Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rios Escondidos, Ecuador kayaking at its best

Tim looking small amongst the giant boulders and huge trees on the Rio Chingual

February 5th (yeah, yeah, I'm way behind) brought us a group of bad ass kayakers from Utah, Colorado and Chile.  This group fired things up and completed an incredible itinerary of paddling some the best Ecuador has to offer!
 Marty of Jackson Kayaks test driving the brand new 2011 SuperHero through Piggly Wiggly rapid on the Rio Quijos
So, we left off last time with Texaco now deciding that the world oil situation was favorable to going into the roadless jungles of Ecuador to start operations...The Ecuadorian government was stoked on this plan too as they wanted to finally take control of the eastern half of their country and they had a lot of landless Ecuadorians that they weren't quite sure what to do with. 
Curtis, always "cool as a cucumber" is lost in the chaos of a stout flow on the Cheesehouse

Ecuadorian government officials, long frustrated by the disconnect between the eastern and western halves of the country, were especially motivated to bring this region under their control in conjunction with the oil boom.  In his 1977 MAG (ministry of agriculture) report, Salvador laments that, “it is not practical that almost half of Ecuadorian territory is permanently abandoned with a scarce population."  Prior to the oil boom, the Oriente (where we kayak) did not contribute to the national economy, there was no one protecting the borders, and by and large it was seen as an unruly jungle not being utilized to its potential. 

 Don and Marty heading to the Rio Oyacachi with their brand new boats--Villain for Don, 2011 SuperHero for Marty

The national government’s goal in the 1970s was to ideologically transform this region into an unoccupied land, then physically transform this vacant space into a contributing portion of the Ecuadorian nation by bringing, “a land without people to people without land.”  This seemed the perfect solution to Ecuador's problem of having A LOT of landless people.  Give them free land in the Oriente, it will keep them content and will help the government populate, protect, and make productive the Oriente.  Of course, the land was not acutally without people, but was home to home to eight Indigenous groups, Dominican and Franciscan missionaries and other Ecuadorians. 

Frenchy punching big waves on the Quijos

This very notion of who encompassed a “people without land,” and who received the free land excluded those Indigenous people who would not take up agriculture in the form that the government recognized (clear-cutting the rainforest for a mono crop system of farming).   Indigenous practices of polyculture and growing crops in the forest rather than cutting it down and growing on top of the forest fueled the government’s impression that Indigenous people were tied to the land in its primitive, uncultivated state.

 Curtis drops the Papallacta confluence rapid--that shit it steep!

With the advent of the oil era, the Ecuadorian government needed to simplify the Oriente in order to make it easier to control.  Getting rid of the unkempt jungle was a first step in this process.  Using the Law of Empty Lands to give away land to what they hoped would be productive farmers (a la homesteading in the US), the government aimed to transform the Oriente into a landscape they understood as productive and recognized as Ecuadorian. 

 The gang stoked to be enjoying a little sunshine on the Upper Jondachi

This transformation also meant that the government would have increased control over the region; and, in a moment when oil seemed to literally be spurting out of the ground, control was key.  Requiring that every Ecuadorian cut down half of the jungle on their plot of land, the Law of Empty Lands served to wipe out as much of the unruly, unknown, and seemingly unorganized jungle as possible and to transform it into an agricultural system that the government could measure and understand.

 Mauricio punching the "rodeo hole" on the Rio Chingual

In the early 1970s, both the Ecuadorian government and Texaco-Gulf had serious motivation to bring the Oriente under their direct control.  For the Ecuadorian government, the Oriente had long signified a jungle with all the word’s historic connotations—savage, unruly, dark, diseased, and impenetrable—and in the 1970s, the government capitalized on this image to make their case for recolonization in order to finally overcome this jungle. 

Frenchy "blasting" nice move dude:)

In the 1970s, nature in the form of wild, underutilized rainforests was useless to the Ecuadorian government.  That this “jungle” was also home to Indigenous people did not matter in the face of the development potential on the horizon.  While these people were engaging in myriad activities including certain forms of agriculture, the manner in which they did this did not register with the government as either useful or productive.

