Up To My Neck In Awe : Swimming Trinidad’s Guanapo Gorge

swimming up Guanapo Gorge Trinidad

To Trinidadian locals, Guanapo River’s clear water is cold; to our mucky hiking boots, it’s perfect.

Only two things could cancel the trek up Guanapo Gorge: afternoon storms and our own insecurities.

As soon as Courtenay Rooks warned us about the weather, both Mom and I silently hoped for rain. But we were in Trinidad on an adventure holiday, a trip won from World Nomads Insurance – and a lazy coffee in bed felt like the embarrassing opposite of our intended itinerary.

Still. “How confident do you mean when you say ‘confident swimmer?'” I challenged our guide for the second time that morning. “Confident enough to swim through something you described as a ‘mini Grand Canyon’?”

Guanapo Gorge Trinidad

Rapidly changing river levels and centuries of water pressure have sculpted Guanapo’s walls into curvy silhouettes.

In response, he passed over two life jackets. Clipping them onto her backpack, Mom resembled a butterfly – a much clumsier version of the Blue Emperors that gracefully mocked our stumbling push through the wet forest underbrush.

Downhill, on a path indiscernible, alone became the sound of soggy leaves beneath unsure feet.

“Are we there yet?” Mom teased, her chipper American accent bouncing off the river banks. Unawares, we had descended into the Guanapo River. Water started at our ankles but soon rose waist-, then neck-high.

anxious adventurers in Guanapo Gorge Trinidad

Excited yet anxious, Mom and I doubt our ability to scale and swim the river ahead of us.

On every sudden island of rocks and debris, Courtenay pointed out the next obstacles in our path. “That wasn’t there before,” he hummed at a mountain of roots and branches damning the waterway.

“And so what do we get to see when we reach the end of the gorge?” Mom wondered.

“There is no final destination. The gorge is the journey.”

That shut us both up.

adventure in Guanapo Gorge Trinidad

Though Courtenay has been bringing people up Guanapo Gorge for over twenty years, each river curve was an opportunity for discovery.

It turned out we were asking the wrong questions, the kind that neatly package and label an experience. No generic step-by-step details here; Courtenay was trying to give us something beyond description.

Something like this, a full-bodied excursion up Guanapo Gorge, that required all your senses – to absorb a silence swollen with cicada clicking, to feel for the most solid footing on shifty sand, to judge which submerged tree trunk led to safety and which led to the bottom of a deep pool.

a rope up Guanapo Gorge Trinidad

Unable to find foothold, we relied on the yellow safety rope to heave ourselves over a frustrated waterfall.

Not that I went silent altogether; gasps of awe and “oomps” of exertion slipped out often. We all got wet, and our thighs burned from wedging between gorge walls.

“Rain in a rain forest, who’d have imagined?” There was no hiding the friendly sarcasm in Courtenay’s voice. He was right.

At the point where Guanapo changed into a truly dangerous liquid beast, we stopped for the necessary victorious selfies. A moment of quiet wonder followed.

“Back down the way we came?” Courtenay nodded toward a whole new set of balance beams, bridges and mud banks to navigate.

“Ready!” was all Mom and I said.

swimming Guanapo Gorge Trinidad

Have you ever been silenced by an adventure that was bigger than you expected? Tell me about it!




2 responses to “Up To My Neck In Awe : Swimming Trinidad’s Guanapo Gorge

  1. Pingback: What Is Adventure? | Too Mutch For Words·

  2. Pingback: Thank You For Traveling With Me (A Letter to My Mother) | Too Mutch For Words·

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