Travel: White knuckles, red river

The adrenaline rush is what rafters are after. And on Canada's Riviere Rouge they certainly find it. Cleo Paskal climbed into a kayak for a terrifying ride over the rapids

LET'S CLEAR two things up right away. First, the Riviere Rouge is not, I repeat not, named for the colour it becomes after an unsuccessful white-water rafting trip. And second, for some reason, river guides don't think that is a funny joke. Sadly it was the best I could come up with as my eight-person rubber raft plunged into the churning vortex of a rapid charmingly dubbed "Steep Throat".

Had I spent more time paddling and less time bantering, we might not have lost one of our crew members (Emma, an enthusiastic but unlucky 15- year-old on a school trip) on the very first stretch of white water. Live and learn. Hopefully.

Oh it's really all quite safe, of course. Before you are let anywhere near the water, you are equipped with a helmet and lifejacket and go through a safety drill. Guides assess the river each day to decide which rapids are safe to run and which are better left to next time.

Emma was retrieved, contentedly bobbing downstream, by one of the kayakers who follow the rafts in order to pick up "swimmers", and returned to us safe and sound (and soaked). She trilled out her story, reliving every nanosecond of her white-water baptism to the admiring gasps of her school chums. As we paddled through the post-rapid calm waters I even found myself vaguely envying Emma and her "swim".

That all changed as soon as we got to the next rapid.

Something primordial kicks in when a human being is faced with a surging, convulsive, aquatic pit. The world contracts to you and the patch of rubber that is keeping you from a certain watery grave. Time slows down. Directions are confused. You forget to paddle. You become alone with your terror.

And then it's all over and you go back to envying the swimmers who got to experience it all at even closer hand. Not that it ever occurred to you to jump out and join them.

That cycle: terror, adrenaline rush, calm, is what white-water rafting is all about. Some spots, such as the dreaded Zambezi, offer more terror. Others, such as the gurgling canyons of Oregon, give a consistent, low- level adrenaline rush.

The Rouge's speciality is that, when not plummeting to your doom, you float gently through some of the loveliest countryside Canada has to offer.

Rolling, wooded hills hug both shores. Water-worn granite boulders stand like Henry Moore sculptures at the water's edge. The underbrush rustles with wildlife.

I had a chance to appreciate the area's beauty from non-bucking ground when the raft stopped for lunch on the beach. Away from Emma and her coven, there was no sound but for the drone of the water and the piping of the birds. Around a bend in the river, I saw my first non-rafting person, a fly-fisherman casting from a low-lying boulder into the fast-moving current.

I clambered over the rocks and asked the man what he was fishing for.

"Trout," he said, not pausing to take a break from his physical mantra: cast, pause, reel; cast, pause, reel.

Between casts, the man, a grizzled river rat called Cal, told me a bit about the Rouge. He had lived beside the river for years. Cast, pause, reel. No, there was no official history of the region; all the stories were handed from the old-timers to the newcomers. Cast, pause, reel. According to what he'd heard, the Europeans first settled the area when Napoleon blockaded the Balkans, cutting off the supply of wood for ships' masts. Cast, pause, reel. That, combined with starvation in Ireland and Scotland, led to Scots and Irish being sent over to log the Rouge. Cast, pause, reel. Many of them are still here. Cal himself had heard Gaelic at a regional baseball game. Cast, pause, reel. There had been log drives down the river that were so thick, you couldn't see the water for kilometres. Cal had seen pictures. Cast, pause, reel. Logging stopped around '68 because so many men were getting killed on the river. No, that isn't why they call it the Rouge. Cast, pause, reel.

Up river, I could hear the guides calling for us to return to our boats. I asked Cal one last question. "You ever catch anything?"

"Oh yeah, of course, all the time. Why do you ask?" Cast, pause, reel.

"Er, no reason."

I returned to the beach. We got back into our rafts and paddled downstream, past Cal's graceful, fruitless casts and on towards the resumption of our own cycle.

Enough calm; we were due for some terror. I spent the rest of the day trying not to follow the perpetually disappearing Emma out of the boat.

I never did find out why the river is called the "Rouge". I bet Cal, still standing out on his rock, a monument to all the old-timers' knowledge, (except where the best trout holes are), knows.

British Airways and Air Canada fly between London Heathrow and Montreal.

The Rouge is half-way between Ottawa and Montreal, around an hour's drive from both. A variety of companies offer rafting on the Rouge. They all pretty much charge the same price, around pounds 25-pounds 35 for a full day of rafting, including a beach-side lunch and a steak dinner. They provide all the equipment. The season extends into the autumn.

Some companies offer other adrenaline-producing diversions as well, such as white-water kayaking lessons, paintball, mountain biking and rock-climbing. Most have free camping-grounds for their clients. It is a great area to unwind for a few days, if not an ideal trout-fishing river.

You need not make a reservation much in advance, so you can call and book once you arrive in Canada. I rafted with Aventures En Eau Vive, pounds 25, and camped on their grounds free. Telephone numbers: Aventures En Eau Vive freephone in Canada: 1 800 567-6881 or direct from the UK: 001 (819) 242-6084; New World 1 800 361-5033 or 001 (819) 242-2168; Propulsion 1 800 461-3300 or 001 (514) 229-6620; W3 1 888 RAFTING or 001 (819) 242- 6571.

Visit Canada Centre, 62-65 Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DY (0891 715000, a premium-rate number).

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

photography
Arts and Entertainment
Adolf Hitler's 1914 watercolour 'Altes Rathaus' and the original invoice from 1916

art
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible