Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sanity in the South: An Ecuadorian Winter Vacation

Anyone familiar with Mountainbuzz can attest that when the snow starts falling in Colorado, we local boaters start to lose our grip on sanity.  In late October due to mysterious dam maintenance, Lower South Boulder Creek began running at the desperately low flow of 300 cfs.  Arkansas river rat Melrose and I were jonsin' so bad that we put up with the epic shuttle, snowfall and low flows to get wet.  Unfortunately, a second dam in the run removed all of the flow, necessitating a 2 mile hike-out through private property.  After we made it out Evan, who was also in serious need of liquid stimulation, called to ask if the trek was worth the effort.  I told him it was probably only a Mank Crew special and he should look elsewhere for goods.  Thankfully, he'd already been planning a trip to Ecuador with the Fort Collins posse and Dr. Brad, MD. I quickly re-arranged my work schedule, got a couple shots in my arse and hopped a plane south.
(Evan Stafford photo)
This is an Ecuadorian rural taxi - a four door pick-up truck that is pretty much designed as a creek assault vehicle.  And they come cheap.

(Photo: Brad Higinbotham by Evan Stafford)
Definitely check out the Papallacta if you're in the neighborhood.  We compared it to running the Lower Narrows on the Poudre for an entire day in the jungle.  Here's a couple more shots from the stretch:

(Photo: Evan Stafford)
Dr. Brad, MD - jungle stylin

(Photo: Evan Stafford)
Joe K finding his way...

(Photo: Joe Keck with Evan's camera)
Sensi Stafford from Fists of Boof Dojo demonstrates that it works the same south of the equator.  Here's but a few of the lovely creatures we encountered on our journeys:

(Photo: Evan Stafford)
Believe it or not, these are some of the smaller spiders in my memories of the trip.  We also saw CD sized spiders that could run across water - terrifying for a kayaker.

I'm not afraid 

(Photo: Joe Keck)
This is not the monkey that bit Brad, but he did steal that bun out of my hand while I was looking the other way.  Now back to the boating for you tweaking Colorado folk:
(Photo:  Joe Keck)
Here's Evan Stafford waking up on the first drop of the Jondachi.  Several days before this shot our group was shut down on this run as we watched the water rise 3 feet in 25 seconds or so.  This run provided an amazing pool-drop jungle adventure once we got in.

(Photo of Pete Stromberg by Evan Stafford)
Yea, I know, I'm stuck at work too, but you know where my head is at....

(Photo: Evan Stafford)

(Photo: Evan Stafford)
These shots are of Randy Ramirez who hails from Laramie, WY.  I know what you're thinking and all I can say is that I didn't know rednecks could make great kayakers either.

(Photo: Evan Stafford)
Here's the posse gettin' ready for the business at hand.

(Photo:  Evan Stafford)
I didn't realize it until I got there, but Ecuador is full-on in the Andes mountains.  We traveled over 14,000 foot passes and cruised by huge volcanos.  Speaking of huge:

(Photo: Joe Keck)
Evan Stafford gets intimate with Hollin Falls.

(Photo of Joe Keck by Evan Stafford)
Oh, hello perfect jungle waterfall!

Brad sez, "Nice helmet"

Parting shot:
("It doesn't get much better than that" by Evan Stafford)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Madagascar: a Whitewater Paradise that will 'change your life'.

Madagascar:A short flight form Denver International Airport, up and over the Atlantic Ocean will land you in Paris France. Where I must say the Flight Attendants become very attractive! Another leap South from Paris will send you and your dream girls over the African Continent to the 4th largest island in the word and your final destination, Madagascar.

Here you will face one of Life’s biggest dissensions, do I stay on the plane and try to make eye contact with Pènèlope the Flight Attendant, one last time… or do I go kayaking? I voted for Pènèlope but my companions, Matt Wilson and Henry Munter won the vote to go kayaking, sending us into one hell of an adventure.

Madagascar will certainly change your life and I would highly recommend it. The Malagasy are by far the nicest people, beer and food are dirt cheep, the crocodiles are huge and the exchange rate is $1US to 2,050 Malagashie. Therefore, total group funds will probably land you in the millionaire range if you ever wanted to know what it feels like.

Matt, Hennery and I had 40 days of unforgettable experiences in this whitewater paradise and below you will see a small summary of our trip, through the lens so to speak.

Sunrise in the 3rd world
Welcome to the Madagascar country side

In Mada even you shuttle bunny needs go be ready to giver!

Once the truck is stuck in the mud and you’ve spent the night sleeping by its side in a downpour, its time to continue the trek by foot.
After all that traveling yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel and I see some action. One of the small channels of the Manangar River.

Mat and Henry drying out at camp on day 3 of 5 on the Manangar River

The west coast of Mada is much drier then the east coast which you’ve seen above. Here on the Ikapo River, the whitewater is warmer then your Sunday bath, the air temp is nearly unbearable and the crocodiles are nothing like the big furry teddy bears we have back here in the states. Paddler: Henry.

When we arrived in Mada we saw ourselves as the cocky bad-asses from America, that could run anything and everything she could offer. So for are fist of many self-support trips, we pored over the maps and found the largest, steepest river we could. It was in the 100k + length, so us packed breakfast for 2 days, dinner for 3 and one big bottle of Whisky. Here Hennery is seen givenr on day 3 of the unplanned 6 day first decent on the Onive River.

Henry seems to be pondering why he didn’t get any sleep the night before, as he stairs down the pointy rocks that made up his bed. This portage took us somewhere around 10 hours, with way to many huge spiders, two rappels, one pendulum and a section where we lined kayaks? Ya, I too thought you only did that with rafts.

The Mada shuttle rig.

Time to rap this photo sesh up with one of the many local parties.

As I was looking through these photos I just wanted to see more whitewater, so here’s one last bonus pic, of your day to day ledge drop action. Paddler: Matt Wilson.

Story and Photos: Evan Ross

Paddlers: Evan Ross, Matt Wilson, Henry.

Evan’s Gear Picks for Madagascar:
LiquidLogic Jefe
Werner Stikine Bent Shaft
WRSI Helmet
Book: Kayak by Nealy
Wag Bag (poop in a bag!)