last meal was a bagel with cheese and a banana nearly seven hours before.

Lunch was grilled fish, shrimp and chicken with plain rice. It was the best meal I’ve had that day. I didn’t bother to use the provided utensils. Kamayan na!

After we cleaned up, we were shuttled back to the city. I fell asleep at the back of the jeep, while Nez chatted with the driver up front. We were in for more adventures the next day, but we had time to check out DV Soria and the Night Cafe before we hit the sack.