Saturday, March 24, 2012

Empandas + Cold Pilsiners + Sweet Whitewater = Vacacione Muy Buena!

 Andy stays focused as he lines up to boof amongst the giant boulders on the Piatua

I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing in the middle of February than boofing sweet boofs, punching huge breaking waves, drinking post-boating Pilsiners and feeding great, fresh-cooked Empanadas to my friends. 
And, lucky me, that's what I got to do!

Catherine avoiding the piton in Broken Down Waterfall on the Upper Jondachi

As was par for the course this season in Ecuador, we had some medium water, some big water, and some even bigger water!  This was perfect as we had a crew of hard chargers who wanted to see the best of Ecuador's creeks (and some rivers).

John and Josh navigating good lines between big holes on the Oyacachi

We had Philip and Catherine from Switerland, John from New Mexico, Josh from Colorado, and Andy from Portland.  All had come to Ecuador to experience the super continuous boulder garden creeks that Ecuador is becoming increasingly famous for.

Colorful jewelry for sale next to our favorite Empanada stop. 
John found a nice gift for his fiance here!

It's hard to say what the highlight from this week was, there were so many good things.  Was it high water on the Oyacachi?  Seeing Tamarin (aka "New World Monkeys") on the way to the Piatua or Parrots at the take out?  The Upper Jondachi?  Local markets and fresh food on the way home from kayaking the Cosanga?  Oh, so many things to love about Ecuador!

 Darcy dropping into Dame Su Gasolina on the Piatua. 
A nice medium level made this one "fluffier" than normal!

Whatever the favorite was, it was an excellent week.  We started the week off with a nice run through Gringo Revueltos.  We always like to welcome people to Ecuador in a fun a unique fashion and what better way than on day one introducing them to the infamous "Scrambled Gringos" rapid?  That'll quickly knock the rust off of anyone's paddling!

Just like the Nature Channel, SWA guides are tracking monkeys in the Amazon Basin.

Day 2 had us off to the Cosanga River.  Not wanting anyone to leave complaining that they didn't paddle enough river miles, we did the whole kitten kaboodle, the whole enchilada, the whole damn run!

 John and Andy making their way down the Piatua.  Even though it was still juicy, the boys were somewhat relieved to find that it wasn't quite as full on as last week.

Day 3, yes, no rest for the weary, and we're off to the Upper Jondachi.  Now, John and Andy were with Small World the week before as well and both had the goal of paddling 14 straight days.  Not a feat to be taken lightly considering these aren't 1-2 hour days.  These are full days of full on paddling and the boys are hanging tough but starting to give us dirty looks when we talk about the Jondachi and its 30 minute hike in, 80+ rapids, etc...

 Blue-Headed Parrots at the Piatua take out

But then it's not long until they are splashing around in the crystal clear waters of the Upper Jondachi.  A short while later they are flying off the first of many boofs of the day and the smiles grow bigger and the tired muscles become a distant memory (at least until the take out).

Philip finishing Lavadora on the Lower Cosanga.  He and Catherine came to Ecuador well prepared and in good shape!  Even here on mile 11 of paddling, he still had energy to style the lines.

Night 3: Lightening, thunder, rain, more lightening and more rain.

 John, getting up close and personal with the jungle on the hike into the Upper Jondachi

Day 4:  We wake up, to rain, rain and more rain.  Plan A is Piatua but it's so rainy...but then we remember how fun the high water Piatua descent was last week (Andy and John remember too) and so we say "what the hell, we've got a strong crew, let's go for it!"   We drive out to the Piatua and find it to be a nice medium level.  Not nearly as high as last week, but not low by any stretch of the imagination.

Andy lining up for the boof in the rapid above Typhoid Falls on the Upper Jondachi

Medium water Piatua is a super combination of creeky moves like boofs and boulder dodging and big water moves like dodging, punching and sometimes surfing holes!

We move quickly through the continuous 14 kilometer run, and take out at Cabanas Piatua where we are treated to a nice bridge jump, some cold beers, parrots and some sweet disco-tech music.  Viva Ecuador!

 Philip and Josh trying talk with an Ecuadorian Chick while they wait for John to finish shopping.  Too bad neither of them spoke Spanish...

The partying in Tena is kept to a minimum because everyone is more keen on focusing on their kayaking than on serving up a wicked hangover for themselves at the local bars.   Which is probably a smart idea because we still have 3 more days of bad ass kayaking to do!

