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RODEO ON WILD WATERS

An Article By Željko Kelemen, The Chairman of Croatian Rafting Comunity

Rafting? Yes, please! Is there a young manager or businessman who is feeling stressed and depressed about his job who wouldn't respond positively to the idea of going rafting??? Indeed how could it be possible not to enjoy the idea of rafting? It's so easy to imagine rafting on a rubber boat somewhere like on the river of Dobra with a heightened sense of adventure, and the idea of a cool beer at the finish!!! (OK, two beers). And extreme rafting??? Well that's even more enticing. Waters are wild, waves are big, and the danger is real. Therefore the challenge is greater. Today there is no bigger challenge for rafters than the Camel Wise Water Challenge. Let's explain the concept to make it clear for everybody: The Rafting Camel challenge follows the same concept as the Camel Trophy LANDROVER adventure race. Modern rafters who have participated in the competition for the last 3 years have fought against wild waters all around the world; including in African Zambezi, Rio Reventazon in Costa Rica, Futaleufu in Chile. This last one, commonly nicknamed Fu is the most beautiful location - for rafters this river is one the most dangerous in the world.

The Camel Challenge has attracted many rafters from all over the world for years. They gather not only for the adrenalin rush, but also for the crazy parties before and after the races. Therefore, in Africa they dance along to the national tam-tam dances, they salsa in Costa Rica and also enjoy participating in a real carnival in Chile. At the climax of these parties, all rafters, waiters, DJs and VIPs jump into swimming pools with all there clothes on. But it doesn't mean the end of the party, it's only the wettest part. Rafters are only wet hooligans and most of the competitors who come to Camel Challenge are professional rafting guides or skippers. The Skippers' job is to get tourists wet, provide them with an adventure and scare them just a little. While skippers need to be able to have fun with the tourists their most important job of all is to get them down the river safely.

Some skippers do their job just for the money, others do it as a hobby, and the third group of skippers seem to have wild water instead of blood in their veins - rafting is their way of life. Such freaks, who live by the principle "the more dangerous - the better", can be seen hanging around rivers with “adrenaline fever” on every continent: in Colorado, Alaska, Ecuador, Nepal, New Zealand or Siberia. They travel around the world following the summer weather. When such a person becomes a professional skipper to satisfy his own addiction, you can be sure that you'll get maximum adventure for your money. And if that includes a good-looking guide: who is tall, strong and tanned then you already feel safer, don't you? Even if you have that strange feeling in your knees when you look down the river. Let alone mentioning the clothes! He's wearing short pants, sandals and a hat on his head. This all means that under the professionalism hides a cute funny guy who's job is to make you have fun and laugh till you cry when the situation allows it, actually whenever your life is not in danger. This is all about the beginners expression, and when it comes to the equipment, he carries a rescue rope, helmet and life jacket, a sharp knife and a flip line (in case the raft flips over) in his bag. When the boat is on the river, he is a captain, governing the situation and the only authority. Finally, you'll finish soaked to the bone and exhausted but satisfied. You’ll feel like your recovering from a great night out. A good rafting trip will always end with a party on land, and veteran skippers can tell you stories at the bar. In Victoria Waterfalls in Africa you can have great local beers, Hunter's and Sambuca Black while listening to the hard-rock music from the juke-box.

When the beer starts to work you start dancing in every corner of the bar, on the table... and it's almost a common thing for some of the female members of the crew to strip. Managers, secretaries, yuppies, models, rich men, students and others who come to Victoria Waterfalls to experience the "adventure of a life time", will after experiencing the craziest rafting in the world, then enjoy the craziest rafting parties. What do you think are the best attraction of the night in the eyes of the female tourists? Skippers, who else could it be! So, why would it be strange to hear that skippers find it very hard to give up their job and style of life?

What do ladies say about this? "They're like children" says Lisa Valdemarca, "and their life is full of fun. But eventually they grow up and they leave, and when they leave, they never come back". Lisa used to be a manager in Nouvelles Frontieres, one of the numerous agencies that organize rafting in Zambezi. After successfully completing a course to become a rafting guide, she quit her computer job at the agency so she could spent her days on the river. Last summer she worked in Croatia and shared her experiences with the skippers on the river of Dobri. "It's not easy to have a serious relationship on Vic Falls" says Lisa, "skippers are wonderful guys and the female tourists are always throwing themselves at them. The temptation for the skippers is too great to resist. Therefore I stay friends with them. Very good friends."

