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Posted: Fri Apr 08, 2005 1:58 pm
by Mark R
sub5rider wrote:
guidebook wrote:[....we did a bit of Japanese hiking.....
Go on, explain.....
1) Stop car
2) Lean out of window
3) Take picture
4) Drive on

Posted: Fri Apr 08, 2005 2:04 pm
by Mark R
We fly out in a few hours.

Oh man, my head hurts. We had a last evening meal at a Llama steak house and things got a bit weird.

The 'Viceministerio de Turismo' turned up and interviewed us extensively on Bolivia's river-running tourism potential. As it happens, she was a babe. It also emerged that one of our fantastic 4WD drivers was actually the 'Director-General de Turismo'. No kidding. The same bloke we'd been sleeping in ditches with and sharing filthy jokes with for two weeks.

It all got hazy then, but we were dragged by our Ministerial chums around a long series of bars, Salsa clubs, nightclubs, etc...we have nothing against La Paz, but it was a major reeling shock to discover that you could have a fantastic night out there.

We staggered back to our Hotel just in time for Si to catch his 4 am taxi to the airport.

My head hurts. This expedition stuff is hard work.


Posted: Fri Apr 08, 2005 2:25 pm
by River Honey
I am glad to hear you all have a had a fantastic and "interesting" time.
I loved reading the posts and emails from Si.

Looking forward to seeing the pictures and hearing the stories

Lucky for Si when he returns the rivers are going off big time here!!

Posted: Fri Apr 08, 2005 2:39 pm
by Steve B
guidebook wrote: The 'Viceministerio de Turismo' turned up and interviewed us extensively on Bolivia's river-running tourism potential. As it happens, she was a babe. It also emerged that one of our fantastic 4WD drivers was actually the 'Director-General de Turismo'.
<Victor Meldrew voice> I don't Bolivia! </Meldrew>

For two weeks I've been waiting for an opportunity to use that joke, and on the very last day you come up with a story so far-fetched it has to be true!

Re: Bolivia

Posted: Fri Apr 08, 2005 2:39 pm
by Mark R
River Honey wrote:Lucky for Si when he returns...
Assuming, that is, they let him onto the plane blind drunk.

Posted: Fri Apr 08, 2005 2:47 pm
by sub5rider
guidebook wrote: 1) Stop car
2) Lean out of window
3) Take picture
4) Drive on
Ah. Never observed this behaviour as my holiday destinations and Japanese tourists are mutually exclusive...

PS Glad your head hurts. Serve you right.

Posted: Sat Apr 09, 2005 8:32 pm
by Mark R
Team all home safe and sound after a fantastic trip!

We even blagged our outrageously overweight boats and baggage there and back for free.

Posted: Sun Apr 10, 2005 4:29 pm
by Mark R
Some of my photos are uploading right now - comments/ queries welcome...

Posted: Sun Apr 10, 2005 7:20 pm
by lozbrown
just checked out the photo's, some quaulity piccys there mark, id' be intrested to read a more detailed trip report with river advice, travel advice for the area ect. but i understanf thats time consuming to write

Looks like you had a great time tho
had you guys actually just run that fall? if so wow!

what did the hire company say about the crashed landy? you seem to have found a useful hire company anywaay.....

Posted: Sun Apr 10, 2005 8:56 pm
by Mark R, we didn't run that fall. All waterfalls we saw were under five metres or over a hundred.

The vehicles came - with drivers - at about 85 dollars a day plus petrol, a real bargain. The drivers were stars, and never blinked if (say for instance) we asked them to drive the 'World's Most Dangerous Road*' over the Andes to get us back to La Paz for steak in the middle of the night.

The Landrover slid off the road whilst reversing up on said road one night. It came to rest on the cliff...if we'd been on the other side of the road, you wouldn't be hearing this story...

*On average, three vehicles a week take the plunge.

Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 4:11 pm
by FreshAl
These trips make for amazing reading whilst I'm stuck in the office, Mark & Co. you're saving my sanity and inspiring me to get out there

Wonderful stuff, thanks for sharing

gits. I'm not jealous ;)

Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 4:52 pm
by lozbrown
The vehicles came - with drivers - at about 85 dollars a day plus petrol, a real bargain. The drivers were stars, and never blinked if (say for instance) we asked them to drive the 'World's Most Dangerous Road*' over the Andes to get us back to La Paz for steak in the middle of the night.
Wow thats worth it just for the shuttle bunnys, would make it much easier to do lots sections/rivers each day.

lots of intresting reading!

