San Gil is Colombia’s prime destination for adventure sports, and one of its most unforgettable experiences is rappelling down Juan Curi waterfall.
You can easily arrange a trip through most of the hostels and tour providers in town, although they tend to require minimum numbers, so if you’re travelling alone it’s best to book ahead.
JUAN CURI WATERFALL
A local bus will take you to the falls and, in fact, even if you’re rappelling down Juan Curi you’ll still need to make your own way to its base.
The bus only costs $4,000 COP and you’re greeted with a fantastic view. It’s beautiful if you’re simply spectating, but a little daunting if you know you’re about to descend it on a rope.
HIKING TO THE TOP
It’s a 30-minute hard slog to reach the top of Juan Curi falls, and at times you need to use a rope to pull yourself over large rocks.
If there are other groups up there, your guide will let you catch your breath before introducing you to a 70-metre drop that will take it away again in an instant.
AN ANXIOUS WAIT
There’s a brief safety and technique briefing before you work your way down one by one.
Keep your knees straight and your feet far apart for stability, feed the rope through with your right hand, take one step with each leg – then repeat.
Also, do yourself a favour and volunteer to go first. There’s nothing worse than the built-up anticipation if you’re already scared of heights.
GOING OVER THE EDGE
Getting started is probably the hardest part. Once you’re on the rock face with the harness supporting your weight, you feel somewhat secure, but lowering yourself over the edge requires a high degree of trust in your equipment.
There’s also the small matter of stepping over the metal pipe at the top.
If you’re scared of heights, rappelling is a particularly difficult task. If you do a skydive or a bungee, you may be petrified, but all you need to do is fall. When you’re rappelling down Juan Curi, you have to watch your footing on a slippery slope, at the same time as feeding rope through your harness.
It’s also very unnerving that you slide down the rope so easily as soon as you release its tension.
Somehow my trembling legs managed to support me as I inched slowly towards my friends who were now distant specks on the ground below.
At one point I slipped and smashed against the rock face, having to find small foot holds so I could lever myself back into position.
A QUICK SHOWER
The lower you descend, the closer you get to the waterfall until it’s splashing down over your head and making every step more treacherous.
I was relieved when my feet finally touched solid ground and we all hi-fived each other. In the aftermath, we were all buzzing with adrenaline, but I couldn’t have done it again if I’d wanted to because my hand had frozen into a cramped claw.
COST OF RAPPELLING DOWN JUAN CURI
At the time of writing, rappelling down Juan Curi cost $45,000 COP, plus a local bus ride at $4,000 COP each way. For what you get, this is a steal. I booked the trip through my hostel, Sam’s VIP, which has a lot of information on local activities and can book them on your behalf.