Ecuador- Dec 25- Jan 2 Friend’s Classic

Two trips, two skill levels, two different years…and at first, too much water! These were characteristics of our concurrent trips that ran through the New Year.

Locals here believe that the phase of the moon strongly influences the amount of rain. And why not, since it affects the tides of the oceans? The belief is that a full moon will bring dryer weather. That theory was literally and figuratively blown out of the water with the full moon that occurred just before Christmas day. As our Class III and Class IV trips searched for appropriate put-ins, the rivers of the Quijos Valley raged. Fortunately, the Tena area was not affected, so we juggled our schedule (so as not to miss out on any paddling) and left the near-flooding rivers behind. We headed over the Guacamayo range for some good fun on the Upper Misahualli. The Class IV group put in at Cotundo, while the Class III group put in lower down. After just 1 km. of paddling we felt the volume grow due to rains somewhere up in the headwaters. Fortunately, the rate of increase was reasonable enough to allow us to continue. We finished the day on a high note rather than on high water!

Dec 25- Jan 2 group shot.

24 rainless hours later, we jumped on the Lower Jondachi/Hollin. Flows were about perfect- but the mud on the hike down was the worst we had ever seen! One of the truly great things about this run is that the spectacular scenery and outstanding whitewater quickly makes one forget any suffering that might have been endured during the grueling hike.

Muddy feet.
Some of the spa-like foot treatment found on the hike in to the Lower Jondachi.

View at Rio Jondachi put in.
These two photos courtesy ©Eric Arons.
Dan Dixon.

Matt Terry.

Guiding with us on these trips were Dan Dixon and Matt Terry. Both make their homes in Tena and have done more first descents and exploration of Ecuador’s rivers than just about anyone. Matt heads up the Ecuadorian Rivers Institute (ERI), an Ecuadorian version of American Whitewater. These two also work side by side to bring about the Napo River Festival, which is intended to raise awareness of the Napo watershed and it’s importance to locals and tourists alike. This year’s event is January 11-13th. Make sure to check it out if you are in the area.

It is through Matt’s efforts that the Class V Upper Jondachi and Rio Topo have not been de-watered. He got the word out on how to access the Lower Jondachi/Hollin. Matt and Dan let the rest of the paddling world know about amazing Class IV/V Rio Piatua after their first descent in 2007. These two shared with our trips their wealth of knowledge about the area and the local Ecuadorians and their customs. Their excellent guiding and teaching skills really made these trips exceptional.
The following day we rinsed off whatever residual mud that tenaciously remained on our gear in the Grand Canyon style rapids of the Jatunyacu (Upper Napo). Our fifth day a few folks opted not to paddle. These adventurers headed downstream on the Rio Napo in a motorized, 40 ft. dugout canoe, along with a bilingual naturalist guide.
The die-hard kayakers again headed to the Upper Misahualli, adding new stretches to segments we had already run. Because the water was lower than before, it felt like a different river altogether. Our last night on the Tena side of the mountains was spent at our jungle lodge along the banks of the Lower Mis.
Returning to the Quijos Valley we found the flows back to normal! Our final days were spent running the Chaco Canyon section at some very exciting, yet fun levels.

Scouting El Toro.
Our last night in Borja we experienced New Year’s Eve “Ecuadorian style”. The tradition is to create an effigy and burn it at midnight. The figure can represent any number of things; a politician, a friend you want to tease, or yourself with an ailment, addiction or just plain old, bad luck. The idea is that you leave behind with the old year, all those things you burn. We burned our “muñeco” before midnight, but I am sure it was midnight somewhere in the world! An additional custom involves jumping over the burning figure three times for luck. I think the jumping might also serve as a sort of sobriety test for some!

MunecaEffigy on New Years.

January 1st, 2008, was rung in with one last kayak run. This was followed by a luxurious soak in the Papallacta hotsprings en route to Quito. Before parting company, our last group activity was a festive farewell dinner.

At either the beginning or the end of our kayaking trip, almost everyone scheduled time to explore more of Ecuador. Birding, market towns, Galapagos, and the jungle were all destinations visited by group members.

Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking, all rights reserved.