If you dont mind me asking how much did you guys budget for this trip, will understand if you dont want to answer that. Am just intrested to know how much this kind of trip would cost

Loz (also jealous)

Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 5:29 pm
by Mark R
lozbrown wrote:how much did you guys budget for this trip
Not 100% sure.

Flights cost £850, car hire, petrol, drivers' costs probably £200 each, other costs about £10 a day or less.

Either way, it was certainly cheaper than some recent North American trips.

I'm sure one of the team accountants can give a definitive figure.

adventure envy

Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 6:54 pm
by ManicMavis
"......overshadowed by a monstrous cascade of interlinked waterfalls spraying directly onto the rapid. The sun is in the right place so that, gazing upwards, you see an indescribable kaleidoscope of colours and light refracted hundreds of feet above your head by the falling water. Truly one of the most amazing things you could ever see".

Worth a grand of anyones money, im so jealous, its going on my to do list.

Just one problem, how are you going to top this?

Re: adventure envy

Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 7:09 pm
by Poke
Just one problem, how are you going to top this?
No idea how they are but we're gonna give it a good shot ;-)

Some of the best photos we've found of the place are from a small russian expedition there last summer:
blue water,
who needs trucks,
river meander,
wall silhouette..

Still, it goes without saying that I'm also very.. yeah, anyways.. you get the idea..

Re: adventure envy

Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 7:26 pm
by Mark R
ManicMavis wrote:Just one problem, how are you going to top this?
We have no intention of trying to top it...some of the boating was scary/ physically demanding enough as it is.

However, we will possibly be making an appearance in Central Asia this summer, if we ever get around to organising it properly.

I am currently enlarging the Bolivia photos after a few folk asked me.

Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 8:37 pm
by Scuba Steve
Those photos looked great, what a trip!!

I see Andy Mc has started up his babysitting business, good to see the machette put to good use. Maybe we should get Andy into the English education system as 'Chief Punisher'.

Also whats 'weird' with the dog having a rucksack made out of a monkey? It could lead to a new fashion craze!

Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 10:54 pm
by Mark R
A few of Andy Levick's pics which he was kind enough to send on. Andy gashed his hand on a riverside rock early on, and wasn't able to paddle for a while as a result...I don't think he was too upset though much of the paddling was a bit feisty for his taste.


...I remember passing Andy just as he took this pic. We'd just 'inspected' a 'Grade 4' gorge from high up on the road and then run it. I'm actually saying, "Bloody Hell! That was heinous."


...this pic was a couple of hours later. We came up against a pretty impressive Grade 5 rapid with a single breakout...before the river dropped into the Chasm of Deadly Doom(tm). In this pic Marcus is being the hero and going first. We had two hours of daylight left, and assumed tat it was a simple scree slope up to where Andy was, 300 foot above. Hmm. What we didn't know was, the slope terminated in a bloody great loose cliff. And that we'd still be trying to climb out after dark. Oops.


...I have no idea at all what this final pic shows. Seems to be some kind of 'culture'. What on earth was Andy up to, in the days he was away from the group???


Posted: Tue Apr 12, 2005 6:03 pm
by Andy_L
Thanks for posting up my photos Mark.

Regarding the second photo: It took a good two hours before all the people and boats were hauled up from the river onto the road. By the time the last boat have been safely pulled up, it was dark. People were left in a state of (nervous) exhaustion and everything was covered in dirt and mud. We received a considerable help from the locals. It's amazing what can be done with a few throw lines and canoe straps tied together. There were long discussions afterwards about "lessons learnt".

That night we stayed in an interesting "gothic" hotel a few miles up the road. It was the former home of one of the presidents of Bolivia. A very creepy place - it had obviously stood derelict for many years, and was recently converted into a hotel by the simple addition of a few beds (though the electrics and general décor was left in pre-1920s state of repair).


Re: Photos

Posted: Tue Apr 12, 2005 7:23 pm
by Mark R
Andy_L wrote:the electrics and general décor was left in pre-1920s state of repair
As evidenced by the fact that I was electrocuted when I slung my newly cleaned throwline up to dry in the shower...


Posted: Tue Apr 12, 2005 7:42 pm
by Chris W
The expedition 'accountant' wasn't physically capable of doing the final sums on the last day due to a combination of alcohol, altitude, lack of sleep and old age. I passed the book onto real accountant, Marcus.

