Ecuador Kayaking: Jan 16-24 Class III+

Bus with kayakers.
Arriving in style with room for a Kate's kayak underneath.

A photo of a bus seems like an odd way to start a post, but this one comes with a story.  We commonly do back-to-back trips. One trip returns to Quito on Saturday and the next group goes out on Sunday. We are with each group throughout the transition.  Well, when you find out on Saturday that transportation you had hoped to use on Sunday is no longer reliable, as we did, you get busy! I’d like to think that this is one of the many areas where experience and contacts come into play.  With just two phone calls to transportation companies we know, we were covered -in luxury. While the big bus was more vehicle than we needed, our group got a very comfy ride over Papallacta Pass to Borja and the Quijos Valley.

Group on Bus, Ecuador
The group enjoying the ride in style. (L to R: Deb, Mary, Steve, Dane, Kate and Kristi.)

The highest flow of the season greeted us at the put-in of our “warm up” stretch. In comparison to any previous year’s flows, this still rated as high water. We were also greeted by our friend and fellow guide, Jaime Dalg0. He was finishing up a raft trip just as we arrived. We jumped at the chance to have his company and extra coverage on a normally easy stretch. We ran safely and quickly down routes that were bone dry the day before. Wave trains were Grand Canyon-esque! It was an exciting run without too much “novedad”!

Leaving the still-high flows behind, we headed to Tena a day early and had a fun paddle on the Jatunyacu. This too, fortuitously, had the highest water we’d seen this year. But on the Jatunyacu that’s a good thing! It’s wide open wave trains had everyone smiling.

Beams of light on Jatunyacu
Taking time out for a side hike along the Rio Jatunyacu.

The week featured two runs on the Jondachi/Hollin. Despite the mud hike in and the long day, the group loved this run and chose to do it a second time. The first run featured a torrential rainstorm that caused us to scurry into our boats after lunch. Side streams swelled quickly and waterfalls appeared out of nowhere!

Leaving lunch just as the rain starts to fall.

We were on the Jondachi River when the storm hit and were eager (dreading) to see the affects on the larger volume Hollin.  At the confluence we were met by sunny skies and clear, low water! The rain was so localized that only downstream of the confluence with the Hollin were the waterfalls booming. This brought the river to a friendly, medium flow.

Kayakers and a muddy side stream.
A muddy sidestream gushes into the Lower Hollin.

Two days later, on our second run, both rivers were clear and low. This allowed our pace to be slower, we enjoyed seeing many blue morpho and other butterflies, and spotted many birds. The rapids were fun and everyone was smiling.

Porters Rio Jondachi
Some of the porters of Mundayacu, the people who really make the Lower Jondachi possible for all of us.

Kristi, Steve and Deb took a day off and went for a tour on the lower Napo in a motorized, 40 ft dug-out canoe. Along with them was a bilingual, naturalist guide. Their trip included a visit to the wildlife rehab center of Amazoonica, where they saw many exotic animals. They were cleansed by a local Shaman (think immune system booster), shot a bow, threw a spear and used the blow gun. This 10 foot long, iron wood weapon (yes, that’s very heavy) is difficult to manage, yet each of them hit the target! (How close were you guys?) Here’s Deb’s photos post from her trip. Kate and Dane preferred to paddle as much as they could.  They were eager to do some strokework and discuss strategies for running various types of water. It was a full day for both groups!

Kayaker and Coffee.
A surprise to all of us, Dane pulled out a stove to brew coffee during lunch!

By Friday we were back in Borja where the Quijos River had dropped dramatically. We started the day on a section above our warm-up run. We scouted the toughest rapid, El Toro. Those who chose to run it had great lines. Lower down, the warm-up stretch had a much friendlier look. Really, with the low, clear water, it was unrecognizable!

Kayakers Scouting
The group scouts "El Toro" rapid on the Quijos.

The last day was perfect! Ecuador saw us off with clear, sunny skies and clean, fluffy rapids! The stretch included the famous “Curvas Peligrosas” rapid, and again the lines were flawless. With mixed feelings we unloaded the boats for the last time and headed back to Quito. There was talk of returning next year.

Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking all rights reserved.