Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Kayak away the "not quite summer, not quite winter" blues in Ecuador

New SWA guide Liam showing the gang how it's done on the Oyacachi river.  I love the up swell of water just in front of him.  And now he's about to show us how it's done in the world of blogging!
This week, new SWA guide--Liam--has written a fabulous blog.  He was so inspired by Chris, Steve, Kim, Todd and Paul that he just couldn't hold it all inside any longer!  I've put "American" translation in italics when need be.  Here's what ol' Liam had to say about his 1st week of kayak guiding in Ecuador in 2012:

Chris punches the last hole in Manana on the Quijos River as his trip mates look on.  I would like to think they were cheering him on, but knowing Steve, I'm sure it was only heckling coming from behind that rock!

Our "Torrents" week is all about variety and showing our visitors some of the best rivers Ecuador has to offer. This week certainly lived up to it; from big water on the Quijos in dry cags (dry tops) to technical beautiful blue water in shortie cags (shorty tops) on the Piatua. The paddling is only part of the trip--albeit a very important part--But at SWA we strive to give you an incredible week of paddling combined with Ecuadorian culture and a wee bit of sight seeing as well! 

The Crew feeling good at the bottom of a tricky rapid on the Oyacachi

No matter what trip you book on, we create a great blend of adventure and ease. Remote jungle runs, exotic wildlife, fun cultural experiences, great white water complimented by seamless logistics, comfortable transport, a great selection of boats and most of all the SWA riverside lodge.

One of the guest cabins amongst the beautiful gardens at SWA's riverside lodge

This was my first week guiding for Small World Adventures and I had a blast! So I owe a big thank you to Todd, Paul, Chris, Steve and Kim.   We bagged seven grade four (Class IV) runs in seven days. Though we don't focus on tuition (instruction) on our Torrents trip it's hard not to improve when you have seven quality days in a row on the water. For one paddler this was his first time paddling more than two days in a row and it was a real treat for me to see a significant improvement in his paddling.

Team torrents also got to paddle with almost the whole SWA team. Larry, Tarquino, Don and Darcy all spent a couple of days with the group. Only I had the severe misfortune of being in Steve and Chris's company for the entire seven days!

Paul looking good through "The Last Rapid" on the Oyacachi River.  Now his only challenge is to face "The Thing" and "Son of Thing" on the Quijos.

For the Torrents team here is a list of what we paddled and  my personal highlights of the week.

Day 1.) Bridge 1 to the lodge on the Quijos. Todd surfed harder than Swayze in point break in the middle of Pollo Sin Rival.  But he hung tough and endered out with a nice story to tell!

Kim lining up for the boof in "Pollo Sin Rival" on the Quijos

Day 2.) Bottom of Oyacachi to Bon Bon.  Steve nailed a sure fast roll resulting in his avoidance of a sure scrambling in Gringos Revueltos. Paul and Kim successfully unlocked a tricky entrance to a good play wave and enjoyed a good surf. Later, while drinking beers on the porch back at the lodge, we were treated to a impressive humming bird fight.

Mr. Don Don looking good in "Ejector Seat"

Day 3.) Oyacachi. This was one of the harder runs but the group was in that perfect state of being warmed up but not too tired yet and, on the whole, styled it.  Then we made the journey over the pass to the warmer Tena Valley.  The whole group was in good spirits from a fine day on the water and we spent most of dinner telling stories and laughing. A Particularly good story about a kabutz, 2 girls and some ....sea food is still making me laugh.

The Road Not Taken: "2 roads diverged in a 'green' wood.  And I'm sorry I could not travel both,
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth..."
(well, sorry Robert Frost, but actually I wasn't sorry at all because my taxi driver knew that the left fork was blocked by a giant tree.  Don's driver did not we had a good laugh at their expense).  

