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Super Badass Tubing in Mocoa, Colombia

April 5, 2011

My guide is the other Muscles from Brussels*, Filip.  He’s the owner of a brand new hostel in Mocoa Colombia called Casa Del Rio.  It’s the only hostel in the Putumayo Department.  The landscape is greenest green mountainous jungle.

First we put on helmets and life jackets.  Helmets – so this isn’t the type of tubing where 10 people hold hands going down the river, and one tube holds a cooler full of beer?

We have two choices of runs.  Choice one is 2+ hours.  Choice two is 1 hour or so, it’s the second calmer half of choice one.  Of course I go for choice one, being a Badass In Training*.

Filip asks “Do you want to practice getting on the tube?”  (IE: please practice getting on the tube)  So I do, and it’s hard, really hard if your feet are not touching the bottom of the river.  You have to be strong and fast enough to pull yourself up without flipping the tube over.  It’s not easy for the muscular Filip, and almost impossible for me.  I am however able to get on by going through the hole and scrunching my legs up and through – Filip’s legs are too long for this method.

We start by going down 2 waterfalls.  Yes, not just rapids, waterfalls.  By some miracle I pass them both without flipping.  You see most (all?) waterfalls at their bottom are followed by a pesky pool of turbulent water.  Hopefully you’ve landed on that pool pretty flatly and with speed, and you bob right out and continue downstream.  But often you get sucked into it, your back edge dipping down and the front edge of the tube flipping up.  If you don’t have enough speed to pass, you flip back into the vortex of boiling water.  This happens to me after the 3rd waterfall, after which I continue down the rapids following my tube which is tethered to my wrist.  I put my feet up and forward in the “safety position” to avoid my legs, for the most part, getting battered and bruised to S until I pass the rapids and get to a calm enough place to get back on the tube.  How could I have been so calm, so blasé with the first two waterfalls?  Beginners luck?  No, I see that no matter how good you are you can’t avoid getting sucked into some of the pools, and you can’t predict which ones, because it happens quite a few times to Filip too and usually at different places than it happens to me.

After one particularly hard dunking where I ingest a bunch of river water and come up gasping, Filip grabs my tube and leads me to a calm pool at the edge of the river.  It’s one of those rounded out pieces of softer rock, where the water enters at the downstream edge of the opening and curves back in a kind of large whirlpool to the upstream edge of the opening.  It looks calm, but the current is strong.  I think as soon as we get into it “how are we going to get out of here”?   We do circles in the whirlpool half a dozen times, trying to get a hold on the rock edges, but most of the rock is smooth, and the few edges are soft rock and just break off it our hands as we get pulled back into the whirlpool.  Filip gets off his tube and pushes with his legs off the rock, pushing my tube as hard as he can, and I paddle as hard as I can.  In this way I exit the whirlpool and continue quickly down the river.  I stop on the opposite river bank as soon as I can, which given the quick current and rapids is probably 200m down.  After waiting for what seems like an appropriate amount of time for Filip to have passed*, I start walking back upstream on the opposite river bank to make sure Filip got out of the whirlpool (not that I could have gotten him out regardless).  To get back upstream I walk behind, over and around several large rocks which obscure my view of the river.  When I get to a viewpoint of the whirlpool Filip isn’t there.  So, he’s either: gotten out and continued downstream, or he’s drowned, exhausted by the effort to push me out of the whirlpool.  I quickly turn around and scramble back downstream to my tube.  Thankfully, soon after getting back in the river I see Filip downstream on the bank.  He’s been having the same thoughts as me, thinking either I was downstream or had drowned.  So, it’s a happy reunion to say the least.

A little further downstream is the half way point, at an old steel bridge where we rest.  We both gush how happy we are to see each other alive.  It’s then I learn that I am Filip’s first tubing client.

He’d done the river before on test runs with local friends.  He asks me if I think it’s too scary for most tourists.  That would be a big yes.  He assures me the second half is calmer, with no big drops.

He says that his tolerance for scariness and danger is higher than for most people, since he does a lot of “adventure” sports like motor bike racing on a track.  I’ve been whitewater rafting 4 or 5 times, and this is many times scarier than any.

We continue down the second half.  It is calmer, but plenty exciting with lots more rapids, albeit no really high waterfall-type rapids.  I still flip a few more times, and get snagged on a tree after one flipping.  Thanks to the tree I have a long but shallow scratch on my upper arm – the most impressive war wound of the day.  I have several bruises and scratches on my feet, ankles, hands, legs, and both hip bones are strawberries.

I am completely exhausted and my arms are super sore from the paddling.  And I feel like a Badass.

Filip asks for my advice, since I’m his first client – would I recommend that he take tourists on the whole run, or just the second calmer part?  I recommend that he take them on the second part, and label the first part for crazy Badasses only.

*Note 1: I am a huge Jean-Claude Van Damme fan – I’ve seen Bloodsport at least half a dozen times.  My parents still have the pirated video tape in their collection of neglected pirated video tapes in the basement, where I watch it on occasion when I’m back home on vacation.  When my brother Ashton and I were teenagers, he used to rent martial arts videos for 1$ each from the store down the street.  So, I’ve seen A LOT of martial arts movies.   The JCVD oeuvre is among the most over-the-top, and therefore among my favorites.

*Note 2: Badass In Training – that is, someone like me who aspires to be a Badass, but is not quite fearless enough as yet to qualify as a true Badass, therefore Badass In Training

*Note 3: It feels like I waited a long time, but later Filip tells me it was about 3 minutes between the time I got out of the whirlpool and the time it took him to get out.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2011 4:55 pm


    • April 7, 2011 6:04 pm

      no no, I´ll stick with Badass In Training for now, I still have much to learn. But, Thank-you!

  2. April 6, 2011 5:06 pm

    You are a badass girl congrats. But I sure am glad you are coming home soon. A rivetting disertation of how to totally scare yourself to death get wounded and then find out that your with
    an agressive baby guide wow. I am super happy just sitting at my desk and that you are the one
    with the “brownie badge”. Hope you had a quieter week with your family??? Lxo

    • April 7, 2011 6:07 pm

      Hi Lauren. Mom and Gab´s visit was excellent, but yes, much more low key. However, we did do a hike called Angel´s Step, which at one point has a very narrow ridge, about 12 inches wide, and a vertical abyss down hundreds of meters on either side. Gab is afraid of heights, so for her that was pretty Badass. Also, it was just a really gorgeous hike!

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