Monday, February 13, 2006

Open Season.......

The only way that i like to cap off a seventeen hour drive through the desert is with a good ole fashion water fight. Upon arriving in Lima this afternoon we had no problem finding a few eager soles. GianMarco´s Son greeted us with a waterballon at the front door. And by the time we reached his brother's house the gloves were off. Mind you, this was not a battle but war. And these kids were in their element. Their Tactics were sharp and their attitude relentless.

So Where to Begin. About a week ago we arrived in Mancora, Peru. Planning to Meet GianMarco and head south to Lima. The Beach was perfect, and we were easily stalled for a week. Mancora is one of the most popular surf spots in Peru, and draws quite a crowd. One of Gian´s friends, who owns a hotel/tour company had been wanting to explore a river north of Manacora that flows out of Ecuador. We had a rough idea where the put-in was and a bad map. So by our best guess, the road was about four hours and the river about 50km. After a usual late start, we arrived at a millitary check-point at about 1a.m. in Ecuador. We let our selves in and decided to camp. the local officer later found us and explained that he would have another local officer help us find the river in the morning.
That evening, we assumed we were about a half an hour to the put in. So the next morning, after a few hours negotiating our way down the trail, we began to get suspicious. The local officer that met us was an interesting character to be mild, and by the end of the day was more of a burdern than a blessing. After picking him up, instead of taking us directly to the river, we seemed to run a series of errands for him. But not before we stopped by his house to pick up his pet monkey, which his insisted on bringing with us. After stopping at several of his relatives houses we began to get a bit frustrated and were eager to find the river. The driving the second day, was much more demanding than the previous and was certainly our Land Cruiser. GianMarco´s driving was impressive, though he almost lost his cruiser in a river crossing on the way back. He teetered on the edge of stalling for TEN MINUTES before the car bacfired and cleared the exhaust. We eventually made it to the river after spending 4.5 hours rallying through this unique arid jungle. The river that we were trying to find was supposed to be pretty mellow, but it had only been run once and that was fifteen years ago. so really, we knew very little. Looking at the map there appeared to be one major gorge and a long paddle out. Due to our late start, we planned to spend the night out and packed accordingly. Once on the river, the walls boxed in very quickly which created a very dramatic long gorge. The rapids were mellow, but walled in rapids that go around corners are always a bit intimidating. It didn't help that at the first rapid a ten foot long crocodile scurried off a small beach into the water. We had no idea that crocodiles were in the area, and after that point we became very suspicious of big eddies with nice beachs. We ate lunch on a tall rock outcropping, assuming that a defendable elevated position was much more ideal than a beach surrounded by tall grass. The river was beautiful, and one of the most unique enviroments i have ever been in. It appeared very arid but was covered with trees that looked more similar to a cactus. The river was also filled with herrons, parrots, giant iguanas, and of coarse crocodiles. It turned out that the map we had was totally off, and were able to paddle to the nearest town in just over four hours, as opposed to the marathon we were expecting. We even beat our shuttle vehicle, and after hearing there stories of getting out of the frontier. I think they might have had the bigger adventure......

PICTURES(Top-Bottom): Water War, Rob making a late advance.Desert sunrise, Peru. Rob, Scouting for Crocs. Our trusty guide, curtousy of the Ecuadorian Millitary. GianMarco, Getting into it.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Exploring in Cuenca

So, we arrived in Cuenca two days ago after completing a day long bus ride from Banos. And upon arriving, I was surprised how nice Cuenca was. Cuenca is unlike any other city i have visited in Ecuador. After spending time in Tena, i assuemd i had a farily good idea what an Ecuadorian city looks like. i was so wrong. Cuenca is surrounded by 3500 m mountains, and is filled with colional architechture, and huge churches. it is a beautiful city that has seemed to be filled with celebration since we arrived. last night i witnessed a road race through town. And today, seems to be a celebration for a patron saint. Which consisted of a series of parades that moved thorough out town, after everyone got out of church.
On a different note, Febuary is the month of carnival. And though actual ¨Carnival¨ doesn´t occur until the end of the month, the celebration started a few days ago. With the offical opening of waterballon season. You have never seen a happier group of kids. So let the mischief begin, right? I mean it is the opening of ¨Waterballon Season¨ and we only have about 28 days, were burning daylight, lets go! So yesterday, Val was walking down the street from the house we are staying at. And she got pegged with a platic bag filled with water from the back of a truck(not as good as a ballon, but still a good shot). But, the big splash occured about three days prior to the official opening day. Someone always gets a little bit excited at the end of January. So, Rob and I were walking to dinner in Tena. And i was walking just under the awnings on the sidewalk when i felt a big splash. i looked to my left and saw that rob had a sustained a direct hit with a twenty gallon bucket from the third story. I looked up to see three young kids basking in their first hit of the season. now that was a look of pride.
Prior to arriving in Cuenca, Andy, Val, Rob, Isabella, GianMarco, and myself spent two days in Banos. After leaving Tena early, we arrived to see the Topo high. Luckily there is another nice creek off the same road, falling into the parrallel drainage. The Sunyac was nice, but probley not comparable to the Topo. Deciding that the Topo would not drop for a few days, we opted to head to Cuenca and do a little exploring. Cuenca is the third largest city in Ecuador, and sits at around 2500m. So after looking at a few maps it seemed worth checking out.
So yesterday, Rob, Andy, and i put on The Alto Rio Tomibamba and paddled about 15km into downtown Cuenca. The upper half had never been run, so it was very exciting exploring the upper reaches. The Rio Tomibamba is the main drainage flowing into Cuenca. After scouting via road. We noticed a large boxed in Canyon. About 1km long, give or take. And at least 100m+ vertical rock walls. We hiked around, but couldn´t see the water. So we put in just below the canyon and were greeted with fast boogie creeking that seemed to come in long sections. Due to the pastured banks, scouting was relatively easy. But was time consuming, due to lack of eddies. There were several smaller canyons which had some very unique rapids. one of the last steep sections. Andy scouted from above and kinda misjudged the gradient. We subsuently ran a long section that ended above a dam. From river left, where Andy scouted. The eddy appeared to be connected to the river right bank. it turned out the eddy was actually an island. Rob, eddied out above and was able to get out before commiting to the dam. Damn! we can´t go around it from here. We are 20 feet from the lip on an island. Damn! Rob was able to help us scout from river left. And After further inspection it seemed that the right side went. and it was just a matter of making the 3m boof below the dam . it looked like the water really wanted to push into a rock pile on the right. So, it looked marginal. but compared to other options, it didn´t seem that bad. After a minute weighing our options. We decided that was the best line and Andy, as usual, gave the initial going over. Seeing that it went was very exciting. i followed with similar success. it was actually really smooth. After this point, the river essentially turned into a long, fast grade III rapid that led directly into the city Centre. It was surreal paddling into town. i have never seen so many curious people on the bank. If nothing changes, In a few days we are meeting Gianmarco and Isabella at the border, where we begin the Peruvian road trip.......