 Mauricio checking out a different kind of river technology

The problem with Indigenous practices of agriculture in the Oriente was that they “failed the visual test of scientific agriculture.”  Many Indigenous groups in the Oriente practiced a form of shifting agriculture, using various parts of the rainforest and growing many crops together.  As James Scott explains, this shifting agriculture, “is an exceptionally complex and hence quite illegible form of agriculture from the perspective of a sovereign state and its extension agents.”  The government sought to stamp out this chaotic-looking form of agriculture and replace it with a system of titled plots of monocropped land, a system more suitable to rational control and market exports

Tim and Curtis admiring some unique Ecuadorian geology
Additionally, by replacing Indigenous knowledge, practices, and space with Ecuadorian knowledge, practices, and space, the government sought to narrow Indigenous ability to exist beyond the reaches of the state.  The Oriente, as the government conceived of it, had no room for Indigenous relationships with the land.  In this context, the divide between Indigenous/wilderness and Ecuadorian/civilized grew to enormous proportions.

Paulina and Mauricio blue angel the Oyacachi

 Ecuador was on the verge of becoming an important oil exporter, and never before had it been so pressing for a nation to transform its wild landscape (including the people who constituted this landscape) into something tamed, fashioned, and easy to manage.  In the 1970s, the government capitalized on popular perceptions of the Oriente as a desolate jungle in order to remake the history of the Oriente in a modern image.  By perpetuating the notion that the eastern half of Ecuador was wasting away in a primitive state, the government effectively erased its past and set the stage for a new epoch in the region’s history.  

Tim goes big at the P-cubed boof 
Don getting his chance to paddle the SuperHero.  He says it boofs well!
Marty and Curtis playing together in the "rodeo hole" on the Chingual.  Dude, Marty, you are interfering with Curtis's ride--only one rodeo star at a time please!

Bear lining up the boof at the Papallacta confluence rapid

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ecuador--Not just for Kayakers!

 Achote plant found in the jungles along the Napo River.  This is used for coloring cloth, pottery, the hair of an Indigenous group called the "Colorados," to paint the faces of tourists:), and it's used in a common food coloring oil here in Ecuador. 

Ecuador is not just for kayakers!  My mom came down here a couple of weeks ago and brought along an entourage of adventuresome lady friends.  None of them were kayakers, but Small World Adventures still found a week packed with action and awesome more below on what you can do in Ecuador if kayaking ain't your thing (more on the oil history next blog when I post the Rios Escondidos write up).

Nancy shooting a Toucan (don't worry, not a real one, a "target toucan" with a blow gun at a Quichua village along the Rio Napo.  She also just had her face painted with some achote.

So, we started off the week with a nice lunch in Quito and then a tour of a hummingbird sanctuary in the cloud forests along the Papallacta River.  It was great sitting in the peaceful gardens alongside the river watching literally hundreds of hummingbirds feed and buzz around.   After watching the birds we continued on to Small World's riverside lodge for a relaxing evening of walking around the gardens there and enjoying the first of Lili's home cooked meals.

 Deanna learning that her rafting helmet is much different than her riding helmet--yo! that helmet is on backwards!

Day 2 brought us to the Salado River for some rafting.  We started easy to make sure everyone liked it, so just did a short 1-hour stretch and then headed down to San Rafael Falls.  It's a 40 minute hike into the over look, but oh so worth it to see the Quijos River fall 485 feet!

Nancy got sponsored by Stihl (you know the chain saw company) for her trip to Ecuador.

Since everyone was stoked on the rafting, the next day we heading southeast to the town of Tena and did some more rafting on the Jatunyacu River (or Upper Napo).  Then we had a delicious meal at the fanciest restaurant in Tena and watched sloths roam around the place as we ate our steaks, penne pasta, and Spinach salads.

Tarquino showed the ladies big action on the Upper Napo.  It was an exciting whitewater day!

