Monday, December 19, 2005

Loving the Southern Hemishpere

As a member of Team Swain, please allow myself to introduce myself. My name is Jason and I also call Swain Co. home. I moved to Swain Co five years ago to work as a river guide and kayak instructor. I no longer work on the the river nor do I spend as much time as I would like in Western NC. Now days I'm traveling more than being at home.

Last Winter I had the opportunity to work and play in the country of New Zealand. NZ was on the top of my, "list," due to its pristine beauty and top-notch kayaking. I spent a total of three months splitting my time between work and play. I worked on the North Island for One and one-half months, then went south for one and one-half months of holiday/kayaking. The water levels were perfect and we had a solid group of people. After NZ I came home broke and sunburned. (just a personal goal of mine)

Day after I got back I was waiting tables in a restaurant I have done time in more than once. Luckily I found river work soon after back so I only spent one week waiting tables this time. In the spring I worked as a kayak instructor and also did some raft guide training. As soon as summer rolled around I met up with a German friend of mine and the two of us rolled out to Colorodo for a month of kayaking. This was a wonderful road trip, and it was a pleasure showing my international friends my home country. Susanne, my German friend, after Co decided she like the gorge (our little paradise in Swain Co) so much she would stay a little longer. I got to show Susanne the Southeastern U.S. I also showed her lots of local rivers, including the Green, and Overflow. I always enjoy showing a friend down a new run.

After the summer I started a new job as a school teacher for a kayaking highschool. This past semester we traveled to Canada, NZ, and all over the Eastern U.S. It was great to be back in NZ. On this trip I paddled several rivers that I didn't have the chance to on my first trip. Can't say enough good things about NZ. NZ is now over and I'm back home to see the boys in Swain Co. (That's why I'm writing this blog) After my winter holiday we are heading out to Chile. Chile is a place I have wanted to visit for an extended time now. Hopefully it will offer some nice adventures and epic kayaking. I also hope to bring home a little Spanish dialect. I'll drop a line and let you know how it's going. Until Next Time, Peace.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

winter 2005

I had the opportunity to spend most of last year on the South Island of New Zealand, which was an incredible experience. I arrived in June with the intent of spending the ski season in the Southern Alps. We eventually landed in Wanaka, and immediatly decided this was the spot. Lance Parker and i rented a caravan, and set up shop in Glendhu Bay on Lake Wanaka. Glendhu Bay is located half way between Treble Cone Ski resort and the town of Wanaka, so its a pretty cruisy location. the season was great, and we enjoyed lots deep days! We spent most of our time exploring around Treble Cone, and hunting trout in the valley. But also had a chance to spend an incrediable week snowed in at two different club field's that are located within Arthurs' Pass. These clubs are incrediable, and essentially are series of small backcountry lodges that have rope tow access. 30 people snowed in and the lifts are running. what else is there to say.....

Fresh Air_Treble Cone

As the snow season came to a close, i began
a series of seasonal jobs in anticipation of the
summer on the horizon. Two friends of mine
were coming down from North Carolina, and
we were all eager to experience the wonderful
whitewater that New Zealand is infamous for.
I Picked Andrew Wilmot up after the new year,
and we began a six week creek boating odysey of the South Island of New Zealand. Two days after Andrew arrived we flew into the Taipo, with an overnight stay at the lower hut. We then traveled down to Hokotika, where we based for a week or so. the Kokopathai, and the Arahura were certainly highlights. Great water levels allowed us to fly into the Upper Perth, for an absolutely spectacular two days of whitewater. After emerging from the Perth, we traveled to the Fijordlands which is located in the southwestern corner of the island. The dramatic landscape of this region is often veiled by clouds and rain. So, when the sun comes out the scenery can be a bit overwhelming. we camped at Murry Gunn's camp for a week, which is located at the takeout of the Hollyford. After a few days of lite rain, the hollyford dropped to a managable level, and the unimaginable happended.....The sun came out. Sunshine along with the crystal blue water of the Hollyford is truely a remarkable combination. The next day, a little more rain brought the hollyford back up. And tim, rob, and myself attempted the uppper section of the hollyford, known as the monkey creek section. not as classy as the lower section. but one of the regions steepest creeks, and still a lot of fun. Leaving the Fijordlands we headed to the southland in a second attempt to paddle the Waikaia river. The river had a very alluring description: big clean drops, set in a series of pristine gorges. Though there were some great rapids. there were also a lot of large rocks that had fallen into several of the gorges, essentially blocking the exits. a good long day, and certainly not in line with the character that we were hoping for. so much for assumptions. leaving the Waikaia we headed to Queenstown to dry out...well, kind of. TO BE CONTINUED.........

Jason Aytes-Perth River

Tim Johnson_Amongt it_Hollyford River

Jesse Sears @ Dent Falls, Arahura River

Jay, somewhere in the Arahura

Setting the sling @ Perth River

Nolan's Hutt. Perth River

Jay, unknown rapid. Perth River

Ecuador 2004

Jan 2004

It will have been 2 years since I paddled the equatorial waters of Ecuador. The last stay was around 6 weeks, half the
time spent paddling, and the other drinking, exploring and getting sick. I wanted my first trip to be well balanced: kayaking, culture, exploration. The kayaking was the easiest to accomplish with an abundance of quality kayaking that seemed to always be "running". The cultural aspect was not too difficult since Equadorians love a chance to grab a few beers and unwind.

In Tena, I met a girl who worked for the
govern- ment. Tena is a great jungle town at about 1300 feet, and provides great access to the amazon. It also has some quality warm water kayaking within an hour away. The photo above is the put-in to the Upper Misualli, the mud section. The hike-in is short but very strenuous. Sinking up to your high thigh on surprise is not uncommon. The girl, she also gave sex-ed talks to small villages down the Napo River in the Amazon. She asked if I wanted to accompany her on her weekend trip...perfect! I had never been in the Amazon, and was excited to have a guide. The bus ride was long as we passed the take-out to the lower Misualli in Puerto Misualli, or monkey town. Then the road ended. It was on the to the river taxi. Long canoes with motors on the back. Miss X paid my taxi so I would not be gringasised, which is uasually a 30% add-on. The ride was a little scetchy in the rapids, as we had a few close calls with water coming over the sides, we were really loaded down. This was taken from the boat. I was near the rear with the woman and children, but close top the operator. His name was supai, which I think meant the devil. He was handing out sugar cane liquor shots, puntas, and also wheeled and dealed water bottles of the horrible stuff. I was offered a shot finally, a threw it back and everybody laughed. Get the gringo drunk. That seemed to be a reaccuring theme throughout my visit. While in the jungle I was asked to be a god-parent of a new baby and asked to help promote a new eco-lodge on the internet.
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