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Canyoning in Vietnam

The sport of canyoning involves hiking, repelling, swimming and sliding down waterfalls through a canyon. Stephanie Jack went canyoning for the first time in Vietnam and found it exciting, but was a little scared for her life at times.

I went canyoning in Dalat, Vietnam. There were five of us—the guy I was travelling with and a girl from Germany and two guides from a local adventure tour company. I was really, really nervous but decided to try it once—to get outside my comfort zone.
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At the beginning I felt pretty safe because I was wearing a lifejacket, helmet and water shoes and there were two guys always watching and coaching us. In the morning everything was really easy and I loved going down the natural waterslide. The area is so picturesque and the forest untouched. After lunch it was time to go down the waterfall but we didn’t know how far down it went for we couldn’t see over the ledge.
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The guide told me to get right in the middle of the waterfall, turn around and start going down backwards, and I did as I was told.  The first section was not bad because the decline was not too steep so the water only came up to my ankles. But as it got steeper the water became deeper. I kept staring at the guide and he would tell me what to do. He said to hop with my legs wide open, pushing off the rocks the whole way down. I yelled, “What happens if I change my mind and want to turn around?” and he said, “You can’t.”
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I thought it was okay until the water suddenly seemed very loud. “Oh, oh,” I thought. Then I knew I was in big trouble for the water was hitting me in the face. It kept hitting me, hitting me, hitting me on the neck and chest area and it was so strong that it flipped me sideways. I stopped because it was such a distraction when what I really needed to be doing was lowering myself down very quickly.
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The guy I was with is 6’4” and the water hit him at mid-waist so for him it was no big deal. The German girl screamed the whole way down. She was out of her mind. Near the end, you are supposed to jump and land in the water and while she jumped she didn’t realize she needed to  let go of the rope and landed back on the rock instead of in the water.
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When it was over, the German girl said never again and refused to do anything else that day. For me, nothing else would faze me, nothing else could be worse than what just happened for that had to be the scariest experience of my entire life.
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I went on to do the ‘washing machine’ where the force of the water pushes you down and recycles you so that you turn upside down. It was kind of fun.

A short time later I went canyoning in Costa Rica. There were 35 of us and most were young American students. We went down the side of the waterfall and not in the middle of it. A very different and less terrifying experience!
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This interview has been condensed and edited.

Photo credits: Stephanie Jack

© Riding the buses 2011

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