Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cotahuasi River

Lying in the southwest corner of Peru is the deepest river in the world. The Cotahuasi river is over 10,000 feet deep in sections, and provides a dramatic contrast to the arid region that surrounds this oasis. Despite the remote nature of the Cotahuasi, This fertile region led rise to a large network of villages. Connected by an exceptional trail system that stands, even today, deep within the Cotahuasi Gorge. Passing through this gorge is a step back in time. Both in regards to the abandonded villages, and the striving regions that are still presently inhabited.....

Traveling to this phenomenal region of the world is a logistical challange to speak mildly. in order to avoid making the mistake of taking the local bus, Gian Marco´s sister was persueded to give us a ride. We traveled four hours up the road where we had arranged to meet another driver that would take us too the town of Cotahuasi. The whole drive took about twelve hours, so we arrived at the river at around two in the morning. Exhausted from the ride, we piled out of the van and made camp. Our mules were not supposed to arrive until the following day. So, we spent two evenings at our camp outside Cotahuasi. The next morning, Gian Marco and i were able to catch a ride up the road and paddled an upper section of the Cothausi. It took us a few hours to get back to camp. the section was pushy and continous, which was an exciting introduction to what lie ahead of us.

The Cotahuasi Gorge, below Flatwater Canyon, is ideally a five day trip on the water. But with amount of fascinating archeological sites and side canyons; I feel as though I could spend weeks inside the canyon exploring. But the river level was high and we were the first team of the year. So, the plan was too move efficiently down stream. In order to have time to difuse any situaions that might have arisen during the extremly high water season.

The mules arrived the next morning and we were half packed. so, we finihed up and met our team of porters. We had ten mules which would carry all of our gear for 16 kilometers to the put-in. On a side note; in the past there had been a problem with mules not wanting to walk with gear into the canyon. They seemed to never want to walk away from home. Recently, it was discovered that the township at the put-in had a satalite internet connection. So they started hiring mules from the village near the put-in. Now, as soon as the mules are loaded. They almost, without cohersion, begin making their way back toward home. We spent all day making our way toward the home of our porters, and also to our launch point.

The next morning we were fired up to get on the water. After building the oar frame, and riging the boat we talked a bit of safety. Everyone got on the same page with hand signals and we even practiced a bit of swiming for our rafters. Once on the river, the Cothausi did not hesitate to dictate her character. Almost immediatly upon launching we entered a long series of rapids. the high water combined with the incrediable countinuous nature of the Cothausi made it challanging to work with the oar rig. The Plan, was ideally to have the four kayakers spread within eyesight and communicate what the line was too the raft. Though if anyone caught an eddy it would only take a few seconds before the raft would come barreling through. If the raft got ahead, then we would be chasing a moving undercut downstream which is not a good idea, and essentially only adds to the drama. So, we would often have to just get into a rapid, that the exit was not apparant. We would boat scout as far as possiable. But if the exit appeared to be suspect, we would quickly exit the river and sling the raft into an eddy. Aiding the raft into eddies became a neccesary skill. Sergio, our oar´s man, did an excellent job of controlling his descent but it was a team effort getting the oar rig to pause. When we were not able to run the raft through a section we would place the boat on a line and control the descent from the shore. By the end of the first day, we were all excited how good the river was but were exhausted from high water challenge of navigating on the fly with four kayaks and an oar rig.

Day two maintained the integritiy of the Cotahuasi. We had camped next too a big rapid called ¨the wall.¨ So, subsequently the firt strokes of the day placed you right in the midst of it. After several hours of continous rapids, we entered a slightly steeper section that proved to evoke several problems simoutanously. We could boat scout, but the rapids were big. And the time it took to catch an eddy and figure out where too go eventually become more time than the raft had room. At the same time the raft lost a paddle and managed to disengauge one of the oars, rendering it useless. As the raft came barrelling out of one rapid into the next Rob and Gian Marco raced ahead in order to sling the raft into an eddy downstream. Keta, had gotten behind the raft so i waited in an eddy for here to gain a line of sight. She had gotten out to scout and was unale to see the entire rapid. She dropped into a large hole forcing her to swim. i couldn´t even see her enter the rapid, all i saw was multiple items floating out of the bottom. She swam hard and was able to catch the eddy i was in before floating into the next large rapid. She acknowledged that see was o.k. so i peeled out in pursuit of the gear that had already entered the next rapid. Luckily, within a few minutes we were able to recover all of her gear and fix the oars.

From that point, we loaded a kayak on the raft and created a crew of three for the oar rig. That evening we camped early. Day two had been a challenge. The Cotahuasi is amazing. The river is so continous. It feels like we are paddling for ten minutes at a time before there is an eddy big enough for everyone to congregate in. The Character of the river is excellent, providing very clean managable rapids. That due to the water level also have plenty of padding...... directly adjacent to the busseater holes. We made a nice camp. Cracked a bit of scotch, while making dinner. And were all in bed soon after the sun had set.

Day three is a big day, which involves Marpa rapid, along with Meter and Centimeter canyon. It was neccesary to get through both canyons, before there would be another appropriate camping location. The highwater in this area would prove to be challenging. Marpa is a long rapid that consisit of several sections and eventually funnels into a massive hole. Centimeter and Meter Canyons also contain simular big long entrance rapids that pinch down at the end, thus giving validation to their names. Passing through these sections was a challange and required a strong team effort. we lined two rapids, one loaded and one light. A missed sling forced Gian Marco to Row Marpa, which was performed with unrivaled grace. The canyons were phenominal! The river boxed up provoding a series of excellent rapids amongst guarded walls. Also, due to the constricted nature of the river in these particular section there were extensive archeological sites where the river did not flood and it was possiable to cross the river via bridge.

Day four was long. we started early and ran a great section of water for about four hours until we approached the confluence with the Moran. This section, above the confluence, was probley my favorite section of the Cotahuasi. At this point the river level more than doubled and entered a slightly broader valley. We had lunch at the confluence. Following lunch, we cranked into a heavy headwind for about four hours before making camp outside the first small village we had seen in alomost a week. Gian Marco and Sergio walked into the village in order to inquire about a ride. There was a bus that left at seven in the morning. We negotiated a few burros to help us get into town. Morning came early. The mules made their way into camp as the sun began to attempt to penetrate the heavy fog that had drifted up the valley. Two mules,three busses, and a landcruiser later we were back in Arequiipa.

PICTURES:(above) Sipia falls. (Below) Plenty of juice. upper Cotahuasi.Gian Marco giving it a going over. our porters heading home. Gian Marco and Sergio making a plan. (two photo sequence) day 2.sergio keeping it clean. (four photo sequence) Day 3. Another no name rapid, Cotahuasi River. Rob in meter canyon. Another archeological site, which i can´t figure out how anyone gets two. Cafe Cotahuasi. Checking for shrimp. early morning departure. the first town in six days


Val said...

You guys!!!!!!!!!
Rock on. How amazing! I am so psyched to be able to see what you are up to. Hey to the others, and let us know when you'll be back in the states (if you are ever coming home!). The DVD is on it's way!

Mom said...

What an awesome looking place....loved the pictures and the day by day update!

Subscribe in a reader