Kayaking = The Melting Pot Sport!

David documents the situation as Nick and Pam paddle a 5-year-old around the take out of the Jatunyacu.  A few other kids commandeered kayaks and were out on their own.  But then all hell broke lose as the Pyranha kayak carrying 3 (Pam, Nick, young child) capsized.  The funny thing, the 5-year-old swam the Large Burn to shore while Pam and Nick saved themselves!  Ok, ok, it didn’t quite go down like that; but, to the observer, that’s how it looked!  It was pretty awesome.

The 3rd week of November brought us paddlers with levels, personalities and backgrounds spanning all across the board! 
Don and Greg led a Mucha Agua trip (IV+/V-) with Nathan and Jeff; Larry and Tarquino had a Class III+ trip with Nick, Cliff, Sharron and David; and Darcy and Liam had a Tropical Tune up Class II/III trip with Pam and Ken.

Liam leading Pam through Pica Piedra, a solid Class III+ drop on the Rio Quijos.  This was the site of Pam’s 2nd successful combat roll of the day AND of her kayaking career–you rock Pam!

This week was a fun reminder of kayaking’s ability to bring together people who otherwise would have no reason to gravitate towards each other.  The sport of kayaking is made up of an amazingly eclectic group of people; and it’s always been fun for me to sit back and think, “wow, I can’t imagine another situation where I would be throwing horse-shoes with a top level New York banker in the middle of the jungles of Ecuador…”
Left to right–Pam, Nick, Greg, Lucho, Liam, Jeff, Nathan and all the kids in Borja!  We had a sweet futbol (soccer) match up in Borja.  Tons of local kids came out to play and we split up the gringos and the kids and had a solid match!

Throughout various times in my life, I’ve been a member of the climbing community, ice climbing community, skiing community, and mountain biking community, but none of these, in my opinion, even comes close kayaking in terms of a true hodge podge of people!
Jeff gets control of the ball, but Cliff is hot on his tail.  Cliff scored 2 goals in the game after sand-bagging us all afternoon telling us he couldn’t play soccer...

How odd can it really be you may ask?   Try this one: when else could you imagine a 23-year-old aspiring pharmacist from Wyoming and a 61-year-old P.A. at the University of West Virginia giggling together as they ride a crazy water slide at the “rolling pool” in the middle of Ecuadorian rainforest?   All this while the taxi driver is taking photos and nearly peeing his pants as he is laughing so hard at the crazy gringos screaming their way down the slide.
Liam leading Ken through the Class II+ rapids below Pica Piedra on the Quijos.  Ken ripped it up in Ecuador.  He came to Ecuador as a total beginner kayaker, paddled 7 days in a row, ran some sweet rivers and rolled like a banchi in the pools of El Chaco and Tena.  Great work Ken!

This same 61 year old had left the United States for the 1st time to go kayaking in South America—this sport really does drive people to do crazy things!
Then we have the London police officer fraternizing with a real estate agent from Montana and the list goes on and on…
Nathan and Jeff en route to an incredible day on the Oyacachi

The point, though, is that kayaking, aside from being a great and fun sport, also gives us opportunities in life that I don’t think we would otherwise have.  I’ve made very interesting, but certainly life-long connections with people through this sport that I know wouldn’t have happened in “normal life situations.”

Los Yutzos pool, Tena, Ecuador–Napo Province.  This pool is “the shit”!   When you get tired of rolling, go for an exhilarating ride down the slide!  Sharron leads the way with Pam close behind on this ride.  Luckily Liam is setting shore safety and Darcy is in the water in case “live bait” is needed.

Kayaking really is a great equalizer in the sense that it allows people to forget about cultural norms (yeah, dropping trou (pants) in the middle of the street, no big deal), social stipulations (yes, it’s ok for a Ferrari-owning Republican to have a drink with a dirt bag democrat kayak guide and play with a plastic cow), and just let their inhibitions drop for the time they are on their kayaking holiday.

Don enjoying a little scenery on the Upper Jondachi.  Even though Don and the whitewater look crappy in this photo, I had to include it because the fern wall in the background looks so amazing.  The Jondachi truly is a beautiful river.  People always focus on how kick ass the whitewater is (which it is), but the jungle is darn purdy there too.

It’s incredibly fun to watch this happen, watch odd relationships being forged, and just watching people have a good time together.

The ultimate shuttle vehicle!

Ok, this one is really unparalleled anywhere in the world, in any universe–hands down, no arguing!  1 oil engineer, one chemical engineer, 1 life-long dirt bag kayak guide, and 1 18-year-old Ecuadorian aspiring kayak guide all riding on a gigantic mobile caterpillar with kayaks, in full kayaking gear, down the streets of Ecuador.  Now tell me, it just doesn’t get any better than this, does it?  (well, ok, maybe it gets better–they could have served beer on the bug–but it certainly doesn’t get anymore unique)

It has a cute butt too

Because, as different as our backgrounds may be, most of us can agree upon Don’s thought—“What’s Wrong With Just Fun?”

Leaf cutter ants on the trail to Pimpilala waterfall

So the moral of this blog?  Grab a kayak, hit the river and see what kind unique, life-lasting, yet totally off the wall relationships you can build!
Monkeying around at Puerto Misahualli
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