Progress. A kayak itself defines modern technological progress: plastic that is durable, able to take a pounding, does not melt in the sun…. as with the boats themselves, progress is needed to expand boating options in a country; usually in the form of roads built. We have to thank ‘progress’ for the opportunity to paddle the Rio Piatua today.
In most countries, rivers are not accessible until a road is constructed, usually because a bridge is needed over that particular river. And progress follows..including kayakers anticipating access to a run only dreamt of on topo maps beforehand.
Take here in Ecuador as an example: most access points on the rivers here are at bridges. In fact, with the exception of bridges, many of the rivers here are totally inaccessible unless you know the natives’ trails through the dense jungle. And talk about an example of progress: if the pipleline had not been installed in the northeast corner of Ecuador, we would never have had a paved road through the Quijos Valley, opening up a treasure chest of rivers.
The run we stumbled on today was a little bit of an exception to the somewhat dirty word ‘progress’. The Rio Piatua is a fairly recent find here in Ecuador. Not that it has not been on the map. Nor that it was not gazed upon lustfully from downstream when paddlers drifted past the confluence with the Piatua and the Anzu Rivers here in the Tena region. But there was no access. Not until an NGO helped fund a road of some five kilometers or so (a wild guess: I was bouncing around in the back of a pickup truck!). The NGO involved here is the Fundacion ORI (organizacion rescate infantil). This is a fundation that accepts grant proposals from indigenous groups from all over Ecuador and funds projects to help their communities. The road we took today to get to the Rio Piatua goes to a five-house town (definition of a town in latin america is: school house, church, store and bar–we saw the one-room school house and the chonta trees that are harvested to make chicha, the native libation–somewhat constituting the idea of a bar, hence the loose use of the term town).
From the wonderful gravel road recently installed, we added another fifteen minute walk down to the river. This is always a bonus in my book as I have this affinity for paddling in flip flops. And there is nothing like walking in flip flops through ankle-deep mudd through the jungle! I have been known to have to stop and burrow elbow deep in mudd to unstick a flip flop before continuing on down a trail. Some might suggest the concept of booties here–but that is for another day!
Arriving at the river, Ken, Brian and I found gorgeous granite boulders, emerald jungle green water forming what appeared to be a steep, technical jungle run. Looking upstream and downstream, I did take a minute to inquire of my two paddling co-horts ‘what is the nature of this run? This was my nonchalant way of asking if I was going to get my butt kicked! But hey–what did they know, none of us had ever done it before and all we had was some verbal guidance from the local magii of Tena, Matt.
What we found was two hours of non-stop technical steep but sweet rapids. We were able to read-and-run the entire section of river, pausing only to watch a morpho butterfly, take in a gorgeous view of the jungle, and glancing to see if it was monkeys we heard crashing through the vines of the jungle.
And the icing on the cake of this gorgeous run/gorgeous day? The takeout is at a set of cabanas and there we found Diet Cokes for sale to go along with our avocado, cheese and peanut butter lunch.
We look forward to the possibilty of sharing this run with those of you joining us here in Ecuador this year!