One of our favorite runs in Ecuador, and one that frequently gets missed out on by boaters in Ecuador.
Describing it in a nutshell, call it a steep mountain river where staying right side up is key to avoid getting washed into somewhere you would rather not be. Brian enjoys describing it to the curious as One of the best days of the season! There are so many rapids, you are always workingyou always have your face wet. For a solid Class IV group, the Oyacachi is always a highlight.
Now with that said, typically even with a Class IV group we aim to put a few days under our belt before hitting the Oyacachi. In fact, early on here in Ecuador the Oyacachi was always the last days run because it was such a high note to end on. The only problem was opportunity. In a country where water levels can sky rocket on you over night, waiting for the last day to run this steep technical run sometimes meant we got shut out. [One big lesson we have learned between Costa Rica and Ecuador: maximize your opportunities!] Since we had already run this veteran group of ERA paddlers through their paces by warming up on Day #1 with the Baeza Section of the Quijos (a busy section that demands physical paddling at normal water levels .high water enters a whole nother realm of description!!) we were good to go on Oyacachi. So sitting around after day one asking the gang what they wanted to paddle on Day #2, the Oyacachi not only had their vote, but ours too!
Now fast forward a few more days on this trip. Ecuador did not escape the rain that covered most of South America. We had enjoyed a high-water Upper Miss run and gigantic Jatunyacu day of paddling. . With the water as high as it was, we knew we not doing any more steep river boating, and while repeating any of the above would have been just fine for the last day, our gang was up for a bit of adventure (and the chance to paddle with a little blue sky again). So we packed up the Oriente and with a quick stop at the water slide (no surprise there!), we headed over to the western slope. Destination: the Blanco. A new run for the members of this veteran group, all we had to do was guarantee that the Blanco was up and would be a lot of fun and everyone was gung-ho. Little did we know how much up or how much fun it was going to be!
The western slope offers a lot of rivers.
But because of the quality of runs in the Oriente, the rivers off the western slope are not usually first choice.
The drive down the western slope in itself is an experience. Imagine a road that is the main east to west highway in a country (you know like I-70 is in the USA). And now describe it as a narrow two-lane road with curves that anywhere else would be considered U-turns! And views of gorgeous primary forest to be seen once you took your eyes off the buses passing in front of you!
Three of the main tributaries flowing off the western slope are the Toachi, Pilaton and the Blanco. We chose to put in on the Toachi, just downstream of the union of the Pilaton-Toachi. A quick estimation was that the cfs was somewhere at probably 15,000. Downstream another river entered with just as much water. If you were to have done a mind reading at that moment that the group hit the confluence, probably the common thought was: more water?!?!?
Relax, we were not done yet. The Blanco joined the party with just as much cfs and we had ourselves some big-ass water! Tom, a veteran of thirty-years worth of Grand Canyon paddling summed it up as the biggest water he had ever paddled. Sure there were giant holes but fortunately they were marked by near billboard sized warnings of their presence. Ken took up front position; his gold helmet a beacon as to where to be. But with the push of the water there was more than one time where even with paddles rotating madly, the corner of a hole was clipped, a head would turn and eyes would get really big looking at the near miss. It was an exhilarating day made all the better with the special lunch Angel had prepared for us at the side of the river. To go from the Oyacachi to the Blanco, there could not have been better paddling for any of us. And the blue-sky finish on the Blanco was an awesome last day of the trip for the group– and sadly the last paddling day of the season for Ken, Brian and I.
All that was left was to sit down to a great Italian dinner back in Quito, have a nightcap or two and psych up for the return home. Tom, Kevin, Marc, Paul…thanks for such a great ending to the season here in Ecuador. The photos of the trip dont do justice to how much fun we had, but they come close!
PS Since Tom was not departing for another day, we added a trip to the multicine for a viewing of the new Rambo movie. What can be better than ending an international paddling vacation with an hour and a half of flying body parts?!?