San Carlos de Bariloche in Patagonia,(in the Argentina part), is a great place for rafting, kayaking, skiing, depending on the season. Having previously tried rafting when I was in Cusco, and, having to cancel a trip in Arequipa after being delayed on my journey, I was keen to have another go, before returning home.
The Cusco rafting was quite tame, levels 2 and 3, although a great experience. Bariloche was said to be mainly rapids of levels 3 and 4. That sounded good. Within my insurance cover. The site was located over 100kms from Bariloche and was close to the border with Chile.
There were 2 rafts with 8 of us in each and I was with a very friendly family group who came from Buenos Aires. I volunteered to go in the front and my new friend Tito, was opposite me. All went well, until the most demanding of the rapids. We got a bit out of shape and seemed to be stuck, just being spun around. We lost one person and then Tito became dislodged and was sat on my leg, the raft tipped over and we were all thrown into the water.
Leaving a boat and entering cold water is not a new experience for me. Having said that, when entering the water, I usually have a moment to adjust, as the cold water on my face usually makes me feel nauseous. On this occasion, whilst feeling the nausea, I also felt a sickening blow as I was hit full in the face by someone’s safety helmet, with all of their body weight plus acceleration, behind it.
I was stunned and sank like a stone. I have to say, I thought that this could be it. I have had a few underwater moments previously but on this occasion was not even able to take a deep breath before going under. The water was deep and cold and I was being spun around. We had been well equipped, with wet suits and life preservers and I was able to suppress the urge to take a breath long enough to get to the surface. My nose was bleeding and I was still a bit stunned but the water temperature helped to keep me focused. It was bloody cold.
The other raft also had problems so there was quite a bit of recovery work to do. I was towed towards the river bank by Martin who was in the recovery kayak and left there while he was busy chasing others. Eventually we were all picked up and the story had a happy ending. We all posed for photos on the Argentina/Chile border. I had thought until now that it was Tito who had crashed into me but after reviewing the photos, it is inconclusive. However, I am looking forward to meeting Tito for a drink in Buenos Aires before I return to the UK.
Click on photos to enlarge or for a slide show.