Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Swimming Somoto Canyon in Nicaragua

As great days are prone to do, this one started with a mad dash to grab a quick breakfast just in time to miss a bus. Luckily missing a bus in Nicaragua typically is only inconvenient and not devastating, you normally have just enough time to drink a cup of coffee before another worn out school bus arrives to take you in at least the general right direction.

I was embarking on a trip to Somoto Canyon with the same group I would go with see to  Alberto Guiterez   the next day. Yes it's true, sometimes there are people who will put up with me for more than a day at a time. Not often, but it does happen.

At the other end of the 30 minute bus ride we were met by a seemingly random taxi driver who was in charge of taking us to meet our tour guide. Although this had been prearranged, we were a little surprised he had waited. The tour guide was kind enough to keep a few pairs of water shoes on hand to loan, at least for any visiting pygmies, my feet didn't stand a chance of squeezing into any of them. Whether you believe a persons size is determined by genetics, diet or more likely a combination of the two - I blame my parents for this particular trial in my life. They gave me the genes of the bigfoot, and fed me during the formative years when my feet grew the largest amounts. It's no coincidence that my feet have only gained one size it the second half of my life spent outside of their home.

I wasn't worried about the shoes though, my trusty Adidas sandals had yet to begin the dance of death and were fated to last until Guatemala, and on to Texas in a hideous Frankenstein fashion. Sometimes it becomes an issue when I never know when to let go of shoes, and will drag the most decrepit pair way past acceptable, into the realm of homeless rejects. I say if you're going to wear articles of clothing most likely made in sweatshops, you should at least wear them as long as possible.

But I digress, I had a canyon to swim.

The beginning of the tour consisted of following a cow down a path, nothing too remarkable there. Cows tend to have one gait, and it tends to slow you down. After about half an hour of walking the ground sloped down and we came to the opening of the Canon de Somoto.
After bagging our cameras, and donning life jackets we waded into river water that was just the right temperature to combines with the summer sun keeping you at a perfectly balanced temperature. At first I scoffed at the idea of wearing the life jackets, it was only later I realized they weren't being worn so much to save you from drowning, but to allow you to rest. Over the next few hours we would alternate between scrambling along rock walls, and swimming along, riding thru most of the rapids. Quite often the sides were steep and slick, with nowhere to hold on if were tired. 
After bypassing one small waterfall we came to the highlight of the trip, a 20-25 meter jump situated in a position where you  could only have one chance to leap. After standing on the rock for a few minutes contemplating the future I stepped to the edge and leapt. Just as my feet left the rock I had an insight, exactly how would an ambulance get to me? A helicopter couldn't make it into the narrow canyon........And then I plunged into the water. Over the years I've plunged from bridges, off of cliffs, and once out of an airplane - that slight quiver of the heart as I realize there's not turning back and the adrenaline surges never gets old.  

Following that jump there was nothing left to do but relax for the rest of the trip. There was one more jump later, but at half or less of the height of the first. After the first tall jump, nothing else was going to be as exciting, but just flowing along in the river for the next hour or so with the sun peeking over the top of the canyon was a soothing contrast to the adrenaline of the jump.
After we reached the end of the canyon, there was about a 30 minute walk back to the house for a late lunch of chicken with rice, beans and tortillas prepared by the tour guides family. If I remember correctly this tour was $20, but whatever the cost it was worth it. We had arranged it in the hostel in Esteli, and I'm sure any of the hotels or hostels would be able make arrangements. Somoto Canyon was only "discovered" in 2004 and doesn't seem to be swarmed with tourists yet. In fact we only saw one other group (2 people and a guide) in the canyon, but I'm sure that's going to change in the future as it gains popularity. I don't think discovered is the correct word to use though, I somehow doubt the locals didn't know of the canyons existence before a group of Czech students found it.

1 comment:

  1. Great pictures and thanks for sharing with others also. Never been to there but after visiting your blog planning to somoto canyan now. I have been doing swimming regularly since last 3 years and found great sport to lose and maintain healthy body weight.