What does one do when presented with a four-day extended holiday weekend and a typhoon that’s threatening to become the mother of all killjoys? One books a flight to sun-drenched Mindanao, specifically to the ‘adventure corridor’ of Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon and Camiguin.
We made up our minds at the last minute and it was a minor miracle that there were still airline seats available — it was Kagay-anan Festival in Cagayan de Oro. I then dragged the Mr. away from his desk and into an adventure vacation. First up:
WHITEWATER RAFTING AT THE CAGAYAN RIVER, CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY
We took an early flight to CDO because we already had reservations to ride the rapids with Kagay Outdoors that morning. They picked us up at the airport and we proceeded along a dusty road to the starting or ‘put-in’ site. But first, they brought us to the Macahambus Adventure Park (also operated by Kagay) and waited for almost 40 minutes while some of our fellow ‘adventure-seekers’ were roped (hehe) into walking the ‘skybridge’ and riding a zipline.
The zipline is 120 meters long, the skybridge 135 meters. There’s also rappelling at Macahambus but as it takes more time, no one from our group went for it. Kagay guide (and photographer) Edison chatted with us and we learned that whitewater rafting at the Cagayan River started back in 1995; Kagay was the only adventure group then. The activity got a major boost in 2002 after then-president GMA got on a raft in front of the cameras and braved a grand total of three rapids. There are now 6 or 7 whitewater tour operators in CDO.
Anyway, we got to the ‘put-in’ area and as our guides unloaded the rubber boats, there was a collective slathering of sunblock lotions. Some of us bought those things that look like leggings for the arms (armmings?). We were handed our helmets, paddles, ‘vests’ (a.k.a. Personal Floating Device or PFD) and one drybag for each group.
Our outfits made us look like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
One of Kagay’s main men briefed us on safety procedures. All of us were beginners. Notice that kid in the picture? They allow kids 6 years old and above. They showed us how to hold and use our paddles, what to do if our boat hits a boulder or flips, and to do a hi-five after each rapid.
Then it was on to our boats. The Mr. & I were grouped with four girls who also just flew in from Manila. We were introduced to our guide, Mael, a young man whose name has undoubtedly spawned many jokes of the Xerex variety.
By this time, we were all sweltering from the heat (this was past 10 AM) so it was a pleasant shock to the system when our guides started playfully drenching us with cool water from the river.
Then it was time to roll.
The beginner course goes through 14 major rapids classified as Class 1-2 and about the same number of minor ones. I was still working out how to hold my paddle and the grab ropes at the same time when we reached the first major rapid. We were tossed this way and that!
Then we reached another and another. It was so much fun! The boats would bump into each other and we were all laughing and screaming and getting soaked. It was like being inside a giant washing machine.
When we got to calmer waters, the guides encouraged us to go for a swim. I’m not a swimmer but the water was so cool and we were surrounded by wonderful mountain scenery that I couldn’t resist.
Finally, after almost three hours of being tossed around, we arrived at the Take Out point where there’s a restaurant/grill for the famished aventureros. We took more pictures and put on dry clothing. Then we ate. Oh, we ate.
It’s hard to overstate just how much fun this is. So I’ll say it again: It was fun! If you haven’t yet, you should go.
Up Next: Camiguin
Need to Know:
Whitewater rafting at the Cagayan River is safe even for kids 6 years and above and you don’t need to be a swimmer to join. Kagay Outdoors runs the oldest whitewater rafting adventure tour in CDO. They have morning and afternoon tours. You must make a reservation at least a day in advance. Kagay’s website: http://www.kagaycagayandeororafting.com
How to get there
The major domestic airlines fly several times daily to Cagayan de Oro City from Manila and Cebu. Try to get in before 8AM if you want to join the morning tour. The tour operator will pick you up at the airport or at another pre-arranged point within the city.
Kagay charges Php700.00 for the 3-hour beginners course. You must tip your guides, too, of course. You can also buy a CD of your pictures and videos (Php250) which you have to claim at the Kagay office at the city center.
At the Macahambus Adventure Park, the skybridge and zipline package is Php300. Rappelling is also Php300. A package with all three activities is Php500.
Wear light, comfortable clothing, aqua shoes or sandals (preferably with straps).
One word: Sunblock. Lots of it, waterproof and with as high an SPF as you can get. Mine was not waterproof and now my legs are two-toned and sting like hell.
You may bring towels and a change of clothing in your drybag. There are shower facilities at the take-out point.
There’s also a restaurant/grill at the take-out point. You may order your lunch in advance. (Ask your tour guide for the menu checklist.)
Eat a hearty breakfast (or lunch if you’re going on the PM tour). I mean, hearty and heavy. I had rice and longganisa and still became sooo hungry at the halfway point that everytime someone said ‘rapids’, what I heard was Lapid’s. As in chicharong bulaklak.