Francisco Orellana, born in 1511, was the cousin to Francisco Pizarro�the conquerer of the Inca Nations of Ecuador and Peru. More importantly, Orellana was the first to navigate the headwater tributaries of Ecuador downstream into the Amazon River. This past week we traced some of the tributaries Orellana traveled and more on our week of exploring Ecuador with TeamSBC!
In 1540, Pizarro ordered an expedition to the eastern part of Ecuador.� Orellana joined the expedition along with 220 spanish and 4000 indigenous.� Crossing the Andes, Orellana joined a group on boat, following a path down the Rio Coca and Napo to their confluence with the Rio Aquarico and Curaray. At that point they had lost 140 of the 220 spanish and 2000 of the 4000 indigenous.� Orellana continued downstream accompanied at this point by a mere 50 men.� After six months and a trip of 4800 kilometers navigating downstream of the Napo River, Orellana finished his trip finishing at the mouth of the Amazon on the 26 of August, 1542; the first man to navigate the Amazon from its headwaters.
Needless to say the modern day explored network of rivers falling off either side of the Andes is remarkable, making for unlimited boating possibilities in Ecuador.� Our paddling time typically focuses on the Quijos Basin and the Tena Region. Often winding through miles of lush, high-elevation rainforest, you will discover a feeling of remoteness that has been lost in other countries.� This past week really brought home the fact that off the eastern slope of the Andes, every river eventually flows into the Amazon:
Starting with the Quijos Valley….and just the rivers we classically use, the Oyacachi and the Cosanga flow into the Quijos River
after going over San Rafael Falls, the Quijos turns into the Coca, makes a hard right turn and eventually runs into the Napo River–the main tributary out of Ecuador and to the Amazon.� Rumor has it that once upon a time a pair of Italians tried navigating San Rafael, with about as much success as the majority of the members of Orellana’s original party.
This week we covered a lot more of the rivers in the Tena Region than normal. Just upstream from the town of Tena is the Rio Tena–
Taking out right in the downtown Tena, we continued scouting out the Tena area.� Looking around you will find the Jondachi flowing into the Hollin which flows into the Rio Mishaulli and into the Napo. Upstream, the Rio Mishaulli is one of our favorite runs with multiple put-ins and take-outs.
Eventually the Mishaulli River meets the Napo River at Puerto Mishaulli-a very cool place to hang out!
Upstream from all this we enjoyed an awesome day on the Rio Anzu.
The Rio Anzu ends up joining the mighty Rio Jatunyacu (yacu is a quichia word that means “river”, jatun means “big”). The Jatunyacu is a day of giant roller coaster rapids.
After the Anzu joins in with the Jatunyacu, the two become the Rio Napo at the town of Puerto Napo (once actually a port town, but just like at Puerto Mishaulli, the main transportation into the port town was boat not truck).
The joy of paddling in Ecuador is not just the opportunity to paddle such a wide range of rivers that are headwater runs into the Napo, but the opportunity to see and ride on a number of different boats, and glimpse a bit of the lifestyle that made up the indigenous communities of the amazon.
As if paddling was not fun enough, we held bragging rights this week that In almost every river we stopped to practice directional rolling, stern squirts and surfing. So it means we were play boating in what eventually becomes the Amazon!
Thanks to Team Sweet Briar College members Sara and Amanda–who just like Orellana came to probe the rivers of Ecuador for future TeamSBC trips here to Ecuador!
And check out the ladies in action!