Total cost= about £1,300 each inc:

Flights: £855 (Varig didn't charge extra for the 6 kayaks)
Transport: £170 each (two 4WDs and drivers/guides, one fluent English)
Spend: £200 (£13 each per day for fuel, food, accomm and beer)
Insurance: say, £60.
Airport tax: £15
Visas: not required

I've spent up to £1,300 on 2 week boating tours of west coast USA motels. The cheap living in Bolivia makes up for those very expensive flights.

However, I dread to think what we spent beforehand on kit- and Kevin wins the gadget freak award.

Chris W.

Bolivia toys

Posted: Thu Apr 14, 2005 8:48 pm
by Mark R
Knees wrote:Kevin wins the gadget freak award.
We all played with some splendid toys...

Kev's paired walkie-talkies were especially useful for communicating with our drivers onthe roads high above.

My GPS was helpful for judging river steepness before hopping on...we very nearly hopped onto a section of the Rio Unduavi that looked fine from high above. A quick drive downstream revealed that - despite appearances - it was 700 foot a mile!!!

A few folk experimented with hammocks - jury still out, I would say.

Hooped bivi bags were deemed hugely superior to normal bags, esp in the humid climate.

The machete was theoretically invaluable, but McMahon kept forgetting to carry it.

My multifuel stove was a nasty hissing volatile thing, but quick to use and perfect for the conditions

Andy Mc's porridge came in for major abuse but was actually rather decent when washed down with fruit.

Si's MRE Packs were judged the best expedition food...mainly because they were more interesting to eat, with lots of little packs to open and get excited about.

The dried expedition food was generally terrible.

My pertex group shelter was no use at all and never left the bag.

bolivia expedition

Posted: Sun Apr 17, 2005 10:44 pm
by simon coward
Hey Mark
Looks like you guys had a good time out in Bolivia, was cool to see some piccies of some of the runs we did and obviously some bloody good new ones. Id be super keen to hear more if you drop me an email

Posted: Mon Apr 18, 2005 12:13 am
by Mark R
Hi Simon! Your notes were very helpful to us, although we question your definition of 'roadside'! An amazing country, thanks for laying the groundwork for us to go there. I've begun to get trip notes together, here's part of it all....


Bolivia River Notes/ Trip Report.

I have GPS co-ordinates for most of the put-ins/ take-outs here, email me if you seriously intend to make use of them.

Day 1 – Arrived lunchtime, met 4WD and drivers at airport. Drove from La Paz to Corioco, took a detour to inspect the Rio Unduavi en route. It looked terrifying. Later the Landrover drove off the ‘World’s Most Dangerous Road’ in the dark. Scary.

Day 2 – Warmup paddle on the Rio Huaranilla. This gets rafted sometimes. We tried carrying our boats upstream of the road head, but the path just kept climbing away from the river and locals told us it did that indefinitely. So we carried back! Excellent Grade 3 and 4 with some quite long rapids, medium flow. With hindsight, we should have carried on down the Rio Corioco past the takeout, two for the price of one…had plenty of time spare.

Checked out the Rio Vagantes in the afternoon (first bridge after Corioco on the new highway) looked promising but too low. Went into Coroico and chilled out.

Day 3 – Rio Choro. This has been run at least twice, by some Americans and also the ‘Adventure Trippin’ Kiwis. The carry-in was horrendous due to heat, and we got the last bit wrong…we climbed down a scree slope and this ended up with two hellish hours of ropes, machetes, biting ants. We weren’t the first to make this mistake, we found traces of throwline! Andy L gashed his hand on a rock. River was running at a slightly discoloured medium level, excellent Grade 4+ and 5 drops in a gorge. Looked heinous Grade 5+/ 6 directly upstream of where we launched (maybe a new landslide rapid?). Paddled down to confluence with Rio Corioco.

Day 4 – Rio Unduavi. River running low and clear, you wouldn’t want more. The river is rarely less than 100 metres below the road and very hard to access. This has apparently been paddled by an American and Frenchman who used to live in Bolivia. Sketchy info though. The place where our driver thought they had launched cannot have been right…700 foot+ a mile. We launched a couple miles downstream where there was a good path to the river above a big gorge. Kev had inspected the gorge and said it was, “flat”. Ha! Full-on Grade 5 in the gorge and lots of pool-drop Grade 5 afterwards. This section is superb but comes at a price. It finishes with a spectacular Grade 5 rapid below a waterfall, with a don’t-miss eddy before it goes to Grade 6 (possible in super-low water?). BUT climbing to the road 300 foot above simply defeated us, we had to be guided up the scree at dusk by locals. Best check out possible routes beforehand. We stayed in the weird Gothic ‘Castle’ Hotel that you’ll spot on the road along this section.

