60km, 60 rapids, 2 days of rafting

Trip Start Sep 28, 2010
Trip End Dec 16, 2010

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Where I stayed
Jungle Camp

Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai,
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In Chiang Mai we read in our guidebook that the River Pai was great for rafting during the rainy season (now) and we heard from various other travellers that both Pai and Mae Hong Son were worth a visit. So, a 2-day white water rafting experience from Pai to Mae Hong Son seemed like a good idea! Keiron really wanted to do it and I thought why not, neither of us have rafted before so it would be an experience!

We set off quite early on the Tuesday morning, but spent some time having tea and biscuits, getting to know the group at the rafting centre and having our safety briefing before we actually drove to the start of the rafting course. There were 8 of us altogether and Guy, the frenchman who runs the company, said it would be unlikely that we would see anyone except ourselves and our two captains for the two days - this turned out to be true! For the rafting we split into two boats. We went with Steve and Lou, another English couple, whilst 2 Canadians (Andrew and Bill) and 2 Frenchies (Delphine and Xavier) were in the other boat. We all were allowed 1 blue bag of stuff for the two days, then this was split down further into essentials for each day - suncream, insect repellent etc. Plus bonjella for me! Between the two rafts we carried all of the blue bags, food and sleeping blankets etc. for camp.

On the first day we started off with an easy stretch for a few hours, although I still managed to nearly fall out at one point when it started getting bumpy. That was funny because just after Mike (our captain) said the first rapids were coming up - we thought we'd already done some! Steve and Lou have rafted before so they showed us how to wedge our feet in to help keep you in the boat (most of the time).

We were feeling adventurous after negotiating a Grade 2 so when Mike asked if we wanted to ride up a rock we all agreed. He warned that the people on the left (Steve and Lou) would probably fall out, which they did, but I managed to fall out from the front of the raft too - oops! It was funny though and we all got back in with no problems, Keiron just had to do the hauling as he was the only one who managed to stay in.

After that we also did Grade 3 rapids, and we all stayed in our boat with the exception of the lunch break until towards the end of the day. We managed to get our boat stuck on a rock in the rapids, leading to our funniest moment of the whole trip, which went something like this:

Mike: 'Go Go Go!' (Go means paddle, go repeated several times means paddle harder!)
We all paddle like mad.
Mike: Ok, get on the rock.
Steve: The rock?
Mike: Yes the rock.
Steve: Out of the boat?
Mike: Yes, out of the boat!
I get out first onto this rather small, and very slippery, rock. I make room for the others and realise if I move any further I will slip off. Everyone else gets off the boat onto the rock. Mike frees the boat, and shouts 'catch the paddle!' but before Lou can get it Mike and the boat get carried off downstream. So there's four of us left clinging to this small, slippery rock - our faces must have been a picture!!
We all just had to jump in and body raft down the rapids, which I quite enjoyed but Keiron managed to bump his bum on some of the rocks so was paying for it the next day! Fortunately camp was just around the corner so we unpacked, dried out and changed into our spare clothes. We enjoyed a good meal that night and sat around the campfire telling stories, singing and listening to Pu (the other captain) tell us about his rafting experiences. I also got to practice my French as Xavier didn't speak much English (and I confessed to knowing some French) but it wasn't as rusty as I thought!

We both slept like a log that night, and woke up ready to go for Day 2. Breakfast was lovely with homemade bread, scrambled eggs, toast, jam, fruit etc. The rafting didn't start off as easily as Day 1 but that got us all awake quickly! Having had lots of practice the day before we enjoyed the rapids a lot more - the River Pai is excellent for rafting as there are stretches of calm water in between where you can relax, chat and enjoy the sun, but at this time of year the water levels are just starting to drop so the rapids are not too fierce (they can get up to 4 or 5) but technical enough to be lots of fun!

The three main experiences of the day were first of all getting stuck on two rocks in one rapid - although with a bit of shuffling around we all managed to stay in the boat this time and free ourselves - secondly successfully managing to 'surf', and thirdly body rafting down some proper rapids. The surfing was quite an achievement as you paddle back into a rapid and ride into it. We'd already established that the other boat were stronger than us, despite Delphine being terrified of the water and not being able to paddle much!, so after watching them manage to surf we were chuffed to be able to do it too! The body rafting was probably harder work than rafting on a boat, but has to be experienced - you go down in deep rapids so no chance of bruised bums and ride up and down the waves, its a bit scary but very good fun! We also had chances to swim in the peaceful stretches of river, and Andrew, Bill and Xavier did a cliff jump.

All of us opted to stay in Mae Hong Son, so all went out for dinner and drinks in the evening and relived our experiences. I'm not sure why anyone would want to go back to Pai having spent two days getting here! (See the next blog for more on Mae Hong Son itself).

Planning on having a rest day today - we both hurt all over - then tomorrow we are going incognito again as we're staying in a homestay in a Lisu village (the Lisu are one of the hilltribes here in Northern Thailand) with an American and his Lisu wife. After that it will be back to Chiang Mai and civilisation!

Sophie xx

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Matt on

Sounds amazing, very jealous indeed!!!!!

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