There is nothing better than being on a river…well maybe being on a river and taking a break to eat a peanut butter sandwich. Hey�it does not have to be a sandwich per se, it can be peanut butter on cookies, or yippys, peanut butter with a little mango on the side, or served with a handful of trail mix. It is all good! Especially when it is December and you are enjoying this paddling delicacy in Ecuador on the Quijos River. Life IS good.
Okay, so we had to wear long sleeve tops today. And we had to paddle three sections of the Quijos, to the tune of about 24 miles. But then that sounds more like fun than suffering, doesn�t it?!?
The joy of returning to Ecuador is similar to that of Costa Rica: we are back on favorite rivers, and the first time down they are almost always somewhat new to us�even after all these years. Take here in Ecuador: This is our 13th year here. So we were not surprised to learn that in July and then November there was severe flooding here in the Oriente. Boulders shifted, rocks moved; and therefore, today we three guides (Ken, Brian and yours truely) were as focused running the Quios as we were the first time we ever paddled it. It is not that the location of rapids changes�that almost always stays the same; it is just that the rapids themselves change. So each year back here we go into each rapid as if it were the first time.
The challenge of guiding here and in Costa Rica is mathmatical. Between Costa Rica and Ecuador we have more than twelve+thirteen = equaling some twenty-five sections of river (a section might be seven miles or eighteen miles). These are the mainstay sections of rivers we use on our trips, As guides, it is our “job” to know every one of those sections. Now take that same number and factor in that rarely do any of the counted sections have the same water level two times in a row. Water levels might change by anything from a few inches to four or five feet (or more, but that is when we start looking a little stressed). So the variables just keep increasing. And then top that off with the fact that there is not standardized gauging system here.
Today the gauge at the Baeza Bridge #2 read 4 and the rock we use said about the same. But downstream, there is a second river coming into the Baeza– the Cosanga, that potentially doubles the CFS�and being a different watershed, it can be high or low irrelevant of the Quios. Then bring in the Oyacachi and following that the Santa Rosa and you can end up with the potential of a really high water run that might have started out not seeming so high.Any surprises today? Always! Just addressing some of the (few) named rapids on the river: Headbanger (our name, not the local�s!) totally changed�but not for the first time as the water will randomly switch channels on us every so many years. The past few years it has been coming down the right channel and the left has been steep and well-named! While the water remains in the right channel for a change this year, our boof move is gone and you are actively paddling through a lot of stuff; Pica de Piedra changed more this year than it has in all the years down here. We have always run some sort of line down the left, paralleling a boulder garden with water flowing in from our left, while trying not to get shoved right in between some huge boulders. Today we came around the corner and could see from the top that the left was not what it has always been….and we had to commit center taking a hit off a huge wave. But it was a blast. Thern there is Logan�s Leap/Panel of Experts. Three of us running it and all three of us scurried off on different lines. Coming into Curvas Peligrosas, it was still as ‘peligrosa’ as always, with no words to describe this rapid! And the list goes on……..
Bottom line: we are looking forward to a great season here in Ecuador, sharing river time (and peanut butter!) with good friends and new friends!