Dec 17, 2008

Dec 17 Highlights since the Quijos

The thunder was so loud today it was setting off car alarms. Since the Quijos we've covered a lot of ground. Hiking in and out can wear on you! We finally have semi-reliable internet, and semi-reliable hot water. The weather here is pretty amazing especially by PNW standards. I could do with a few less sand flies, but even they seem to be waning off, at least the bites. I'm in a groove now down here. I think we all are. I speak better Spanish than I did when I got here, but my level of comprehension has room for improvement. The thunder is still awesome. It reminds me of the thunderstorms in Indiana during the summer. It was so loud there it would rattle the windows. A fresh group of boaters arrive about every week or so, and I'm remembering the runs more now, which is nice. Here are some highlights of things we’ve done, seen, bought, swam or thoroughly enjoyed since leaving the beautiful Quijos valley.

The first drop on the bamboo strtech of the Misualli. This was the first day I ran it.

The next day I was in the playboat and things didn't go so smoothly.

I blew the lead in and was too far right. Fighting to get back to the left side (which didn't work) I wound up dropping over this ledge on the right, dead sideways. Damn. The hole is backed up and boils back from 6 or 7 feet downstream. Double shoot. I started rodeoing and it didn't take long before I was upside down. The water was aerated too which didn't help for rolling. I wound up on my back deck at one point and just started paddling downstream out of the hole upside down. I think it was working, but I didn't wait long enough before I rolled and got sucked right back in.

Shee-yute! Hadn't had air in a while and gave rolling a couple more tries, then I pulled. Immediately I got sucked down and held in this little pocket that wasn't really moving anywhere, just kind of stopped between the pourover coming in and the upstream backwash meeting it. I managed to get to the surface for a second, got some air and a bit of water, then went back down again. By this time I'm wondering how this was going to play out. Team Yukon is on either side of the river and the river isn't very wide there. I'm wondering where the rope is, but I'm also wondering how this is gonna play out! I get a little push and try swimming into the green water coming in, I go down a ways and wind up surfacing about three feet from the pourover. I barely get a breath as I see Jeff (one half of Team Yukon) standing on shore in the 'ready' position. Right before I get sucked down again I yell at him, "C'MOOONN!" I want a rope! Then I'm under again. Soon enough I feel the rope and he pulls me out.

Sheeeeee-yute!! It takes a couple minutes for me to catch my breath and about 15 for us to get a line on the boat and pull it out. If you've ever run the Top Tye in WA it's a mini version of the hole in Paranoia, except the water doesn't seem to be flushing. The rest of the trip went pretty well, I led most of the way.

There are a few other groups of boaters in Tena and we all see each other about every day. I talked to one group later that night and said, "Dude, I swam today." He said, "I heard." I thought, who told you? I just got off the river 15 minutes ago. He then said,"I also heard you styled the rest of the run. You're the man! Except for that one drop." Snicker. On top of it, it was my birthday and that drop was the first of about a 15 mile stretch. The birthday tradition down here is to get whipped with a belt or switch for each year. I got my spanking from the river early. Humble pie for dessert.

Capt Fun keeps it real... fun

That's no playhole. Whatch out Capt Fun! That's El Toro at a stupid high level.

The ladies at the fiesta were great.
I don't know why they wore all black though.
Seems a bit too warm.

Jenny, Marco, and Chad love driving in the van to Tena!

Chris made a friend at the restaurant, Dona Cleo's.

The storms are beautiful, loud, and make the rivers go!

Sam likes it when kayaks go BOOF

One of the boofs on the El Reten section of the Misualli. Good stuff!

Can you find the small kayaker in Land of Giants? Lower Misualli at high water

This is the portage just above Land of Giants. LOG starts just out of frame.

Portage. Gynner and Chris look and talk about it.

The only beach on the Lower Mis.

I got a guitar

Some very cute kids at the putin for the Lower Mis.

Dec 11, 2008

Nov 23 The Lower Quijos

Nov 23 The Lower Quijos

So far I've run rivers almost every day. I've done five sections of the Quijos. Some of them were at enormous flows. The Borja to El Chaco section was the one we've done the most. It's a great big-water III+ run with a IV+ in the middle, El Toro. The Bombon section was great. Bigger water yet, and with Marco and Chris Ryman along it was sure to razzle Becky's nerves a bit. Those guys run some shit and love to step it up. Toward the end of the Bombon is a big Z turn rapid that didn't have a name. It did, however, have one of the biggest holes I've ever seen from the cockpit of my kayak. As Becky would say, "Holy Mother of God!" That's what I thought as I rounded the corner. I wish there were pictures for all of these holes. They are fucking enormous! Of course, pictures probably would not do these things justice.

Another neat thing about the Quijos is that the further downstream you go the more water there is. There are a ton of tributaries! From the top, which is a tight steep creek, tumbling 60 kilometers downstream to the 'Final' stretch of the Quijos, the river builds into a magnificent truly BIG water jungle run. We didn't make it to the 'Final' stretch, but Becky and I did the stretch above called the 'Lower'. This stretch, so Chris told Becky, was 'a chill relaxing day on the river with nothing to worry about.' The lower stretch was about 12 miles long and did have a chill stretch which happened to be the second half of the run. The book said it dropped about 32 feet per mile, which was low gradient for a III-IV run. Becky picked out the run because she wanted a 'chill' day and I didn't want to rattle her before we put on. I figured it would spill its guts in the first half or so of the run which would put the rapids closer together, And the way this river rolls down stream, it just gets bigger and louder as it goes. The Lower Quijos did just that.