Along the Upper Napo, our local guide Tarquino talked to us all about the rainforest, how the ecosystems work, and about the Indigenous people who live there.  Did you know, for example, that of all the sunlight that hits the forest canopy (the tops of the trees) that only 1% actually makes it to the ground?


Some beautiful scenery along the Jatunyacu

3/4 of the way through the river trip some local kids in inner tubes jumped aboard.  The ladies were all happy to share their ride with the kids (who said they wanted to be river guides when they grew up) so they paddled to the take out with us.  We taught them important English words like "all forward," "back paddle," and "STOP!"

After a day of rafting, we drove down to the jungle port town of Puerto Misahualli.  This town lays at the confluence of Misahualli and Upper Napo Rivers.  This is where the Napo proper begins and is essentially the end of car travel in this part of Ecuador.  From here it's motorized canoe only!

 So, the next day we hoped on a motorized canoe and headed downriver!

It was interesting navigating the the Class I and II rapids of the Napo in a big, long, unwieldy canoe.  But our driver got us through unscathed, and we only had to get out once to push the canoe up a rapid!  Then we had a great lunch at a jungle lodge, enjoyed their gardens for a while and headed back to the civilization that is Tena.
Funny sights on our motorized canoe trip.  That's probably a 2 year old girl sitting in a wooden canoe while her brother (probably 6-8 years old) swims along with a rope tied around his waist to transport canoe and sister.  That's way different than how I got around when I was 2.

Nice jungle colors on the banks of the Napo.

Sherrie learning what a Chonta Curro is...

When we got back to Tena we toured the local market and saw tons of amazing looking fruits and vegetables for sale.  We also got the treat of checking out a local delicacy--Chonta Curro--AKA grubs!  We didn't eat any though, just played with them for a while:)

 Mom and Darcy enjoying a beautiful sunny day on the Rio Quijos.  Mom loves to come visit me in Ecuador to escape the winter cold, get out in the sun, and enjoy the good life at Cabanas Tres Rios.

We spent the last 2 days enjoying the Quijos Valley and Small World's lodge.  Everyone got massages from Lili, we hiked to a local waterfall, went bird-watching and did more rafting to check out the amazing Basalt river canyons of the Quijos River.

 The great architecture of Old Town Quito is lit up at night to highlight the beauty and to attract families to come out and enjoy the city at night.

Our last night in Quito we had a great dinner up in New Town and then headed to Old Town to walk around the plazas and see all the Colonial churches lit up.  The city has made a massive effort to beautify Old Town and make it a pleasant place to hang out at night.  It was a really great experience.  A nice send off for everyone before waking up early to catch flights back to the United States.

A little Monkey action from Puerto Misahualli

Don, Larry, Tarquino, the ladies and I all had a great week of rafting and touring around Ecuador.  Thanks for coming everyone--we hope it was the trip of a lifetime!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011 Jackson Super Hero Review--Ecuador

Ecuador is the perfect testing ground for new boats as it is full of variety - from steep creeks to pushy big volume rivers so you can really run the boats through the gamut of different types of whitewater. The crew at Small World Adventures has spent the last week checking out the 2011 Super Hero and trying to answer this question: what are the differences between the new Super Hero and Villain? Don Beveridge has been hard at work trying to suss out the specific qualities and strengths of each boat. He’s paddled steep big volume runs (130 feet per mile with roughly 5,000 cfs), and low volume creeks and here’s what he’s come up with:

I got the opportunity to paddle the brand spanking new 2011 Super Hero for the last few days, and it was awesome. Marty brought one down to Ecuador to test out for the week, and we couldn’t let him take it home...

