Wednesday 15 June 2011

Canyoning the French Alps

My Crossfit coaches have, on occasion, diagnosed me with poor proprioception which means that I sometimes have difficulty sensing where my body is in relation to space. I had hoped it was simply a nice way to encourage me so that if I kept practicing, I would eventually master the snatch, or clean and jerk. However, I now realise how truly accurate they were. In layman’s terms, I am simply uncoordinated. As yesterday’s canyoning excursion into the lower French Alps (Wolf’s Canyon) evidenced, my lack of coordination and balance resulted in my falling over dozens of times including falling over three waterfalls in the process.

The hostel that I am staying at Nice has won awards year after year as “Best in France” and I can see why. Not only is there an in-house chef who prepares cheap yet delicious meals, the hostel organises adventure tours daily for the guests (i.e. canyoning, sailing, scuba diving etc).

Tuesday's hostel dinner: Vietnamese noodle salad

I signed up for the canyoning excursion and it was 54euros well spent. The Alps were about a one hour drive away from the hostel, and the tour was over three hours of solid rappelling, cliff jumping, swimming, hiking and climbing.

Years of rock-climbing experience provided a level of confidence for the 1st rappel down the waterfall but things begun to come unstuck over the second. Struck by the force of water from the waterfall, I twisted around in the harness and instead of rappelling with my feet on the wall, I ended up slowly rappelling face-first.

Being a strong swimmer, I was confident in the freezing alpine water, and cliff jumping but walking on wet rocks seemed to require a level of coordination that I lacked. Between my natural clumsiness and an ill-fitting wetsuit that limited range of moment, I quickly became accustomed to falling, often. One such fall, send me careening over a waterfall, the current sending me straight through the pool at the bottom, and over the second waterfall. After the initial shock, I thought that it was fine as I was just ahead of the group and the rest would soon follow our guide for the day, Bertrand, declared that both waterfalls were fall too dangerous and the rest of the group would walk around. Besides numerous bruises (both on my body and to my ego), I fortunately didn't suffer any more serious injuries.

Bertrand, had a strong command of English but a decidedly French sense of humour. Instructions such as “when you surface after you jump, swim hard to the left, or the current will take you to the right, under the rock and you will stay there…bye bye” or “swim hard for the surface or you die” were hardly comforting.

However, I can happily report that I only hesitated for a few seconds before making the large 11m jump into a narrow canyon, whereas two American boys on our trip took about 5 minutes to work up the courage to jump!!

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