 Josh, styling Da Boof!

Day 5:  Upper Misahualli from Lodo.  We see Petroglyphs, and boofs and kids swimming in the river.  This is a super technical stretch of water that is super fun and aesthetically pleasing.  Kind of a mellow day compared to the rest; but a good rest day since tomorrow is big water on the Oyacachi!

Nice little "fast food" stop on the way home from boating

Day 6: Yes, once again, no rest for the increasingly weary.  We are off to the Oyacachi for 6 action-packed miles of hole dodging, wave riding, hole-boofing excitment!  

The gang scouting Ejector Seat on the Oyacachi.  This rapid changed this season and became one of the stickier holes on the river!  Happily, this day, everyone avoided the monster.

 One of people's favorite features on the Oyacachi these days is "da boof" which is a MEGA boof towards the beginning of the run.  It's super intimidating when you first look at it.  The boof is 8 feet tall and has quite a tricky lead in requiring paddlers to dodge 3 small holes, punch 1 big breaking wave and then still keep it together enough get their boat in the right place, AND get the right stroke in at the right time.

 Enjoying nice jungle scenery and the rush of having successfully made it through Gringos Revueltos on the Quijos River

Luckily for us, it's an easy walk back up.  So if you loved it so much your 1st time through, or didn't get it quite right on that first go you can have yourself a second chance.  Oh, and it's SO worth it!  All and all everyone did great, and we were all left with big smiles on our faces at the end of the day.

 John, lost in the froth on Da Boof

Day 7: back to the Quijos for a bigger water Class IV cruise.  We head to El Chaco Canyon to face El Torro, Olympic Trials and to do a little play boating.

 This local El Chaco school group was out on a field trip when they noticed all the crazy gringo kayakers getting out of the river.  So, they stopped to take a few photos before heading on their way. 

Andy and John made their 14 days in a row of kayaking--nice work boys!  And Philip, Catherine and Josh pulled off 7 days of awesome whitewater. 

It was great paddling with you all, until next time, Ciao amigos!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sale of Small World Adventures

Small World Adventures—one of the world’s top adventure kayaking companies—is proud to announce the beginning of a new chapter. Guy Erb from Spokane, Washington has purchased Small World Adventures and Cabanas Tres Rios. But don’t worry fans, SWA plans to continue business as usual. Guy plans on joining the SWA team for the 2012/2013 season but is leaving the structure of the staff, trips and logistics basically the same. We are looking at this as the beginning, not the end, of an era. Don, Darcy, and Larry are all planning on staying on in their current rolls leading trips, running the office and doing everything else that it takes to make Small World’s kayaking trips so special. Whether you enjoyed paddling with SWA in the past or if you are contemplating a trip to Ecuador in the future, we invite you down next season to meet and paddle with Guy—and of course the rest of us as well!

Larry, Don, and Darcy are all very stoked on this change, and once you meet Guy, we think you all will be too.

Part of my personal mission statement for SWA was to someday pass it on to someone looking for the lifestyle that I have found so rewarding for my past twenty eight years of guiding. Last season and this January, I had the opportunity to kayak and travel in Ecuador with Guy and found his enthusiasm and priorities refreshing and his commitment to quality to be in line with what we have always striven for. I think he not only will find what he is searching for but will also be a great asset to SWA and our guests. One other part of my mission statement is to stay guiding and paddling these rivers that I love more than any others for a long time and I am thrilled that Guy wants me here into the future. - Larry

Larry and Small World Adventures have given me an incredible opportunity over the last 10 years and I’m very excited to continue on with Guy. Through SWA, I’ve found a lifestyle that fits me perfectly. The lodge is an amazing place to live, the community in Borja is warm and friendly, and the kayaking is unparalleled! As many of my friends like to say, I’m “living the dream” and I hope to continue for a long time to come. -Darcy

I’ve shared Larry’s goal of making Small World Adventures a quality company, a great way of life, and something we can be proud to pass on to someone else…but I don’t want to leave yet! Guiding trips in Ecuador is still my passion and I’m thrilled to welcome Guy to the family and to keep on working with him and SWA into the future. Come join us and see what a great thing we’ve got going in Ecuador. -Don

We love Ecuador and we love the lifestyle - "What’s wrong with just fun?"

