Thursday, January 26, 2006

Back in Tena

So last week I headed back to baeza for the Quijos river festival, and to attempt to descend the upper-upper Oyacachi. The upper reaches of the Oyacachi flow from 10,000 feet for 2 days toward the Quijos through the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve, which is an incrediable area to say the least. The plan was that after the festival, water levels pending, the crew from Tena would gather in Baeza and prepare to get into the Oyacachi. It seemed like a great plan, we had a good group, and everyone was fired up. Also, one of Gynner´s old friends from Peru, GianMarco, was heading from Quito and was really excited to attempt the Oyacachi. So it was set....
But before i took off to Baeza i was introduced to a friend, and i turned out that we both traveled together to Baeza. It got a bit weird, but as the days passed the releationship heated up. and afer a few days it was tough to even drag me out of my bedroom. it was a crazy few days, that even now, is difficult to articulate the emotions that existed that week in Baeza. It was so bad that i didn´t kayak one day that week. It was one of those relationships that you can just feel in you´re stomach all the time. I´m still not even sure where i encountered my new friend, But when the relationship ended i have never been so happy. Intestinal parisites, are not cool! and don´t let anyone tell you different.
So my med´s has my IP under control. Which was good because i was sick of feeding that f#¡€ing monkey. but the day before our trip into the Oyacahi, the heavens opened up sending the rivers to epic levels. We debated, waiting it out but decided that would require more paitence than we had. So, we rode back to Tena and noticed that the Jondachi was at a good level. So we turned around and headed back to the put-in. After making our way in knee deep mud to the river, we discovered it had flashed and was estimated to be about 11-12 feet. As opposed to the two feet reading we had seen at the bottom. So being the mature paddlers that we decided we were, we turned our attention back to the muddy hill that we had cussed sliding DOWN. going back up was much easier.
So, we arrived to Tena that evening and the rain continued. After being shut out the past two days we were eager to make something happen. with a fresh rain, Gynner thought we should try to repeat a descent he had made several years ago. The Puysuno lies east of Puerto Misahualli and flows into the Napo. The river has a unique character, which consits of metamorphic upper gorge that winds through a series boxed in rapids, and eventually exits into the lower gorge via a 12 meter cascade. The second gorge is long steep series of boulder gardens which proved to be more demanding than the upper reaches. So, Tena´s number one cab driver, Luis, picked us up early and we began the journey to the Puysuno. As we got closer to the put-in we discovered the road was under repair. so, we piled out of the truck and began tossing some rocks to fill the area that had been washed out. After a little bit of labor, we were able to pass. And the locals were excited to have some over eager gringos help fix their road. As we continued, we discovered that a bulldozer was blocking the road. And after a short investigation we found the operator. So we were able to check the river level. And it turned out the the level was perfect. but it seemed that as we were checking the level. Luis, and the bulldozer operator had passed a few foul words. And subsequently, the operator had to decided to take his lunch early, in the dozer, in the middle of the road. he explained that he eventually would finish, but we would have to wait. He eventually moved after a series of delegations pleaded. and only, when we were back on the road did Luis disclose, ¨how that stupid motherf€~@er had been acting.¨ it all made sense in hind sight. So we had a great day on the river. easily my best day in Ecuador.
As the sun began setting we hit the flooded cofluence of the Napo and headed to the next jungle town down stream. We had already missed the last bus by several hours, but it had been a great day. so, what are you going to do? We paddled up to the beach, and before we could even get out a friend of Gynner´s walks up and they began laughing. and speaking spanish so quickly that it was tough to pull a word out. And as life often goes, Gynner´s friend was a cab driver who happend to be heading back to Tena. He told us to keep our mouths shut, so as not to let on to how deperate we really were. So the saga continues......

Monday, January 23, 2006

Cabin Fever

Jay, Ryan, Jason, Laura and many others have left the sanctuary of the Southeast for warmer climates and warmer water. I'm currently in the Southeast relaxing before I leave for my next trip. The southern US has been in a drought this past fall and winter. Due to low water I started to develop a case of cabin fever. Thanks to 4+ inches of rain this past week my cabin fever was cured.

