China, lol, I got a call from Ron Burke a couple months ago asking me if I wanted to go to China for a raft race. "sure.... what's the details" well the details were very slim. With a week and a half before the competition I bought two tickets to Chengdu, China. We filled our visa papers last minute, and the day of before our departure I received a phone call saying that the visas will not go threw in time. So we decide to do what any good raft guide would and wing it. We headed to denver and got to the ticket desk and the ticketing agent wants to see our visas, we don't have. She books us just to L.A. and tells us it will be up to the next ticketing agent if we can continue, so we wing it. When we arrive in L.A. we get the official shut down, "they will send you straight back to the states if you don't have a visa". So we spend the night in L.A. go to the Chinese consulate early in the morning expedite the process and have our visas in hand by 2 p.m.. We head back to the air port catch the flight, and 12 hours latter land in beijing.
Ron finding the Chinese equivalent of red bull
Immediately hop on another flight and get to Chengdu.
Ron getting off the plane in Chengdu
Ron and I had almost no expectations of the event and staff, and were given an amazingly warm welcome. They picked us up at the air port took us out to an extravagant lunch, drop us off at our plush hotel, (located just into the hills surrounding Dujiangyan).
Our palace of a hotel
We were really hoping to be able to practice on the course, but practice was concluded that morning and we were to hop on a bus for some sight seeing. We were taken to the birth place of religion or at least that is what the sign said, all in all it was a beautiful area tucked right in the side of the mountains.
That night we had dinner, and I passed out after 3-days of traveling. The next morning we ate breakfast hoped on the bus and headed to the race venue. When we arrived we started to get the feeling this was going to be a big thing. A huge stage tons of people milling around and 5 star treatment. We went down got a quick glimpse of the river and got dressed.
The opening ceremony, wow, we had a few thousand pictures taken of us, there was cute girls with signs depicting each country the racers where from, there was a speech by the mayer, fireworks, canons, more photos, a gymnast act, a dance act, and all this was to start our little raft race.
We jumped back in the bus, 5 teams from other countries the Netherlands, Australia, Check Republic, Great Britain, and Ron and I representing the USA. There was also 6 teams representing different club groups in China. When we got to the put all the silly stories the other teams were saying came true. The rafts themselves were 8 foot long with tiny diameter tubes, no thwarts, tiny bailing holes, and no way to stay in the boat for that matter. The boats where designed to sit in the middle, on the pads that where attached to the floor and holding onto the handles on the top of the out side tube. It looked as if we where going to race in Wal Mart boats. The river itself was very odd it had been seriously altered. A damn above and below where we were to raft and the hole river basin looked like it had been dredged again and again. The rapids where simply really step gravel bars, that where definitely changing as we spoke. There were signs along the way that read (sit down and hold the handles) super funny. Ron and I jammed ourselves nearly shoulder to shoulder in the boat instantly took on two inches of water and started the race never seeing the course before. We where doing well for a while but managed to slide into a rocky shelf and Ron flopped out of the boat into three inches of water. Ron pushed himself off the bottom and back in the raft, and we took back off down threw some fun little rapids that actually felt rather large do to the fact we where in such a tiny goofy boat. The boat was easy to turn and even easier to fill to the brim with water that took minutes to slowly drain out threw the tinny drain holes. We paddled hard, and when we got to the finnish line there was a 1000 people cheering for us. We had a proper huge awards ceremony.
The international table
Then back on the bus into town for some sight seeing and to get some very traditional food.
When we arrived at dinner we were told there was going to be a beer contest, being a bunch of rafters there was little hesitation on agreeing. The part we didn't see coming is that the Chinese don't really drink beer they take shots of it. Big bottles were dolled out along with 3-oz glasses, fill the glass cheers the people around you and shoot the beer, then do it again and again and again. After the first 20 minutes most of the international teams were all starting to get drunk and then came the food, Our interpreter told us it was all the best parts. Pig tail, duck neck, intestine, liver, frog, Eal, and that was the stuff we could figure out. Sure am glad we had an endless supply of beer shots to get my inhibitions calmed.
Chengdu, After the post race activities and a nasty hangover we headed to Chengdu a city of 13-million, (that is bigger then new york) and we stayed right down town. We had two days to travel, see the Pandas, drink beer, flirt with Chinese girls, get lost, and most importantly try not to eat any more pig tail.
Shopping in Chengdu
The Panda exhibit
Down town Chengdu
We took a peek in the paper the day after the race and found some articles, we weren't able to translate
24 hours latter back in Granite CO getting ready for another commercial trip.