I’m kicking off this entry with what I think is a really fun group shot that captures the feel of Ecuador; equatorial sunlight filtering through the trees of a lush, vegetated side-canyon.
This side-hike is accessed from the river and if you didn’t know where to look, you could float right past it. There must be many of these little canyons that snake their way into the rivers we run. You could spend a life time looking for, and exploring them. Impossible to get them all, but how fun it would be to try.
While our paddling began in the Quijos valley, the real story begins on the other side of the Guacamayo Mountains in the Tena area. Once upon our time, many years ago, the upper reaches of the Rio Misahualli experienced a slide that dammed the river, cutting off all flow downstream! When it finally gave way, the resulting wall of water damaged bridges, flooded roads, and greatly rearranged the river’s rapids. Fortunately, no people were killed and the damage to homes and property was minimal. In the river channel itself, classic boofs were robbed of their abrupt gradient, rocky labyrinths were straighten, eddies were silted in and wood was left high and dry, with the occasional piece choking off a drop. Thankfully over time, the river began returning to it’s classic character. It has been a reliable friend, providing many with their first taste of continuous, technical creekin’. The Upper Mis invariably ends up ranking quite high on everyone’s List Of Favorite Rivers.
Imagine our surprise when we arrived in the sunshine to a find the Mis raging! According to locals, the river had peaked the day before. What we were looking at was the tail end of a mini-version of that long ago event.
Our first glimpse of the Mis came from the Cotundo bridge. Our gauge rock was nowhere to be seen and a screaming wave was just downstream of where it had been! The muddy water and stripped logs, stranded 12 feet above the waterline and along all the banks and bends, indicated just how much higher the river had been.
As with many natural events in Ecuador, the effects were isolated to the headwaters where several creeks branch out in different directions. This gave us an option normally available only to local kayakers, who await such storms with the anticipation of jumping on the Rio Tena. So we did too! We had a super level and clear water to boot. This is only the second time we’ve been in the area with enough water to boat this delightful, steep creek.
We often talk about “room to grow” when deciding which run to do, especially if we think there is the chance of rain upstream. So, with the smaller rivers still full, we opted to give them a chance to settle down while we surfed up a storm on the Grand Canyon-like wave trains of the Jatunyacu. We have never seen a more playful level!
Thursday night we stayed at our jungle lodge along the banks of the Lower Misahualli, above the confluence of the Rio Napo. By the time the Misahualli gets here, it is a big river as it includes flows from the Rios Jondachi, Hollin, Upper Mis, Tena and Pano. I always walk down to the beach to check the water level. While it doesn’t necessarily tell me which one of the tribs is full, it does let me know if rain is falling (or not) somewhere upstream. This shot shows the river a meter higher than “normal”.
Atahualpa, the Shaman from the local community of Pununo, paid us a visit as he does every week. Each time I learn a little more about shamanism and his role in healing. Whether or not you are a believer, it is very much a part of this culture in Ecuador, and many gringos (that’s us) have opted to have their immune systems fortified with the cleansing that he performs.
Unlike the last trip, this group was made up of many first-timers. Konrad P., Bob M., Janet H., and Ann M. were all from our home state of California. Pat W. represented Oregon, while Brad M. of Chicago, down for his fifth time, brought his sweetie, Karie. Additionaly, Arianne M. decided to stay on for another week. Once she starts flight training with the Air Force in April, her kayaking will take the back burner. But you can’t take the kayaking out of the girl! She’s already scheming that once she’s a pilot, she’ll volunteer for a post in Ecuador in order to be closer to the rivers!