We start our second day of our four day adventure on the banks of the gushing Urabamba river. These rapids are rated difficulty level class 3-4, while 5 is for professionals only. Families usually raft class 2-3, so we’re pushing the envelope on this one. Henry, the head guide, tells us to join his raft since he sees us as the weak link, while the rest of the group joins the junior guide. He instructs us on technique, team work and safety. Orit and Noga listen intently, fearfully watching the ferocious water roaring by. A helpless log being swept away in the river triggers a flashback and I drift back 25 years to the Penobscot river in Maine. As we plunged down the class 4 waterfall appropriately called “The Exterminator”, all eight of us flew into the air, but I was the only one who didn’t land in the raft. I shot through the canyon like a torpedo, barely managing to keep my mouth above the wild water, fighting for my life as I barreled past huge boulders, completely out of control and at the mercy of the Good Lord. Despite the sheer horror, I somehow managed to stay cool and acted according to the safety briefing’s instructions; feet forward and up, while holding the paddle perpendicular to my body, hoping it might bang something and slow me down. Luckily, I didn’t smash my head open on a rock like a watermelon. After about one mile which seemed like an eternal lack of control, the canyon widened up and slowed the current, allowing the raft which was in hot pursuit to finally catch up and lasso me in. This will always be etched in my mind as one of the scariest moments of my life. My mistake then was that I sat on the edge of the raft, and not inside. I now turn to my family, and make sure that they understand the secure sitting technique. As we push off from the river bank into the rapids we close our eyes and decide to trust the Good Lord as well as Henry the guide. There is absolutely no warm up as we plunge in to the choppy white water. Henry shouts instructions, we paddle with all our might, and the little ones hold on tight. Over the next few hours we bounce from rapid to rapid, and enjoy being drenched by the freezing waters of the Urabamba, since we are flooded with adrenalin. This day was a perfect mix of excitement, fear, fun and laughs. Even though we are only at the beginning of our journey, we are sure this will be remembered as one of the highlights.
Inca Trail Trek
No rest for the weary, as we need to log in 12 miles along the ancient Inca Trail before sunset. The Incas etched this path more than 500 years ago, carving its way for 50 miles through the Ande mountains until the Machu Pichu complex. Some hikers will trek the entire 50 miles over four rugged days, but we decided that one day along the trail would be challenging enough for the family. We hop out of the rafts and start trekking up this windy trail, hugging the cliff face, barely 15 inches wide at many points. Looking down from the narrow trail to the river gorge far below is enough to make one dizzy. Orit is getting very anxious at this stage and I pull out a rope to tie Noga to myself, giving her only three feet of slack, just in case. Yali and Maya skip down the steps along the narrow precipice, and Orit has a meltdown. The double whammy of fearing for the kids and a fear of heights was overwhelming, and she made her way down the steps on her rear end, flooded with tears. The Holy book of Psalms comes to mind- “Though I shall walk in the shadow of death, I shall not fear for you are with me.” Orit chants this mantra over and over until this stretch finally comes to an end, descending to the gushing Urabamba river which would be the last obstacle for the day. A makeshift platform with room for two is connected by a pulley system to a rusty old cable tied from one side of the river to the other. This crude apparatus seems to be taken out of a goldminer’s museum, but we take a leap of faith and zip across the river in order to reach the much deserved hot springs on the other side.
We allow our weary bodies to melt into these natural pools and bask in the moonlight until late at night. This does the trick and recharges our batteries in anticipation of tomorrow’s action packed day.