Last weekend parts of the southeast were blessed with 4+ inches of rain. Last Monday I met good friend Jeremy, a.k.a Herm, at the West Prong for some Great Smoky National Park kayaking. Upon arriving we found the gauge above 2ft and rising. This is a high level and with rain still falling from the sky we decided to head upstream to the Alum Cave stretch of the West Prong. This is a busy class IV stretch with 1/2 mile of non-stop class V/V+ whitewater. We paddled down to the last rapid and decided to call it a day. After taking off the river and changing into dry clothes we realized the water had rising another two feet on the gauge. Tuesday I met up with Swain local Little Joe for some boating. The two of us decided to make the long drive to the Elk River to meet up with some buddies. The Elk was at a primo level and delivered some of the best whitewater I have seen ever. The run starts off with a 50+ foot waterfall that we decided against running. The waterfall has a reputation for causing more trips to the hospital than not, No Thanks! After about 1/2 mile of warm up the fun started. The first rapid was a double drop that was kicking ass and taking names. I passed through without mishap however the double drop was beating people like a drum. For the next stretch of river there was eight of us lined up like baby ducks following Adam and Caleb down the river at a fast pace. Before we knew it we were through the first stretch of river and found Twisting Falls. Twisting Falls is a gigantic rapid with an impressive Waterfall, canyon rapid in the crux. As of now Twisting Falls is considered a mandatory portage. This portage got my heart going just as much if I were to be in my boat paddling through the rapid. We hiked our boats high along the cliff walls then lowered them back down into the river below. Just downstream was a series of three more drops including a meaty ledge hole, a 15 foot waterfall and a 35 foot waterfall. We made our way downstream to the "big one." I was the last one in the eddy above the waterfall and hopped out of my boat for a quick look. As I "peaked" over the edge it felt like somebody just poured a 50 gallon drum of excitement over my head. My scout was greeted by seven loud ass boys cheering for my to fire it up. I got in my boat and told myself one last time to turn my face and don't land flat. In the eddy I visualized my line one last time and then I was past the point of no return. For those who can relate to running big rapids I say, "the point of no return is my favorite part of kayaking." What a feeling! Slowly drifting over the edge I spotted the landing zone and pulled the slightest stroke and tucked for impact. Before I knew it I was at the bottom upright and on top of the world. This waterfall was not a hard move but it was big compared to what I have run before. From here to the takeout is a mile of class III boogy water, a wonderful way to cool down from the day.

The next day I hooked up with some other friends Chris, a.k.a Sawed-off, and Zuzana for a trip to the Horsepasture. Sawed-off gets his name because he prefers to kayak with only 1/2 of a paddle. Weird! ;-) At the river we met another friend of ours and C1 kayaker, Scott. This was every ones first time down except Chris'. Chris explained the lines and would start off his explanation with, "do ya wanna trust me?" Well I can't say this for everyone but I do trust Chris and his rapid explanations. For those of you who know him, you know he reads water on a different level than most of us. We made our way down the river and everyone was having the time of their life. This was the most fun I have had in.... since yesterday. My favorite rapid was called stairway or stairstep. This was a serious of five consecutive slide/waterfalls. This day was just pure fun. The horsepasture is a beautiful river with some really big rapids. When we finished the river we had lunch at the best lunch spot in the world, Windy Falls. Check out the photo. After lunch we started the wonderful four-mile uphill hike back to the car.

The next day feeling a little tired and not real motivated due to the hike with a boat the day before I decided to travel with Zuzana from the gorge to the Tellico River. The Tellico isn't super hard whitewater however it is a classic. Zuzana is training slalom and she did her workout while going down the river. The two of us decided to get our money's worth so we ran the river three times. Baby falls is a great rapid to work on waterfall technique and big boof technique. After three runs we were both exhausted and made the drive back to Swain.

