White Water Rafting For Dummies

The fire in the sky lit up the backdrop of mountains and clouds, a pastel painting dancing on the glassy waters in front of us. As the sun slowly settled behind the mountains, its reflections dancing on the shimmering water of Trujillo Bay, we were awed by the moment, yellows changing to oranges, reds, mixed in with blues, and finally grays to black. With nightfall, the unpolluted night sky at the Marea beach, just 2 miles from downtown Trujillo, peels back the curtain to reveal the grandeur of the entire Milky Way. We are so small and insignificant!

Sunset of Marea’s Private Beach

So that was last night. Serene. Awesome. Inspiring. Today has turned me upside down.

“Dive Right! Dive Right!” The screaming words still wake me in the middle of the night weeks after our brush with white water river rafting excitement. Hearts pounding, our hardened and sinewy muscles straining against the torrents of water pushing, dragging and hurling us toward an unknown destiny, wildly dodging the rocks and falls of the Rio Cangrejal (Crab River).

OK, OK, I’m exaggerating a little. It was, after all, my first whitewater rafting ever, so I’m going to work this for all its worth. I’m really an overweight middle-aged kind of guy, but today I’m masquerading as a hard-charging Brad Pitt lookalike.

And the river trip, which lasted several hours, was a total blast, had more than its share of rapids and falls, but was also expertly guided by the great crew from Omega Tours in La Ceiba.

A short 90 minutes from our pristine beaches and crystal blue water at Marea, Omega Tours operates a wonderful hotel and adventure operation up the Rio Cangrejal from La Ceiba. This is conveniently located about halfway between Trujillo and the airport at San Pedro Sula.

Toucans in the Trees

We spent the night in a mountain cabin, surrounded by bamboo, palms, orchids, toucans, and the sounds of rushing water.

The next morning, after a wonderful breakfast, we loaded into the jeeps and hauled our rafts and equipment to the river. After some instructions and practice falling out of and getting back into the rafts, we were off. The river is cascading, refreshing, cool clear mountain water rushing down from Pico Bonito. Over the last thousands of years the river has carved through the granite of the mountain, leaving monstrous sculptures rising out of beds of polished boulders and gravel. Looking up at the mountain face, we see magnificent waterfalls tumbling through the rainforest canopy. So many birds (can’t remember their names) entertain us on the trip.

Our Fellow Adventurers

Comfortable stretches of river are interrupted by series of rapids, we thread our way through the rocks, canyons, and falling water. I keep thinking “Crab River? How can any crabs survive in this water? How big are they? Do they bite? Is this just a rumor? Are my toes safe here if I fall out?”

And while we are hurling through the falls, I can see the nose of the raft dropping into a watery abyss, Amy screams in my ear “Dive right! Dive right!!” The thunder of the falls makes it hard to hear her. Basically it means she wants me to fall into the bottom of the raft and grab the handholds while she does the hard paddling. Kind of embarrassing, actually, but I obey after she slams me to the deck. Once the danger is passed, I’m allowed to get back up out of my fetal position in time for all of us to high five each other, celebrating our expert management of the last threat. I get to pretend that I actually had something to do with our navigating the danger.

Ready for the Rapids With Omega Tours

We are in a small group of rafts, so we periodically pull up to a beach to wait for our other friends. No point is getting separated in case there is a problem. Halfway through the trip, we pull up to a section where the river narrows between twin peaks of granite walls. “Let’s climb up and jump into the river!” somebody is surely kidding, right? More full disclosure: I am really terrified of heights. I have trouble standing on a chair to change a light bulb. So against my better judgment, we climb up the rock face to the top of the granite wall, looking down at the deep, rushing water below. OK, maybe we’re about 20 or 30 feet above the water, but it might as well be 2 miles. I’m assured (by someone who says they know what they are talking about) that the water is plenty deep and this is very safe, as long as I resurface and then swim like heck to the shore before the current sweeps me out of reach of any help and eventually out to sea, assuming I can make it past the crabs. Piece of cake. If I can get past the issue of throwing myself off a cliff, the crabs are not going to be a problem.

Jumping From the Cliff’s Edge

So I stand at the precipice, I’m jumping, no I’m not, I’m jumping, no I’m not. Back and forth, back and forth, after what seems like several hours, and the girls behind me suggest that maybe they will go first. I guess they’re getting hungry and want to get this over with so we don’t miss dinner as well as lunch. That’s what I needed. Now my male pride takes over and I insist I’ll go first and lead the way. I’ll create a diversion and distract the crabs. Finally, I take my leap of faith, a long step into thin air. I’m doing my best impersonation of Paul Newman or Robert Redford. Maybe Thelma and Louise? My feet hit the water a lot faster than I thought they would. I fought my way to the surface (actually I popped back up like a cork) and paddled on over to the shore, ready to do it all over again! I felt great! I had faced one of my demons and I won! What a day!

The day is gorgeous, the weather perfect. After a few hours of this adventure, we come to the end of the ride, pull the rafts out of the river and onto the jeeps. The great crew from Omega Tours then drives us back up to the lodge in time for lunch.

After lunch, we take our short hop back to Trujillo and Marea, arriving in plenty of time to view today’s fire in the sky.


Nature and Activities