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 (endlessadventures.com), 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.