Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 26: Canyoning

This was the worst experience of my life followed by the best day I could ever imagine. I went canyoning on Mt. Olympus with a group of 14 other students from the program and the two guides. Entering the canyon and repelling, jumping and sliding our way down sounds amazing right? The decision to go was a no brainer.. and then I get there and realize that I have to climb part way up the mountain in order to do the fun parts of the trip. Why I ever thought I could handle climbing a mountain I will never know. Somehow, I made it to the mouth of the, I will never quite know. Then I struggled into a wet suit and roughly 20 minutes later I was all set to go. 

We followed the river all the way down, sliding and swimming when necessary. The first segment of the trip was walking over slippery rocks, trying to keep ourselves from falling over and over again. We quickly established a no judgement zone encompassing the entire mountain because it was obvious from the start that this would be an embarrassing day. 

The first obstacle we came to was a 20 repel. They told us this would be the most challenging repel that we would face because it was very uneven and there really wasn't much of a path. I was freaking out while waiting for the people in front of me to go. I cannot fall backwards onto my bed, let alone suspend myself in the falling position as I climb down a cliff. When it was finally my turn I realized my fear had subsided and I was more excited than anything. As I started repelling, I realized I actually enjoyed it rather than fearing it. I guess it was because my hand was behind my back holding me suspended where I was, so I was in control. 

The second obstacle was a 15 foot jump. The area we were jumping into was kind of narrow, so they gave us strict instructions on how to jump and what not to do. Really it was common sense: jump into the center and keep your arms close to your body so you didn't smack the walls. This jump, being the first, took everyone a little more time. Everyone stood and prepared themselves before jumping. Everyone, that is, until my turn. I climbed up on the rock, listened to the instructions, and then went for it. When I came up everyone was staring at me and cheering about how I was a champ for not even hesitating. Everyone's stories about that day included my fearlessness. 

The next obstacle you could either jump off a 30 foot waterfall, or slide off the natural water slide. I knew there were only two water slides, so I opted to slide since I knew I would have another chance to jump. When our guide asked who was first my hand shot up just as everyone else pointed at me. I was so excited, I couldn't even wait. I went as soon as he said I could and it was an amazing thrill. The slide was short and steep, and then you just dropped off and fell about 25 feet. It was a bit of a shock because I was expecting more of a slide but was so much fun anyways! 

Later on we had a choice between an easier repel down a rock cliff-side or to repel straight down the waterfall. The guide said the waterfall path would be more difficult because the waterfall was slippery and would beat us up a bit. Hearing this I made the only rational decision there was... I went down the waterfall. At first I was doing good, and was doubting what the guides had warned. About halfway down I experienced exactly what they meant. I hit a slippery spot and lost my footing. My natural reaction was to grab onto the rocks, but then I realized I wasn't holding on to the rope that was keeping me from falling another 30-40 feet, and quickly grabbed back before I fell completely. I couldn't get my footing, so I slid down until I was able to stand back up and repel correctly the rest of the way down. 

After this I jumped and repelled multiple times, and climbed my way back to the bottom of the canyon. It was such an amazing day, I still have a hard time believing it actually happened. 

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