When we arrived at our hostel in Dalat the canyoning poster caught our eye and we decided to sign up for it on the following Friday. The girl who works at the hostel confirmed our booking, “two for canyoning, this Friday, that’s the 13th.” Good job I’m not superstitious!
In my past life pre-travelling I worked in insurance, I had made sure we had good travel insurance for our trip and had gone as far as to bump up our activity cover to make sure we were covered for anything we were likely to do whilst away. As a last-minute thought the night before canyoning I double checked our policy. It didn’t cover canyoning. Rude words came into my head at my stupidity of not checking the policy before booking the canyoning, I really should have known better than to make such a mistake. It was a bit late now to do anything about it, so I told Alan to be extra careful and that we weren’t to do anything the next day that we weren’t comfortable with. I comforted myself with the fact of all the people we had met who had already been, not one had been injured…
Our first challenge of the day was a water slide. Backwards. Down a waterfall. This was a slightly nerve-racking introduction to the day! It actually wasn’t as scary as it looked once I had done it, but I did have a refreshing drink of river water after not anticipating the moment of dunking properly, yummy!
Next up was a dry abseil. This didn’t faze me too much as I have done a few charity abseils in London before so it was a nice warm up for the rest of the day.
Then it was time for another water slide, this time feet first. I went first in the group and when I came up at the bottom I was caught in a current which made it hard to get to the side. Fortunately I had a life jacket and I am a strong swimmer so I made it to a vine quite easily at the edge where I could work my way to the exit point. Whilst doing all this I rescued a Japanese girl from the group before, who clearly couldn’t swim and was stuck in the current and had been abandoned by her tour leader. Poor thing seemed quite terrified.
After this things got a bit more extreme. It was time to abseil down a waterfall. Our instructions were to go down slowly, if we fell we were to flip ourselves over so our backs were facing the cliff until the mid way point. There it would be possible to stand and then we could abseil again. Then, with 4 metres still to go to the bottom, we were to let go off the rope and push-off from the cliff with our legs and fall the last 4 metres into the water. Eek! Alan went before me, he was amazing at this and didn’t fall at all. He set the bar quite high for me to live up to! Come my turn I also didn’t fall and when they shouted jump I just did it knowing that pausing and thinking about it would make it worse.
The penultimate stop was the scariest thing. Jumping off a cliff. At 11 metres you would have to run and jump to clear the ledge beneath. Way too scary for me, I like my adrenaline rushes to involve safety equipment! Alan was tempted but I reminded him of our lack of insurance and how I would rather he stayed in one piece. Call me a kill joy, but I like him the way he is intact. He did however do the jump at 7 metres which was a straight forward jump with no ground beneath to clear. I still didn’t do it, much too scary and I had spent too long thinking about it!
Last stop was the “washing machine” which was another waterfall abseil. The first three metres were dry and then the cliff disappears from beneath your feet as you enter the water and just lower yourself down on a rope. As the water hit me, the surprise made me pause, this set me spinning on the rope a bit like in a washing machine. In turn this spinning made me hurry up getting down the rope! At the bottom you are dumped into a rapid and bounced along a narrow channel, again much like being in a washing machine. I lost one of the shoes I had borrowed for the day in the process but managed to grab it back again. Then it was Alan’s turn. He didn’t seem to realise with all the splashing water that he wasn’t at the bottom when he let go of the rope with a metre or two to go. All of us watching gasped in horror, but he came up a moment or two later completely oblivious as to the temporary panic he had caused.
All in all it was a great fun day out. The worst injury we sustained was by me (surprise, surprise) when I bashed my knee and elbow in the washing machine giving me some new lovely bruises to admire. But it was just bruising and I don’t really mind getting bruised if I’ve had fun doing it.
Our company seemed a lot better than some of the other ones we saw. The company with the Japanese girl, for example, had less guides and seemed less attentive of their guests. Canyoning in Dalat certainly wouldn’t match European safety standards, the instruction for abseiling was minimal and our life jackets when unadjusted were way too big and no one showed us how to adjust them. Once Alan had figured it out he was chief adjuster for anyone who needed it. As well as this, the space left between abseilers was minimal to pretty much non-existent. When another company set off someone too close above me and I didn’t feel comfortable I would hit the brakes until they were off the bottom. I think this might of annoyed our guides slightly, but I didn’t care, my safety was my priority. Having said all this, I was well within my comfort zone having abseiled before, I didn’t do anything that I wasn’t happy with. Just be aware that standards are different in Vietnam! This was a fun day out in Dalat and I do, on the whole, recommend it.