There is nothing better in life than messing about in boats. So when the chance came to do some whitewater rafting in Quebec Carmen and I jumped on board quick smart.
We drove our van 20 minutes from Quebec City, the French speaking capital of this vibrant Canadian province, to a recreation park called Village Vacances Valcartier.
There are two parts to the park; water slides and the rafting. We’d spent the previous day at the slides but we were heading for a more daring attraction.
Now we were keen for a bigger challenge.
We met our guide Antoine Goulet, a hulk of a man who set Carmen’s heart racing with his shirtless chest and warnings about the dangers we would face on the river. He said there was a fair chance the boat could flip of capsize while we were descending the rapids and that the key to staying safe was to ‘keep your smile, stay chill and do the lazy boy position’.
Check out our video:
The lazy boy position is floating on your back with your legs forward so you can push off the rocks and let the current take you downstream until you can be picked up. Gulp!
We pulled on tight fitting wetsuits, water boots, a helmet and a life jacket and stepped onto the bus that would take us to the river.
The beautiful rolling hills of Quebec wobbled past the windows as the driver snaked the big school yellow bus along the winding roads. Antoine chatted away to another couple on the trip and the other guides who would accompany us down the river as rafting lifeguards.
Carmen and I sat silently, sweating in our wetsuits as we imagined the dangers that could snap us in two.
We pulled into the parking area and launched our 14 foot inflatable boat onto the sunlit Jacques-Cartier River that sparkled like crushed diamonds. We each took a paddle and worked up a sweat as Antoine explained what he expected us to do.
Seeing as the vast majority of people in the boat spoke French (including Carmen), Antoine taught us the commands in his native tongue – au gauche for left, à droit for right and a few other I don’t remember!
As we approached the first rapids I was pretty nervous. I didn’t want to fall in, mostly for fear of being embarrassed rather than having my brains dashed out on a rock.
We slipped over the whitewater and bounced down a waterfall. Carmen screamed her very distinctive scream and I whooped with delight as we bashed through the surf and made it to the clear water; no trouble at all.
We paddled hard at the next set of rapids which Antoine said we even tougher than the first. We jinked left and right and worked furiously to guide our little boat through the narrow channel. Down we went, plunging fast down the churning lip of water into washing machine of spume and foam. Brilliant!
For a bit of fun Antoine parked the boat at a little harbour formed by the rocks and led us across the smooth granite until we were standing level with the waterfall we had just plunged down.
He said we could dive straight in and surf down. No need for a boat to do some rafting!
I swung my arms, leapt into the water and swam madly for the middle.
Antoine blew his whistle and swung onto my back in the lazy boy position, kept my smile and drifted down the river past the rocks and the rapids. I got back in the boat grinning.
Now for the big one. Antoine said the next set of rapids was called ‘The Meat Grinder’.
I don’t know if he made that up but as we paddled toward the drop off the sound coming from the rapids was so loud I could barely hear Carmen’s screams.
‘Go, go go!’ Antoine yelled and we paddled as hard as we could. ‘Middle!’ Antoine yelled, and all of us leapt into the centre of the boat as it plunged down the waterfall. I felt like I was in an out of control elevator until we hit the bottom and splattered the water. We made it. Phew!
At the very last set of rapids tragedy struck. I fell out.
The rapids weren’t even that steep or crazy. I just felt myself slip and then I was in the water groping for the side of the boat. I was alright though.
Nothing bruised except my pride.
Carmen was laughing her head off as I slithered back into the boat. I couldn’t help but join in. We had conquered our fear and survived our rafting trip.
That’s a good day of travelling.
All photos courtesy of Village Vacances Valcartier. We received two complimentary rafting tickets from Village Vacances Valcartier, but as always, our opinions are our own.
Transcript of video – Whitewater rafting in Quebec
Carmen VO – The Jacque Cartier River in Quebec is one of the province’s longest and most peaceful stretches of water – it’s also one of the most exciting.
Dave PTC – So here we are at Village Vacances Valcartier to do some whitewater rafting – let’s go!
Carmen VO – First thing’s first though we need to put on our safety gear – wetsuit, lifejacket and helmet, and meet the man who will be guiding us down the river’s rapids.
Antoine Goulet, Rafting Guide, interview – Everybody enjoys it, most of the time. Some people get scared and they will be scared from the beginning until the end of the trip. Some people are expecting that it’ll be a lot more than what it is, but most of the time people say they want to come back when there’s more water. But most of the time they just love it so they want it more and more each year. It’s pretty cool.
Dave VO – We hopped on this huge school bus for a quick drive through the Quebecois country side – Antoine used the time to give us a safety briefing – if you fall out, float on your back with your legs forward and stay calm.
Carmen PTC – I’m feeling pretty nervous about floating down a river with my legs out, eep!
Dave VO – We got on the River and Antoine told us the safety commands – in French of course!
Carmen VO – Then it was time for us to face the first set of rapids – wish us luck!
David VO – Well we survived. For a bit more fun Antoine docked the boat and led us across some rocks so we could surf the rapids… don’t worry I survived!
Back on the boat we paddled straight at the rapids.
Carmen VO – After all that downriver danger we weren’t afraid of anything! We ended our magic day on the river with a cliff jump. Come on Dave, get a move on!