It’s been nearly three years since the Barbarians went on a one-day canyoning trip near Porto with Latitude41. Back then we had been involved in a number of collaborations with other providers of adventurous activities and we did not want to take any of the shine from them. However, now is the right time to start singing the praise for the good people of Latitude41.
Considering that our blog is featuring plenty of activities involving height, including skydiving and rock-climbing, it feels silly to mention it again and again, but here we are: I’m terribly scared of heights. I’m not at all being cute or joking. If I’d have to pick one thing that scares me more than anything else it would definitely be heights. After more than ten years of happy marriage, Ms B, who is totally not scared of heights, still does not understand how I can be such a wuss.
In my defence, I do constantly try to conquer my fears. So our canyoning exercise was just another one of these attempts. To be frank, the description on the website simply mentioned something about wandering along a riverbed in a canyon in a wet suit and stated that the level of difficulty involved was “easy”. Would I have known the full extent of the madness I was about to engage in I most certainly would have said thanks, but thanks no.
Right on time at 9am, Latitude41’s founder and one of his guides, neither name I seem to remember, picked us up in their 4WD at our hotel and we made our way to the Freita hill range, less than an hour’s drive from town. Much of the landscape looked Martian due to recent catastrophic large-scale fires that had destroyed most of the vegetables and other greens (luckily not ‘our’ canyon, which was too remote and hard to reach for the flames to have bothered).
We stopped near a small hamlet, where we were greeted by one of the local farmers after we had parked the truck. There was no time to waste and we donned the rubber suits and other gear.
No more than ten minutes later we were on our way hiking on an exposed path into the steep canyon past an abandoned mine. Another twenty minutes later we reached the starting point of our adventure and received our safety briefing.
The first few bits of the route were indeed easy-peasy and I started to feel comfortable. Relatively flat area, the water of the little river flowing calmly and slowly, the sun was shining. We were simply walking along the river at a pleasant pace. This felt exactly like what I had signed up for.
Then we reached a few large rocks and the river seemed gone, until I realised it was going down over the edge as a waterfall, roughly ten vertical metres I’m guessing. My first thought was that this must be a joke, our guides were taking a piss. There must be a safe path around the edges somewhere, I thought, but no. We clicked our carabiners onto the rope and off we went one after another over the edge abseiling down the abyss until we reached the deep pool below.
From there we let ourselves be carried by the river for a few minutes, until the next climbing bit came. 15 metres up a steep wall of rocks. It is true that you did not need any climbing skills or experience, but I for once certainly found the rock walls we climbed rather scary. I was horrified but also exhilarated. (Ms B took it all in a stride and acted like she was on an idle afternoon walk.)
The route varied between climbing, abseiling, swimming, walking in the river bed, sliding on your bottom over rocks in the river. After about one and a half hours we took a break for lunch. I didn’t eat much. Too much adrenaline. Our guides shared some stories of their more extreme canyoning tours. While their intention probably was to make us aware of how safe and easy our current exercise was, it only added to my apprehension about things to come.
Luckily the level of difficulty did not increase during the afternoon. Instead you became more familiar, experienced, relaxed, and yes, perhaps even a tiny tad more skilled. In the end I think I even enjoyed myself unreservedly.
On the last bit of the route you have to zipline down over a huge waterfall, which was fun. Then you walk through a tiny tunnel (too low for me to stand upright in some stretches), that was pitch-black dark in the middle-section due to its length. When we reached our car I was very grateful that we were all still alive and well and I felt very pleased that we had shown these rocks who the daddy is.
We did not speak much on the drive back to town. Ms B fell asleep right away and I was definitely too tired to talk too. However, we’d do this again anytime. 5 out of 5 in our book.
Looking for more fun activities? Try our Porto posts about rock-climbing, off-roading, and exploring ancient Roman mines, as well as our day trip down the Douro Valley. We also wrote about our rides on a jetski, a jetlev, a powerboat, and a hot air balloon.