ECUADOR DIARY, NOVEMBER 2001
by Guy Austin
I just got back, Mark R was right it is a brilliant destination. A long flight 30 hours, but Norway takes as long on the boat. Phone a taxi from your $5 hotel (with Shower, air con and TV) tell the driver what you want to do and he will take you to the put in, then pick you up 4 hours later after brilliant continuious world class runs - Guy.
Typical street scene in Tena, outside the Araiz hotel. The Heladeria (Ice Cream shop) on the left rocks.
Thursday 2nd Nov - First river. Long and flat.
Today we did the Jatunyacu. The ride to the put in was an experience ln itself, about 20km along stony dirt roads full of pot holes. The taxis are usually pickup trucks with two rows of seats. Today we had 5 boats in the pickup part and one boat tied onto the top of all the others. During the taxi ride I saw butterflies as big as starlings. The river was 30 km long, the top half was quite good with big wave trains and only the occasional hole to avoid. The 2nd half though, was flatter than any of us liked and we were glad to see the get out. Cost today was $15 taxi to the put in and $ 3 back to the hotel, not a bad deal.
Friday 3rd Nov - Fun creek boating for beginners.
Creeking on the Upper Misahualli.
The upper Misahualli, only 6km but about 4 hours of big boulder gardens where the line is never apparent until you get to the lip of the fall. I had a close shave when I got the line wrong, I was about to shoot a 5 foot fall, I was going over the lip and right in front of me were 2 boulders that looked about 2 feet apart, my bow plunged deep between and under the boulders, obviously the boulders had a bigger gap underwater than above!
Saturday 4th Nov - The Lower Mis, big with beautiful scenery and the portage from hell.
The portage took about an hour and a half to do just 50m, but just as we were lowering the 4th boat down to the water we managed to knock Tom's boat into the river. After a frantic minute Ant gave chase. Fortunately there was a long pool below but even so Ant only just caught the boat and paddle before they went down the next rapid.
Sun 5th/ Mon 6th Nov - The Hollin.
150 metres after the start on the Hollin.
Fall just below the cave.
But first a trip to jail to to buy hammocks, all the convicts own work but still $8 each. At the top of the Hollin is the 50 foot fall we have all seen in the mags but after stories of broken backs, broken ribs, and broken boats none of us even went for a proper look. Bright sun and loaded boats made getting down to the put in hard work. One fall, similar to Low Force gave us second thoughts, everyone ran a sneak line on the left but I missed the line and had to boof of the main fall, it went sweetly though. There were plenty of meaty falls for the rest of day with only short flat sections in between.
Cold night on the Hollin.
About 5 we started looking for a campsite, the first one was a decent beach but not many trees and not very high above the water. We moved on and the second site we found had a big tree washed up on the beach. We tied all the hammocks to this tree and we tied the other ends to various rocks and bushes. After tinned fish and rice we went to bed, because we had been so warm at night none of us had brought sleeping bags. We were fine for about four hours, then it got cold. I was fine because I had my goretex bivi bag, but Matt only had a sweat shirt and Bill only had a T shirt. The others had space blankets and were not so badly off. Next day after the Jondachi joined we had some nice meaty rapids and nice play holes for the run down to the get out.
Tue 7th Nov - Upper Jondachi, The Day of the Lost Boats.
The first falls looked quite hard and were portaged. The river was great class V pool drop, but after about 3 hours both Matt and me were starting to feel a bit over our heads. Matt had had a swim earlier on and was paddling like a biffer. At a fairly straightforward rapid, Matt caught an edge and was swimming again. Everyone was downstream of Matt and when we saw him swimming Fraser and I dashed to the side ignoring his boat and started walking upstream to assist him. It was at this moment that the flash flood hit.
Fraser glanced downstream and saw my boat drifting away. I raced after it, but could not catch it before it was in the main flow, the river was now up about 1m in about 1 minute and was a brown torrent. On the other bank Bill was marooned on a rock, Ant managed to get a line to him and he clipped his boat to it. Bill was by now up to his balls in water and was clinging to his boat. Bill had to cling on for about 45 minutes until the water subsided a bit and Ant was able to tie off the rope and get close enough to throw Bill another rope. Bill now had to make a leap of faith and lunge for the bank, with Ant pulling and Bill jumping for all he was worth Bill flew onto the bank. Ant L was inspecting the next fall when he saw Matt's boat drift past, he started back towards his own boat to give chase only to see that drift past as well. Ant jumped into the water to grab his boat but missed, and only then did he realize that a flash flood was happening. I was chasing my boat, Ant l was chasing his, Bill was stuck on a rock, Ant was holding Bill, Matt was marooned on the far bank with his boat drifting down river and Tom and Fraser wondering what to do. Fraser and Tom decided to follow Ant and me down river to see where we had got to. Fortunately after 800m we came to a bridge and a track up to the road. Ant abandoned his chase and went up to the road, I abandoned my chase and while I was deciding what to do Fraser and Tom showed up, then Ant l returned, we all tried to get back up the other bank to help Bill, but after an hour of toil we were stopped by a cliff only 50m short. We could see Bill had gone from the rock so we made our way back to the bridge. When we got back we found Ant, Bill and Matt who had originally tried to climb out on the far bank but had returned to the river when they heard Toms whistle. With everyone safe we went up to the road and back to the hotel.
