Yesterday, while I was riding around aimlessly I stopped by the office of Highland Holiday Tours.
There are actually several similar tour companies here in Da Lat all offering pretty much the same things: trekking, mountain biking, canyoning etc.
Parker, the man I met a couple of nights ago, had raved about his canyoning adventure with them so I decided to give it a whirl too.
Canyoning, by the way, is their term for rappelling which is basically rock climbing in reverse. And here it’s done at the Datanla waterfalls.
Now, even though I’m not that fond of heights and had an aversion to swimming, I still plunked down my 670,000 dong ($33) and climbed into the van today at 8:30 in the morning.
I was joined by a young couple from New Zealand – Kieran and Gracie. They looked pretty fit just to add to the pressure.
We drove over to the waterfall which was about 30 minutes away and unloaded all the gear. Our two guides, Tom and Bo, set us up in our gear (helmet, gloves, shoes. life vest and harness) and we walked another 20 minutes to the start of the falls.
After a quick tutorial on how to rappel and a few practice tries from a little ledge we went over to our first spot – an 18m (60 foot) drop next to a waterfall.
This was my least smooth rappel of the day as I just basically slid straight down the rope. Thank God for the gloves or I most definitely would have lost some skin on my left hand on that one.
Of course, at the bottom of each rappel today there wasn’t ground to set foot on but water to tredge into.
Have I mentioned I’m not a strong swimmer?
Obviously the life vest would be my best friend today.
As I would soon discover though, even with the vest I am very uneasy in the water especially when I’m dropping in under the water and floating back up.
There’s that couple of seconds under water where I would swallow some and then when I would surface I would start to panic and feel like I would throw up.
And I had such a hard time swimming to shore each time. No matter how hard I tried I would just end up floating there slowing drifting in a different direction until I found some rocks under my feet to walk on.
Anyway, the next rappel was only 15m (50 feet) and unlike the first one it went smooth as cake.
Before we stopped for lunch we stopped in the middle of the river and did a natural water slide down the river a few meters. While the others took a second turn I decided one was more than enough as I sat on the shore huffing and puffing.
For lunch the guys setup a little picnic on the shore with bread, sandwich fixins and fresh fruit.
It was actually alot of food for our small group but we weren’t complaining. After a couple of sandwiches and a little rest we were off further down the trail to our next stop.
The mother of all stops…
A 25m (80 foot) drop down through a waterfall. Yes, through.
As I stood there and watched the group in front of us go down one by one I just kept saying to myself “what the hell am I doing?”
I’m actually really thankful that we were able to watch the others do it as it put me more at ease seeing them do it somewhat easily.
Here’s a video of one of the guys ahead of us taking his turn:
So basically you climb down like normal except for the rushing of water in your face. Oh yeah, and instead of climbing all the way to the bottom they have you let go of the rope and jump down into the water the last 4m (13 feet) because the rock face curves inward.
Obviously that last part was the scariest for me as I went underwater and once again had that drowning feeling.
The rappel actually went alot smoother than I would have thought and was surprised to find I was already near the bottom and it was time to jump into the water.
The feeling of sheer exhilaration at my accomplishment was shown my by smile from ear to ear as I sat on the shore and waiting for the rest to be done.
For me, this was where it should have ended but we still had another natural water slide to do (which for some reason I actually chose to do), a 10m (30 foot) run and jump off a cliff into the water down below (um, yeah, that ain’t happening) and another rappel called the Washing Machine (also skipped that one – there’s a reason it’s called that).
To finish the day we had to climb a very steep hill for 20 minutes back to civilization where our van picked us up again.
Of course those fit Kiwis had no problem with the climb but this out of shape Canadian had to stop a few times along the way.
We said our goodbyes and I was dropped off at my hostel around 2pm.
That was a full day and I was so exhausted that after a nice long hot shower and some early dinner (sesame beef with steamed rice) I crashed around 5pm.
I actually napped for a few hours and it was just after 8pm when I woke up.
I went for a quick massage for 100,000 dong ($5) and after hanging at the hostel for a bit I went out to satisfy an insane craving I had for pizza.
I know I said I’d go back to hole in the wall Vietnamese food but it was a craving – what can you do?
So, I went out into the deserted streets at 10pm and walked over to the place I had been eating the last couple of nights – Tu Anh’s Peace Cafe.
Even though it was obvious she was closing up along with almost everyone else she was happy to see me and gladly whipped up a hawaiian pizza (from scratch, I might add) for me to takeaway.
So, that was my day. A guy who isn’t keen on heights and can’t swim went rappelling down waterfalls.