Monday, January 26, 2009

Kayaking Ecuador...what better way to enjoy winter than to pull out that shorty top and come paddling in South America?

Team Alabama, Colorado, Kansas and Washington come to Ecuador for a little winter reprieve...

Darcy on day 1 in the middle of the Baeza to Borja run on the Rio Quijos

We had a great crew of paddlers this week for our Torrents trip, and we pulled off 7 days of paddling on some of the most classic runs in Ecuador.

Lex leading the charge through Pica Piedra on the Rio Quijos.

Day 2, we put in right in front of our lodge and paddled down through El Chaco Canyon. The water level was a stout medium, and the rapid El Toro served up a little bit of a kick in the pants, but all and all it was a great day.

Anders G-$ busting through a wave.

Mark, representing the C-1 world, in front of our Sprinter on the way to Tena.

Day 3 we headed over to Tena to check out some of the low volume creek runs that area has to offer (Mark was pretty happy when we mentioned the word "creeking."

We ate lunch at the put in of our run and had a little visiter to keep us company.

Then, our visiter got a little friendly with Sam...

Sam Cox in one of the many boulder gardens on the Upper Mis.

Once Sam got the monkey off his back, he was able to thoroughly enjoy the Upper Misahualli.

Mark and his new buddy
The kids on the Upper Mis are pretty used to seeing kayakers, but I think they were all impressed with this one-bladed kayaker!

Anders in "barking dog."

And, yes, there really was a dog barking--would we lie?

Anders and Bryon taking a little dip in the river.

At the put in, it was an oddly cold day in Tena, and Sara was doubting all my claims about the inferno that is the Napo Valley. Luckily, things warmed up and eventually, people had to jump in to cool off! This certainly is a nice change of pace from -5 temps back home.

Sunset over the town of Tena...from the left: Tarquino, Anders, Sara, Don, Darcy, Brad, Mark. Geeze, I feel short!

Day 4: Piatua. Please note how high that bridge support looks now...

And now? We barely made it!

Sam Sox, showing off his socks.

Actually they are leg warmers and they are damn sexy. I had told everyone to bring long socks or long pants to fend off the little ankle biters that sometimes frequent the rivers of Tena. Well, Sam didn't have any long pants, and couldn't fit his ski socks in his kayaking booties, so he just got a little creative. Good fashion statement! I think he sold them to Anders at the end of the trip.

Almost at the put in.

Brad boofing his way down "gum shaker"

Bryon about to grind the rail slide in "Sabado Gigante."

C-1 boy ripping it up on the Piatua.

Lex about to boof one of the many, many boof that the Piatua has to offer

Sam Sox in "Dame su Gasolina"

I just need to take a brief moment to say that Brad, Sam, and Lex--some of my earliest kayaking mentors--FINALLY came down to Ecuador to visit me, and they really impressed the hell out of me. These guys, due to various circumstances, haven't been kayaking much in the last 5-10 years, and they came down to Ecuador "off the couch" so to speak, and absolutely rocked it! We paddled 7 tough days of what Anders affectionately reffered to as "kayaking boot camp" and everyone did great. (Sara, Anders, Mark and Bryon kicked some ass too). So my hat is off to you all. After all these years, you've still got it:)

Sara hiking to the put in

Day 5: Lower Cosanga.

Sam getting his boof on

Sara styling "Random Acts" on the Lower Cosanga

Mark approaching "the Groove"

Bryon boofing his way to the good line on Random Acts

Lex, nailing the line in "Triple Drop."

We saw a cute little otter while scouting this rapid, but then I went and scared him away while trying to take his picture for this damn blog!

Sara, grooving on the groove rapid.

Dr. Brad, finding his way down the Cosanga

Mark, Anders, Bryon and Sara celebrating a good day on the Cosanga

Luckily for us, our lodge is the take-out for the Lower Cosanga, so, upon finishing the run, we had instant access to beer, sodas, snacks and hot showers!

Don Juan getting serious out there

Don and Brad enjoying the fresh air and scenery from the back of our taxi.

Don approaching the crux of Serpentine

Oops, too many photos of Don in a row. Anyhow, this is day 6: Oyacahi.

Sara in "black rock orange rock" (yes, very creative name).

Day 7 we did the BomBon section of the Quijos River. Big water play run was a perfect way to finish off the week. I hope you all come again soon. Don, Larry and I really enjoy paddling with you all--thanks!

Parting Shot:

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rios Escondidos Baby!

Our first OFFICAL Rios Escondidos trip was a HUGE success!

Here is the office chick doing a little kayaking for a change

It was an action packed week of perfect creeking, high water river running, big wave surfing, and grand adventura! Read on for the details and lots more photos. If this appeals to you, we are running one more this year and it still has space on it...Jan. 31st to Feb. 8th. Email us if you want in.

This is NOT the Cosanga, but we didn´t take any photos the first day. This is Darren and Howard peeling out below Aphrodesia on the Upper Jondachi.

We started the week off with a stoutly medium water run down the Lower Cosanga. Most of the crew did not arrive into Quito until 4:30am that morning, but they shook off their travel woes well and rocked the Cosanga.

Don showing us the line on Plugging Along.

Day 2 brought us to the Upper Jondachi. We had a perfect medium level, and everyone was super excited about the numerous excellent rapids.

Joseph wondering about Don´s line on Plugging Along

5 hours and countless boofs later, we arrived at the take out, treated ourselves to a frosty beverage and heading back to the lodge.

Don, totally in control in The Thing:)

That night as we slept, it started raining...our hopes of the Oyacachi were dashed by too much rain (ah, such is life in the rainforest). So, we put in right at our lodge for a high water El Chaco Canyon. El Toro served up some excitement--it´s a huge rapid at high water, as you can see from my New Year´s blog. But we were treated to a rare appearance of The Thing at our take out.

