June 27, 2008 (Continuation of journal)
Our next activity on this very busy day was a float trip on the Urubamba River. We had been advised to bring water shoes or waterproof sandals for this trip, and even shorts. I didn’t do this, knowing I’d be cold, but simply planned to roll up my pants and wear my slip ons that doubled as slippers.
We were met at our put in spot by our two river guides. We were given life vests to wear and they helped us put them on snugly and made sure we were properly strapped in. We were to go in two rafts, 8 in one and 8 in the other, plus our guides. As we stepped into our rafts, we were each handed an oar, except for one person who would sit in the middle and be the “queen”! In our raft it was Janet. The rest of us were expected to row when necessary. I told Jayme to sit in front, because he has more canoeing experience and knows something about rowing.
First we had a short lesson in river rafting and how to manage our oars. There were a few commands we had to follow: FORWARD – row in a forward motion, straight from front to back; BACK – dip the oar straight into the water and push forward (back to front); STOP – put the oar straight down into the water and hold it there. We practiced each of these a few times. When we were not given these commands, we could sit and relax and take pictures of the scenery around us.
This was truly a “float trip” because most of the time we were floating in calm waters. However, we were often asked to help with the rowing. The rest of the time, I took beautiful pictures of the mountainous scenery. Our guide told us a few things about what we were seeing.
There are a lot of eucalyptus trees growing along the side of the river, and in fact, all over Peru. Eucalyptus trees are native to Australia and were brought
here by the Spanish. In many spots along the river, you see these trees growing right along the bank, their roots extending down into the water. Eucalyptus trees have large root systems, which have destroyed part of the Inca wall built to keep the river from overflowing its banks. The wall is very evident in some places – rocks piled up systematically along the embankment. In other places, eucalyptus trees grow tall along the shore.
Eventually we approached the most exciting part of the raft trip – a Class 1 rapids! Class 1 means short and not treacherous. We had to follow a series of rowing commands to get us through this, and we got a little wet, but it was easy to maneuver among the rocks.
We also saw the tourist train passing over the river on a bridge, on its way to Machu Picchu. We would be taking this train the next day!
At the end of the raft trip, we docked at the spot where we would have lunch.
There was a little house next to the railroad track where we got off the raft, and there we were treated to a delicious catered buffet, including chicken and guacamole.
There was some interesting plant life there too – a “tomato” tree (a small tree with clusters of pink flowers along its stem that bears fruit resembling elongated tomatoes) and another, larger white fruit (the size of a melon, but more oval shaped) entangled in a vine.
Plant life around the Urubamba River: