My time in Ecuador wasn't all work. There were plenty of opportunities for a bit of fun and the river provided that in the form of tubing and white water rafting.
We actually went tubing three times and white water rafting once. For those of you who don't know what tubing is, you basically float down the river in the inflated inner tube of a tyre.
The first tubing experience was a little bit scary though. It had been raining for a couple of days so the Misahualli River was running quite fast and was higher than normal. We had life jackets on but weren't told there were extra straps that wind under your legs to ensure the life jacket doesn't float up over your head. Anyway we headed down a steep and rocky section to the river where we going to have our briefing on the beach. Unfortunately the river had risen so much that the beach had disappeared so we were all standing on the edge and our guide shouted very brief instructions to us - jump in and hold on basically!
It was all going well until we hit the first set of rapids which were like waves in the river. The girl in front of me fell off and went under the water, the life jacket not doing a thing to keep her afloat. She came up, gasped for breath and went under again. I managed to grab her on my way past and she clung to the side of my tube. There was no way we were getting her tube back as it was already further down the river.
Then we saw another girl who'd fallen off, desperately swimming for a huge rock in the river. She'd gone under a few times and lost her tube. The river was going too fast for us to get to her and we could only shout encouragement to her as she clung to the rock for dear life. (Luckily there were a couple of expert guides behind us who picked her up and helped her the rest of the way down the river) Needless to say it was pretty scary.
It was hard to relax for the rest of the journey down the river, as I tried to keep an eye on people and make sure they were all right. Towards the end of the trip, the rain started, stinging, pounding torrential rain. It was hard to see and by the time I realised I was supposed to be on the other side of the river to get out at the town, I was already past. The river was so strong, there was no way I was getting across it. So myself, and several others had to be picked up by boats, so we didn't float off towards the Amazon River!
The other two tubing experiences were much nicer. We were on the River Arajuno which was a lot calmer. We had a lovely float through the rainforest, spotting birds and enjoying the flora.
Finally we also went white water rafting down the Napo River. I have to say the safety instruction on this trip was so much better! I've been white water rafting a few times and this has to be the best trip I've done. The rapids were so much fun and we stopped a few times along the shore to play games, have lunch and rest. The only downside was it was a gorgeous sunny day and we all got sun burnt. It didn't matter that we'd put more sun cream on every time we stopped, I guess it must have washed straight off, because without fail, everyone was red and sore!
All in all it was a good way to see some of the country.
All photos are courtesy of Robyn, one of my fellow volunteers.