The group is waiting at the rocky face below me, I feel my heart racing faster and faster as a cool breeze runs over the back of my neck. It is now or never. I count 1, 2……3 and run along the rubble beneath my feet. I take a leap of faith. The world around me blurs as I descend into emptiness…
Our day began nice an early in Dalat which is located in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The city is quickly becoming known as a popular destination for the adventurous backpacker. You can plan your stay and arrange a number of activities such as trekking, kayaking, mountain biking, white water rafting and canyoning.
We decided to go canyoning while we were there, which is traversing the country-side by an means. That may be trekking, abseiling, cliff jumps and even running some natural water slides!
We arrived with our group to a busy tourist area and one of our young guides informs us this is where a jungle luge is located. We bypass all the tourists (and the luge) and descend the steps further into the dense tropical environment.
Once free of the swarm of tourists we trek for a while through the rainforest until we get to our first rock surface, where we are to start some training and learning the basics of abseiling. Luckily we had a small group of three, so it didn’t take too long and we passed with flying colours! The real adventure was close at hand…
Even though I had abseiled many times before, nothing prepares you for the feeling of leaning backwards over the edge and having nothing else supporting you but a piece of rope. You have to have faith in the gear you’re using and the person holding the safety line at the top of the cliff. We were beginning to get off our training wheels after completing our first vertical decent of 15 metres.
Next came a small cliff jump of 10 metres, nothing to write home about yet a challenge none the less, especially for Elise. That was something that she had never done before, and she attempted this with the bravery of a seasoned adventure woman. She even kept saying “ Bear Grills eat your heart out, women vs wild”.
We walked towards the edge of the next cliff face and soon realised what was coming. A 25-metre cliff with a gushing waterfall running right down the middle of it! Crazy some would say, but we had to have trust in the rope and trust in our abilities!
I leant back and stepped over the edge, the water spraying directly in my face, clouding my vision. Even though I couldn’t see anything I could feel the pressure of the water pushing at my feet. My feet were so close at slipping away from underneath me as I maneuvered my way through the splippery section of the cascading water. I sighed in relief as I looked below to see I was almost at the bottom. Two more steps and I will have successfully completed my first waterfall abseil! The next thought that came into my head was what the instructor said to me before I started “The rope is 5 metres short at the bottom and you have to jump into the pool below backwards!” His voice swirled in my head and instant fear ran up my spine, all the while water was pounding at my body. The other instructor was at the bottom yelling at me to let go and fall backwards. I took one last deep breath, closed my eyes and let go. In an instant I was coming up for air at the pool of water at the bottom of the waterfall. I did it!
After a quick break for lunch and we were back on our feet trekking further through the valley. We approached a cliff edge which was over looking a large pool of water. Looking around I was waiting for the instructor to start setting up the abseiling gear again. But, nothing was happening. He was just looking at us with a smile saying “Are you ready to jump?” Before I could answer him he had thrown himself off a 20 metre drop into a pool of murky brown water below!
I wasn’t going to let fear get the better of me and I looked below to see if there was anything like rocks at the bottom then took 4 steps backwards. A few more deep breaths, I counted to 3 then run as hard and fast as I could off the cliff. With my foot detaching from the firm ground, I was instantly air borne and it seems like time was standing still. I remember dimly hearing the cheers from Elise and the team below. The next thing I knew, my feet were breaking the surface of the water and I was under the dark water. Pushing back up to the surface I gasped for air then pumped my fist in celebration with a big smile on my face. I had made it!
If you are planning on visiting Vietnam I would highly recommend seeing the backcountry of Dalat. What better way to do it then stepping out of your comfort zone and viewing the natural beauty that Vietnam has to offer through canyoning!