Pedro Oliva, whitewater kayak adventurer, shares his favorite water adventures.
Throughout the years of traveling and getting to know new, vibrant cultures and environments, I have been lucky enough to have many amazing experiences.
But aquatic adventures are something special. For me, water is the element that gives me life. To take a dip in the sea, jump off the waterfalls aboard my kayak, surf with a board or just admire a kite surfer rocking in the wind – these are moments that mesmerize me and give me a feeling of absolute peace.
Transporting our equipment to these places, stopping at the water’s edge, and launching into it is a kind of therapy. It connects us with nature.
So, here are three of my favorite adventures: Papua New Guinea, Antarctica, and India!
Papua New Guinea
The most challenging adventure was on the Beriman River in Papua New Guinea. With a small group of kayakers, I explored canyons over 1000 meters deep – probably the riskiest and most dangerous experience of my life.
After arriving in Papua New Guinea, we spent several days preparing for what would become our most challenging adventure to date. Ben Stookesberry, Chris Korbulic, Ben Marr and I made the first and only descent in the history of the Beriman River, one of the most remote places on earth.
We spent 13 days stuck over 1000 meters in a canyon with no idea what lay ahead. We went down rapids and waterfalls with the constant thought in the back of our minds that we might soon be saying goodbye to life.
The enormous attention and effort needed to stay alive in such extreme conditions made us physically and mentally exhausted. We got infections on our feet caused by bacteria that consumes the skin and leaves your feet raw. We saw animals that science has yet to discover and encountered local communities that live in complete isolation. Facing death several times made us face our innermost fears – all with the backdrop of breathtaking landscape.
In Antarctica, the thrilling marine life and enormous glaciers made this trip more than memorable. Jumping with my kayak from iceberg to iceberg and gliding in the sea alongside giant and friendly whales made this expedition a dream come true.
It took me ten days to cross the ocean at Drake’s Passage, the stretch of water that separates South America from Antarctica. We stayed for 45 days and experienced diverse adventures: we jumped off waterfalls with the kayak, crossed the sea, walked on the icy continent, visited different scientific stations and slid down the enormous icebergs.
Antarctica is the most fascinating place on earth. It makes us feel small in the face of the immensity and strength of nature, but also commands respect and admiration for the phenomena of the earth.
If I was forced to choose between all my aquatic adventures – I would pick India.
Located at the heart of planet Earth, India has a wonderful energy and is one of the friendliest societies I have ever known. It is a place that I affectionately call the heart of the world.
We traveled around India over 7000 km by car, visiting the most iconic sacred points, before embarking on a grand adventure going down rivers on the border between India and China. On our travels we had a mix of adventure, culture, and spirituality. And from our arrival in the bustling, lively city of New Delhi, to our visit to the Taj Mahal and other sacred points in India, I slowly developed an intimate connection with the Ganges River.
The spirituality, the smell of incense, and my contact with this symbol of India – the giant Ganges River – filled me with faith and hope. It was the realization that from even the most polluted place with challenging conditions, smiles are still all around, purification is possible and so is the hope of a better world.
On the border between India and China, we went down clean, icy rivers surrounded by lush forests. Meeting people with Chinese characteristics mixed with Indian was fascinating, it was a great cultural fusion! We paddled past breathtaking mountains and through challenging rivers without too much risk. What a feeling, to paddle in these waters! There were days aboard the kayak with very little food but an enormous feeling of inner peace. Camping near small huts of isolated families who lived the simplest life in the mountains gave me a feeling of great fulfillment.