The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

Rafting - an extreme family sport

I'm not sure quite what came over me last week, normally not one for extreme sports, quite the opposite really, I agreed to go white water rafting with my family!  I'm still surprised at myself.  If you've read my blog recently you'll know I wrote about climbing, canyoning and via ferrata and clearly stated that I hadn't actually done any of those crazy activities personally though this area is an excellent place to give them a go.  So how come less than a month later I found myself hurtling down a fast mountain river in a rubber raft?  

     rafting 02

                                                                                                image credit

Every summer we go camping for a few days in the mountains nearby, to breathe the fresh air, hike, spend time outdoors and live under canvas for a few days.  This year we decided to combine this annual event with a trip to Italy as we felt we needed a little fix of Italiano in our lives.  We hadn't been for a few months and it was time - living where we do, less than an hour from the Italian border, we often pop over for lunch, or a spot of shopping.  This time we headed for Piedmont, keen to discover somewhere new, and we found ourselves a lovely campsite on the Stura river about 2.5 hours from home.  It turned out to be a rafting centre and the boys were busting to give it a go.  So we did!  

     Stura river Piedmont

We were almost the only people staying at the campsite and managed to book a rafting trip just for us, no one else which made it extra special.  The four of us and Manuel our guide.  We booked for 2 pm and after a gorgeous sunny morning the sky clouded over and threatened rain.  The forecast said 50% chance of precipitation.  We decided to risk it, and although the afternoon was dull and overcast, making it a little cold at times, we didn't get rained on - just soaked from the river!  Manuel took us through some safety procedures and then we were driven upstream to the start point.  The rafting trip was 8 km long which took us just under 2 hours with stops for rock jumping and swimming along the way.  Being late summer the water was reasonably low, but perfectly fast enough for us beginners.  Manuel told us that in May the same route took 15 minutes without stops as the river was so high.  No thank you!  I think I would have died of fright. As it was I was scared out of my wits often enough as we paddled faster and faster toward huge boulders for the express purpose of crashing into them to bounce off!  The kids loved it!  The look of pure joy on their faces made the terror worth it....

     rafting 03

                                                                                                image credit

Not being equipped with a waterproof camera there was no way we could take our own photos so I'm very thankful Paolo from Stiera Rafting gave me permission to us some of his.  All credited photos are his, the rest are mine as usual.  I so wish I could have filmed JF and the boys jumping off rocks and hurtling down stream on their backs, feet forward, arms crossed.  But I'm also very glad we didn't try to risk taking a phone or camera in a plastic bag as we got very very wet, even without jumping in, and JF was thrown from the raft at one alarming point.  I was honestly very scared at times, squealing like a little girl (I was so glad we didn't have to share the boat with anyone else!) but I genuinely enjoyed it...I think...in retrospect!  You can get an idea of what we did by viewing some of Stiera Rafting's videos here.

     rafting 01

                                                                                              image credit

For rafting novices like us, here's how it works:  you sit up on the side with one foot hooked under the seat in front to anchor you in.  You paddle along at a reasonably relaxed pace until the guide tells you to go fast, fast, faster at which point you paddle like mad despite the fear.  This is usually in the fastest bits of current and often directly into big boulders. Sometimes one side paddles forwards and the other side backwards so you spin round and round in 360° loops.  The guide is in charge of steering to avoid hazards such as branches and dangerous rocks and if/when he shouts "in the boat" you all dive into the middle as fast as possible so as not to fall out on a steep drop or fast twist. The adrenalin is crazy!  You don't paddle continually; sometimes you just drift downstream taking in the quiet and enjoying the views. We saw plenty of birds and in the less rapid parts of the river the silence was overwhelming. We stopped a couple of times, once to jump off rocks and once to jump off the raft itself.  Manuel turned it over and we used it as a trampoline to spring into the water. Despite being August it was refreshingly icy!  The guys also all bailed out of the raft to drift down on their backs but being as blind as a bat without my glasses I decided to stay in the boat.  

                     Stura fiume Piemonte Italia

The rafting along the Stura river where we were is classified as grade 2-3 out of a maximum of 6 on the official scale.  This was perfect for us, enough action without being hideously dangerous.  As this was an on-the-spur-of-the-moment decision and not thoroughly planned and researched I didn't really take into account just how extreme rafting can be.  I'm glad I didn't read the Wikipedia entry before I went as it is pretty scary.  I'm quite sure I wouldn't have taken part and would have been extremely nervous of my kids going off if I had read it first.  Of course I was aware that it's an adventurous sport not to be undertaken lightly but as children as young as 6 can participate I reckoned I'd be OK.  I was, but as I said before, it's not normally my kind of thing at all.  I'm delighted I did it, but I doubt I'll do it again.  I think the boys would have happily continued on several more hours and gone back the next day.  JF was somewhere in the middle of that!  

       rafting 04

There are several places in the Alpes-Maritimes, close to the Côte d'Azur, near Lou Messugo to go rafting if you are looking for adventure and an adrenalin rush like no other.  The season runs from about April to October, depending on the weather, just make sure you choose a licensed operator with a good reputation.  I would of course wholeheartedly recommend Stiera Rafting as a professional and friendly place to start.

      rafting bus Stura river

Have you been rafting?  Would you like to?  Are you an extreme kind of person?  I'd love to hear from you.