The first time I got to paddle it was when we ran the lower Papallacta into the Quijos river, and the water was coming up as the day went on. It was a great opportunity to start out on a steep creek, and end up in big, fast water on the main Quijos. The boat is QUICK. The hull feels super fast and loose, and it wants to maneuver. Just looking at it, you can tell it’s a boofing machine, but as a bonus, the nose resurfaces quickly if you do end up sinking it. This model is even more agile and maintains speed better than the older Super Hero. It’s better than it’s predecessor in pushy, powerful water. Crashing through consecutive holes was no problem with the surprisingly fast 2011 Super Hero. In fact, as the day went on, I started drifting into holes slowly or a bit sideways to see how easy it was to get it stuck, and I couldn’t! I eventually had to drop into a BIG ledge at the takeout to take it for a surf, and it was stable in the hole and easy to paddle out.

As the folks at Jackson say, the Super Hero’s loose hull and easy maneuverability will make it easy and fun for beginners, but that loose hull also makes it great for advanced boaters, you can spin on a dime in a rapid, and get up to speed in just one stroke. You have to keep an active blade in the water in big rapids though - If you just float along without paying attention, that loose hull might just try to turn without you.

Especially if you like the way a playboat handles, you’ll like boating the Hero line. We often have guests that playboat a lot, and when they get into a creek boat for harder runs, don’t like the way “conventional” creek boats handle. The Super Hero’s hull feels just like a playboat, with the added advantage of volume and speed. It’s also more fun than other creek boats for surfing waves and holes along the way.

This new line is going to make it tough to choose between a Villain and a Hero. I used to think I needed a Villain for hull speed and punching holes, but the new and faster Hero is great at this. The Villain still probably wins out in terms of holding a line and charging forward, but the Hero turns easier. Once you put a Villain on line, it wants to stay there. Loaded down for an overnight or in big water, the Villain likes to plow through stuff. The Super Hero is always ready to turn. If you’re a playboater or someone that finds creek boats a bit sluggish to steer, the new Hero line is the boat for you. The Villain might still be my choice for big volume runs, but on a low volume creek, it’s going to be hard to beat the Super Hero. It depends on your boating style and on what kind of water you’ll be paddling most. Maybe the answer is now we all need a creek boat quiver of two...

The model we have is a Superlinear, with I think a bit lower seat than the Crosslinked boats come with. If you’re a big guy, this is going to make the boat even more comfy and roomy. Tons of leg and knee room. For me, I felt I was sitting a bit low in the boat, so I put a Sweet Cheeks in and the boat fits and feels just right. At 195, I think I’m on the low end of the target weight range but it was by no means “too much” boat for me to paddle. You could put in a bunch of gear (or put on a bunch of weight!) and still be floating high.

Go test drive a 2011 Super Hero at your nearest Jackson Dealer, or come join Small World Adventures to try it out on Ecuador’s best rivers and creeks.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Jan. 29th Larry's crew--storming the creeks of Ecuador!

(Chuck from Ashville running the Lower Jondachi.  When Chuck wasn't being a "Candy-Ass" (I think this term was coined on the trip) he was out ripping it up on Ecuador's rivers and creeks).

Larry's Group, AKA Intro to Creeking also had an amazing week of running Ecuador's whitewater.  This crew was focusing on fine-tuning their creeking skills to go home ammped and ready for the 2011 spring and summer kayaking season.
(Anne, when she wasn't busy calling Chuck a "Candy Ass" was getting her boof on!  Her she is styling the line at "Free Willy" on the Lower Cosanga)

After reading last week's blog, I'm sure you are all wondering, "Darcy, you say Shell pulled out of Ecuador in 1947 saying they only found unviable results, what was up with that?"  Well, don't worry, here's a little lowdown on the global oil situation between the 1920's and 2000.   

The Oriente’s (Ecuador's eastern half--where we go kayaking) physical transformation was not solely the result of the Ecuadorian government’s policies, Texaco-Gulf’s technology, or Ecuador’s landless population; circumstances in the global oil situation we just right in the late 1960s to push multi-national oil corporations to stretch the limits of their operations and move into a remote region of Ecuador.  

  (Chrystal showing that you can indeed live in Ohio and be a bad ass kayaker!)

