Ecuador Kayaking: Jan 2-10 Class IV-

Kayaker on Cosanga river.
Arn S. running one of the many great rapids on the lower Cosanga.

“Small and nimble” would be a good way to describe our week in early January.  Scott D. and his 17 year-old son James were down for their first time, while Arn was back for his third trip, doing a double-header this year. Unfortunately for us, Arn’s wife Deborah passed on Ecuador this season. She was busy preparing for their upcoming 6 week mountain-bike adventure in Patagonia (click here for their blog). Fortunately, she did send down a batch of her personally handcrafted truffles, complete in their elaborately decorated box, design specifically for us!  With orders not to conserve them but to relish them while fresh (as no perservatives were used in the making) I can hardly get my skirt on!

North face of volcan Antisana.
A continued, rare spell of clear skies meant that the rugged north face of Antisana was still visible during the drive from Quito.

Our group size and water levels, along with a gung-ho attitude of the boys, allowed us to step up the level of difficulty on some of the runs we did. After a couple of days of warm up on the Quijos, conditions were perfect for a trip down the lower Cosanga.

Kayakers on a beach on Rio Quijos, Ecuador.
Boaters on the beach at Bombon, put-in for the lower Quijos.

For us, the lower Cosanga is the gem of the Quijos Valley. The run is very water level dependent, and this year it has been on the low side. Remote, technical and continuous, it’s not suitable for all skill levels. But when it is, the whitewater offers just the right combination of challenge and fun. Sporting many horizon lines, advanced eddy-hopping skill and boofs are required. We had a stellar run on a sunny day; the first run of it’s kind for James and Scott. They are hooked! Near the end of the canyon, we sometimes see the rare Andean Cock of the Rock, an amazing bird that this year has shown itself more frequently than we’ve ever seen before (more on that in another post).

Footbridge on lower Jondachi, Ecuador.
After hiking into the lower Jondachi you really feel like you are "out there".

Off to Tena and the lower Jondachi/Hollin. Nearing the take-out after a great day, we got some much needed, albiet short-lived rain. Tropical rain often comes in huge, fat, warm drops that can drench you in a second. These rains can roll in with little warning, and leave as quickly as they come. Listen carefully and you can hear the storm racing across the top of the jungle canopy as it approaches.

Kayakers and rain on the Rio Hollin, Ecuador
We were greeted at the take out of the Hollin by rain.

We offered up another technical day of boating, this time on the Piatua, located an hour from Tena This river reminds me of California boating, but with jungle blanketing the shores. The water-worn, metamorphic rocks, clean water and great lines make me feel at home.

Kayaker in jungle.
Scott at Piatua put in trail.

Depending on water levels, I’d give the upper stretches of this run a Class IV or higher rating.  When the water is low as it was this day, the group small and you take your time to scout (and are open to walking the occasional drop) you can take some of the edge off.  For us it was a perfect day of creeking. Young James totally styled one of the more difficult drops, Scott surprised himself a time or two while looking back at some of the drops he had just run and Arn was just plain grinning ear to ear about the quality of rapids.

Kayaker on a rapid on Rio Piatua, Ecuador.
James making the move at "Gorillas in the Mist"
Kayaker Rio Piatua.
Mary leads the way on another quality drop on the Rio Piatua.

The last two days we were back on the Borja side of the mountains.  Arn took the last day off to rest up for his upcoming second week, while Scott and James enjoyed one last fun run on the Quijos before returning to the cold of Pennsylvania.

Vulcan Sumaco, Ecuador.
Volcan Sumaco (12,000+ ft) part of the Guacamayo Mountains, the range that separates the Quijos Valley from Tena.

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