Saturday, June 27, 2009

rollin, rollin, down white water…

Julie’s cousin hosted a poker night the first weekend we were here in Ecuador and Andrew met some of Ryan’s buddies – all expats who are now trying to live in Ecuador.  One of them, Jeff, is a big, stern American fellow who’s big into rafting (he’s got a rafting gear store in the hostel he runs in Quito).  So in between shots of Ecuadorian moonshine Jeff invited us out to go rafting in the mountain rivers by a town called Tena.  He talked it up pretty good, saying how beautiful the scenery is and how the rivers are so remote that there’s nobody else out there.  So we modified our schedule slightly so that we’d meet up with the group in Tena.

We hauled butt from Banos to Puyo and then on to Tena in order to get out on the river. But after a pancake breakfast, rounding up the gear, getting everybody sorted and arranging a ride, we didn’t get out to the river early at all. And then while en route to the river, it started raining, getting us fellas in the back of the truck prematurely wet, and cold.

As we turned off the highway, local villagers rushed up to the loaded truck clamouring for the chance to be a porter and earn a few dollars. “Solo tres! Solo tres!” Jeff yelled out trying to limit the amount of people climbing onto the truck.  We could barely get ourselves together before an old guy took off with the raft on his back and two women carried the rest.  As we gingerly picked our path down the muddy, slippery clay horse trail we wondered how that old guy managed to nimbly navigate it with a couple hundred pounds on his back.Safety lesson

The canyon did not disappoint: it was gorgeous. Thick green foliage surrounded us as the turquoise waters tumbled around and over boulders between the vertical canyon walls.

Two of our crew had never rafted before, and Andrew was the only male other than our guide Jeff so it’s probably not surprising that weCLICK ME to visit the photo gallery had some navigation issues early on as people were learning the commands. We got jackknifed onto a big rock and admittedly Andrew was a little slow getting over in the boat thereby causing the boat to be breached. The water rushed into it, submerging it and sending everyone to one side of the boat to try and stay above the water. Oddly enough Andrew was the only one who got swept out of the boat, holding onto a rope as Jeff helped him back in. The force of the rushing water was so great that the gear was getting ripped out and the boat was getting bent around the rock. Finally Jeff managed to get the boat to cantilever around the rock, and even more fortunately held onto it as it suddenly regained buoyancy and took off down the river. So, we learned our lesson! But barely 10 minutes later we mishandled another tricky spot and got spun into a corner with no way out. This time our spotter had to throw us a rope to pull us out.

Shortly after the Jondachi River joins with the Hollin River we stopped for lunch. Oh wow was that ever a hard-earned lunch break!  With the two rivers combining, the water volume doubled which meant we had to paddle even harder to maintain our course. It was freakin’ tiring.

The last stretch of the river was actually quite relaxed – more gently burbling rapids instead of wild roaring stuff. although there were some spots with some big click to enlarge photodips that were pretty fun, especially when a wall of water crashed over the bow of the boat thoroughly soaking Julie & Andrew sitting in front. Julie got quite a few waves in the face – haha, funny even now…

So we started paddling around 1pm and didn’t get off the river until 5:30pm – it was a long day but super fun!

We capped off the evening by meeting up with some other friends who took us to their favourite restaurant in Ecuador – the Marquis Grille in Tena, famous for uber-cheap superb steaks, and an in-house sloth who just roams the rafters above you. Only in the jungle! :^)

Andrew says hello to the sloth (click for larger image)

Link to accompanying photo gallery

Ecuador kayaking:

Review of rafting:

No comments: