Nov 30, 2008

Nov 14 Quijos valley to Tena

This guy can ferry.

It takes awhile and I'm still groggy from the plane, but we get a shuttle together and do the Jatunyacu. Awesome big water run with several really good play holes and waves with eddies. On the way to the put-in, there were two trucks worth of boats and boaters we were interrupted by a group of angry locals who were acting a bit like a militia. They were claiming they worked for the government building bridges, but the government wasn't paying them... so we had to. Immediately one of the local guys who was with us, Jamie (hi-may), jumped out of the truck and started yelling and arguing with the 'militia'. They had thrown a bunch of big rocks into the road so we couldn't drive through. The whole scene was a bit surreal and a little entertaining. They were barking real loud, so was Jamie, but neither side was going to do anything unless we tried to move the rocks. I didn't understand what anyone was saying so I just sat back and listened. Becky was sitting next to me and she was freaked. I tried to calm her down by telling her nothing was going to happen, but it didn't do much.

It was a tense situation, but we wound up turning around and going to a different put-in. Jamie was so mad at those guys. I found out later they are actually a family who live nearby and come to this particular spot to ransom money from people, especially kayakers. They say it is their road and we have to pay if we want to use it. Entertaining, but sad. These people were teaching their children that this is the way to live. There were probably 20 adults and 10-15 children under 10.

A cool slot canyon you can walk into, riverside.

After boating there are plenty of cervezas and dancing. The canucks have been partying a bit more than we had to this point and the next morning they are looking a bit worse for wear. Jenny has come down with a nasty stomach bug and is out for boating pretty much the whole trip.

At the end of the trip you might even see some doggies on top of a building.

Nov 26 A Little Help From My Friends

"I have a friend…" is what I hear many times from folks I meet in Ecuador. It seems it would be commonplace in all of Latin America, but Ecuador is the place I have been to. My friend, Daniel is over right now. He brought a movie back he borrowed and then started talking with Becky in the street in front of our house. They began singing the song from Desperado together and then Daniel told Becky he played a little guitar. Becky is learning and Sam, always a consumate student, was interested as well. Daniel came up, got on Becky's guitar and just started ripping. This kid is good!

His style is more flamenco which is fantastic to listen to. After about 10 minutes Becky asked him where he learned to play. Daniel (Dan-yell) said, "I have a friend who showed me..." Becky laughed loudly and said, "Give your friend my number!" Abe knows the song too so he sings it with Daniel as Daniel teaches them out on the balcony. Becky is writing down all the words to the song as Daniel sings them. Every night is so much fun. Something new. The adventure continues.

Daniel brings his guitar teacher over half an hour later. Sweet. Sam and I want to get guitars and he says there are some shops here in Tena, but it would be better to go to Quito. He will be there on the 4th and we will be there to find guitars. Good ones, he says, go for $180. We’ll be there for an annual festival that goes on for about 2 weeks, including bull fights. Everyone continues to play, sing and drink on into the night. It’s amazing how things work. It’s nice to have friends.

Nov 12 From Quito to the Quijos valley

It's 24 hours later since I last saw my boats. I'm getting off the plane in Quito. The air is cool and muggy. The airport is chaotic and there are people everywhere. I haven't seen the boats, Chris, Abe, or Becky, who are picking me up. I also haven't seen anyone who speaks Englias. It takes a little bit, but my boats surface and so do mi tres amigos. Sweet.

Abe and Chris were able to find a nice 12 passenger van. It has a sweet rack on it. By now it's about 9 o'clock and everyone is ready to get out of Quito. We load up the boats and head to Baeza (bi-A-za)

It takes about three hours of driving through very steep mountains with some sketchy roads. Abe's driving and we're listening to some great Spanish music. I don't even know what it is, but I love it. We make it to a little hostal by about 1 and before Abe and I go to sleep we watch From Dusk 'Til Dawn in spanish. Good stuff.

