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Whitewater Rafting in Iceland

In my continuing quest to fully-explore Iceland and experience all it has to offer, I decided to go whitewater rafting down the Hvítá  (pronounced Kveetau) River. Hvítá means “white” in Iceland and for obvious reason — it can churn. But this trip, which I did with the people at, was pretty accessible. The trip began at the Drumbó River basecamp, where I was given a huge BBQ lunch and then the appropriate gear for rafting. Basically, I brought thermal fleece underwear and they provided the rest — waterproof Farmer John-style overalls, booties, helmet and paddle. I then boarded a bus with a large group of fellow participants to the put-in area on the Hvítá. Once there, we went through a basic introduction to whitewater rafting and paddling technique, followed by some in-water practicals. These lessons were about the same as others I’ve gotten in Colorado or Costa Rica: quick, efficient and fairly focused on giving clients the basic moves and commands. Once my boat was under some semblance of control, we took off downriver.

The day was overcast with a slight drizzle, so not the best conditions for appreciating Iceland’s rugged beauty. But it was glorious nonetheless and we all had a fun, if not frozen, time. After 45 minutes of splashing down the rapids, everyone in my boat was pretty chilled. The water, after all, was glacial—the same 37 or so degrees that I was diving in a few days earlier, only this time, we weren’t wearing drysuits. Thankfully, the activity and adrenaline helped.

Two-thirds of the way down the route, the guides steered us through a narrow canyon with 50 foot walls on either side and then into a small eddy where we could climb onto shore. For those intrepid enough to try, we could jump off the cliff and into the water at either of two heights: the lower 25-foot jump or the higher 50-foot jump. I opted for the higher jump. I mean, I’m here, right? Might as well get the most bang for my buck.

The technique, we were told, was to jump straight out from the cliff and keep our arms down by our sides. Then, as we plunged into the water, kick and pull like mad until we broke free of the current and reached the boats on shore. Here you can see someone jumping, and in perfect form.

Unfortunately, the person taking pictures missed my jump, but you get the idea. I have to say that the water wasn’t as cold as I’d expected. By the time I hit it, I had so much adrenaline coursing through my body that I was pretty oblivious to anything else. But I swam to shore, climbed up the bank, and jumped again just to make sure I really appreciated every moment of it.

We then paddled downriver some more and returned to the buses and Drumbo Basecamp, where we could shower and put on dry clothes. Perhaps not the ideal activity for those who like to avoid getting wet or being cold, but I found it thrilling and heartily recommend it. I also recommend a nice dinner in Rekykjavik afterward.

Posted by ExplorerJosh on 06/25 at 02:51 PM






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