There were about 20 rapids on this stretch, and they weren't necessarily bigger than the rapids on the other stretches, but there were HUGE holes in every rapid. At least one hole and maybe eight. Each rapid danced with 10-15 foot waves, house rocks that, at times, were 30 feet out of the water, and holes. Oh the holes. Holy Mother of God. We never got up close with any of them, but there was on rapid, "Gringos Revueltos", that the book said to be on the lookout for. Gringos Revueltos, in Spanish, means 'Scrambled White Boy' and we kind of found it by accident. I ran the lead-in and realized it was much bigger than the rest of the rapids, so I caught a small eddy before dropping over the first ledge. Becky was upstream and I was going to tell her to wait in the upstream eddy, but she was heading my way. I signaled for her to stop where I was, but for some reason her eddy-catching-prowess was turned down. She missed it and ran the first of two riverwide ledges backwards. Shit. I didn't want to have to run these blind if she swam. Don't swim, please. She got it turned around for the second ledge and almost caught the side-tractor-beam back into the gigantic hole in the center of the river. Then... she caught an eddy. Damn. I got out and looked at it for a minute and kind of, well, didn't want to run it. The holes up to this point had been larger than most, in every rapid, and my adrenaline glands were growing weary. However, Becky had just run this thing blind, and... backwards, and, (sigh) I don't consider myself a man of machismo or elevated levels of testosterone, BUT. I had to run it. So I did. And that was that.

Throughout the rest of the run we wondered if that had been the Scrambled Gringo. It was, but we had more rapids to run and more holes to dodge. We made it. Nobody swam. Nobody died. A good day was had, especially when we made it down into the lower part of the run. It was absolutely stunning. Jungle walls rising 3000 feet above the river. For miles. It was sunny and hot, no bugs, and because the river was so high we had plenty of time before our shuttle driver, Willow, showed up. It's so strange to me how we can seemingly get out of the river in the middle of nowhere and have a guy pick you up who you've only known for a week, who you've only seen a few times. Ecuador is an amazing place.

Nov 22 Chadwick and The Movies

Nov 22 Chadwick and The Movies

Becky and I decided to take a bus to El Chaco on a day off from boating. Our friend Chad from BC had been sick in bed for three days... in Borja! (heavy on the bore if you don't kayak) Even Chris R and Marco had been getting little pick-me-ups for him in hopes he would get better.

Chad is THE sweetest guy you'll ever meet. He's 27, has lived in the BC backwoods all his life, totally rips when he chooses a sport, but is absolutely the sweetest around. Everybody loves him. On our way back from the Quijos we stopped at a movie place and I went in and got a porno for Chad. Becky and I laughed about it on the way back wondering how everyone would react. Actually, we knew how everyone would react, the funniest part was how Chad would react.

We got back and it took a couple of hours for everyone to get back to the house. (Becky and I had been living with Marco, Chad, and Chris R at 'The Dirtbag House" while in Borja. If you get the chance I recommend experiencing it for the 'full immersion'.) After everyone had arrived I gathered everyone into the main room and announced I had a gift for Chad. It was perfect. The kid lit up. It was great. We played poker for a while and went to bed.

The next morning Becky had decided that she wanted to run the Lower Quijos. Chris J and Abe were in Quito teaching a Swiftwater Rescue class and Sam hadn't arrived yet, so it was just us. Becky, since arriving, had really been stepping up her kayaking game, out of necessity really, because the big water III+-IV runs we were doing were the easiest in the valley. I don't know if she knew that was the case, but she really wanted to do something easier. The morning started like usual. A fifteen minute walk through town to the best place around, Dona Cleo's. Dona Cleo (Don-ya Clay-oh) is a sweet woman who loved us and loved cooking for us. After breakfast we walked back and set up shuttle with Willow.

Eventually we got to the river and were getting dressed and I noticed Becky had something weird on her helmet. I told her to take it off and have a look. She took it off and low and behold... It was on of the women on the cover of Chad's porno. We both laughed about it pretty hard. The other thing was that when we had gotten up earlier other of these ladies were taped to everyone's bedroom door. So dirtbag... Pure comedy.

Well we got off the run and had some Ceviche (Sa-vee-chay), which is a little like soup, but not quite, and it's cold, at this place Willow, our main shuttle driver knew about. He also stopped for us in El Chaco for a sweet gift for the boys. I ran in to the video store. It was absolutely pouring out. I got 10 porno's, and the next morning Becky and I put them in every single one of their boats. If i haven't mentioned it before the boys were starting a kayak touring company, and had a number of boats in Borja, waiting for clients they were meeting to take down the river later. Each boat got it's own movie for the paddler's individual pleasure, or at least for the boys shock and disbelief. Becky and I were leaving that day and wouldn't see the boys for another week or so, so all we could do is laugh about every day and tell everyone we knew. It was funny.

Soon enough we met up with the boys at a pizza place in Tena. They had all their clients with them and after some conversation we gently asked if anything had been discovered in the boats. Everyone, except the two girls, thought it was hilarious. Some of the movies weren't found until halfway down the run. Awesome. It turns out Chad had been the mastermind behind the whole thing. Marco told us later he got up really early and did everything himself. It was still really funny.