Chasing waterfalls

The city of Banos, Ecuador is known for its thrills, including some that just seem silly and nauseating like putting yourself in a ball that rocks like a pendulum while spinning.  From the menu of activities, Lindsey and I choose canyoning not fully knowing what to expect yet still having confidence we’d love it.  And like any good adventure, it starts by putting on all sorts of gear.  We have booties, wet suits, helmets, harnesses, carabiners and more.

We know we’ll be repelling down five waterfalls, a measure by which I try to control my anxiety levels as we go.  Heights aren’t exactly my thing, but when being pelted by a strong waterfall and controlling my descent by feeding rope through closed hands, at least I have some things to keep my mind off of the 3-story tall waterfall.  With that, I can report that by waterfall number 5, I felt much more confident, but I’m pretty sure I was still gripping the rope roughly 10x stronger than I needed to.  All of my muscles are sure to be sore from this one.

Throughout the adventure, Lindsey chooses to be afraid during the times when I’m not.  We take turns.  She checks and rechecks every piece of gear we put on.  Takes a while, and I’m not sure it makes her feel too much better, but it is something to keep us busy.  By the time we get to the top of the waterfalls, however, Lindsey settles into her role making me feel better about what we are about to do.  She is able to zip down most of the waterfalls and even graciously captures me in action as it takes me about twice as long to get down.  Thanks Linds!

Douro adventures

With the backdrop of the Tour de France happening in a fellow European nation not too far away, we spend our first morning in the Douro cycling through the vineyards.  Moving between vines, we appreciate that not all wine regions are the same.  The terraced Douro valley is particularly steep and manual.  The only way to strip the vines of their grapes is by hand – no machine can traverse these terraces.  We learn stories of people carrying incredibly heavy baskets up and down these hills.  We first imagine a peaceful ride through the area, but we soon learn that the slopes and the loose gravel make this morning more of an adventure and less of a stroll.  Luckily, the views have us stopping often to rest and take photos.

We seek adventure; however, we don’t always appreciate how much adventure we’re getting ourselves into.  We sign up for a three-quarter day canyoning trip near the Douro.  We’re picked up from the hotel after breakfast and driven through much of the countryside of Portugal.  We arrive at the side of the river and change into our wetsuits, harnesses and helmets, which we believe is more for form than function.  However, after only a couple meters into our excursion, we jump off a small cliff into the water.  Given my healthy fear of heights, the adrenaline high begins here and doesn’t stop until we arrive back at our car four hours later.  In-between, we repel down waterfalls, climb up waterfalls, scramble around rocks, cliff jump into river pools, and use moss-covered rocks as slides.  Not for the faint of heart.

As our reward, our guide brings with him a homemade, traditional Portuguese picnic with corn bread, cheese, sausage, and homemade wine, port and grappa.  Once we relax, we realize that we are very hungry, and truly enjoy our late afternoon picnic.