Photos: Urban Take-out, Cuenca(Above), First Descent: Alto Rio Tomibamba(same rapid, 1&2 below), Andy, Excercising his best dam option(3rd below), Rob. Classic Tomibamba(4th below), End of the road. Hiking into the Sunyac(5th below), GianMarco, making it look easy. Rio Sunyac(6th below)

Friday, February 03, 2006

1st Days on Chilean Whitewater

My first paddling in Chile was on the Maipo River. The Maipo is a big water class IV run with one class V canyon style rapid. I hooked up with local shredder Pangal and three of his cousins who were also good kayakers. We had a wonderful run down the river trying to catch waves when possible. Due to tremendous snow pack the river is still running at high water so most of the play is catch on the fly.

The following day we traveled four hours south to el siete tazas, aka the 7 teacups and the veintidos saltos, aka 22 waterfalls. This day was a magical experience because I was able to paddle more waterfalls at one time than ever before. Both of these runs are in the same watershed, the same character and five minutes drive from each other. We started on the vientidos saltos with a 4k hike to the get-in. The river started with a bang, a 5meter waterfall. The next drop was a 9meter waterfall, and I quickly realized how the river got its name. The drops were all similar in character, big, clean and fun. While heading down river I would run first for the opportunity to take photos of the other paddlers. Needless to say it kept me entertained. Arriving at the get-out of the 22-waterfall section we paddlers were treated like rock-n-roll stars by the locals hanging out at the local swimming hole. I’m not sure exactly what the locals were saying but they were very excited to see the kayakers in the river. After several request the kayakers showed off their flat-water skills entertaining the crowd. During our short walk to the car several more people introduced themselves. Two men, after introducing themselves, invited us to join them for a rum drink. We declined, we had more kayaking to attend to.

We quickly loaded our boats and drove to the 7 teacups. After a short ten-minute hike we were inside the beautiful gorge looking at another canyon loaded with waterfalls. This river being similar in character to river we just finished we followed each other one after the other through the seven waterfalls to the take-out. Atop this canyon is an observation deck complete with cheering spectators. At the take-out one of the Chileans needed a bit more and jumped sixty or seventy feet from the observation deck into the river.

This area is unique to anywhere I have been before. Picture a desert then imagine that there are two big cracks of granite that are filled with waterfalls and pristine water. This is what the veintidos saltos and siete tazas look like. This day was a wonderful experience and left me on a natural high for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Tommorow we are departing Tena, and heading toward Banos. In Route eventually to Peru. In Banos there are a handful of incrediable rivers, including the Topo. Which is considered to be one of the best day trips in the country. So, conditions pending, we will have the opportunity to run the Topo Tommorow.
This last week in Tena has been nice. it still seems to rain most of the day. But there has been some very nice patchs of sunny weather. Two days ago, we had a good deal of luck with the weather. The Jondachi was above four feet, so we decided to try to run an upper tributary and paddle to the traditional Jondachi take-out. Paddling the entire section would require the water levels to remain relatively stable. The Jondachi has a good reputation for the water levels rising quickly. So, as we begain hiking in the rain our hopes of stable weather began desentigrating. And hiking out early seemed inevitable.
The upper Urikisiki drainage has just recently become accessiable, due to construction of a petroleum processing station, yeah!!!!So we were able to drive up to the station and hike from there. This particular section had never been run, so finding the river was half the mission. needless to say we strayed a bit off the trail. And combined with a less than early start. We decided to put on an unknown tributary of the Urikisiki and float into the main drainage. The unknow tributary was suprisingly good. having a series of small cascades and slides before entering the Urikisiki. Once on the Urikisiki we added about two kilometers to the run. and gauging from what is uptream of the confluence, it would be worth returning. The Urikisiki eventually flows into the Jondachi, offering a very continuous run. While on the Urikisiki the rain ceased and the sun showed its face for the rest of the day. The water was high and green the whole way through the Jondachi gorge. It was rob´s first time on the Jondachi. So, Rob, Andy, Gian Marco, and i had a great time cruising down the Jondach. Andy had the high water lines wired, so the whole day was pretty smoothe. That was definatly last weeks highlight day. But we were also able to run the upper mis, and the upper Tena which were both classic. Val and Andy took a topo-duo down the upper Tena, which was impressive to witness. So off to Banos.....

Subscribe in a reader