Texaco-Gulf never would have been in the NorOriente if petroleum situations around the world had not conspired to make it a worthwhile investment.  Multi-national corporations began oil explorations in Ecuador’s Oriente in the 1920s, but no wells came online until Texaco-Gulf opened their first well and pumped the first crude out of the Oriente in 1972.  In the half century between the initial explorations and production, it was not necessarily lack of petroleum deposits, technology or money holding back the industry; rather the world oil climate was not right for bringing more wells (especially expensive wells in remote regions of the world) into production. 
            Petroleum was crucial to the victors in World War I, and the end of this war saw a huge boom of oil consumption.  The rapidly rising popularity of automobiles, combined with petroleum’s functions as a pesticide and fertilizer, caused American consumption of oil to skyrocket in the 1920s.  At the same time, the US was facing a shortage in oil from their own fields.  The high oil prices that this potential shortage commanded, combined with some early successes by individual oil seekers in what would become the East Texas Oil Fields, sent people into a mad frenzy searching for oil.  Individual fortune seekers looked to Texas for this oil, while bigger companies looked abroad.  In the early 1920s, at the same time that Standard Oil and Shell were exploring in Ecuador’s Southern Oriente, Walter C. Teagle, then president of Standard Oil, was conducting explorations of his own in Iraq.  In 1927, Standard Oil discovered their first Iraqi “gusher.”  By 1928, these Iraqi oil fields, combined with overly successful East Texas fields, created a worldwide oil glut.  With this glut and these new overseas explorations, we entered into what historian Daniel Yergin calls the “age of oil, without which American civilization as we know it could not exist."  It makes sense, therefore, that Standard and Shell did not declare any early successes in their oil fields in Ecuador.  It is far easier and cheaper, after all, to build roads and oil infrastructure in a wide-open desert (Iraq), than in a dense rainforest (Ecuador).

 (Tom on the Rio Oyacachi.  Tom and Chuck were the only 2 guys on their trip, and he was stoked to be paddling with such a cool group of ladies!  Everyone was a little reserved at first, keeping to themselves; but a party bus ride to Tena on day 3 put a quick end to that!)

 Then, the 1939 discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia sealed the fate of Ecuador’s Oriente for the next thirty years.  With Saudi Arabia oil, “the single greatest prize in all of history,” there was absolutely no need for Ecuadorian oil, and Shell (by then Standard was already out) declared their long years of exploration fruitless, claiming there was no oil in the southern Oriente.  Today, Maxus (after having bought Conoco’s concession) is producing oil from this region (the region that Shell earlier declared devoid of oil), and their wells have proven so lucrative as to make it worthwhile for them to fight the government to open more land (land that is protected by national parks and reserves) for oil production.  

(The Gang scouting some complicated drops on the Lower Cosanga) 

Conoco fought for years to open Block 16, which is inside Yasuni National Park.  In April of 1990, the Ecuadorian government redrew the boundaries of the park to exclude block 16 and there are now full-scale operations there.  Just as conditions in the 1920s and 1930s made it worthwhile for Shell not to drill in the Southern Oriente, a different set of conditions in the late 1960s made it worthwhile for Texaco-Gulf to drill in the Northern Oriente—arguably a more remote part of the region.  

 (Trying to listen to Larry, but too distracted by the amazing jungle scenery)

 In 1956, Egypt’s leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, nationalized the Suez Canal Company, provoking action from the United Kingdom, France, and Israel who used the canal, among other reasons, to transport their oil from the Middle East to its markets.  Europe was transporting two thirds of their oil through the Suez Canal, which gave them motivation to keep control over access and tariffs.  Their campaign against Egypt to win back control over the canal was unsuccessful, marking an unprecedented victory for Egypt.  Nasser’s triumph with the Suez Canal “was a warning to the oil-consuming West,” and gave rise to nationalism and anti-colonialism throughout the world.
(Heidi, after a little extra encouragement, ponied up and ran this stout drop on the Rio Oyacachi.  Nice work Heidi!)

