Ecuador

Some of this has been copy/pasted from emails I sent, so if tenses shift midway, please excuse.

I decided to take a Trip on Tuesday Jan 5th.  On Sat, the 9th I left for Ecuador.

After some flight delays, I got into Quito at about 11 pm Sat. Night. I was pretty beat, and though my hotel was located near a noisy disco, I fell right asleep. 8am found me at the hotel lobby, meeting my group. 2 guides, and 6 paddlers. 3 guys, 3 girls. Ages 30-46. Everyone married, but not traveling with their spouses (except for our Guides, the Fantastic and Super Phil and Mary DeReimer of  AdventureKayaking.com. Super nice, friendly crew.

Sunday was a 1/2 travel day, we drove over a nearly14,000 foot pass to the Town of Borja, where we have a very nice lodge. We outfitted boats, and went for a short class III paddle on the Quijos , followed by dinner.

Monday was awesome. We woke up, had yummy breakfast, and went for a long paddle. Fun, class IV paddling, very continuos, but nothing super hard. About 5.5 hours on the river. We paddled on the Cosanga, to the confluence with the Quijos, and then paddled the Quijos.  Saw an Andean Cock-in-the-Rock and many, many other birds.   VERY, VERY, VERY cool.

Early on Day 3 we left Borja and went to Tena, about an hours drive away.  We stopped on the way to do a really pretty river, though the water was a bit low.  This was the Rio Misahualli.    It was fun, and I think would be super classic with more water.

After paddling, we headed to Tena, which seems to be a bit of a rough place.  Not dangerous, just very impoverished, gritty and run down.  Our hotel is nice, and the area is gorgeous, but not much else interesting about Tena.  If you weren´t paddling, I can´t imagine wanting to spend much time here.  There is an incredible steak restaurant.  The steak place has several pet sloths, which was cool.    And the rivers nearby are fantastic.  Simply incredible.   So good.

Day 4-
We seem to be in a bit of a dry spell, so many of the rivers are a little low.  Today, we did two laps on the upper stretch of a river, the Piatua, and it was awesome.  Not very high volume water, but steep, fun and fast. the river channelized nicely, meaning the low water wasn´t an issue.   I bet the run is stomping hard with high flows.

The first time through, we took our time, looking at a few spots, talking about the moves, etc.  Second time through, we just blasted.  First lap took 2.5 hrs, second was 50 minutes.  SOOO much fun.   The group (6 paddlers, 2 guides) has melded really well, I feel like I´ve been boating with them for years.   Every one looks out for each other, and all seem to be strong paddlers of similar skill.  I don´t think anyone is bored with the paddling, and no one seems in over their head.  Such a cool, perfect trip.   If we had a little more water it would be just a bit better, but it´s still awesome.

Another dinner at the steakhouse.  So good.  all 8 people had huge, delicious steaks, some drinks, etc, and the tab for the table was well under $100.   Maybe some of the best steak I´ve ever had.

It´s hot as heck in Tena. I wish I´d brought some more clean shirts.  I might have to send a few out for laundry, if I´m not paddling, and not in A/C, I´ve just got sweat pouring down my body.  Running out of non-stinky shirts.  Tough to stay hydrated too, but I´m doing it, pretty much always drinking something.  The sun is brutal, we´re almost on the Equator, so I´ve been using the sunscreen 2-4 times a day.  So far, no red.

Day 5

We paddled the Lower Jondachi today.  Easier than some of the other stuff we did, but probably the prettiest run we did.  Some really fun rapids too.    Steep canyon walls, wild orchids, and the several Blue Morpho butterflies, huge blue butterflies the size of a large saucer. The put in was interesting.   My truck arrived last, and there was a group of German boaters who had arrived even before our first truck.  The put in was crowded with locals, who appeared eager to earn a few dollars carrying boats to the put in.  I felt a bit weird having tiny Ecuadorean women carry my boat for me, normally I’m offering to carry for others!   But not long into the steep, muddy, hot, humid hike, I wasn’t going to complain.

