Jul 1, 2006

White Water Rafting

Rafting For One

Fancy riding the river on your personal white water raft? StarWeekend gets on and becomes a wet human pinball.

Sunbeams poke through the vault of leafy branches high above our rocky, frothy venue. We lower our posteriors into the cold, sparkling water completing our act of submission. Welcome to the sport of river tubing.

Why would anyone drive to Kuala Kubu Baru (KKB), Selangor on a Sunday and pay RM80 to sit in an old tyre and float down Sungai Selangor? Well, why would anyone do the same thing and pay double to sit in a much larger rubber tube called a white water raft?

Why not have your own little craft doing the same adrenaline-laced activity? Wouldn’t personal control of one’s whirling path downriver be more fun than obeying orders from a slave-driver on a large raft shouting: “Paddle forward!”, or sitting next to guys who paddle like they are playing masak-masak?

Tubing down Sungai Selangor is fun - even when the water tips you over. - Starpix by SIA HONG KIAU
Tubing down Sungai Selangor is fun
- even when the water tips you over.
- Starpix by SIA HONG KIAU

This is the latest wet whoosh offered by Tracks Outdoor Adventure, a company that offers white water kayaking, rafting and now tubing down rivers in Selangor and Perak.

I have some initial worries about plummeting down rocky mini-waterfalls, but Marjorie Gabriel, 39, the “river goddess” of Tracks assures me it is safe.

“Tubing uses only mild rapids, up to Class 2, or at the maximum Class 2.5. Whereas in rafting, we can go down wild Class 4 rapids,” she says.

However, the pre-dunk safety briefing is quite similar to rafting. Basically, if I am thrown out of a watercraft – tube or raft – I need to float on my lifejacket with my feet facing downriver – and raise my bum!

“In this position, you can see where you’re going and kick away from rocks,” explains Gabriel.

“As for the bum, well, you don’t want to scrape it against any rocks below!”

What I like about the safety briefing is the “dry run” on land where we go through rescue procedures (like how to catch a rope). This is something that all participants in white water sports should get (if not, ask for it!) because simple common sense can get jumbled up in the thrills and spills of riding river rapids.

After that short course, we are ready for White water Veneration. The cold water jolts you out of Sunday morning post-World Cup sluggishness.

As we manoeuvre our posteriors into the doughnut hole of the rubber tube, two guides are on stand-by downstream.

And we are off! Floating placidly along the calm stretches has to be one of the ultimate luxury (or lazyman’s) methods of basking in nature with zero exertion. Surrounded by sun-dappled trees and glittering river surfaces, the only thing missing from this experience is a pina colada with a little umbrella.

But the heartbeat soon quickens as I approach the bubbly rocks and swirling currents. Which way should my hands paddle? Will I be knocked against the rocks?

As it turns out, the flash of anxiety is unfounded.

First off, the guides direct me to the correct entry points among the many rocks. Then as I begin twirling left and right through the rapids, the large rubber tube acts like an amusement park bumper car that bounces me off rocks. Quite a rush!

I have always been in love with this verdant, invigorating stretch of Sungai Selangor (the one between the dam and the Sungai Chiling bridge) filled with gem-green rocks, lush forest canopies, dozens of mini Jacuzzis and that invigorating scent of ionised air and water. The gentle gliding alternating with exhilarating water pinball opens up a whole new avenue for me to luxuriate in this natural wonderland.

Gabriel plans the route in such a way that the rapids – and adventure – gradually grow stronger as we go on. At a largish waterfall, I wonder whether it might be too much to tackle on a tube.

“Don’t worry. Almost everybody gets thrown out of their tubes at this drop. It’s part of the fun!” she grins.

If ejected from my doughnut-hole seat, I am told to just allow the current to carry me forward. Besides, the extra buoyant imported lifejacket will float me right back to the surface.

And so I drift down towards the precipice and splash! I try to bronco ride the current and stay on my tube seat but the water rodeo has other ideas for me. I tumble amidst the waterfall’s fizz before finally emerging . . . exhilarated. Before long, I am walking back up the river for a second and third go at this bubbly buzz!

Safety is a paramount consideration at Tracks Outdoor Adventure.

“The life jacket and helmet must be on at all times. We have surveyed the river beforehand and we have guides waiting at crucial points,” explains Gabriel.

Tubing is only done on milder rapids. So what happens when, after heavy rainfall, some stretches become more strident? In that case, participants will walk on the rocks, past the turbulence and resume tubing on milder water downstream.

Gabriel also organises tubing trips along Sungai Kampar in Perak where the rapids are less intense – which may suit people who don’t want too much excitement.

As for our trip today, we finish off with a sumptuous lunch featuring the best wild boar curry I’ve ever eaten! W

  • For enquiries, contact Tracks Outdoor Adventure at (03) 6065 1767 or tracks@tm.net.my. The website is at www.tracksadventures.com