The next morning I'm feeling a bit jet lagged and slow from the elevation. The weather was great and we drive on to the Quijos river. It takes a little while, but we run into Marco Collela, Chris Ryman, and Chad from BC. Who knew. Fun factor +1. I've known Marco for several years now, Chris runs Endless Adventures (, a kayak shop up in, well... BC, and Chad has put himself in charge of givin'er.

It takes a little bit to get all of my stuff out of the boats and into bags so we can boat. Abe is impressed with how much I was able to get into the playboat. In a pretty short amount of time we get a shuttle going and are on the river. The Quijos is fantastic. It's a higher volume river with some great play and some class III-IV drops. The big one in the middle, El Toro was a bit bigger than the rest with some formidable holes and fairly steep.

Becky, who has been boating for about the last year or so was pretty tentative on this run, and admittedly nervous. I take her under my wing. This run becomes a private class for Becky and she really takes to it. It's great to watch. She tells me she's ready to crap her pants, but she's styling the drops. Becky's awesome. We complement each other on this trip. I can barely say 'gracias', so she helps order me food and keeps me out of trouble.

The Quijos is really great, I think everyone has done the run before except Becky and myself. I pull into an eddy right at the top of El Toro. It's obviously much steeper than the rest of the drops. I'm looking downstream as I'm the first in the eddy. BC Chris and Chad come wheeling into the eddy along with everyone else. I spot a line from right to middle and ask BC Chris about it. He says he's never been here before. Well, I guess it's time to giv'er then, eh? We drop in, Marco and Chad follow. It's big, fast and fun. At the top is this fun S-boof kind of thing out in to the middle. Then down a fast jet of wild crashing waves and seams which push into some nasty rocks on the right. Working to stay middle I wind up just missing the big stompy hole at the bottom. BC Chris hits it and he goes deep coming out the other side. Chad is a bit of a shit show tumbling through, but winds up at the bottom upright and in his boat with a smile on his face.

Abe, Chris J, and Becky are still at the top. Abe describes the line to Becky, proceeds to drop in and gets pushed right of where he wants to be. Chris J knows this might get exciting for Becky very quickly. Becky drops in, flips shortly thereafter, tries some rolls, moves some rocks around on the bottom, then swims, All's well that ends well, right? It takes a bit to get back together, so we stop there, stretch, and actually look at the rapid. Becky and I walk back up to the rapid and talk about it. The rest of the run goes well. Becky is still nervous, but does fine and we finish up with a great play hole.

It takes awhile for our taxi driver to show up but he makes it and we all go back, have a fantastic meal and all of us, Abe, Chris J, me, Becky, BC Chris, Chad, Marco, and Marco's wife Jen, pile into the van and head for Tena.

The Quijos is a fantastic run, just make sure you wear lots of sunscreen, especially if you are coming from a dark and rainy part of the world. I wore a shorty top with SPF 40 on my arms and got totally fried. Bad. It's been three or four days now and they are still red. I'm hoping it's going to darken up, but I'm glad the skin hasn't fallen off. It's getting better.

Along the way, and through a two-liter of rum and Coke, we all tell stories, talk about the Quijos, and Marco told us about Dragan. Dragan is originally from Croatia, has lived in BC for many years now, is a mechanical engineer, and loves to boat and party in Tena! We'll meet him later, Marco tells us.

It's a fun trip with no police 'toll' stops and lots of steep drop offs including one section of road that's all gravel. There really is no safety setup for road repair. Caution tape around the work area is about as good as it gets. This includes pouring new sections of road, fixing big washouts, or building new bridges where the road will drop about ten feet just before it goes over the old bridge. At night it looks like the road just disappears and all you can see is the framework of the new bridge, which is much higher than the old bridge. Sketchy.

We make it to Tena (tay-na) late, find a hostal, which turns out to be great, with a fantastic proprietor, Maximo. I'm not worried about anything getting stolen and my room even has AC! We boat tomorrow.

