Most of us have a favorite river.  But when you run many different rivers it is hard to call one single section a “favorite.â€?  Instead, it is easier having a favorite style of river (i.e.: big water or steep creeking).  But that also gets thrown out a bit because in Costa Rica and Ecuador, you are often combining creek style paddling on bigger volume rivers.
 If there was an exception, it might be a day like the one we just spent on the canyon run of the Quijos River.  Okay, it is December and we were in short sleeves. That is bonus point number one.  Number two is that we were the sole two paddlers on the entire river on such a gorgeous day. 
 

And number three is this section of river itself: described as something between the Ocoee and the Gauley.  Big pushy moves, but big lines.  Big holes necessitating the scurry factor to kick in, but time to make the move.  And at the end of steep, pushy, wave train rapids, finding yourself floating between canyon walls formed by age-old lava flows.  When the lava flows hit the water once-upon-a-geological-time, giant star burst walls were formed.  So you float through these short canyons, feeling like you are taking a step back in time…and then head out the other side to yet another rapid.
 The two most significant rapids on this section (the only two we ever reference by name) are Panel of Experts—or Logan’s Leap. We named it Logan’s Leap ten years ago when one of our first paddlers made the rather unwise decision to cut to the left instead of the right side of a big boulder, and leapt into a ledge hole backed by an eddy.  Of course he got trundled or he would not have had the rapid named after him!! 
 

You start out Logan’s Leap eddy hopping about a quarter of the way down, then drop over a ledge riding a curling wave, which then sets you up for the second half of the rapid: a big water move from middle to the right, dodging curling waves to keep your line.  The last move is the surprise hole at the bottom that you try and scurry around, or just face off and punch through.  And because water levels can vary from one day to the next (for example, we ran the Canyon section at 3 on the gauge, and the next day the water was up to 9 on the gauge—a big jump after a night of rain!) the rapid is always a bit different. 
 The second named rapid (in our book; as just about every rapid has now been named since the 2005 International Raft Competition was held on the Quijos) is Curvas Peligrosas.  This is a weird rapid. You enter from the left rocketing towards the eddy line formed by a giant pillow off the river right, which sides up to a huge rotating eddy on the left. On line is following about a two foot path down the eddy line.  If you are off to the left, you find yourself recirculating about in the eddy; too far to the right and you are spanking the water at a minimum—more likely executing multiple rolls.  And the fun is not over!! The eddy line rockets you to the river-left wall down below, at which time you have to turn and get as far back over to the right as possible in about five seconds, because down below is a huge hole that you absolutely do not want to hit.  Wahoo! 
 

And then into another gorgeous lava-walled canyon…and just downstream a kick ass set of waves that just dare you to square off and run right down the middle.  And then too soon, you go through one last lava-walled canyon to the takeout.  The takeout is the only disappointing part of the day, as you could just keep going (and can, but you begin another full-day run).
 Does it get any better? Sure—the next time we run this section! 
 

And now we are back in Quito to gather up our first group.  They arrived last night for a trip that will combine a great week of paddling with a chance to experience the New Years Eve celebrations so famous here in Ecuador.  We will head out of Quito this afternoon, along the way picking up a muñeca to burn (an ecuadorian tradition where straw-stuffed effigies are used to burn away the bad karma from the previous year and begin with a clean slate).  This will happen at our favorite monkey lodge where we will begin our week of paddling and celebrate the new year.
 Prospero Ano Nuevo!