Day 6+7

Day 6 and 7 we were back on the Quijos, running a longer section than we’d run on Day 1, that included a few bigger, more technical rapids.   Our group had truly melded by then, and it really just felt like paddling with my freinds.  Jokes flew, people watched out for each other, and it was grand.  Really, truly awesome.

On Day 7, Sat, we headed back over the pass to Quito.  We had a big steak dinner that night to say goodbyes, and all too soon, 1/2 our group was heading home.   Phil and Mary would be picking up a new group in the morning.  Ann and Merida had invited me to join them Mtn Biking on Cotopaxi, so it wasn’t quite time for our goodbyes.

Day 8

Another early start to the day, but this time, no paddling gear.   I was joining Anne and Merida to bike Cotopaxi.   Anne described it in an email as follows:

ap made it home in one piece after geoff, merida and i nearly perished from hypothermia at 15,000 feet and all developed an unusual case of sudden-onset black lung on our mountain biking adventure.  we took a tour that involved getting taken up cotopaxi in a 4WD vehicle and dropped off to coast on “mountain bikes” downhill.  at the top, the wind was blowing at about 40-50mph (you do the metric conversion) and the temp was freezing.  and did i mention the sleet?  we were all laughing pretty hard about it and geoff had the quote of the day when he approached merida and me and said, “i hate you both!”  it warmed up as we descended and that is when the dust cloud hit!  we coughed our way back to quito.  overall, a comical adventure.  i am also certain that we did not have the ace guide of the biking dutchman roster!
i had such a great time hanging out on and off the water with y’all.  if you are ever in boise, you are always welcome to stay at our place!
yours, as always, in the third person,
ap
I’ll admit that I think I might have enjoyed it a lot more than this makes it sound.   Though it is very accurate, there was long stretch in the middle of biking the high grasslands on the volcano that I enjoyed a lot.   Really pretty.  That night, Merida and Anne were both feeling a bit under the weather, so I grabbed some dinner and was in bed early again.
Day 9
I rose early, and headed to Old Town Quito.   I visited some churches, which were amazing, and stumbled upon some sort of government ceremony or rally, which was interesting.  I joined in some “Viva Ecuador!” chants, but couldn’t sing along with the national anthem.  I got my haircut, and I must say, it was the finest $1 haircut I’ve ever had!  Lunch was $2 at a little local place, and I enjoyed my day, although I’ll admit that after a week of traveling with new friends, it felt a little lonely.  In late afternoon I was pretty well finished with spanish churches and colonial architechture, so I headed back to the Mariscal and walked the lenght of the main drags there, did some internetting, and picked up my laundry.  Fresh shirts felt awesome at this point.
Day 10
Up early, early, and on the bus to Mindo.  Spent some time chatting with an older English couple, who had been all over.  Quite the goal to strive for.   Mindo is muy tranquillo, a sleepy town in the cloud forest known for it’s amazing biodiversity.  I took a long walk, found a place to stay for $10 a night, and sat on the porch.  In minutes I’d seen 4-5 butterfly species, and 5-6 hummingbirds.  And dozens of other birds.  Amazing. I took an even longer walk after settling in, and got caught in a massive rainstorm, but it was so warm I didn’t care.  I stopped at a cool butterfly farm, and enjoyed getting photos.  A nice, relaxed day, and I could see spending more time in Mindo.
Day 11
My last day, and I’d wrestled with staying in Mindo or going to Otovallo, known for it’s markets.  I decided to shop, and it was a series of long bus rides that got mt Otovallo by 11 am.   I wndered the market town, bought some gifts, and headed back to Quito for early evening. I treated myself to a nice dinner, and it was off to bed.

