Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Vacation to Heaven...Ecuador

This fall has been full of South American visions for the TRL crew. After discovering that we had won a trip to the Rio Huallaga in Northern Peru, we all spent ample time on Google Earth, flipping through the World Atlas, and generating the overwhelming EVIDENCE that the Huallaga was indeed going to be a VACATION TO HELL. I however was concurrently planning the Vacation to Heaven to the kayaking paradise of Ecuador with my wife Lise-Anne, which greatly eased the "sketch" factor associated with the Peru trip. The beta on Ecuador was revealing warm water, challenging class IV runs peppered with a bit of class V, peaceful and friendly people, posh hotels and lodges, taxi drivers that knew put-in and take-outs, and a huge diversity of rivers to paddle. For many newlyweds these days planning a honeymoon requires hiring a CONSULTANT. Lise-Anne and I put our trust into recent friends and Ecuadorian experts Don Beveridge and Darcy Gaechter from SMALL WORLD ADVENTURES as our consultants. Their knowledge and the comforts of Cabinas Tres Rios (the Small World Lodge) made this trip a far cry from roughing it. After a short week on the coast at Canoa we headed for the paddling on the Eastern Slope and the small village of San Fransisco de Borja.

The plush cabin set-up at Small World...

photo by Bryan Smith

Beautiful warm water, stunning jungle scenery...having lunch on the Jondachi

photo by Bryan Smith

Some local flavor...

Photo by Bryan Smith

Ecuador is one of the better international kayaking destinations because it offers so many different rivers about 3-4 hours from each other. Within the primary drainages of the Quijos and Napo, there are plenty of options. While there are some class II-III runs and a handful of harder class V, the majority of the day trips in Ecuador provide ample amounts of continous class IV. In 12 days we managed to paddle the middle Quijos, Lower Cosonga, El Chaco Canyon, Oyacachi, Cheesehouse section of the Quijos, Upper Jondachi, Lower Jondachi, Hollin, Lower Mishahualli, Upper Jondachi again, and the Upper Mishahualli.

Don Beveridge hiking to the put-in for the Oyacachi

photo by Bryan Smith

One of my favorite boofs of the entire trip...last rapid on the Papallacta.

photo by Lise-Anne Beyries

Don showing us the line in Typhoid on the upper Jondachi

photo by Lise-Anne Beyries

The kids of Ecuador take great interest in kayaking

Photo by Lise-Anne Beyries

Don lining up the first rapid on the Jondachi

Photo by Bryan Smith

Typical pool and drop style of the 80 plus rapids on the Jondachi

The culture of Ecuador makes traveling in the country fairly easy for the savoy traveler. The people are very peaceful, speak a slower Spanish, and generally take interest if you show interest in their lifestyle.

The typical market scene in the high Andes...

Photo by Bryan Smith

Unloading the bus in Tena after the Lower Mis

Photo by Bryan Smith

The traditional Ecuadorian colors and fabrics...

This was an interesting media trip for me, as I choose to rely on a new Cannon 30d to capture the trip. Left the video at home for the first time and started the challenge of still photography. Maybe in a year or two I will be good enough to compete with some of the people I have slandered in the Photo Holdum contest. I came home with a lot of images. Here is a quick ECUADOR SLIDESHOW. from our month long journey. That link will give you the high res pics with music or you can check out the flash show below.

A couple helpful hints for anyone thinking of paddling in this region of South America...

1. Consider renting boats or booking a trip with SMALL WORLD ADVENTURES. We decided to bring our own boats which worked, but we were VERY lucky to get them on the plane. American, Delta, and Continental are the only three airlines that fly to Ecuador and all three have "no kayak" policies. We pulled the surfboard lie, but got lucky because our agent had no clue and it was 11pm and no line up.

2. If you bring your own boat, make sure it is no longer than a medium Burn . A lot of the newer buses have no roof racks, but our medium and small Burns fit perfectly in the very back luggage hatch under the newer buses.

3. Budget about $35 per day a person to live well. That is what we spent on average for lodging, food, and shuttles each day. You can do it cheeper, but the lodging will be minimal and the food not so good.

4. Buy the "Kayaker's Guide Book to Ecuador" from Small World Adventures

5. Paddle the Upper Jondachi as many times as you can!


Anonymous said...

Really nice slideshow. Ecuador looks like A LOT of fun. More FUN than the Huallaga maybe ? but Small World has made it almost too easy it looks like. Riverside cabanas and hammocks. Shweet.

Bryan said...

Hey guys, I really enjoy your blog. I try to keep up with it whenever I can. Keep up the GREAT work!

I wanted to give you a heads up to a link that I put together to help out Katie Hilleke. You may already be aware of it. I wanted to make sure that you know that 100% of the proceeds from the sales of the designs go toward helping Katie. Have a look.
-Bryan Kelsen

Todd Gillman said...

Thanks for the props Bryan .. & nice work on the Katies Krew project!

(also fyi, the easiest way to "keep up" with what we're sprayin' is to enter yr email into the "feedblitz" RSS subscription thingy on the sidebar .. new blog posts will come into yr inbox as notification links the a.m.'s after we post them ..)

take care,