When the River Calls –
Rafting at Vorderrhein near Flims
Sometimes, when the streets are hot, busy and crowded, and walking feels too much like plodding, the river calls. Cool and flowing, full of twists and turns and ups and downs, rafting down a river can be a quasi-spiritual experience that lingers for days afterwards. Or, sometimes, it’s just time to pull the kids off WiFi and find something to do. Whatever prompting is needed to get to a river, be it for rafting, canyoning, kayaking, canoeing, geocaching, etc., Switzerland offers many possibilities.
Swiss River Adventures Vorderrhein Rafting
After a week of hot, sultry weather in the city we decided to call Swiss River Adventures, one of the largest and closest-to-Zurich outfits that runs trips on the Vorderrhein near Flims. Founders Katrin Blumberg from Germany and Neil Knight from New Zealand met as river raft guides in Switzerland and went on to get married and start their own company in 2004. In the Summer season, which runs from May 1 to mid October, they run three trips a day, including Saturday and Sunday, through the stunning Ruinaulta or “Rhine gorge” in Romansch.
A full day trip includes lunch, and the others are morning and afternoon half-day excursions that each last about three hours. They provide the kit (rafting wetsuit, helmet, booties and life jacket), and, at no extra charge, the whole-hearted river-crazed enthusiasm of their multi-culti team.
To get to the starting point for the afternoon trip, we drove to the Reichenbau train station, (about 80 minutes from Zurich) parked in the Swiss River Adventures lot and caught the 2:05 to Ilanz. Greeted heartily by the staff, all of whom speak English, German and Swiss-German, we were quickly suited and booted and placed with Simon, who would be our guide.
At the riverbank, Simon showed us basic strokes (“forward paddle” and “backward paddle”) and safety measures should we find ourselves outside the friendly confines of the raft. (“Face downriver,” “keep legs up,” “grab the rescue cord not the bag”).
Within a few minutes, plastic paddles in hand and water already sloshing through our booties, nine of us were neatly braced on the inside edge of our raft (butts would cramp later) and heading down the Vorderrhein. One of two tributaries that source the Rhine, the Vorderrhein is a milky-green class II-III river that has several sets of fun rapids.
“We call it scenic rafting because it’s the kind of rafting that is easy and fun and you could do with a group or your family,” says Blumberg.
Although heavy rains earlier in the season had the Vorderrhein outputting at a rate of 200,000 cubic feet per second, the day we went it had resumed its normal pace of 77,000 cubic feet per second, Simon told us.
Tackling The Rapids
Nonetheless, the rapids could still throw us out of the boat if we were not careful, so Simon taught us a few interesting ways to prepare for them. He came to Switzerland from the Himalayas three years previously and taught us what the Himalayans do. Their ritual, which involves slapping paddles against helmets and chanting who-ha who-ha in unison, focused us, got us ready for each rapid, and frightened away any Himalayan enemies in the area.
After an hour of rapids, the river calmed and widened, and we took turns paddling in front of the other boats to splash them and gazing in awe at the 200-metre-high limestone walls of the gorge. Before we knew it, we were pulling the raft out in Ilanz, casting off our river-proof gear and sharing some biscuits with the other rafters in our group.
All photos courtesy of Swiss River Adventures Ltd
For more Information:
Tel: +41 81 936 0104
The outfit has three main focus areas: Scenic rafting on the Vorderrhein, canyoning in Boggera (Ticino) and flat water trips (which can include rafting, kayaking and canoeing) on the Reuss river. Individuals, families and large groups up to 150 people can be accommodated. For canyoning, they can handle groups of up to 30 people.
For those seeking more intense technical rapids, trips can be booked on the Inn river in Scuol, Switzerland near Austria.
Article written by Jennifer Lisle. Jennifer is a Zurich-based freelance journalist who has written for The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and Elle, among many others.
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