Then, in 1960, Venezuela, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait formed the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) at the instigation of Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso of Venezuela.  A combination of OPEC’s objective of restricting oil production, and the sky rocketing use of petroleum products were bringing the world oil glut to an end, and visions of shortages were on the horizon.  In the same year that OPEC formed, Dr. Armand Hammer’s Occidental Petroleum (OXY) discovered oil in Libya and was negotiating terms of extraction with Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi.  Although Dr. Armand Hammer did eventually strike a deal and begin oil operations in Libya, the contract was not on his terms.  This negotiation marked the first time in foreign oil dealings that the producing country had dictated the terms with an oil company, and as Yergin points out, “the heyday of the majors was over.”

 (Chrystal and Heidi on the way to the Oyacachi)
In the mid-1960s Texaco began searching for oil once again in Ecuador.  With the world old glut depleted and control of a good portion of the oil industry in the hands of "non-Corporate America," desperate measures had to be taken.  And so Texaco airlifted vehicles, wells, road and pipeline building supplies and workers into what is now Lago Agrio to begin their Ecuadorian oil legacy. 

(Karen of Ashville running the last rapid on the Oyacachi River.  Karen didn't get enough paddling in her 7 day trip with us, so she came back for 4 more!  Way to get after it Karen) 

Tune in next week to learn more about Texaco's operations here in Ecuador...

Sunday, February 06, 2011

How did Ecuador's whitewater landscape come to be accessible? (part 1)

January 29th Torrents aka "don's group"
Darcy leading Caitlin, Paulina and Mauricio through "just a typical rapid" on the Rio Oyacachi 
People on our trips often ask questions about the areas we boat in such as, what do the people do for a living here?  Who built the roads?  Are these Indigenous or Ecuadorians?  What's that brown pipeline running alongside the road?  And many other questions pertaining to the regions that we boat in.  So, having spent 2 years of my life researching and writing on just these topics, I figured I share a little info here.
 Caitlin entering "Sabado Gigante" on the Rio Piatua.  Caitlin, like all good college students should, ditched a week of class to come paddle in Ecuador with us.  But don't worry, besides working on her boof, she also got to practice her Spanish.

 I suppose we should start with a little oil history since oil is essentially what has made kayaking possible in Ecuador's Oriente.  Plus I'll throw in a little bit about what the Oriente was like before oil, roads,and kayakers.   I know that may sound a bit strange; and, kayakers as a group, are often at odds with oil development, but the plain and simple truth is that we wouldn't be kayaking in Ecuador if it weren't for the access roads that Texaco built back in the 1970s.  But, Ecuador's oil history started long before 1970, and so I'll dedicate this blog (part 1) to a little precursor before we talk about Texaco.

Paulina counting truchas in "Go Deep" on the Oyacachi.  Paulina and Mauricio are warming up with the Torrents trip for next week's Rios Escondidos trip.  So far Paulina is stoked on Ecuador, and, coming from Chile, she is learning lots of new Spanish words from Ecuador's lexicon--Esfero, que es esto?  In turn, I am learning lots of new Spanish from her!

Ecuador first became home to a petroleum industry in 1878 when the National Assembly gave M.G. Mier and Company exclusive rights to extract petroleum, tar, and kerosene from the Santa Elena Peninsula on the west coast of Ecuador.  In 1911, the first active well came online on the peninsula, and in 1917, Anglo-Ecuadorian Oilfields Ltd, which would later become British Petroleum, began operations there as well.  Small operations continue on the peninsula today, but are trivial compared to those in the Oriente.  Modern oil processes truly began in Ecuador in 1921 with Shell and Standard Oil.  The first large scale oil expedition to the Oriente was in 1921 when Ecuadorian president Jose Luis Tamayo granted Royal Dutch Shell and Standard Oil a joint concession to search for petroleum deposits in Ecuador’s Southern Oriente. 
 Karl driving his Villain through some big Amazonian holes!  Karl from Colorado is on his 3rd trip with us and still can't get enough.  He loves Ecuador's awesome and continuous whitewater and also enjoys arguing with Don about politics:)