Day 4.) Piatua. A river made up of round boulders, boofs, and blue water this is one of my top three rivers off all time.  We explored Tena that evening and stumbled across a volleyball match. The atmosphere was great on the sidelines and the teams themselves were getting pretty heated. I think I'll go watch a match every week to make up for missing the premier league (soccer league) at home.

Steve navigates the hallway of giant boulders

Day 5.) This day we were lucky enough too see tarantulas and monkeys both before we'd even  had breakfast. The team spent the day boofing in shortie cags (shorty tops) on the Upper Misahualli. We got out at a quaint jungle lodge which is an excellent place to relax and cool down with a drink.

Don doing "Da Boof" on da Oyacachi (thanks for the photo Paul)!

Day 6.) we tackled the Lower Cosanga. With Chris not on the river Steve thought the time was right to have a little dip. I thought that it might shake him but half way through the next wave train he became a man possessed as he drove through every stopper (hole) and wave he could see.

Todd, recovering well after having a massive surf, but the bad ass dude still managed to pull it together and be perfectly on line here!

Day 7.) The final day: we ran the el Chaco Canyon from the lodge. This stretch is the home to the rapid El Toro (the bull) and we all stood up to the challenge of taming the rapid. We spent time playing on a wave trying to pull off old school moves in our creek boats, Chris gets the award for best pop out.

The gang enjoying some typical Ecuadorian jungle greenery just upstream of SWA's riverside lodge

Seven days of great boating done!

Stay classy!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Three, Three, Three trips in one!

Jon demonstrating some advanced boofing techniques.

Our 2012/2013 season started with a bang as we ran three trips simultaneously. I guess we needed to find a way to put all these guides to work and boy did we! Our staging area was awash with boats, gear, guides and guests with transport and drivers heading to all points of the compass. All the trips came off like clockwork and we are off to a great start.

Karl and the Dog Cow before the election results came in.

Karl and Dave were on a private trip and tackled a wide range of rivers ranging from the Oyacachi to the Piatua and most everything in between. As is generally the rule these days Dave ranged forward with his signature hand paddles and singular style. This guy is more accomplished with those little dinner plates then many people are with a full size blade. It might be tough to build speed for the boof but there is always room for a little finesse.

Karl leaning into it.

Karl spent a bit more time inspecting the bottom of the river but balanced it all out by displaying a huge amount of chutzpah, that guy can hang in there and keep it all together like no other. When necessary, this man can take a licking and keep on ticking, he always has a huge smile and a big laugh to carry the day.

Dave smoothing down the river.

Couple these two with Don and Greg as guides and you have a dream team ready to tackle just about everything there is to offer down here.

Jon lining up the launch.

Jon and Kevin joined forces to do an Advanced Creeking Clinic with Darcy leading the lines and Guy on the sweep. These two fine boaters did a great progression through the week with any cobwebs quickly falling away and rising to greater challenges each day and excelling at them. Jon brings a great Eastern boater style to the scene as he swoops and hops from eddy to eddy while Kevin displays a classic strong hard charger approach as he maneuvers and plays the water in a direct assault. Both of these gents had great runs on all of the rivers from the Cosanga and Oyacachi to the Upper Jondachi. As each challenge arose these guys rose to meet it. Teamwork and camaraderie abound as we worked our way down these creeks.

Kevin showing his stuff when the chips are down.

Molly and Brooke did a Class III+ trip with Larry and Tarquino as guides. They were joined by Kim for a couple of days making for one incredibly awesome group of paddlers. These ladies were fun on and off the river and we found ourselves hard put to keep up with them. Always quick with a smile and a laugh, seemingly never needing any sleep or rest they were the energizer bunnies of Ecuador. Our dog cow had an instant affinity with this group and put up with more than one indignity to hang with them. We hope to see this group of ladies again soon.
Brooke and Greg seriously outgunned.

It was a great first week and we couldn't have been more pleased with the group and the rivers. Looking forward to many weeks to come!

Post election celebration with Dave and Molly. Karl is sulking.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Stoked on Ecuador! SWA is back baby.