 

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Comments

  • Guest
    Richard Friday, 12 September 2014

    Terrifying. Not for me! No way, Jose (or Phoebe, for that matter)!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 14 September 2014

    That's what I thought, but then I did it! Never say never.

  • Guest
    Catherine Tuesday, 09 September 2014

    What a girl phoebe. Brave or what?

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 14 September 2014

    Thanks Catherine, I thought so! :)

  • Guest
    Molly S Tuesday, 09 September 2014

    I would love to go rafting - but not being an extreme kind of person, I have a feeling it would all go horribly wrong....;) It looks like so much fun, though! Just to let you know that I've nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award here - http://travelwithmolly.com/2014/09/09/a-nomination-for-the-one-lovely-blog-award/ - if you wanted to take a look :).

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 14 September 2014

    Thanks for the nomination Molly, very kind of you!

  • Guest
    Marisol@TravelingSolemates Friday, 05 September 2014

    HI Phoebe, I can't believe you live in a gorgeous country and only an hour from the border of another gorgeous one. You're so lucky!
    Kudos to you for letting your adventurous side out of the bag! It must be much more fun for your kids that you had joined them. I enjoy rafting but haven't done it in a while. My most enjoyable rafting trip was in Costa Rica. You made me anxious to go for another one soon. I wanted to go to Piedmont because I knew they have great wine and food. I didn't realize that it also offers great outdoor adventures, too. Good to know.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 07 September 2014

    I know I'm lucky living where I do. I still count my lucky stars! I'd love to go to Costa Rica, though I doubt I'd go rafting again. Piedmont is a fantastic part of Italy, you must get there soon!

  • Guest
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} Friday, 05 September 2014

    You are a brave, brave woman. I am also blind as a bat. The only time I've been rafting, an oar hit me in the eye and knocked out my contact lens as we were getting into the river. One eye just saw a blur the whole time. Luckily, we were in the midst of a drought in Texas, so the river was rather tame. In Malaysia, my hubby took our oldest one rafting, but the younger two kids weren't old enough so I "offered" to stay home with them. I am sweet that way. You are wise to not bring your camera along. If the raft had overturned, you would have been very sad to have lost it, even if it was waterproof.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 07 September 2014

    I love how sweet you are, sacrificing yourself for the sake of others. I did that when hubby and older son went canyoning, I sweetly stayed at home to look after the little one!!

  • Guest
    eileen @ FamiliesGo! Friday, 05 September 2014

    it looks fun. We used to do more adventurous travel. I worry that by the time my daughter is old enough to handle it, I'll be too old!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 07 September 2014

    That's sort of my issue Eileen! I'm not as young as I was!!!

  • Guest
    Rin Friday, 05 September 2014

    I have been rafting in Nepal a long time ago, and loved it!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 07 September 2014

    How fantastic to have been to Nepal, let alone gone rafting there. Amazing!

  • Guest
    Corinne Friday, 05 September 2014

    I love rafting and have been several times in a few different countries, although France is not one of them...I might have to change that!

    It was fun, wasn't it Phoebe?

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 07 September 2014

    You're a brave woman Corinne! But you're right, it was fun! (In retrospect!!)

  • Guest
    jan Friday, 05 September 2014

    I am not much for adventure sports but I can imagine the high afterward. I would be worried about what would happen if I fell in. I was relieved to hear you didn't take a camera. The first thing I thought of was - how did you get that photo (of the raft) - and then I saw the credits :) Congrats on your first white water rafting experience.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 07 September 2014

    Thanks Jan! I too was worried about falling in and found it very alarming when my husband was thrown overboard.

  • Guest
    Muza-chan Friday, 05 September 2014

    Amazing...

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 07 September 2014

    Thanks!

  • Guest
    Nancie Friday, 05 September 2014

    I have not been rafting, and as beautiful as the river looks, not sure I could get up the nerve to do it. Who knows though, I have been talked into other things that I said I would probably never do...haha! I think it's awesome that you live within an hours of drive of Italy. I'd be having lunch in Italy at least once a week!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 07 September 2014

    Nancie, if I didn't have to work and ferrying kids around etc I'd go to Italy for lunch once a week too, believe me!

  • Guest
    noel Friday, 05 September 2014

    That looks like a lot of fun and what scenic landscape - the water looks refreshing and cold I'm sure

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 07 September 2014

    It was very scenic Noel - and cold!

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