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)


Nicholas Urquhart said...

To the boys,

Well I have been reading your post on a consistent basis. I hope your fun continues and your boating is safe. I got my own name on this blog so I can stay in contact. I also told David Spotts about this so I am sure he is checking it out as well. Stay safe and keep on living it up.

Nicholas Urquhart

stacy said...

Can't wait to be in Cuenca myself..glad you got to hang out with Sarah there. Have fun in Peru!

Val said...

Nice shots Jay! It was great to travel with you and Rob to Cuenca. Can't wait to hear Peru stories! Keep in touch.

Mom said...

we're at the Roselles' home reading your's awesome. How is the beach in Peru?

WanderLuster said...

The long lost Jay Gifford, I thought I might find you one of these days! (Been meaning to at least!)

Its Lisa your layover companion at the Miami airport...I was rushing to get to my plane (funny after how many hours of waiting??) and I didn{t get a chance to say goodbye. So sorry to have missed you...def. good companionship to start off a great trip for both of us it seems.

Sounds like your having a blast...I just finished in Peru, Inca Trail etc and northern beaches and now I{m on yet another layover this time back in Santiago and then on to Buenos Aires!

If you get a chance drop an email...


WanderLuster said...

Hi Jay!
Finally found you, its Lisa from the intermible Miami Airport Layover. I never got a chance to say goodbye or find out the blog address but here I finally am after remembering your last name. Good old google. ¨Jay Gifford Kayak Ecuador¨Ding!

Just finished Peru, northern beaches, Inca Trail etc after an amazing couple weeks in Chile, hiking in Paine was amazing.

My luck has continued and now I{m headed to BUenos Aires and going to see U2 on the 2nd of march after extending my trip by a month. Also think I{ll be back again this summer!

Anyway drop a line if you get the chance, email is

Glad to have found you, keep having fun and talk to you later!!

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