If it's rock-climbing you're after, then Ton Sai is the place to be. In fact, there's very little else to do at Ton Sai — or in Railay — aside from lying on the beach: so if you're not into rock-climbing, then perhaps you should be someplace else. Last night I signed up for a comprehensive 3-day climbing course, with Ton Sai-based company "The Rock Shop" — and today was the first day of that course. I've never before been rock-climbing on a natural, outdoor wall; although I did a fair bit of indoor (artificial-wall) climbing many years ago, when I were a 'wee lad (plus I've abseiled down natural cliffs before). It was a sweaty, exhausting introduction to the sport — 9am-6pm, with a 1-hour lunch break — but it was more fun than anything I ever imagined; and I finished the day feeling a strong sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
I've never had any burning desire to jump on a motorbike. I've always thought of motorbike riding as a dangerous, punked-up, reckless activity — not really my cuppa tea. And if I ever was to ride a motorbike, I sure as hell never imagined that I'd do it for the first time here in Thailand — surely, the craziest place on Earth in which to try it without prior experience! But motorbike riding is a very popular pastime in Thailand — not to mention the cheapest and quickest way to get around — and so, due to peer pressure from my friends Marie and Claire, today I threw all my fear and common-sense to the wind, and gave it a try. It was a terrifying and nerve-racking adventure, but there's no denying that it was absolutely wicked good fun.
It wasn't what I had planned, but it's what happened: today I was crazy enough to hit the slopes with Nikolas and Viktor — the fearless Swedes of Snowbunnys — and to embark upon a grand tour of the resort with them. We covered an awful lot of runs today, and most of them were in the eastern area of the resort, which I didn't get around to visiting yesterday. Plus, we managed to navigate our way around for the entire day, without getting stuck or having to catch a bus once: it was lifts, gondolas and skis all the way. And as an added bonus: I even survived to tell the tale.
The sweetest thing that we did today, at the spectacular Iguazu Falls, was go on a speedboat ride up the river. We started a few k's downstream, and then powered up the water at ridiculous speeds, before we came close to some of the waterfalls. Then, it was time to get very wet, because the boat drove almost diretly beneath some of the falls! I tell you what: that certainly woke me up for the day :P. Great little adventure, and the drivers are utterly nuts. Fortunately, they also give you dry-bags to put your camera and other personal items in, so nothing gets damaged (but your clothes still get soaked). Photos and videos below.
If there's a better, a quicker, a crazier, or a more unbelievably fun way to get down a mountain, I'd be very surprised. From the summit of Volcán Villarrica this afternoon, it was back down the mountain feet first, on our bums! Nuh-uh, I ain't kidding: we put on our "nappies" (a protective kind of harness that we strapped around our waists and backsides), we sat on the steep and snowy slopes, and down we hurtled. Sure as hell beats walking all the way back down, and is arguably more fun even than skiing it! Check out a video of us going down.
For my first full day here in Tena, I decided to go rafting on the Upper Napo River (otherwise known as the "Río Jatunyacu"), with the fine folks at Ríos Ecuador. This was an all-day trip, with breakfast and lunch included, and with about four hours of river time, battling the straightforward but intense Class III rapids on offer. This is one of the best rafting trips that I've been on so far: professionally organised; most satisfying adventure-wise; and a big and a very interesting group of people on the tour.
I've done some pretty crazy and exciting adventure activities during my trip — but never before have I done anything quite like canyoning. Canyoning is a sport that basically involves abseiling down through waterfalls. Baños, with its verdant hills and its roaring waterfalls surrounding it in abundance, is an ideal place to do it. This afternoon, Patrick and I spent over 2 hours at the Río Pastaza — just 10 minutes out of town — trying out the falls there. Quite scary, quite cold, and quite wet. But very fun, and the experience is simply spectacular.
Since today was my last complete day in Huacachina, I decided to not spend the entire day relaxing by the pool, and to make the most of it by getting in some more sandboarding. The last sandboarding day in Huacachina was wicked, and I've been itching to do some more. So I hired a board for a few hours, in the middle of the day, and went up and down the massive dune on the western side of the oasis (behind our hostel, Casa de Arena). Unlike on Wednesday, I actually managed to get down standing up — and with just a hint of style (but not too much, mind you) — rather than head-first, and flat on my stomach.
Yesterday, I made it to the high camp on the way to Huayna Potosí. This morning, I actually went and climbed the mountain. It was very, very hard work. It damn near killed me. But, with a bit of good luck, and a lot of persistence, I made it to the top! Nothing in the world quite compares with making that last step to the top of a 6088m mountain peak, and taking in the dazzling view around you.
Went on a long horse ride through the jungle of Pilcopata today, after we were done playing with the animals, and checking out abandoned planes on the farm. Definitely the longest and the most fun horse ride that I've done on this trip, and possibly in my whole life. In the morning, we started at the farm, and rode out to a local village a bit deeper in the rain forest; and then we rode back in the afternoon, through (what eventually grew into) pouring rain.