You can't say that rafting isn’t a tradition in Croatia. Coal used to be transported from Slovenia down the river Sava and then sold in Zagreb. There used to be a trade market on the river, it is now a picnic area called "Suhina" in Podsused, and on its walls you can see black and white photos of skippers, floods and the Sava covered in ice during the winter time. During the development of commercial rafting, a rafting club was formed in Zagreb. The clubs boats were used as training boats for the army during the most recent war in Croatia in the actions "Blijesak" and "Oluja".

Rafting can be very dangerous sometimes. Proving just how dangerous rafting can be is the tragedy that occured in April 2001 on the river Cetina. A young man who was training to be a rafting skipper drowned. To try and prevent these accidents, it is necessary that a law and guidelines be established to regulate the conditions and supervision required to become a rafting skipper.

Taken from Playboy, (croatian edition) - may, 2001.

RAFTING AROUND A WORLD - By Željko Kelemen

NORTH AMERICA is considered as a haven for modern rafting. Each year there are more and more thrilled tourists. To go rafting on the legendary Grand Canyon (on the river Colorado) tours must be booked two years in advance. And if you try to go rafting in Colorado on your own then you'll have to wait for ten years! Rogue,Tuolomne, Kern, Stanislaus, American, Gauley, Arkansas, Snake, Green, Ottawa, Kicking Horse, Tathensini… are best rafting locations in North America because you can go rafting on them many times. The rule is: If your good enough at rafting you can choose any location.

MIDDLE AND SOUTH AMERICA are territories often explored by where people who still have a hunger for rafting in winter. Everyone who can afford it moves to the South.
Chile is the most attractive of all destinations with its rivers Bio-Bio and Futaleufu. The jungles of Costa Rica are picturesque and have wild waters. Great rafting locations in South America include: Rio Pacuare, General and Reventazon, Brazilian Parana and the waterfalls of river Iguacu, and Equador, Mexico, Argentina… Just like mountain tops above eight thousand meters are dreamt of by every serious mountain climber; The toughest and the most exciting rivers are on the wish lists of the most passionate rafters.

EUROPE is definitely "in" in regards to top rafting locations because locations that have good mountains also have good rafting. River Inn, is rich in water and is called "The Queen of Alpine Rivers", and river Soča in Slovenia, despite the fact that it is not a very deep river is like Cinderella - one of the nicest and prettiest rivers for rafting. I believe some of the Croatian rivers are surely the most beautiful rivers on the continent.

AFRICA is the best! Ever since the first rafting on the "Powerful Z" (Zambezi) from 1980 Africa has been thought of as a top rafting location. This is about the best rafting in the world, and there are even more dangerous adventures such as Garieb (Orange) or White. These rivers hide in the shadow of no others. Many Rivers on this continent still haven't been explored or they're unapproachable - who knows what adventures they hide!

ASIA - Sun Kosi, Trisuli and Duch Kosi in Nepal have achieved the status of rafting legends, as well as the Yellow River (Yangtze)- in China. India is famous for Brahma Putru and Bhagirathi and Anakanda that make world famous river Ganges..
Siberia and Sumatra hide exciting adventures and unknown rivers and in relatively small Japan you can find more that 60 rafting agencies! Koruh in the Asian part of Turkey is now a protected rafting area. During a special summit meeting called "Project Raft" the Turkish government pronounced the area surrounding Koruh as a national park and banned the proposed building of a HYDRO-electric power plant. Because of this Turkey has become a role model for many other countries.

AUSTRALIA AND OCEANIA - Rafting on the rivers in New Zealand are the craziest places to go rafting in the world, especially on Rotorua, Shotover, Kawara and Rangitati. But, rivers in the north of Australia shouldn't be ignored.
Tourists can go rafting in Bali and Malaysia, and very soon rivers of less known countries will become popular such as rivers in Papua New Guinea.

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