We watch a lot of folks experience “firsts” when they come to Ecuador to paddle; first time traveling to a foreign country, first time kayaking in a foreign country, first time kayaking big water, first time kayaking technical water, first time to realize that not all roosters “go off” at sunrise, first time to experience that the red squeeze jar at your dinner table may contain mayonnaise, not ketchup. The list goes on. When Bryon S. arrived for our Class V- trip, we were the ones that got to experience a first. The first guest to arrive in Ecuador wearing a kilt. No, Bryon is not Scottish, he’s from Seattle, and his was no ordinary kilt. We’ve got him thinking about a dry kilt for paddling- might be a challenge with the gaskets.
With Bryon were his paddling friends Arn S. and Deb C. ( Deb’s the one who brought us those homemade truffles last season.) Deb and Arn had just returned from a trip to the Galapagos. In Quito they signed on for some intensive Spanish language classes prior to kayaking.
The rains from the previous week continued in the Quijos (key-hos”t” -without the “t”) valley making our first day’s river run go by very quickly. It was smoking! Seeing that the rains weren’t letting up, we headed south to Tena and more user friendly flows. We found them on the Upper Misahualli. This run is a great training ground for technical boating. There are several put-ins and take-outs to choose from, allowing us to tailor the run to the group we are with. Want to go harder? We can put in higher. If someone in the group wants an easier run while others want more of a challenge, we can stagger the put-ins and take-outs. People rave about this run and comment on how there is nothing like it back home.
Another run we really enjoy showing off is the Jondachi/Hollin (Hone-daw-chee/O-yeen). Deb and Arn got to do this last year and it was high on their list to repeat. This is a remote run with a walk down a muddy trail to the put-in. Only at riverside do you get your first glimpse of the water level. We prep each group for the remote nature of the run, the long day on the water, types of rapids we’ll encounter, the possibility of changing conditions, the beauty of the place, and the nature of the walk in. Not knowing exactly what conditions we will find on the trail, we explain the worst and hope for the best. Deb and Arn had ideal conditions the previous year and were ribbing me about how I had overstated the mud. This trip would be different. There had been a few days of drizzle before we started our walk. The light rain meant that the river level would not really be affected, but the mud walk was in prime condition.
I didn’t get anymore ribbing. Here is a good point in the story to let you know that we hire porters to deal with the boats. Paddlers need focus only on themselves. Humbling is the fact that the porters are down in a third the time it takes us.
On Day four we ran the Jatunyacu (hah-tune-yaw-ku) with big water. We’re talking really big. The velocity of the “flatwater” was ripping and the current akin to being in ocean swells! Thanks to it’s large river bed, the Jatunyacu has plenty of room to grow and the wave trains get bigger and cleaner. You just need to know where the occasional “sniper” hole is lurking and, due to the wide-open nature of the run, these are easy to miss.
The group wanted another run on the Upper Mish, but with different interests in difficulty. We took some a little higher, while others chose the same put-in we had used on Monday. The first run went quickly, allowing us time to do a second lap. The run is that good!
Friday found us on the Upper Cosanga with some solid medium flows. We were able to paddle a great stretch, combining what we call the “town run” with the “warm up” run. The group had what we in the teaching world call a “peak experience”. A true adventure matching one’s skill to the challenge without any misadventure! It was a great finish to a super week of boating in this tropical paradise of Ecuador.
Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking, all rights reserved.