I would call myself an adventurous person. I crave that adrenaline rush, whether it’s from riding a ridiculous 10-loop rollercoaster, swimming side-by-side with terrifying-looking sea creatures or speeding on the back of a motorbike. But when I agreed to go ‘canyoning’ with my friends whilst travelling through Dalat, a central highland city in Vietnam, I must admit I was pretty damn nervous. The name alone sounded alarming and I could visualize myself falling into jagged rocks pushed by huge, uncontrollable spurts of water and plummeting dramatically to my peril. The fact that we had met a girl a few days previous of our canyoning outing in Mui Ne who had passed out whilst canyoning and suffered from a rather worrying leg injury certainly didn’t help my concern.
So, what exactly is this canyoning activity I speak of? Well, according to trusty old Wikipedia it is ‘travelling in canyons using a variety of techniques that may include other outdoor activities such as walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling (rappelling), and swimming’. In Dalat, a hotspot for canyoning, it mostly consists of abseiling down waterfalls. There were plenty of companies to take our pick from and we decided to go with Highland Holiday Tours booked through our homestay, the aptly named Dalat Authentic Homestay (who I can highly recommend!).
We started our day off scrambling down earthy hills to get to the waterfalls and we were first shown how to abseil and practice down some dry ground. After some practice runs, my confidence surged. It wasn’t too bad! I wasn’t too bad. I would be fine, I reassured myself.
When we were told to slide down rapid, free-flowing waterfalls however, I wasn’t convinced. Surely it was dangerous to just launch myself, without protection, down a waterfall? Yet one by one, members of our group slid down easily, no harm done. So I swallowed my fear and apprehensively allowed myself to float (or rather whirl) down each waterfall. And you know what? It wasn’t bad at all.
Next up was a dry abseil and then rappelling down a fairly small waterfall, and again all was well. I was still a tad anxious, but by then I was even starting to enjoy it! However soon my nervousness would almost overtake me. As we were shown the next waterfall after a delicious and filling lunch provided by Highland holiday tours, I gaped open-mouthed as I caught sight of the falls and listened to our next instructions. The huge waterfall was easily 25 metres, and we were expected to rappel down as the huge waves of water overpoweringly gushed over you, and then let go of the rope to fall 4 metres into the pit of water below. What.
I forced myself to volunteer fairly early on, not wanting to be left last as I watched on. As I clutched onto the rope and began abseiling down, my heart was thudding. It was exhilarating and I was again loving canyoning once more. The only trouble came when it was time to let go to jump. To say I felt uneasy doing this was an understatement, and with water thrashing down on me heavily I could barely hear the instructor yelling insistently at me to ‘JUMP!’ I finally did, almost panicking and fell what I expect looked extremely ungracefully. My friends were all in hoots of laughter at my ‘jump’ as I swam out to them, drenched and shaking, but I was just glad I had made it! As we all watched the rest of our group from the bottom of the falls, viewing became uncomfortable and nerve-wracking as a tiny, terrified girl had a lot of trouble abseiling down. Flailing and falling about under the immense power of the water, she very almost let go of her rope (although she was harnessed in so would have been okay) and she was stuck mid-abseil for quite a while, clearly petrified. Luckily, in the end, she made it down fine, but the poor girl was put off the rest of the activities of the day. Canyoning is certainly not for everyone!
To keep up the pace, next up was a spot of cliff jumping. We were given the choice of 7 or 11 metres, and of course, the majority of the boys went for 11. Scared of running and losing my footing, I opted for 7. The feeling of falling through the air effortlessly was great.
The ‘Washing machine’
It was soon time for the grand finale, the ominously-named ‘Washing machine’. This last waterfall is named as such because as you abseil down, it ‘spins’ you whilst you abseil down the cascading waves as you (hopefully) dodge the jarred rocks on either side, just like a washing machine! ‘You will all come out nice and clean!’ our guide laughed, as the rest of us nervously peered down fearfully.
I had no idea really what to expect as you couldn’t see all the way down before abseiling, and to be honest I was glad! If I had seen beforehand I may very well not have gone through with it. As I made my way down, I felt as though I was being thrashed and flipped underwater, scrubbed and rinsed like a rag doll needing a thorough wash. But as I clawed to the surface after what felt like a pretty long time underwater, I felt my face break into a smile. I had done it! The day was over, finished!
We made our way back to our pickup car, and I felt amazing. It had been an exhilarating, exciting and hard working day. I had been nervous, but the feeling of completing all the waterfalls and knowing that I had successfully faced something I had been pretty anxious about honestly felt great. And would I go canyoning again? Absolutely!
Thanks to Highland holiday tours for allowing me to use their photos taken on the day (and for the amazing experience!)