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River Rafting

Adventure for All

For many people who come to the Dominican Republic - and here, for once, I include the all-inclusive crowd - river rafting will be the most adventurous thing that they do. In fact, when the rivers are high, rafting in this country can be a truly exhilarating experience. Just after Hurricane Georges (1998), for instance, the water level was some eight meters higher than normal, and the guides at Rancho Baiguate took a mere 20 minutes to descend a stretch of rapids which normally takes about two hours with tourists. This must have been quite a thrill for these young and sporty Dominicans, constrained as they so frequently are by crews with a combined body weight to rival that of the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line, which are either too lazy or technically incapable of doing anything more than scrape the water feebly with their paddles. For the majority of river rafters in the Dominican Republic, the emphasis is on having fun, screaming a lot, and generally being the proverbial 'happy camper'; few regard it as an extreme sport which will provide a major adrenaline rush. Consequently, rafting is an adventure activity for the relatively unadventurous.

This is not to say, however, that it is something to avoid. For a start, the scenery in the heart of the Cordillera Central (where the rafting takes place) is as dramatic as the rapids can be when there is enough water. Steep hills rise sharply on either side of the river, footbridges cross the rapids at various intervals (some were washed away during Hurricane Georges), and interesting rock formations complete a scene which is rather more Indiana Jones than The Sound of Music. The river used for rafting in the Dominican Republic, the Yaque del Norte, is also considered to be quite a technical one. This means that it is not enough to simply sit in the boat and wait to be carried downstream by nature. A combination of forward and backward paddling is required to navigate the trickiest portions of the river, which adds another dimension to what would otherwise be plain sailing. At the same time, of course, you are not too preoccupied with paddling to enjoy the ride.

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