Stay tuned for more updates.

Larry, Don, Darcy

Friday, March 09, 2012

High Adventure Caused by High Water, never a dull moment in Ecuador!

 Andy boofing the 90 degree turn on the Upper Mis

The week started off innocently enough--like any other week this season.  Some rain, some sun and a perfect medium water level for day 1.   The Torrents trip started out with a nice cruise down the Pica Piedra run putting in right in front of our lodge.

 John and Andy enjoying the Ecuadorian Rainforest!  They look good in green...

We went to bed that night and proceeded to listen to rain pound the roof all night long.  Surprisingly enough when we got up the river was only at 3 on our gauge.  With the amount of rain we got, we knew the water would come at some point...but why hadn't it come yet?  We decided to head to the Lower Quijos.  This stretch of river can handle a ton of water, so it matters less when things really come up.

 "Welcome to the Jungle...we've got fun and games...We've got everything you want and honey we know your name..."

But, mind you it still matters!  The crew set off while I stayed behind at the lodge to do office work (damn it!  The office lady always misses the good adventures).  By the time the crew had breakfast and was ready to leave, the river had risen to only 3.5 on the gauge.  Not bad, as long as the Oyacachi wasn't huge, they should be good to go.

 The Rio Santa Rosa.  At normal flows you could hardly float a kayak on this river and could probably jump across it in most places.  This was NOT a normal day.

All the rivers along the drive to the put in looked high, but not crazy high.  They put on the river at 25 on the gauge.  That's a nicely high level.  All was going great until a rapid called "Welcome to the Jungle."  It definitely lived up to it's name this day.  There were 2 swimmers; and during this time, the river at the lodge went from 3.5 to 8 in 25 minutes.  The Oyacachi, Santa Rosa and Bombon creek all exploded at roughly the same time and while Don and Greg were rescuing swimmers and boats the river came up, and up, and up and more or less went off the charts (not off the gauge since the put in gauge goes up to 69) but off the charts from a kayaker's perspective.    And, if you are wondering, you definitely do NOT want to go if the gauge reads 69.  But don't worry, you wouldn't be able to make it to the put in at that level since all bridges would have long since been washed out.

 Craig, resting his legs after the jungle hike, sticking to the river this time!

So, while some of the kayakers were dreaming of low volume runs, the river KEPT raising.  Before too long it was the highest level I've seen at the lodge this season and the roar of the river was drowned out by the sound boulders tumbling down the river.  Then...the dry land part of the tour began!  It was a lovely jungle hike to where Memo was waiting with the Sprinter and some nice dry clothes.  Cold beers and Empandas were next.  So while it wasn't the best day of boating ever, it was an awesome adventure that I know everyone will remember!

 John enjoying not being on a flooding river.  Loving life on the Upper Mis.

The rest of the week turned out great!  They got the best (highest) water level of the entire season on the Piatua.  It was high but dropping which was a nice change for that river where we've often seen high and getting a hell of a lot higher FAST.  Don, Greg, Tarquino and I were super pumped to have a strong crew and this great opportunity to run the Piatua with some good water in it. 

 Jenn, staying alert as the crew makes their way down the Piatua

And the Piatua did not disappoint!  14 kilometers of continuous grade IV and IV+ whitewater.  Truly and kayaker's dream.  Combine this with Toucans and Chi Chiko monkeys and you've got yourself one totally awesome day of kayaking!

 Martha, in her 2nd week with us in Ecuador, stayed strong to paddle 14 days in a row!

The gang also got a great level on the Upper Misahualli River, the Lower Cosanga, and then on the last full day they went back into the Lower Quijos to face the demons.  

 John surfing a huge wave on round 2 of the Lower Quijos

Now the tally is Torrents group 1, Rio Quijos 1.  This time around the run was a great success.  The gauge at the put in was 19 and stayed that way all day long.  Big water rapids, and big wave surfing defined the day.

Jenn and John enjoying a victory lunch after Gringos Revueltos

The February 4th Torrents crew got a great taste of Ecuador.  They had sun, they had light drizzles, torrential downpours, low volume creeks, big volume creeks and rivers, and flooding rivers.  They saw great birds, jungle mammals, and got up close and personal with the rainforest along the banks of the Quijos. 

 Greg, Craig and Andy stoked to have completed the Lower Quijos

It's a week I'm sure they're unlikely to soon forget!