by JAMES MASON
One of the best parts of my job as an instructor at VGC is the opportunity to be involved in some of the amazing activities and adventures that are unique only to VGC. And so far, I have to say that our recent Thomspon River Camping (on our own private island!) and White Water Rafting adventure (on one of Canada’s most scenic rivers) has been one of the most unforgettable and wild experiences of my life!
The first part of our adventure began as we landed on the shores of a huge island in the middle of the Thompson River. Everyone helped out – unloading supplies, setting up tents, starting the campfire, and getting started with the huge feast set up for all of the staff and students. Soon we had nearly 30 tents dotted around the island, a roaring campfire, music, food, and friends! When the sun finally set, we were treated to an unimaginable number of stars and a bright full moon set against the outline of the Rocky Mountains. I’ll never forget sitting on the shores of the river, talking with amazing people, and staring up at the beautiful sky view far from the bright lights of the city. It was paradise! We stayed up late around the camp fire telling stories before retreating to our camps with the soothing sound of the Thompson lulling us to sleep.
When I awoke, it was already a beautiful sunny day and I began the day with a nice refreshing swim in the rushing water. The water was so cool and shocked all of my senses to life! I hooted “woo-hoooo” so many times I can’t remember. After my morning swim, we settled into a fantastic Canadian breakfast with waffles, bacon, fruit, and of course, maple syrup! After breakfast, we cleaned up our camp site, packed our gear into the rafts, and started out on the river run of a lifetime.
As we pushed off of the shore in the heavy duty rafts, the sun hot overhead and the river cool and fast moving beneath us, many of us got the chance to play around in smaller inflatable kayaks called “duckies.” Even though this was a safe part of the river, the force of the water flipped me out of my boat twice and I was tossed laughing with delight into the surging water. Later on, we were able to see many of Canada’s distinctive animals along the bank of the river. We saw several bald eagles, herds of bighorn sheep right at the river’s edge, and even a black bear trying to fatten up before the winter. Having travelled about 10km, we pulled up to the shore and enjoyed huge handmade sandwiches for lunch. When we had all eaten our fill, the real adventure began!
We set off with the guides getting more serious and instructing us on how to deal with the more extreme parts of the river – sections named the Devil’s Elbow, Witches Cauldron, and The Great Wall! As we approached the first real waves, I thought to myself, “Really? We’re going to go through that?”
“Hold on!!” our guide yelled and flying down the river we smashed into the biggest wave I’ve ever seen in my life. We hit the wave so hard the front of the boat actually went under the water before being shot straight into the air and smashing down into the next series of thundering waves. We were all screaming with excitement when suddenly some yelled, “man overboard!” One of our amazing Japanese students had been washed out of the boat and we sprang into action to throw a rope to her. Amazingly, and calm as can be, she casually caught the rope in the fast water and we pulled her back into the boat. Safe!
Listening to our guide’s every instruction, we crashed and bounced our way through 25km and had the time of our lives. At one point, in a narrow, fast, and deep part of the river, we were allowed to jump out of the boats. As we held fast onto the ropes, we could feel the wonderful yet terrifying power of the river and as I crashed into my co-worker, we hugged each other and screamed “I love my life!!!” For me, that moment of pure joy will stay with my forever. For all of us on the trip, we made memories that will never be forgotten, formed friendships that will endure beyond our time in Vancouver, and experienced the very best of Canada’s wild and natural landscape. Finally, I just want to thank VGC and Matt Napier, who organizes all of VGC’s trips, for an adventure I will remember for the rest of my life!
“Certainly one of the most exciting experiences of my life. The feeling that I had on the trip rafting was a mix of fear and adventure. It was very exciting! VGC is to a family to me, and sharing that moment with great friends was unforgettable. VGC, thanks for another unforgettable moment in my journey in Vancouver.”
Vivian – Brazil
“I went rafting with VGC in late August and I had the greatest time! We were in this raft on the river, inside a beautiful canyon and, of course I was expecting for this to be fun, but it exceeded my expectations! I think that this is definitely one of the activities to do in Canada, it is a wonderful way to enjoy nature while having a fantastic time with your VGC friends.”
Maria – Spain
“I found VGC activities to be the best experiences in my life. Especially the rafting trip which was just spectacular. Being on a small island surrounded by the Thompson River and the amazing landscape there was phenomenal. Setting up our tents and then hanging out everyone around the campfire with music and fun people was an unforgettable experience. But, it was just the beginning. In the morning, we started to do rafting downstream and the adrenaline I felt each time we were riding a wave was just exciting. Thank you so much VGC for this wonderful experience and I will be looking forward to joining the next adventure. The fishing trip is coming guys, let’s go to try it and enjoy a really Canadian experience. See you soon everybody.”
Julio – Ecuador
“It was an amazing experience. I shared unforgettable moments with people who now are some of my closest friends here at VGC. I will truly never forget the beautiful landscape, the Thompson River’s blue water and getting wet in the rapids. I wish to everyone to have an experience like this one.”
Alessandra – Italy
“This was my first experience on a camping and rafting trip. I had never tried it before. I really enjoyed this trip, it was an amazing activity. I would recommend it to everyone. I had a lot of fun as we sat around the campfire, roasted marshmallows, and danced. The next day, the river rafting activity was full of adrenaline.”
Itzy – Panama