Wednesday, April 26, 2006

U. Upper Colca

Upon returning from Bolivia we were eager to get back on the river. After hearing several different reports on the river levels, we finally got a sound confirmation that the Colca River was low enough. So, we packed and were ready to catch a bus too Chivay. Where we would attempt to persuade a cab driver to give us a ride over the pass to the the dam. Luckily, we were saved from having to attmept that logistical fiasco by two friendly Canadians. The day before we were planning to begin traveling toward the Colca, two friends of a friend showed up in Arequipa. they were driving a friend of Gian´s Jeep from Chile to Mexico and offered to give us a lift to the dam. The next morning we began making our way toward the Colca. Though, we left with the best exptations of putting on the water that afternoon. We pushed the trip back a day in order to get two full days on the water. so, that evening we stayed in Chivay where we took the opportunity to wash the layer of dust off that had accumulated over the days drive. the Jeep we rode in did not have windowns, so the interior was constantly churning with dust.

The next morning we left Chivay around seven and began the two and half hour drive over the pass. When we arrived at the launch point we were all surprised to see a massive series of slides pouring into the Upper Colca. From a distance they looked big, which is always a good indicator that what you have is one large rapid. the series of slides was close to three hundred yards long, and after further inspection they all seemed to be managable. the entrance had a few massive rocks, but it appeared that they could be avoided. In the middle of the first slide everything pinched down, creating an elevated flume on river left, and a hole on river right. After, the pinch everything opened back up. and the crux was being sure you got left after the pinch. Going right on the bottom section of the first slide was not an option. It appeared that the amount of speed you would carry would allow you get left, but there was really only one way to find out.....

So, my first strokes of the day were peeling out into the headwaters of the Colca. everything was calm, and i could visualize myself being left. Once, i was in everthing went smooth. I cleared the entrance, and was able to skirt the hole and make it too the left side of the slide. Robbin and Rob followed with equal success, and our day was subsequently off to a great start. so we loaded our boats and set out to log some miles on the upper upper colca.

It was almost lunch when we finnally launched, but we were so excited about the slides that we weren´t really concerned about our late start. The upper upper Colca is mostly a mellow section of river that meanders through a spectacular series of canyons on its way back to Chivay. We paddled hard for about four hours and found a nice beach to make camp. Based on the information we had, we assumed that we were only a few hours from the first village we saw before we seperated from the river and began moving over the pass. So, we made camp and enjoyed a very tranquil evening in the upper colca region. Our launch point sat at over 4,100 meters, and we hadn´t dropped that much gradient. So, when the sun departed for the day it got cold. And subsequently, we didn´t sleep that well. When the sun finnally reemerged in the morning,it was a welcomed sign of the new day.

After warming back up and preparing breakfast, we slid into the river expecting another mellow day. The boat i was paddling had been broken and welded....twice. So, by the second day the few rocks that i had managed not to miss had opened my weld back up. So, by mid day i was sinking every ten minutes. so the process was: go hard for eight minutes. try to push a sinking boat through the water for two minutes. and, right before i am about to sink, get out and drain out the water. My method seemed to be working pretty well, but as the day drew on and the sun departed again sitting in cold water became less appealing. After paddling hard for about 7 hours we finnally exited the canyon and arrived at a small village that we were initially planning to bypass and takeout at the next town, which was quite a bit larger. excited to have made it before having to spend another night in the high dessert. As the siutation presented it´s self we took off the river. Luckily, we were able to convice a local man to drive us the hour and a half back to Chivay. And once all works out.

Pictures: (Above) First strokes of the day, entrance to the Colca Super Slides. (Below) Sequence shot. Colca Super Slides. you know when you have found a hot springs. just look for the colorful rocks. Stuck in traffic. making camp. Rob, taking a peek. local color.

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