‘What exactly is Canyoning’, I was asking myself? I noticed photos of people jumping off rocks, wading through rivers, and splashing under waterfalls. Looks super fun, and like a challenge. I decided to give it a go. To challenge myself! You grow when you confront your fears, and I am afraid of heights. Me thinking: ‘A jump off the rock is exactly what I need’. Little did I know….
Here in Andalusia, in the province of Granada, in the hinterland of Almunecar, lies the Rio Verde. The green river. Easy to reach, about an hour's drive from Nerja, the last 20 minutes on gravel roads through a national park down to the Los Chortales gorge. Already the drive is a wonderful experience, beautiful scenery passes by the car window. A paradise for ornithologists and wildlife lovers. We spot a seagull trying to fly, but he has got such heavy prey in its mouth that he can barely fly. We're thinking of a toad? A fat frog? Whatever it was: Bon Appetit dear seagull!
Canyoning requires untouched nature, and the 22 kilometers of the Rio Verde are the perfect spot. The crystal-clear water of the river has washed out and hollowed out the rocks for centuries. Today, the course of the river contains countless water basins / natural pools, steep descents, rocky outcrops, and caves. Nestled in wild nature, the granite rocks offer a wonderful contrast to the flora and fauna.
My personal challenge begins on a Sunday morning at 7 o'clock with the ringing of the alarm clock. I'm not an early bird, never was, but I can jump out of bed quite enthusiastically when something nice comes up. At 8.30 am the group meets the tour guide at a petrol station in Nerja. Tour guide David is in his mid-30s and has years of canyoning experience, which will later prove to be very helpful. The group consists of 6 people, being in my early 50s I am the oldest. A young couple from Puerto Rico and a young mother with her 10-year-old son are part of the party.
Shortly after 10 o'clock, we arrive at Rio Verde together with some other groups getting ready for canyoning. ‘Getting ready’ what does it mean? Taking your clothes off! Canyoning you do in swimming costumes and swimming shorts. Sure. It gets wet. Soaking wet. It’s very important to wear good, sturdy footwear, which gives a firm hold when crossing the river on slippery rocks. From previous snorkeling holidays, I had solid swim shoes from Tula, which were perfect. The other participants wore sneakers. Next comes the wetsuit, helmet, and climbing harness. The equipment is lashed on everyone’s back and must be carried to the starting point. Quite heavy and somehow uncomfortable, I thought. I started sweating before we started to walk. I remembered the program saying “Canyoning requires a "good physical condition". I thought I ticked this box…. Hmmm…..
The group marched off, at a rapid pace. I was quickly at the end, and panting with a crimson head behind. I lacked not only a physical condition but also experience walking on stony narrow paths. I was not used to walking in nature. My constant concern was twisting my ankle and stumbling. Tour guide David recognized my problem very quickly and guided me slower and routinely to the river. Phew, that was super helpful.
Put on the wetsuit!
Next challenge: Put on the wetsuit! Phew! It is tight! I pulled, tugged, squeezed myself in. Helmet on. Harness tight. And then - whoosh – into the cool green water of the Rio Verde. That was so pleasant after the sweaty ascent.
Here we go!
Now the canyoning started. About 3 kilometers down the Rio Verde. Walk. Swim. Jump. Rappelling off the rocks and through a mini hole - a gap in the rock - into a cave, from there roped into a natural pool. Did I mention that I also suffer from claustrophobia, so I can get panicked in small rooms? So what, it went so fast that I had no time for silly attacks.
Into the Waterfall!
Within these 3 hours, I went through all the emotional stages you can think of. I was miles out of my comfort zone. Had great fun. Fear. Disbelief. A heartbeat of probably continuously 300. Fortunately, I could not sweat any more thanks to the cool water. Several times I have asked myself why I am doing this to myself. My initial thought "fight fear of heights" I had completely forgotten, no time for it.
Massive thank you to Tour guide David, he was always at my side. Thanks to his many years of experience, he knew how to handle me and the other participants. I'm super proud that I did it. I jumped off rocks, climbed down waterfalls, and crawled in and through caves. It was more strenuous than expected, and I had sore muscles for several days. For the 10-year-old boy, it was the time of his life, and the mother and young couple really enjoyed it. However, I did it! I will talk about it for the rest of my life so I will.
If you want to experience an adventure, do canyoning in Rio Verde. David is a great tour guide, he speaks very good English, French and Portuguese in addition to Spanish. http://localexperiences.es/en/activity/canyoning-rio-verde/ I can recommend it. Will I do it again? No way! But – for me - as a "once in a lifetime" - as a unique experience - it was sensational. Its great family fun, and surely a group activity you ll never forget.
By the way: If you don't go canyoning, you can go hiking in the national park. Also super!