Rafting the Rio Antigua
"Paddles up! Langostinos!" Shouts ring out over the roar of the river, celebrating the crossing of our first set of rapids. We're on the Rio Antigua in Jalcomulco, Veracruz, we're on a floating, bouncing piece of yellow rubber, we are wet and we are desperately holding on to our "50 dollars" (the formal name given to the paddles by our guides, losing them was going to cost us). And we are eager for the next rapid run.
When I received the invitation to attend the ATMEX conference in Veracruz, I was honoured. When I discovered that the trip included a white water rafting excursion, I was through the roof. It would be my first time on a rapids adventure, first time in Veracruz and first time "glamping" (glamour camping). The month before the trip I found myself obsessively watching rafting videos and checking out photos of our accommodations in Jalcomulco with Mexico Verde Expediciones. I went through the very girly phase of wardrobe planning, lugged my overpacked bags to the airport and left my boys to fend for themselves for a week.
Centro Historico Veracruz, Veracruz
I spent the first night at Las Brisas in the city of Veracruz, checked out the historic center of the port town and caught up with some old friends. The next day we gathered in the lobby of the hotel to meet our travelling buddies for the week and the fifty of us found ourselves on a luxury bus, ready to head to the mountains. We felt super V.I.P. with our very own police escort for the entire three hour journey. We stopped first in Chichicaxtla to check out the famous bird-watching site of ProNatura (millions and millions of birds of prey migrate through this area every year). We didn't see many birds as it was early in the season, but we got a little education on how the migrations work, fascinating place! (I was only mildly disappointed to discover that "raptors" were birds and not Jurassic Park dinosaurs).
Glamping at Mexico Verde
We arrived at Mexico Verde in late afternoon and checked in to our super luxe tents. This was the life! In the gorgeous mountains, in comfy beds, strong hot shower and bathroom in the tent and a "balcony" in front. We were treated to a great meal, drinks and a traditional carnival. I crashed out pretty early, ready for a big day of adventure, waiting for our 6:30 am wake up call. Which came with the banging of pots and pans and the staff shouting "Bueeeeeenoooooos diiiiiiaaaas! Queeee bonitooooo dia!" I was already awake, having heard the sneaky coffee elves bringing the morning brew to our tent's balcony (told you, glamping!) and couldn't help but laugh and feel the excitement of the day to come.
Mountain biking...not really my thing
After lots of coffee and a delicious breakfast, we were off on our first trek! Which, truth be told, I was NOT that excited about. Biking through the mountains for someone who is terrified of bikes, well, I had to take the challenge but let's just say it was less than successful and less than fun for this Canuck who hasn't been on a bike since she was twelve. The second part of the day's adventure was certainly more up my alley, ziplining through the trees like Tarzan is way more my speed, even more exciting as the lines were fairly, er, rustic. Exhausted and nursing a sore bottom from the bike ride, I was happy to indulge in a chelada delivered to my tent before dinner. That night we had a Temazcal, but that's a story for a different day.
Zipline TOTALLY my thing
We awoke even earlier the next day, the big day, THE DAY. It was time, time to go white water rafting! I happily donned my rash guard and board shorts, scarfed down some breakfast and sat in the front row for the safety speech. First we were introduced to "50 dollars". They are not called paddles, they are "50 dollars" and were called thusly for the remainder of the day (and for the rest of my life I do believe). We were taught how to sit, what to do if we fell out, how to paddle and how to avoid having our heads crushed on the rocks. Awesome! Quick bus ride to the head of the river and we were ready to rock. We divided into teams, those of us that spoke Spanish were spread among the boats to help out the guides. Our boat of five plus two guides promptly christened ourselves the "Langostinos" for the fresh seafood found in the Rio Antigua. Maybe not the toughest name, but it worked for us!
The good life on the Rio Antigua
For the next three hours, we paddled, we rolled, we splashed and floated down 22 kms of the Rio Antigua, one of the most famous white water rafting rivers in all of Mexico. Past rocky cliffs rising out of the water with majestic mountains in the distance, the roar of the river in our ears and the smell of "fresh" that can only be found in the most natural places. My heart was racing and my soul was singing the lyrics from "The Sound of Music". The rapids may have been only class 2 and 3, but I was thrilled, for my first time out it was absolutely ideal (though as we neared the end of the trip I wanted more, more, more!) It was the perfect way to satisfy my desire for adventure and adrenaline, I could have done it all day long (unlike the mountain biking where I found myself crying "taxi!" a few hundred meters in). We reluctantly dragged our rafts on to the shore and toasted each other with cold beers. I stepped back to observe and absorbed the vibe, 50 people from very different lives, full of energy, everyone smiling, high five-ing, hugging and patting each other on the back. A blissful moment etched in my brain forever.
Now that is one happy Canuck in Mexico
Stay tuned, more on the Veracruz adventure to come! Next up, a spiritual journey with shamans, oh my!