This week of kayaking was awesome. I had the chance to paddle four classics and got on three new rivers. This area of the world has unbelievable amounts of quality whitewater. This is why I call Swain County home. I always enjoy traveling to other parts of the world but it is always good to come home. Tomorrow I leave for Chile, look for updates at Ciao!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Jungle update

So we have been in Tena for a week or so, and have been having a blast. There are so many rivers in this region that it is a bit overwhelming. One of the first nights we arrived, a local friend named Tobias, arranged a full moon rafting trip on the Jatunyacu. The trip started with a bit of skepticism, due to the fact that the moon was completely veilded by heavy storm clouds. We went anyway, and as we arrived at the river the clouds burned off creating a white canvas for the moon. The reflection was very bright, as we cruised through the jungle. The Jatunyacu river sits athe the base of the Llanganatis, which provided an incredable backdrop. and for history buffs, one might recall that this is the region that the Incan Empire is belived to have built a city of gold to honor el sol. As we sat in the moon Tobias´s wife, Lindsey, translated a series of mythological stories along with personal encounters he had in the region.

It had been raining almost everyday, which helped maintain most of the river levels giving us a wide variety of creeks to explore. We paddled the upper Misahualli several times, traveling to the Jondachi between. My first trip to the Jondachi almost crossed the threshold into misadventure. We put on with great water levels, after spending a few days waiting for the water to drop to a managable level. After putting on, we were greeted with torrential rains that subsequently caused the river to flash. upon entering the main upper gorge the rain came creating waterfalls of mud that seem to come from everwhere. plummeting from two hundred feet. it was very dramatic and caused the river double in just a few minutes. not sure when surge would stop, we excercised our only option. And began bombing down stream in tight formation. Eventually the rain stopped and the river leveled out. and we were going so fast that by the time we reached the take-out the water was clear again. We paddled the Jondachi again yesterday and had a much more mellow trip. Jason, Ryan, Gynner, Matt, and myself took our time and enjoyed the incrediable beauty that exists inside the gorge.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

2006 Ecuador update

So it seems that all good stories contain the element of adversity, and this story is no exception. Though it all arrived in a burst and then vanished. Arriving at the airport i discovered that my luggage was incompatable with all the airplanes departing. so after a few hours of negotiating my options i choose the logical solution. take the six a.m flight out of Nashville to Miami and wait for my flight the following day to Quito. So after 21 hours in the Miami airport i boarded a plane for Nicaraugua at four-thirty in the morning. At that point my patience had reached guru status, and i felt levitation was not unobtainable. so a few hours in Nicaraugua, along with another couple of hours in Costa Rica didn´t seem that long. Flying into San Jose we encountered heavy crosswinds that tossed the small plane as we made our approach. the sound of seatbelts tightening was accompanied by deep breaths that seemed to be held until we hit the ground. Upon landing, the entire plane erupted into applause for the pilots valient effort. Which at the time i wasn´t sure how to feel about. But once we landed in Quito, the pilots also recieved a loud applause. So i took it as a cultural gesture, and happily exited the plane.
As i came through customs, i heard someone yell ¨hey, Jay¨ from within a crowd of cab drivers. And my friend Rob emerged from the crowd. I was excited to say the least to see a familiar face. Especially due to the fact that all i had was a name of a hotel and my spanish was very minimal. We stayed in Quito for the night, and the next morning caught a bus for Baeza which is a beautiful mountain town about three hours east of Quito.
We spent several days in Baeza exploring some of the wonderful rivers in the area including: the Quijos and the Oyachachi. Baeza is a very small town nesteled in the Quijos drainage, and is ussually very quiet. But it turned out that the Miss Quijos was due to be crowned, so we went to witness the festival. It was classic to say the least, and it seemed that everyone from the six surrounding townships had shown up to support their canidates. Ryan and Jason showed up a few days later and we had a great time paddling together on the Oyachachi and the casa de queso section of the Quijos.
So yesterday we traveled away from the mountains into the township of Tena, which sits at the edge of the Amazon. One of the best rivers in the area is flooded and everthing else is low, which is a bit weird. So hopefully tommorow the Jondachi will come down and we will be able to access the upper reached of the drainage. So until then.....

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