Day 5 – Rio Unduavi. Still low (=good). A great day but with everything from Grade 3 to 6. We launched down a path a mile below where we’d climbed out the day before. We effectively paddled two sections on this long day. First section was down to the Hydro works, which have excellent road access. In this section, there is a very long stretch of lovely Grade 4. Eventually this gets harder with some Grade 5. I also seem to recall daunting looking box canyons, but they all turned out to be good.

We assumed it was all over when we reached the Hydro works (be careful, they seemed to be building a weir/ dam thing) but how wrong we were! Below here, there is much more volume due to the Hydro inlet. Things start off deceptively with classic Grade 3 in a fantastic gorge. However, the river forms a small lake behind a landslide….this is a crappy portage around a really evil rapid. After this, there is plenty of Grade 5 including one rapid ending in a waterfall that’s really dangerous; inspect carefully. Eventually you reach a bridge by some houses but keep going; the takeout is about half an hour below at the confluence of the Rio Susisa.

Day 6 – The plan was to explore the (unrun?) Rio Takesi, which joins the Rio Susisa just above the Rio Unduavi confluence. This would have involved a major journey and trek in to the start; however luckily we drove up from the bottom to check it out. I say luckily, because we discovered that it had little water…all taken out and diverted for the Unduavi’s Hydro works.

Plan B was to check out the (unrun?) Rio Susisa which had much more water. We drove up a couple of miles and walked a couple more…very hard due to heat and a big climb. The river was beautiful Grade 4 and 4+, worth the effort. There is definitely much more to explore further up this valley with time and prior planning. That night we travelled back to La Paz.

Day 7 – A travel day. Not bad actually, the interesting journey north took us along Lake Titicaca and back over the Andes to Camata. Some idea of how off the tourist trail this is can be gleaned from the fact that Camata is a reasonable sized town, but we ended up sleeping in the school building as there are no hotels. It could have been possible to paddle this day with an earlier start and no punctures (four that day).

Day 8 – Rio Camata. This was first run by Doug Ammons/ Scott Lindgren (we think). Running slightly brown and very feisty. Too much water perhaps. A medium volume river with notable gradient for its size. Grade 5 mostly, with holes everywhere and some really pushy bits. There were a few white faces and everyone got their butt kicked. We ran a gorgy bit that cranked up to Grade 5+, and then it began to get silly, we found ourselves portaging quite a lot. Eventually pulled out at a small school a mile upstream of the first road bridge down the valley. Slept in this school, too.

Day 9 – Rio Camata. Higher than before due to rain. Too much water, it made for an slightly unsatisfactory day. We paddled down to the bridge (Grade 5) and then there was an easier bit for a about a mile. The river then went silly and we had to climb out again right away. Annoying, not least as this took an hour.

There is a Grade 6 gorge a few miles downstream (begins directly below the massive ‘Two Brides’ waterfall) so we drove right past and launched from the road a few miles below. The section below began at Grade 4 but quickly eased to Grade 3 in a beautiful gorge. We took out at Quita Calzon village. We then drove back up the valley past Camata and inspected the Camata’s various tribs. All looked too high/ steep/ evil except for the Rio Calaya (unpaddled?) which follows the road. We bivvied in a field up the valley. Rainy night.

Day 10 – Rio Calaya, Grade 4+ and 5. We hoped to paddle the Calaya down to the Camata, but this was waaay too high…something challenging to come back for. Instead, we did a bridge to bridge section of about 6 km which was simply outstanding. It dropped at least 300 fpm for the first half, was absolutely relentless to the end. There was only one portage, otherwise everything was amazingly clean.

That evening, we made the trip back to La Paz and arrived in the early hours.

Day 11 – Journey to the Rio Zongo. All we knew was that this had been run in low water by the French/ US combo mentioned above. We later found out that it has actually seen some kind of rafting. To reach it, we drove up the hill out of La Paz and crossed a 15600 foot pass surrounded by glaciers…wow! The road then dropped 12000 feet in switchbacks, quite something really (when we reached the bottom, Ferdinand returned with the vehicles as he was running out of time. He ran a short cold section of the Rio Zongo up the valley). We were a bit uncomfortable, as the Rio Zongo at the road’s end looked feisty and was in a walled-in gorge. We loaded for several days (we indeed carried overnight gear on most trips) and followed a track down into the gorge. Some self-appointed local guide claimed to know a good way to the river, so we ended up following this prat for an hour as the daylight faded. He kept saying “Twenty minutes” but eventually we got sick of this and climbed down a gully to the river.

