Rio Silaco, Cajamarca, Peru – First Descent

Tired from a morning of goodbyes after an epic 27 days on the Marañón, Richard and I regularly awoke to find ourselves mid air only to come crashing back down onto the backseat of the van that we were flying up the mountain in. It only took 3 hours to get to Cutervo, but it felt longer. We arrived and found a place for ourselves and the kayaks to sleep in the nearest hotel. At first light I was up and enquiring about the next car leaving for Socota.
“How many are you?” asked the driver.
“Two” I replied.
“In that case we will go now”.
I hastily went back to the hotel woke up Richard and told him we had a ride. 10 minutes later we were bumping along the road to Socota with kayaks up on the roof.

We arrived to Socota in time for a hearty breakfast of fruit salad, yogurt and one too many tamales. We then wandered around the square for half an hour wondering how we would make it to La Ramada, and then from La Ramada to the Put-In. I had underestimated the distances, or maybe just the time taken to navigate the precipitous Andean roads.
One gentleman offered us a ride, but when push came to shove he barely had space for one passenger, let alone 2 of us plus two boats (and believe me, i fully believe there is always room for one more, however i this case, there wasn’t). The van was literally full from floor to ceiling with bags and rice and grain, plus piled high on the roof for good measure.

A nearby driver advised that pretty much every vehicle passing through would be equally heavily laden due to the 5 day fiesta that they were preparing for. At which point he offered to take us to La Ramada. 10 minutes later we were on our way, and enquiring about how to complete the final leg down to river level at the bottom of the valley. After enquiring with no less 10 amigos along the way as to the state of the road after La Ramada (most of whom said “yeah, you’ll probably make it in this car”) our driver agreed to go the distance. We arrived to the bridge construction site around 1:30pm, got ready and put-on.

First Glimpse of Rio Silaco.

We put-on at 2pm and were soon floating through class III-IV gorge. After several decent class IV rapids we arrived to the first mandatory portage. A constricted canyon with river wide chockstone under which the river flowed. We portaged on river left by anchoring off a cable car crossing the river lowering boats down into the canyon.

 

Richard playing on cable-car

After that we had fun class IV creeking until a large,manky looking rapid which had a line, but we both decided to portage. We arrived to the perfect cave camp overlooking the river right on dusk. We cooked over the campfire then promptly fell asleep, and had no idea that it rained most of the night due to the excellent shelter provided by our cave.

In the morning the river had lost its clear blue green colour, and flowed brown due to the rain overnight. (Though level was mostly unchanged). From here we navigated through 3 long, but very tight canyons carving their way through the mountainside. There were hot springs flowing in and no shortage of colour in the red, green, yellow, brown rocks.

Needless to say, we were pretty overwhelmingly stoked with the run, and excited in the future to explore some of the slot canyons we saw dropping to river level along the way…

Once reaching the Marañon Confluence it was 1.25 hours paddle to Malleta where we were lucky enough to find a taxi straight off the bat. When we arrived to Cumba, however, it appeared there was a catch… We also needed to tow his friends taxi back to Jaén, a good two hours drive.

First Descent Details:
Rio Silaco: La Ramada – Maranon Confluence.

Shuttles:
Jaen – Cutervo: 3:00hrs
Cutervo – Socota: 1:45hrs
Socota – La Ramada: 1:30hrs
La Ramada – Put In (Bridge Construction site on road to Chimbán): 2hrs.

Level: Med-Low (high levels would be epic…)
Grade: IV with many class III. 1 class V portageable, 1 mandatory portage.
Length: ~20km
Average Gradient: 20m/km
Paddle Time: 6 hrs (3 hrs on day 1 to cave, 3 hrs on day 2 to confluence).

First Descent: Benjamin Webb & Richard Bassett-Smith, 11 June 2018.

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