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January/February 1999

By Theresa Landman

Kayakers: Derrick Law, Shaun Boughen, Bob Daffe, Kevin Daffe, Scotty Burrell, Peter Finoff,  Jochan Kirkoff and Theresa Landman (with a brief appearance by Adam Villard).

Landing in Quito was a high, not only because of the upcoming kayaking but the high altitude was making me feel trippy! I felt protected sending an e-mail to my folks as an armed guard stood a few feet away from me, pointing his shotgun towards the door. Derrick happened to get a drug bust on film, got pickpocketed on the bus, while I decided to donate my camera to the bus gods for I never did see it again.
We arrived in Tena, which would be our base for most of the trip. Taxi drivers were use to kayakers and had their trucks outfitted with roof racks and benches for seating in the back. Luis our personal taxi driver liked the way Peter tied the boats on his truck and would only want his help for the duration of the trip.
The usual question of the day was "What's it going to be Bob, Class III, IV, V or another surprise flood river?" Even though he's never paddled Ecuador before, everyone assumed he should know. Might as well throw the dice, it could be a Class VI for all we knew.
The guys were pumped to go kayaking and the rivers were all in flood, - so much for the warm-up. We plunged into the Rio Napo, which was big water and great surfing. The next day we ran the upper Misahualli river in flood and it was Class V boating time. There was lots of unintentional hole riding, backenders and cartwheels. Bob said this would not be a good river for swimming, it was very fast, few eddies and a long trek through the jungle to get your boat back.
Next was the Lower Misahualli, which was relatively, more relaxing. It was very thick jungle with Tarzan vines, shiny blue butterflies, parakeets, vultures and waterfalls. The surfing was great but the 1.5-hour portage wasn't. Sheer

high cliff walls on each side of the river made the portage seem impossible at first. We saw a heavy metal ring in the cliff wall, which is what we used to lower the kayaks down with, while Bob stood in a tight squirrelly eddy helping people get in to their boats. The Upper Upper Misahualli was IV-V rock dodging action. Kevin and Scotty were totally comfortable in their boats doing rock splats above major drops and taking the lead down challenging rapids.
Jochan had got an ear infection the locals call 'mushroom ear'. About half of our group had ear infections or other fungal infections such as ringworm. Fish aren't the only things living in these rivers!
The Upper Jondachi was definitely our wildest ride. It started off high water Class V and went into flood where it was solid Class V+. We had seen the river rise a metre at lunchtime and Bob was looking worried. Getting out was not an option because the jungle was so thick, so we scouted the rapid and went for it. I couldn't catch the eddies I wanted too, but I knew I caught a couple of holes. Everyone paddled great. When we spotted a bamboo bridge over the river Bob suggested stashing our boats and walking out. It was an hour on the jungle trail and we reached the road. The next day the river had dropped to a good level , it was out-of-this-world beautiful.
That night we had dinner at Los Choquitos and had drinks at the Riverside bar. The bar was like a 2-storied palapa with a peaked thatched roof. We were drinking muchos cuba libres and a spitball fight broke out with the lime seeds and napkin bits. The waitresses were laughing and probably enjoyed seeing the loco gringos dropping all those American dollars.
We took a day off after 6 days of paddling and spent a day going to a waterslide, caving, and visiting the "
La Isla del Amazonica", where there are various indigenous animals, flora and fauna of the jungle. Most spectacular was the ocelot, kind of a small version of a cheetah. The crocodiles were absent from their ponds… maybe they were in the

(Continued on page 8)

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