17N - Canyoning

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Here is a story about my very first week in Reunion Island back in 2000. My diary reads:

“Monday: The alarm wrenched me awake. I couldn’t for the life of me realise why it had been set for 6.00am when I had clearly only been in bed for 3 hours. And then I remembered. Canyoning!

‘Canyoning?’ I hear you cry. ‘What can this mean?’ Basically, it's white water rafting... but without the raft.

As the sun appeared over the ocean I met the mountain guide Philippe in Saint-Denis, and after a quick coffee on his balcony we headed east down the coastal road towards St Suzanne. Turning off at the Riviére des Roches exit, the tarmac road soon became a dirt-track as it weaved in amongst a vast plantation of sugar cane. Palm trees lined the track and the sugar cane leaves encroached on the path. About five kilometres later we came to a clearing and parked the car.

We donned our wetsuits and made our way up the mountain path, the river winding through the gorge below us. Philippe gave me a few pointers, stressing in particularly that if I didn’t want to jump off any waterfalls, I didn’t have to. Abseiling down instead was suggested. Down the slippery slope we began, the morning sunshine filling up the gorge below us. The first waterfall arrived, and we climbed out of the river to get a good jumping point. It would have been far too dangerous to let ourselves be carried over, as there was the possibility of the current dashing us against the rocks below.

We reached the top and below us lay a drop of about 6 metres. Philippe went first, and with a loud cry he vanished below. From where I was standing I couldn’t actually see him land, but the long pause before the splash was enough to set my knees trembling. I was left standing alone. 

Picture the ridiculous image: I was standing in a full-length blue jump suit and a white hat, arms out-stretched to keep my balance. I looked like a paranoid smurf. What the hell am I doing here? I asked myself. Suddenly, my old office in London flashed before me. A far cry. It was a long way down, but here I was, hovering dangerously over a precipice on an island in the Indian Ocean. Looking at the sun up in the sky shining down on me I realised that it was for moments like these I had come. The fear went and I launched myself screaming into the void below.

In total there were 4 more jumps made as we continued down the valley, the penultimate one a massive leap of 11 metres. In the long journey down it felt like I had enough time to recite Hamlet’s soliloquy before landing. To be or not to be… I don’t know the rest…

We stopped off for a bite to eat and upon getting back to my flat I went straight to sleep. Having just woken it all still seems like a bit of a dream. Was it real? It must have been – my vocal chords are killing me...”


Vocabulary:

diary = journal intime

to wrench = arracher

coastal = littoral

weaved = arpenté

clearing = clairière

to don = mettre

wetsuits = combinaison

winding = serpentant

pointers = conseils

abseiling = descente en rappel

slippery = glissant

slope = pente

waterfall = cascade

to land = aterrir

knees = genoux

flashed before = défilé

void = la vide

flat = apartement

killing me = me fait très mal

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