Wed 8th Nov - The search.
Next day at Tim Dents suggestion, we made an early start, Ant l, Matt, Tom and I went recover the abandoned boats while Ant, Bill Fraser and Tim in hired boats went to search for the lost boats. 8 hours later Ant, Bill, Fraser and Tim returned with Ant and my boats and my passport. My boat was pretty much intact but Ants boat was missing its central foam pillar and his dry bag and camera. Matt's boat was not found.
Thursday 9th Nov - A rest day.
Sent a couple of emails and sorted out a hire boat for Matt.
Friday 10th Nov - Another search.
This time Ant, Bill and Fraser did the short final section of the upper run while Matt Ant L and I did the lower Jondachi section. Today within 500m we found Matt's paddle which I took back up to the put in. Another 1km further on we found Matt's boat. It was ruined, it had a 3 foot split all around the bow. The dry bags had been removed by locals who must have found the boat higher up, stripped it and thrown the boat back into the river. Still at least $500 went to somebody who could do with it and not just got lost in the bottom of the river. The rest of the lower Jondachi was a real nice run, not too flat, not too steep, but it could have done with a bit more water.
Heading off down the lower Jondachi from the get-in bridge.
Joining the Hollin after the end of the Jondachi.
Saturday 11th Nov - Move to Baeza.
The team cheered up when we got to Baeza, it's cooler, the town is a lot smaller than Tena, and seems even poorer, but it has a nice restaurant, Gina's, and the other boaters are raving about the Quijos. No TV's here but rooms are only $3 a night.
Baeza bus stop at rush hour.
Sunday 12th Nov - Playday on the Quijos, With Tom as our guide.
The lower sections we did were bigger volume, with some bigger holes
Monday 13th Nov - Torrent ducks on the Cosanga.
This river kicks of with a bang, not too wide with big boulders everywhere. It really is boofarama city with only the occasionally inconveniently placed bolder. I capsized halfway down a main rapid and it looked like it was going to hurt but in the event I got quite a good line through even though I was upside down.
In the evening most of the lads went up to some hot springs 40km up the road. Apparently the water was very very hot and the only way to get in is to first stand in the ice pool until you get numb then stand in the hot pool, then move back to the ice pool upto your waist and so on until you are up to your neck. Then you must move slowly or you will get scalded.
Tuesday 14th Nov - Quijos, Cheese house run.
I heard this was quite a hard run, and so was a bit apprehensive. On the way up the driver stopped at the main rapid. It is a river wide stopper, made worse by a rock that blocks the middle half of the river. When we got to the drop off point for the taxi I discovered that I had forgotten my life jacket, phew what a relief I wouldn't have to paddle this section after all. But Melody, the guide from Small World said, "not to worry Guy, you can use my life jacket, I've done this run a hundred times and I don't mind missing it." It looked like I was going to do the run after all. It was quite a long walk down to the river, and when we got there I discovered that I had also forgotten my spray deck. It was an even longer walk back up the hill. By now the taxi had gone so I had to hitch a ride. The first truck that came along stopped, that's typical in Ecuador, there aren't many private cars so when they do stop the driver usually expects a dollar or two in payment. At least I had time to pack up for the bus ride back to Quito.
Wednesday 15th Nov - A day in the Capital.
Did a bit of shopping today and arranged a mini bus for our trip to the coast.
Thursday 16th Nov - Off to Canoa.
An early (4am) start to avoid the heat and the bandits got us to Canoa for lunchtime. So after lunch Surfing, the surf is great, not monster high, about 7 foot faces and they are powerful oceanic swells miles wide, breaking left and right.
Our accommodation at Canoa.
Friday 17th Nov
Pre-breakfast surf, quite a pleasant way to start the day, breakfast, more surfing, lunch, more surfing followed by happy hour in the pacific, not a bad life. Bill, Ant and Fraser had a skinfull and then went surfing at 2 in the morning, they soon discovered that they could not roll very well pissed and soon headed in.
Saturday 12th Nov
The pre-breakfast surf was not quite as long to day, but 2 more sessions later filled out the day. A less vigorous happy hour was again followed by a night surf session, this time with a fire on the beach to guide the fools back to shore.
Sunday 13th Nov
No pre-breakfast surf to day, no after breakfast surf either. Matt and Ant L feel unwell and have gone to the doctors. Dengue fever is the diagnosis, treated with antibiotics and contracted a few days earlier from mosquito bites. The rest of us went to explore the caves at the end of the beach.
Monday 14th Nov
Last day at the beach, so a big surf session before breakfast and a 10 o'clock departure.
Tuesday 15th Nov - A day for shopping in Quito.
Fraser provides much entertainment haggling in the markets. Sometimes spending 15 mins to save a dollar. We all end up with bags full of bargains.
Wednesday 16th Nov
I can't sleep because of stomach ache and the noise of Quito. By the time we get to Bogata, I have the squits big time, Bill is looking very rough, and probably has dengue fever. But Matt and Ant have more or less recovered.
Thursday 17th Nov
Bill is detained in hospital at Kidderminster, because they don't have the facilities that a small clinic in a third world country have, ie they can't do a simple blood test, they have to sent the blood off to the regional lab.