Going to China, for most of us, is an achievement in itself. To go and race rafts there is just a dream and we never expected it would happen to us! The teams that had this privilege came from Serbia, Canada, Hungary, New Zealand and USA
Over the past few years I have heard stories about this competition, all of which were full of praise. And to suddenly find myself participating in it was so good (read heavenly), better than I could even imagine! In order for all this to work so well and be so organized there is behind it a small army of people and a bunch of sponsors plus support from the state through its various organizations – all who deserve a great thank you (see further below).
The first day of training and the first downriver left us speechless. The little river was a reconstructed dam which controls the flow of the water on the track. Trails, rapids, bends and falls are artificially made, but it’s an excellent technical job. The water is shallow, safe, the rafts are unusually small, something we are not used to. They sit facing each other in the raft, not on the raft, so that was the first ride for the inexperienced and the five teams had four swimmers. We must have looked funny to the tourists. While on the track it is not really possible to continuously control the boat because the track is designed for people to just sit in the raft and the water to carry you along so opposing it is real problem. That is why this river was even more beautiful and more interesting for us.
The next day was the race and the best team was New Zealand with the USA in second and Canada with a third due to one member falling out, which cost them precious seconds. The Hungarians took fifth place while a broken paddle during the race cost the Serbian team a lot and left them without a chance to fight for a good position. The overall impression is that this is a beautiful track and a special challenge for competitive rafting.
So if they call you next year for this contest – here are some tips. Bring something (your belt, rope, straps) to install hooks for feet in order to have stability in the boat (but be sure it will be safe so that your foot or leg cannot get caught in it if you flip). Take a short paddle because the boat is small and not much above the water, and paddling with a standard paddle is harder. You will end up scratching the carbon paddles, maybe even break a paddle, so bring a spare. I recommend ordinary plastic paddles. Bring normal safety equipment. And adapt to the difference in time as much as possible before you go. The food is spicy and if you cannot get used to it you will have a big problem.
Tourist rafting is growing rapidly in China. They have many of these small tracks in this region and throughout China. This scenic spot is an important point of the “one river and two mountain” golden tourism route in Hubei province. It is 60km from Yichang. Chaotianhou rafting is a total of six kilometres, having a fall of more than 120 meters. It flows through Sleeping Buddha Mountain, General Pilla, Chaotiangou and other landscapes. Surrounded by beautiful green mountains it was declared the “most popular rafting area in Hubei Province in 2008.”
About the hospitality and kindness – everything was at the highest level. I would like to thank Na Na Liu – Vice Secretary General of the Chinese Extreme Sports Association; our guide, Ge Xiaochuan, who we pestered endlessly with all sorts of questions and who so kindly put up with us. Thanks also go to the girls who were translators during this competition, and without whose help we would certainly have had a lot more difficulty.
And of course the biggest thank you for making this whole, awesome event happen must got to: “Rafting scenery spot in Xingshan county” and hosts “Water Sports Administration Center of State General Administration of Sport”; Hubei Provincial Sports Bureau, Chinese Extreme Sports Association. Sponsors: Yichang Municipal Sport and Tourism Bureau, Yichang Xingfa Group Co.Ltd, Yichang Sports Center, Literary Style Bureau of Xingshan County Tourism Bureau of Xingshan County, Hubei Zhaojun Tourism Development Co.Ltd, Yichang Gaolan Chaotianhou Rafting Co.Ltd. Title Sponsor: Hubei Yususi Fods Co.Ltd.