Don punches the hole at "Darcy's Rapid" on the Chingual River in Ecuador

The Small World Adventures crew is fully assembled and ready for the 2012/2013 season.  Tarquino flew back in early October, Greg, Guy, Don and Darcy flew down on October 18th, Larry came the 21st, and Liam got in on November 6th.  We is back baby and ready for action!

 Guy, learning the ropes of life in Ecuador.  Not bad, eh?  Shorty, sunshine, good water, good friends.

Liam missed the initial weeks of exploring because he was chuffed about his jumper or something like that; but he will have the next 4 months to catch up!  Meanwhile, the rest of us were busy trying to paddle every section that we guide on our trips to see which rapids have changes, which accesses have been improved or fallen into disrepair, AND, of course, just to have fun.

Greg and Don stocking up on road trip supplies

We figured, why F around when we arrived and started out straight away with the Oyacachi, Cheesehouse and then a ROAD TRIP!

 Darcy meeting some new chica friends

We had a grand time seeing old friends, getting reacquainted, meeting new friends and catching up with all our favorite rivers.

Larry, SWA master mind, enjoying a sweet run down the upper stretches of the Upper Misahualli

There was, of course, a small adjustment period getting back into the Ecua-way of living.  First of all, we have to adjust to having awesome fresh fruits and veggies.  Then we have to re-adjust to listening to rega-ton.  Next is watching Greg invent 10 new hand shakes with each shuttle driver we have and, oh yeah, gotta re-adjust to paddling in a shorty top.  Life is rough down here!

Greggy punching holes in Oro Pendula Island on the Chingual

On the rivers, it seems there must have been mega high water in the Quijos Valley while we were gone.  Many rapids have changes on the Cosanga, Quijos and Oyacachi rivers.  Plus, logs that have been beached on giant boulders for a decade are GONE.  Pretty exciting to think about what was going on while we were gone!

 Don and Greg dwarfed by boulders up North.  This is saying a lot as Don is 6 feet and Greg is 6'6!

Over in Tena seems things to have changed less (except for a few logs and access points).  The Jondachi, Piatua and Misahualli are rather prone to changes in big floods, but all those rivers are more or less the same.

The boys doing their community service road improvement project
For a more detailed account of the river changes, check out our Kayaker's Guide to Ecuador Blog.

Mi Hombre Lucho on one of the countless rapids on the Topo

A highlight of the early season this year for me and Don was a run down the Topo river with local paddler Lucho.  We hadn't paddled the Topo for almost 5 years and it was great to get back.  They are currently building a hydro project on this river so access is a little tricky, but with Lucho, it was no problem!

Sorry I could only take 1 photo, but Lucho was flying down the river and I had to concentrate on keeping up, not on taking photos;-)

Look for Lucho on the future SWA guide roaster--this guy is the MAN!

Greg working hard to find the tongue on "Darcy's Rapid"

Our group road trip was up north to some of our favorite rivers up there.  We were lucky enough to see Toucans, hawks, and color tanagers.  The bird watching contingency should definitely move their tours to Northern Ecuador!  That place rocks for the birdies (and the kayaking).

Greg, enjoying a classic Ecuadorian bridge over the Rio Due

In other news, Larry is busy training up our awesome new cooks--Liliana and Jemana.  He is also working on new guide housing for Greg and Liam.  Guy is busy planning and plotting the new SWA hot tub, and Tarquino is a loco as ever!

 Guy, checking the Chingual.  I think he's loving his new office.

We have just completed our first trip of the season and all the guests are in route to Quito with Memo and are as happy as can be. 

Larry, getting bubblicious in the clear waters of the Piatua

We've also started doing daily water level and weather updates. Weather prediction is nearly impossible here in the Amazon Basin so we figured we'd at least tell you what happened and what is currently happening with the water levels and weather here.  Check it out, yo: Ecuador Water Levels and Weather Updates