Back in Ecuador for the 2011/12 Season

Everyone’s stoked that we’re back in Ecuador!

Our friends from Aspen Whitewater Rafting came back down to Ecuador in late October to help us get the season started out right. This group of raft guides and kayakers comes down to Ecuador every fall to
celebrate the end of another whitewater season in the US, and to have one last warm weather hurrah before heading back to Colorado to face winter.

Tim taking the bull by the horns in El Toro

As always, we had a full line up of rivers to run and culture to see.  This year we added a bonus trip down the Napo River in a motorized canoe to visit a jungle lodge for the afternoon. While the lookout tower and the jungle were awesome, a swim in the lodge’s pool was a definite highlight for some of the gang who found they were sweating a lot in the tropics!

The gang at San Rafael Falls

This year, in addition to our “normal” river runs, we did an intro to kayaking course for the non-kayakers of the group. We loaded the boats in a torrential downpour–perfect to set the mood for learning to kayak in the Amazon Basin! Tarquino was our trusty trip leader and took us to his preferred learning section on the Anzu River. He is currently teaching is 9-year-old daughter, Angelica to kayak and this
is one of her favorite stretches.

Neal and Justin shredding it up

We arrived to find a brown swollen river, which set a few people’s nerves on edge, but that’s the great thing about this stretch on the Anzu–whether you have low water or high water, it stays pretty much Class I and II. I wouldn’t recommend it at flood stage, but as long as you can see some of the rocks on shore you should be good to go!

Even on a jungle side hike we found our way back to the water

All the kayak students did great. Despite worries to the contrary, everyone quickly became and expert at the “Wet Exit.” Some of them even got their rolls! We also worked on the forward stroke, sweep stroke, peel outs, S-turns and ferries. Everyone successfully navigated the Class II rapid at the end of the day.

The beginner kayakers stop to enjoy a scenic waterfall on the Jatunyacu

We think we may have created some monsters – or at least kayakers. After the day of instruction, most of the “rafters” opted to get in kayaks whenever they could. We’d do a morning of difficult rapids in the raft, and then hop into kayaks in the afternoon on easier stretches. By the end of the week, Neal even ran “Curvas Peligrosas” on the Bombon section of the Quijos.

Beth and Shannan enjoy the reward for a hard days work

At the end of the week there was a big celebration and rafting races on the Quijos river right out in front of our lodge. Half of the group wanted to keep kayaking, and half decided that we needed to represent in the Quijos Rafting Championships. Since no other gringo team was entered, we borrowed the “Team USA” name and came in third. There were cash prizes on the line, so the competition was actually pretty steep. The Ecuadorian national team came in first, and they were a very impressive team.

“Team USA” in the rafting slalom

It was quite the scene over the weekend – beer tents, food vendors and dancing. Their were three disciplines in the rafting race: Downriver, Slalom and head to head sprint. The sprints were probably the most fun as they were single elimination heats, but the biggest crowd draw was probably the bikini contest. In fact the awards ceremony for the rafting got delayed because the bikini contest went over. We all had a great time, enjoying the nature and rivers of Ecuador, plus the culture and festivals!

Neal thinks YOU should come to Ecuador with SWA!

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