The last two weeks were spent in a whirlwind of river journeys in Southern Peru. With an incredibly strong crew, Rocky Contos, Josh Fischer, Nathaniel Mack, Lorenzo Bergamin & John Wade we made our way down two incredible rivers at perfect water levels; Rio Cotahuasi & Rio Colca.
I have put together this video of the two journeys, check it out!
Rio Cotahuasi – 6 Days
Starting out on the upper reaches of Rio Cotahuasi we were treated to numerous hot springs on the first day. After that it was a hectic dash through Upper Aimana gorge, with relentless steep, continuous class IV&V rapids. What followed were some spectacular portages and beautiful river running; continuous fun class IV for a few days out.
A highlight on night two was the hike up into Berlinga, a small village nestled in the mountains. Setting out at dusk on what we thought would be a quick hike up and back, with the possibility of purchasing some local wine, turned out to be a good bit longer…. About an hour after setting out we made it to the village in the dark. Nested way up out of the valley, it was truly an experience finding our way through there in the dark. We made contact with a local family who were happy to sell us some delicious oranges and local wine. With irrigation channels to keep many orchards and gardens healthy, we picked our way across the hillsides gathering juicy fresh oranges in the twilight.
Below Sipia falls, the main section of Rio Cotahuasi offered stunning continuous sections of class IV-IV+ boating. We would float by ancient terraces, remnants from extensive pre Incan societies. Our proximity to the Atacama desert mean no chance of rain; just roll out a sleeping bag and your good to go.
Our most incredible discovery however was in the evening of day 4. Pulling up and setting up camp on some of the old terraces, we headed out to explore the ruins further up the hill.
Rio Colca – 2 Days
Difficult to get to, but well worth the effort. We were blown away by what we saw on Rio Cotahuasi, but Rio Colca brought it to a whole new level. Great whitewater through INCREDIBLE landscapes.
Leaving Cabanaconde in the back of a big farm truck (now I know how the cows feel), it was a long, bumpy, dusty drive. We had agreed that the truck would drive us to the end of the road, where we would meet our crew of donkeys to help us haul gear the remaining distance to Canco. After 3 hours bouncing along the gravel roads, the guys in the truck came to a steep section and told us that was as far as they would go, the end of the road they told us was only 1km further. No problems. We shouldered our boats laden with overnight gear and set off. It quickly became evident we were much further than 1km from the end of the road. Leaving boats and gear strewn along the roadside, we slowly made our way to the end of the road; where we learned that our donkeys had not left Huambo, and were still 4 hours away… The donkeys arrived at dusk, we walked for the next four hours in darkness through what would have been a spectacular Canyon in daylight, the steep cliff side tracks dropping off only into the darkness. All of us were exhausted by the time we arrived, but worse was the associated dehydration from numerous water bottles being misplaced on the donkeys. The donkey crew dropped us in the centre of town, telling us the river was only a three minute walk downhill.
Waking up in the middle of the town square, the place was bustling; pigs snorting and donkeys heading back up the hill for a days work, we rose to fin that in fact the river was still over a kilometer away… More back breaking hiking… Finally putting on the river mid morning, it was immediately evident that this was going to be a special run. Beautiful clear water, excellent rapids and a stunning canyon. Easily up there with the most spectacular rivers I have paddled. We paddled through the canyon in awe; seeing how the earth has been folded, eroded and pushed up over time. The scale of the landscape and the geology was absolutely incredible; the aptly named Chocolate Canyon reminiscent of the most delicately layered mouse chocolate deserts, looking good enough to eat. My photos are completely unable to do it justice. Through some of the canyons there were hot springs every couple of meters, on both sides of the river, hot water pouring down the walls straight into the river. It was nice to know that with every paddle stroke the river was getting warmer. Vivid green algal/calcium deposits making it an incredible scene.
After finishing the Colca it was an overnight bus to Lima. Two days in Lima getting some food and gear together for the month long Rio Maranon journey. Now i’m in Huaraz, hurredly trying to get this post completed and complete 12 other jobs before we start the month long expedition tomorrow. Gear and people everywhere, trying to get it all organised. Tonnes of food and supplies all over the place. I guess that is to be expected when planning for a full month on river. Since meeting up with Laura ideas have been flowing on how we will tackle this project, its really getting own to the business end of things. Once we take off the river in July, we will be ready to really take action and make it happen.