Day 12 I flew home.  Excited to see Kim, but sad to leave Ecuador.  There is something about Latin America that just sits right with me.  Something about the people, or the pace, or the food, but I just love it.  (spider bites and injuries excepted).
I really want to see Asia and Africa, but I’ll admit that when my mind wanders to travel, it’s hard to keep it off Central and South America.
The Gang -  (L to R, front to back) Mary, Merida, Ann, Annie,Arn, Phil, Dave

The Gang – (L to R, front to back) Mary, Merida, Ann, Annie,Arn, Phil, Dave

On the drive

On the drive

Volcano

Volcano

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Butcher Shop

Butcher Shop

Loading boats in the rain

Loading boats in the rain

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Mary and Phil - Guides and Awesome People

Mary and Phil – Guides and Awesome People

Merida

Merida

Arn

Arn

Annie

Annie

Ann

Ann

Dave

Dave

Arn

Arn

Merida

Merida

Arn

Arn

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Mary

Mary

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Arn

Arn

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Ann and Annie

Ann and Annie

Mary

Mary

Arn

Arn

Phil

Phil

Merida

Merida

this guy landed on my shoulder in an eddy, and didn't want to leave.

this guy landed on my shoulder in an eddy, and didn’t want to leave.

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Low Water

Low Water

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Boof!  Ann

Boof! Ann

Annie

Annie

Phil

Phil

Merida

Merida

Ann

Ann

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Ecuadorean Gringo Catcher

Ecuadorean Gringo Catcher

Dave

Dave

fish trap

fish trap

View from the hotel in Tena

View from the hotel in Tena

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Fairly Typical put-in

Fairly Typical put-in

Phil "This next rapid could be rocky"

Phil “This next rapid could be rocky”

Arn

Arn

mary

mary

Mary

Mary

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Arn

Arn

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Why yes, that is a 4'11" Pregnant woman carrying two boats down to the put in.

Why yes, that is a 4’11” Pregnant woman carrying two boats down to the put in.

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L to R - Ann, Merida, Phil, Dave, Arn, Mary, Annie

L to R – Ann, Merida, Phil, Dave, Arn, Mary, Annie

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Wild orchids growing alongside the river.

Wild orchids growing alongside the river.

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Sloth

Sloth

Let's hope he washed his hands before cooking our dinner.

Let’s hope he washed his hands before cooking our dinner.

Annie and Sloth.  Ironically, the sloth moved fast enough to blur the picture.

Annie and Sloth. Ironically, the sloth moved fast enough to blur the picture.

Me and my buddy.  I want a pet sloth.

Me and my buddy. I want a pet sloth.

An ecuadorean cowboy galloping down the road.

An ecuadorean cowboy galloping down the road.

One of the craziest looking spiders I've ever seen.

One of the craziest looking spiders I’ve ever seen.

Arn

Arn

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Phil

Phil

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Proof that I paddled in Ecuador.

Proof that I paddled in Ecuador.

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Tio Phil

Tio Phil

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Bummer on the fogged up screen.

Bummer on the fogged up screen.

Quito

Quito

I want a truck like that.

I want a truck like that.

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Ann

Ann

Merida and Ann biking down a Volcano near the equator in freezing cold sleet.

Merida and Ann biking down a Volcano near the equator in freezing cold sleet.

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Old Town quito

Old Town quito

For my mom.  There are TONS of fabric and wool shops in Quito.

For my mom. There are TONS of fabric and wool shops in Quito.

Old town Quito

Old town Quito

Basilica

Basilica

The gargoyles are all animals found in Ecuador.

The gargoyles are all animals found in Ecuador.

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Probably the scariest thing I did in Ecuador was walk across this catwalk.

Probably the scariest thing I did in Ecuador was walk across this catwalk.

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7 tons of gold gild the inside of this church.

7 tons of gold gild the inside of this church.

Outside my hotel window.

Outside my hotel window.

Wild Orchids

Wild Orchids

$10 a night room.

$10 a night room.

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butterfly chrysalis

butterfly chrysalis

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3 Comments

  1. Melanie Jobe Brady

    Wow! Beautiful pictures!

  2. Mark Huang

    Great Stuff, Geoff. thanks for sharing.

  3. I enjoy seeing people paddling and the wonderful adventures that it can bring one’s way.

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