Sheldon holding his own in The Thing

The Thing is a feature that only comes in at high water. It´s a little bit trickier than that´s right below the confluence of the Quijos and Oyacachi, and both have to be perfectly high in order to shape up both shoulders of this wave. At lower flows it´s a horrible looking hole. At too high of water it washes out. We just happened to get lucky this day! We all surfed until we couldn´t lift our arms anymore. Then we loaded up the van and headed back to the lodge for some excellent Lily food.

Darren nailing his boof in Black Rock Orange Rock

Day 4, the Oyacachi dropped just enough for us to paddle it. It was quite a stout level for this VERY continuous run, but we had the right crew for it. Everyone rallied and kicked some ass out there!

Sheldon and Luke finishing the upper half of the run.

We all put on our elbow pads and were ready for some low volume creeking...we´ll, there were rocks in the river, but this scene was pretty typical. It was much more like pushy river running than creeking.

Luke getting his game face back on after lunch

Joe and Sheldon following Don into...the unknown...

Don Beveridge--Superstar

Howard navigating one of the many continuous stretches on the high water Oyacachi

Dick pulling into an eddy to take a breather

The Oyacachi is 6 miles of very continous whitewater (especially at the level we saw it at). It´s important to remember to breath every now and then or you´ll wear yourself out!

Put in on day 5. So, it wasn´t our first choice, but it was still damn fun and damn beautiful. Check out that jungle in the background!

So, then, after a great day on the Oyacachi, we heading off into the land of the hidden rivers. Unfortunately, on day 5 the rivers were hidden under a massive rain cloud! Our plan A that day didn´t quite work out. We woke up early to embark upon a 2 hour hike into the river, but when we arrived at the trailhead, our trail looked much more like a waterfall than a trail. So, we abandoned the mission and went searching for other runs. We decided upon a BIG water run. Not overly challenging, but a nice rest day after 4 grueling days of whitewater. There were, however, plenty of fun surf waves (especially for the Gus), and a few monsterous holes (especially for the Burn).

There is nothing like the sight of the Sprinter and Memo, the world´s best shuttle driver, after a good day of paddling.

By the time we reached the take-out the sun was shining and things were looking up!

Dick, emersing himself in the local landscape. You can keep your feet dry if you use the oil pipeline as a sidewalk.

Our next project?

At the take out on day 5 we decided to scope out a new prospect...a very intruiging canyon, with some stout, but good looking rapids upstream. Access might be tough is the case with most unrun rivers in Ecuador. I tell you, if you had a helicopter in this country you could do a first descent everyday for the next 10 years. There is an amazing amount of water and gradient in this country!

The local residents of our new river

Discussing politics or kayaking or something

After boating we decided to take advantage of the nice weather and enjoy a little happy hour on the roof.

Sunset over the Volcano Reventador--life just doesn´t get any better than this!

Luke and Dick discussing the merits of being a kayak bum in Ecuador

The little bastards wouldn´t get closer, but those are toucans in the tree. A nice put in treat.

Day 6: Hidden river #2. Water level was too high to render this actual creeking, but it was a perfect level if you like big water!

Darren on the entry rapid
This is one of our favorite new rivers we have stumbled upon recently. It´s amazing in that the flow can fluctuate by literally FEET (I´m talking 10+ feet) and the river can still be good. At lower flows, it´s very creek-like. It has a very wide river bed, interspersed with huge granite boulders. The beauty of it too though is that it can handle a lot of water (which is good becauase it seems to rain a lot on this river). I would say it was medium high this day, but great fun.
Don and Dick in the same rapid

Luke surfing a hole in a river we didn´t even run

One of the many tributaries on Day 6. It looks like it could be cool boating, but again, there is a bit of an access issue...

Don crashing through a big ol wave
About three quarters of the way through this run we hit a confluence that doubles the flow, making it seriously big water creeking!

Howard and Darren leaving Uplift Canyon (named after the geolgy)
This run has some of the more interesting geologic features I´ve seen in Ecuador which is saying a lot, because there are some really great columnear basalt canyons in the country. Here, there are very distinct layers of rock that have been uplifted, tilted, contorted and then carved through by the river. It´s great to paddle amongst them!

Oh ya, good jungle scnery too

Just after this lovely little waterfall, we saw a good sized flock of Macaws flying over the river.
Ian following Don through one of the many boulder gardens
Well, that concludes last week´s write up, but now I have to pay a little gratitude toward Ian from Ireland who so graciously let us experiment on him while in the final prepartions for the Rios Escondidos trip. He was here in November and we made a trip down there to check up on some logistics, etc...
Ian wisely avoiding a large hole
Remeber what I said early about cool geolgy?
Don in a typical scene from our beloved hidden rivers

Don Marco preparing our boats for their journey into the canyon. We were really hoping his tie down system would hold.
With Ian, the 2-hike in trail was really a trail and not a waterfall. So, for better or worse we set off. Luckily, Marco had a system in place to help us out with the 1st half of the hike.
Bye Bye kayaks
If you look closely in this photo, you can see the river in the center (background) of photo. You can also see our little kayaks on their way to the little metal roof about halfway to the river. The system held, and we were treated to 40 minutes of kayak-free hiking. ahhhh....
Then we saw some macaws
Then the trail got really trecherous. Yes, that drop off below the kayaks is really as steep as it looks

Once at the river, we were treated with big waterfalls
And big water rapids

And more waterfalls

Parting Shot

Better parting shot coming soon, but this here is to prove to people, that we do indeed get blue bird days in Ecuador!

If this looks like fun to you, contact us today and get your slot on our Jan. 31st trip!