Nov 11 On the way...

I was more nervous than I had been in years. I wasn't sure if the airlines were going to let me take my two boats to Ecuador and I’d spent the last month busting my ass to make it happen. I am in Seattle now. The three weeks prior I’ve been completing a bathroom remodel, moving out of my house, and packing for this trip. It’s taken much longer to pack my boats than I had thought. And I have so much stuff at my house! I've been to the Goodwill many times to drop things off just to get rid of them.

Mama Mama, the Ecuadorian gnome, watches the kayak disguise metamorphosis.

It took three hours to wrap the boats in plastic. I started with the playboat, I wanted to make sure I had at least that boat. By the time I was finishing it was apparent the boat weighed a lot, maybe too much. There was so much else to do, though, there wasn’t time to worry about it. The next night I packed the creeker. It didn't have much in it, because I didn't want to have to repack a bunch into a bag if they weren't going to let it come. It was raining pretty hard, too, had been all day. I was so nervous on the way to the airport. My stomach was in knots.

When we got to the front counter there was hardly anyone in the airport. This was good because the attendants at the front counter were probably bored and the boats would at least be entertaining for them. Within a minute of putting the boats on the scale they were making jokes and asking about the contents of my 'bags'. It was fun. We were all laughing and joking. Then the main attendant measured the creeker. "I'm sorry, sir, this is too long to travel on the plane." Oh no. He then looked over to the scale the playboat was on. "I'm sorry, sir, this is overweight. Neither one of these can come. I can put them on a FedEx flight tomorrow, but that is the best I can do for you." Double, oh no.

The Gatekeeper flaunting his power.

I went around with the main attendant for a few minutes, then he decided to call his manager on the walkie-talkie. His manager confirmed to him what he had told me already. "No can do, pal." Damn. I, then, asked to speak with the manager, personally. I went around with him for a couple minutes. I knew if I could get him to okay the creeker I could pull some stuff out of the playboat to get the weight down and all would be good. I should point out that I was never impolite or disrespectful in the least. I wanted to be very clear that I was unhappy about the current circumstances, but I was not mad at them and I was willing to try and work things out. I needed those boats on the plane.

I continued speaking with the manager over the phone and he finally relinquished and allowed the creeker to pass. I'm in. I then told the main attendant of my conversation with his manager and he readily accepted. Now the hustle began. Luckily I had arrived about four hours early in case of something like this. I took the boats from the counter and moved them across to the other side of the thoroughfare, far enough away that they couldn't see exactly what I had, but could see I was moving things around. It took about an hour to get things all situated and taped back up. (Bring tape and scissors) During this hour I took the boat over to the scale three times to check weight. I got both boats under 100 pounds and now it’s off to the races!

Mama Mama knows the pain of repacking boats at the airport. But it's worth it!

The attendant put the stickers on, then it was around the corner to the oversized baggage check in. Almost immediately, the man at this counter said he would have to open up the packages. Oh jeez. I told him he would have to use the utmost care opening it because he could damage it very easily. He looked at the boat. It was 10:30PM by this point. I need to also mention that my girlfriend has been so helpful throughout the day, packing, driving around, saying goodbye, and has been amazingly patient. All she wanted was to see me get on the plane with the boats.

The man looked at the boats, wiped them down to check for explosives, then, put the final stickers on and sent them down the conveyor belt. yesss. Now we have about an hour to kill before I have to walk through the final security gate, so we just sat with each other.

Now what, sucka?

I'm getting on the plane.

Nov 5, 2008

Welcome to The Ecuadorian Adventure

This blog will chronical my travels this winter in Ecuador. I am a kayaker and adventurer. This promises to be my biggest adventure, yet. This trip is made possible in part by these fantastic sponsors: Jackson Kayak, Snapdragon Sprayskirts, Stohlquist Waterware. Special thanks goes to: Immersion Research, and AT Paddles! Stay tuned, I leave Nov 11!