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.