So they set me up with a Riot Magnum 80 and a tolerable gear kit as well as a ride to the river with an afternoon commercial trip. God, I love the boating community.
The Suarez is a great class IV+/V- half-day trip not too far out of town. We had a good level for some big water jungle boating. But I still felt rather intimidated, reflecting on the last time I decided to get off the proverbial couch directly into low class V. That humbling experience was about to be repeated.
Peeling out of the eddy, I immediately felt weak. It was a struggle to keep my angle and just to ferry across the next eddy. I almost flipped in the first wavetrain, and that wasn't even considerd one of the rapids.
Through the first two rapids, I had a chance to loosen up a bit. I found balance in the new boat, but still was far from confident. I was paddling like I was scared. Perhaps because I was a little scared. I hadn't found a pool yet for practice rolls and wasn't sure how the big boat would react. The third rapid we ran was close to a kilometer long. So far there hadn't been many moves to make, but the hydraulics were plenty powerful and unpredictable. And I was out of breath by the end of the rapids. Then we got to the hard stuff.
The next two rapids were bigger. They had holes to avoid. And rocks. The first one you enter on the right. Or was in the left? The second one has an enormous hole blocking half of the river at the bottom. With that beta in my head, we peeled out, Kees leading the way.
We ferried across the river above a nasty boulder jumble, and the fun began. I saw Kees moving right above a set of holes. I tried to follow, but was relocated by a big lateral at just the wrong time. So I made a dicey airplane move splitting the two holes. I kept trying to move right, but it wasn`t enough. A surging lateral picked me up and dropped me right into one of the stickiest holes on the run, where the fun promptly ended.
I held the side-surf upright for about three seconds before going under. Try as I might I couldn`t grab water with my paddle to pull me out the bottom of the hole, so this turned into any other violent hydraulic beatdown. I was backwards, sideways, upright, forwards, cartwheeling, looping, rolling, and starting to freak out. The only thing I wasn`t doing was breathing. After a 20 second battle, I finally cartwheeled my way out the back of the hole to calmer waters and gradually rolled up. The rapid began to let up and I eddied out with Kase, who told me we were close to the big one.
After catching my breath, we headed downriver, making some fun moves through a boulder jumble on river left. Then made a big move through strong waves back right of the first big hole.
From there we had an easy time working along the bank to the pool below, and it was time to have lunch.
After lunch we had some easy water grading up to more class IV wavetrains. One long one led us under the only bridge of the run, then turned a corner into a minefield of holes. I made it through alright, but the raft lost half of its passengers. One girl had a rather long swim but was holding the safety kayak for most of it.
The last rapid, check out that high water line...
If you´re interested in rafting in Colombia, go with Colombia Rafting. They`re by far the safest and most professional outfitter around and the Río Suarez is well worth stopping for.