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A yellow dressed day in the Canyon of Green.

The Green Canyon

I’ve always loved white water rafting. There is something about mixing the tranquillity of a canoe trip with the high powered adrenaline pumping sport of flying over a rapid that really gets me. We spent an incredible day rafting through the rivers of Borneo last year, so when the opportunity came to go body rafting right in my own backyard I jumped at it.

Body rafting is similar to white water rafting in that there are rapids. The major difference however, is the lack of a boat of any kind. Just you, your body and the current of the beautiful green river that runs through Batu Karas’ back yard.

It was a beautiful yellow dressed Indonesian morning, the air still light, the heat hadn’t set in yet, and dressed in shorts, shirt and bathers, and I was ready.  

We met at Java Cove Beach Hotel at 8am so that we could meet our first guide and drive to the take off point for the body rafting trip. We travelled with our new friend Emily from Belgium and four boys from Germany. The Germans were told that we would be transferred from the hotel to the river in an SUV.

The car that we piled into the back of was not so much an SUV as an old, weathered Ute which certainly looked like it was on its last legs. The tray of the Ute was rusted and old and we balanced precariously in the back carefully dodging the rusted holes through which you could watch the road fly past below. Travelling in style… As we were driving out of the village, it was as if our guide was transferring the only ‘westerners’ in the village out as a group in some sort of bizarre exodus.

getting out of the village

We met our other guides and got fitted for our helmets, life jackets and shin pads before piling back into the Ute to drive up and over the hill to the take off point. About twenty minutes later we arrived and collected fresh young coconuts as a morning snack. We were in another tiny little village where we stopped for a while so the locals could stare at a Ute full of white folk. Our guides explaining to us that the locals think we look funny. We continued on to the take off point where we got dropped off and feasted on our coconut breakfast.

Scraping the soft young flesh from the inside of the nut with my fingers and pouring the fresh juice into my mouth was a great start to the day. There is nothing better than a coconut straight off the tree. The sweet juice filling your mouth and the soft flesh surrenders itself easily like it was grown just for you.  

A precarious climb down a steep slippery slope with lots of slipping and sliding and tripping over each other… we travelled single file through a forest of coconut palms, helmets on to protect from the possibility of a coconut cracking open a skull. It interests me that the Indonesian word for coconut and head are so similar Kampala and Kalapa… through the bright green trees the river started to appear, its creamy glassy green surface inviting us to dive in, to come and share its secrets.

We got to a thick white rocky ledge from which we leapt into the water and let the current take us down and around the bend and deep into the Green Canyon valleys. Beautiful. Perfect. There are no other words to describe the scenery, so I’ll do it with photos – sometimes pictures really do say more than words.

We stopped off and climbed up a cliff face and were slapped in the face by the sour smell of bat shit. Guano, guano, which most of us are familiar with because of the classic Ace Ventura. My god, it smells awful. We traipsed into the dark cave, in which every surface is slippery, sticky, and shitty. The ground is mud mixed with shit and it’s up to my knees. Disgusting. It was so dark we were fumbling in the dark, feet slipping on the surface, hands groping against the slippery rocks. And then, we were there. The cave opened up into an enormous dome roof, where millions of tiny black bats screeched and flapped their wings as if in some sort of morbid peak hour. Never staying still, these little bats seemed desperate to move but with no real direction, just flapping their little wings creating the most incredible noise that rattled the inside of my head…

We leapt back into the river and washed the mud and shit caked from our hands and legs and feet and cooled the hot sweat from my skin.

Body rafting is great fun; at times it is more like rock climbing though. The water level was high in places and it was just too dangerous for us to swim through the rapids, so we had to climb over. And in other places, we were able to swim. There is something magic about sitting in a rapid and feeling the pull of the current underneath you. A pure untainted natural energy that sucks you in and spits you out pulling you in between rocks and over little falls until your nose and eyes and ears are filled with the sound and site and taste of the world around you.

Half way through the morning the rain started falling gently around us, cool and clean in the middle of a jungle in a stunning river, I lay on my back and opened my mouth, filling myself with the world around me, droplets clinging to my eyelashes and water pouring over cliffs but never disturbing the calm of the green water below.

We stopped for lunch on another rocky outcrop in a gentle part of the river. The guides made a fire and cooked noodles that were hot and spicy and warmed the chill that had set over my bones. The sun came out again after the meal and dried my skin and warmed my toes.

Getting back in the water we navigated a few more rapids and then climbed through a massive gorge until we arrived at the back end of the Green Canyon. They call it the angel’s bathroom. Enormous boulders that have turned into waterfalls as water pours from every cliff face and splatters gently on some rocks and furiously on others. We navigated up and over and through and around and I sat on a giant bounder under a light waterfall and felt the cool dark skin of the rock beneath me.

a bit of a fall...

We leapt off one of the highest heights I’ve ever tried. My stomach dropped when I climbed to the top. Sour pliers squeezed my throat juicing it like a lemon. I was nervous, to say the least. I didn’t know if I could. But I wanted to, and leaping off was better than climbing down the massive rock face. So I did. I stepped to the edge of the rock carefully, I felt the cool hard surface underneath my toes, I shed the skin of helmet and life jacket and I took a deep breath. Filling my body with life I stepped from the edge, falling, flying, quickly, and in a moment, it was over. In the water. Deep, cool, plummeting down, further and further until a release my legs kick at nothing until I break the surface. A breath and it’s done. Safe.

We swam through the rest of the canyon; I tried to take in every moment, every perfect green leaf, every rocky wall and the feel of that turquoise water against my skin. We climbed out and into the boat for the final trip home.

Bruised, sore but full of the beauty of the world around me.

Another day in beautiful day in my village, Batu Karas, barefoot and loving every minute of it.

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