|Sandflies, Local Busses and Stubborn Donkeys - Creek Boating in Peru|
Kayaking in Peru is all about logistics:
- Obstacle 1- Find the one taxi out of the millions which has roof racks on which to transport kayaks to the bus terminal
- Obstacle 2- Get your kayak onto a bus without forking out the cost of an extra ticket
- Obstacle 3- Survive the bone jarring bus trip (up to 20 hours) over some of the roughest roads on the planet.
- Obstacle 4- Get down to the river!
Peruvian rivers flow through some of the deepest canyons in the world and impossible to reach by road. This is where the burros (donkeys) come in. Used extensively in Peru, as pack animals, most of these donkeys are amazingly adept at carrying heavy loads but may require more than a little coaxing before being persuaded into allowing a kayak to be loaded onto their backs.
Coaxing, blindfolding and finally binding its front legs we managed to overcome the fear of one particularly skittish donkey for the six hour hike into the Colca Canyon. The donkey however had its revenge and tried repeatedly to throw itself off the narrow path and into the canyon floor 400 meters below.
We not only had to deal with a suicidal donkey but also a one armed donkey driver (bandit) who kept demanding extra pay at regular intervals along the trail which was littered with cacti and as dry as the Sahara. Hard to imagine that within a few hours we would be kayaking one on the most spectacular rivers in Peru.
The Colca Canyon was once thought to be the deepest canyon in the world, although this has now been disproved, it must still nevertheless be ranked as one of the most spectacular! Volcanic warm baths, sulphur deposits, spectacular rock formations, soaring Andean Condors and towering riverside cliffs give the canyon an character all of its own. Another major plus about boating the Colca is the absence of sandflies, annoying little critters whose bite can remain irritating for a couple of days.
Yip, kayaking in Peru is not all that easy, but man is the whitewater worth it!
Definitely our favorite river in this regard was the Cotohuasi River (now officially the deepest canyon in the world). This four to six day section starts off with a nice warm up section before dropping into some of the best creeking around. In places the canyon closes in and the gradient increases to around 45 meters per kilometer.
One two kilometer section of class 5 white water is said to drop an awsome 70 meters per kilometer, all of which is runnable. This section ends at the thundering Sepia falls where the river plummets over 150 meters into the crack in the earth thus making the four hour donkey trek a necessity. Before returning to the grade 4/5 action in the river below the path passes through a tunnel in the cliffs which was chipped out of the rock by Pre-Incan villages centuries before.
Our group will now attempt to kayak the mighty Maranon river from its source at an altitude of around 4500 meters to the confluence with the Ucayali river (Amazon) in the Amazon Lowlands.
- The official expedition web siteis here: www.Amazonexpedition.co.za.
- Playak will also keep you informed daily whenever updates are available. Keep checking Playak News Watch.
Text: Graeme Anderson. Photos: Ross ODonoghue.
PS Late June, the team took a big blow. After months of preparation and planning as a team, one of our members, Celliers Kruger has had to withdraw from the expedition. Celliers, one of South Africa's most renowned river runners, has had to pull out of the team at the last minute. He is the owner, designer and manufacturer of a kayak company in South Africa, Fluid Kayaks and due to business obligations he is unable to join us. This is obviously a huge disappointment to both the team and to Celliers. He is however still one of the largest sponsors of the expedition and is going out of his way to provide us with world class gear that is essential for the success of the expedition.