We ferried across the river and tied our boats to trees, then waded upstream to a camping beach. Dinner in the rain was a grim affair, not least as we were in a walled-in gorge with a lumpy Grade 5 rapid just below and too much water.

Day 12 – Rio Zongo. We had to make a decision whether to climb/ travel back out again, as we suspected we’d taken on too much. I ran the first rapid to get a look around the corner. Amazingly, the gorge opened out right away and all was well! The river began with outstanding Grade 4+ and 5, easing through the Grades along its length and ending in flat water at the Rio Coroico confluence. We paddled all 35 miles to the takeout that day. One monstrously huge unportageable rapid in a gorge sticks in the’ll know it when you see it. Actually it’s easy…but you have to send a victim first to find out. This river was different in character to the others, more like a Nepali rafting run.

That night we stayed in the hot jungle town of Caranavi.

Day 13 – Checked out the Rio Quita Calzon but (thank heavens) it was surprisingly too low.

Marcus and Andy Mc did the Rio Choro again. They hired porters and this was a success…quick and simple to arrange. They tried to go higher on the river but couldn’t find a way. The nasty stuff we’d seen just upstream of where we’d launched before was still nasty, they portaged.

Three of us did the Rio Suapi and the Rio Coroico which it flows into. The Suapi was really steep at first and has a great gorge, however it was too low really. After rain it would be Grade 4-5. Watch out for fallen trees on this run. The Rio Coroico was no harder than Grade 3+, yet a Grade 3 paddler’s nightmare…it kept piling into big cliffs. That night we headed back to La Paz.

Day 14 – Our first duff call. We headed out of town to check out some Andean streams forming the Rio Palca…on the map you couldn’t go wrong, however there wasn’t enough water; it was all taken away for irrigation. We didn’t mind…the scenery there was fantastic, it was a nice wind-down just to be Tourists!

Back in La Paz we had a really heavy night on the town with the Bolivian Ministry of Tourism (no, really).

Day 15 – Hangovers, Alpaca shopping and flights out.

Posted: Wed Apr 27, 2005 10:22 pm
by Mark R
I've just been sorting through Andy McMahon's trip photos and video. Interesting how two different people can go on the same trip and have an entirely different experience.

I gave you a flavour of Latin American culture like this....


and this...


However, Mr McMahon's cultural shots are somewhat different to mine...



Ho hum.

Anyway, here's some video from Andy Mc - dodgy quality, but gives you the general impression...

Rio Unduavi

Rio Camata
There was no live footage of Andy's toilet activities, you'll be glad to know.

looks bloody good

Posted: Mon May 02, 2005 2:17 am
by simon coward
Hi Mark and Co,
Sounds like you guys had the killer trip, you managed to cram a hell of a lot in, in a short space of time. We are hoping to return to Bolivia in September with hte hope of putting to gether some kind of guide book, so perhaps I'll pick your brain in the coming months as to areas you think may be worth visiting. Sorry about the camata description of roadside, it was kind of tonguee in cheek, as by bolivian standards it felt like the camata was roadside, well at least it was in the same province :-) I can't wait to read your more detailed descriptions, and yeah Im just so stoked it went well for you and you guys were pumped on the boating.

Re: looks bloody good

Posted: Mon May 02, 2005 10:23 pm
by Mark R
simon coward wrote:Sounds like you guys had the killer trip, you managed to cram a hell of a lot in, in a short space of time.
We got so much done for several reasons...

- Hiring the vehicles and drivers was essential (and not wildly expensive at 200 quid a head)
- The drivers were great, were interested in and supportive of what we were doing...willing to drive anywhere at any time, however stupid or inconvenient the plan
- We always do treat our trips as a bit of a mission...I believe the phrase is, "Rest when yer dead".

Posted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 11:00 pm
by Mark R
This month's 'Paddles' Magazine features a highly unreliable account of our adventures.


Posted: Thu Jun 09, 2005 1:52 pm
by Chris W
Reading the news this week about the Bolivian President resigning and the blockades and protests, I'm so, so, glad that we went there at Easter and not within the last month.

Chrus W.

Quiet here...

Posted: Sun Jun 19, 2005 4:49 pm
by imoretti
Just a note to let anyone thinking of visiting Bolivia right now. It's been pretty quiet the past week, and should stay like this for at least the coming month. It's winter here now, but plenty of sun all the time. If you have any questions about coming, drop me a line: I'm an American living in La Paz and would be happy to let keep you informed.


Michael Moretti