Training on Ecuador’s Rivers for a Source to Sea Expedition Down the Amazon

 John navigates the lead in of the rapid Chibolo (bump on the head) on the Rio Cosanga.  This move is only the beginning as there is still about 100 meters of rapid left!

David was a nerdy computer programmer sitting at his desk in London when he learned of some crazy people that had done a source to sea expedition down the Amazon River.  For some reason, this story sparked an intense curiosity in him and he began planning and plotting.

 We were lucky enough to have clear skies on the drive to our lodge and got great views of Antisana–headwaters of the Quijos River–with a fresh dusting of snow

His 1st order of business was to learn how to kayak since he’d never before sat in a whitewater boat!

Dave choose Ecuador as his training grounds for the whitewater portion of his trip.  Although it is the subject of much debate and contention, geographers hold that the official headwaters of the Amazon is the Apurimac River in Peru.  But, since all of the rivers that we paddle on in Ecuador eventually flow into the Amazon, Dave figured this was a good place to get his kayaking grove on!

 Jenny at home in the big water of the Lower Quijos.  She deftly dodged the big hole in Gringos Revueltos.  She is the only British person I know who likes big water more than rocky creeks!

Dave has come every season for the past 5 years to spend 2 weeks paddling with us in Ecuador.  Over the years, he’s met a wide range of characters covering all walks of life.  This time around, he was in good company with 3 other Brits, 1 Scot and 1 Swiss joining Dave on his quest to become a bad ass kayaker!

 Joe looking good in the middle of Chibolo on the Cosanga

This week was meant to be a week of Class IV- rivers; but the entire group was well beyond the Class IV- level and we were able to squeeze in a few solid Class IV runs along the way.  All the while we heard stories, statistics, and plans about the mighty Amazon!

 Paul standing guard while the troops re-supply for a mission up the Rio Piatua

The Amazon River is the 2nd longest river in the world (2nd to the Nile, although this is regularly contested).  The Amazon is 4,345 miles from source to sea, with roughly 200 of those miles containing whitewater (Dave, that’s a hell of a lot of flatwater to paddle)!

 Fred was all smiles after he successfully paddled Chibolo.  Fred paddled with us for 2 weeks, and stayed strong the entire time!

More impressively, the Amazon is the largest river in the world, based on its average flow and discharge.  The Amazon’s flow at its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean is greater than the next 7 largest rivers combined!   The Amazon accounts for about 1 fifth of the world’s total river flow.  Its flow when it hits the Atlantic during the rainy season averages 300,000 cubic meters per second or 11 million cubic feet per second. 

 Jenny showing what happens to Brits when they are exposed to the sun

That kind of volume is hard to believe, but then you start looking around Ecuador’s Oriente and seeing the thousands of rivers that the eastern slope of this country holds; then think that all of that water flows into just a few tributaries of the Amazon–the Napo, Pastaza, and Putumayo.  It seems like so much water when you see just one of these tributaries, but, in reality, they make up only a fraction of the flow of the Amazon at its mouth.

 The Amazon man himself!

The Amazon enters the Atlantic Ocean in an estuary that spans more than 150 miles.   And, in many parts of the river upstream of the mouth, people report that, from the middle of the river, you can’t see either shore.  During the rainy season, ranchers in Brazil have to build giant floating corrals for their cows because the river floods so much land there is no where for the animals to go.  Hydrologists measured a specific place on the Amazon that, during the dry season is 6 miles wide, but during the rainy season grows to be 30 miles wide.  This is one hell of a river we are talking about!

 Paul taking the middle line at Pica Piedra as Larry looks on

But as Dave’s trip patrons–Fred, Paul, John, Joe and Jenny–pointed out, there is a lot to contend with when one endeavors to paddle the Amazon besides the whitewater on the Apurimac.  1st, the endless flatwater paddling, then the piranhas, river pirates, Candiru fish, bugs, and let’s not forget about the ferocious, blonde warrior women (for whom the river is named) that Francisco Orellana encountered on his trip down the Amazon!

 John dropping into Gringos.   A nice rainstorm the night before left us with great levels for the Lower Quijos

All and all the crew got along swimmingly and I know everyone is eager to know how Dave’s journey goes.  We’ll all have to wait a few more years to find out though.

 Don’t worry, Caimans only live in the really flat and slow-moving water.  Dave will have to worry about these once he hits the flatwater!   Sometimes it’s good to be a whitewater kayaker…

One Response to Training on Ecuador’s Rivers for a Source to Sea Expedition Down the Amazon

  1. Darcy November 27, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    And a big thanks to Joe Kelly and Tim Thornton for supplying the photos for this blog!

Leave a Reply