Standard and Shell, began mapping the Southern Oriente in the 1920s, and in 1928, the Ecuadorian government signed a contract with the two companies to begin construction of a road that would link the town of Ambato in the highlands, with the town of Mera in the Oriente.  Completed in 1947, this was the first motorcar road into the region, and many of the early settlers used it when they came into the Oriente.  Halfway through road construction, Standard Oil fell out of favor with the government and lost their concession, but Shell stayed on.  In 1948, Shell pulled out of the Oriente claiming that their twenty-seven years of exploration had produced only unviable results.  As the North American Congress on Latin America explains, “the circumstances of oil production on a world-scale were such that the incorporation of any new reserves could only drive down the price of oil.”  This crushed the hopes of the severely indebted Ecuadorian government who believed oil would spur the country into its much-needed modernization and be its economic savior.  Shell’s declaration prompted Ecuadorian President Galo Plazo Lasso to declare that the “Oriente es un mito” (the Oriente is a myth).  Nearly thirty years of Ecuador’s hopes for salvation from economic despair hinged on the Oriente’s oil potential, and this news came as a huge national blow.

 Dave and Paulina enjoying lunch on the Rio Quijos.  It sure is nice to be able to wear shorts in February!

After Shell pulled out of the Southern Oriente, things quieted down considerably, and all national projects in the region came to an abrupt halt.  Twenty years passed before the Oriente saw any more oil action, and both the government and multi-national corporations were almost wholly absent from the region.  Many Ecuadorians who moved to the region to work on the exploration teams or on road construction crews stayed behind and opened shops, kept farms or ranches, harvested lumber, and traded what goods they could. The few settlers who did stay in the Oriente pressed on with road and trail construction hoping to link the Southern Oriente more directly to Quito—the most lucrative market—but progress was slow without government or international funding. 

 Mauricio on the Rio Piatua.  Mauricio, a native Chilean paddlers, acustomed to hucking waterfalls, is getting aquinted with the continuous boulder gardens of Ecuador's rivers.
There were no roads east of the Andes until 1947, and no road connecting this region to Quito until 1972.  The 1947 road connecting Ambato with Mera was quite useful as a link with the highlands, but still was not enough to integrate the Oriente. While Ambato was a sizeable town, it did not compare to Quito (farther to the north) in terms of lucrative markets.  Consequently, most trade was done via a network of waterways in the lower elevations, and then on horse and foot trails to go up and over Papallacta Pass in the Andes to the markets in the capital city of Quito (this is the same route we take today with our kayakers when we come from Quito, over the Andean Continental Divide and down to our lodge to start kayaking). 

 Michael of Ohio (yes, they do have kayakers in Ohio!) styling a line on the Rio Quijos

While most people maintained a subsistence-based economy, many depended, to a certain degree, on the small market exchanges their surpluses allowed, and they all had an interest in maintaining the trails.  In 1950, it was a seven-day journey from Archidona in the Oriente to Quito in the highlands (just over 80 kilometers). Jamie Dalgo, an Ecuadorian colonist who utilized the trails, explains poor conditions on the return trip from Quito.  He begins his description on the descent down thirteen thousand foot Papallacta Pass through the village of Papallacta to the small missionary settlement of Baeza (established in 1559) on the eastern slope of the Andes: “slippery rocks make up the path towards Lake Papallacta, legendary and fearsome because of the natives, freezing weather in Papallacta, violent streams, mud without end, until Baeza, a group of houses poorly balanced on a hill.”

 Dave enojoying raising water on the Oyacachi.  We started with a nice medium low level, and the water slowly came up all day long leaving us with a stout medium by the take out.  Everyone paddled well and we had a super fun and splashy day!

Despite these hardships, people made the journey on a regular basis. While this shows a population engaging with its western counterpart via small amounts of trade, it also shows how thoroughly disconnected (at least in terms of twentieth century prevailing technologies) the region was from the commercial centers west of the Andes.   

 Re-Stocking the beer supply before the next wave of Pilsiner-guzzling paddlers show up!

Larry's group, look for your blog coming next!  And more super exciting Ecuadorian history!