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!
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.
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.
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.
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