Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ecuador Update: Hollin Chico

I've been down in the jungles of Ecuador for the last month, aprovechando los rios, getting after it pretty hard.  My buddy Mr. S Baker came down with me (he's more of a veteran than me, been down 4 times and went to school for a bit in Quito), and we've bounced from Baeza, to Tena, to Banos, to Tena, to Banos, etc, chasing the water where it's good.

More on that later, at the moment the focus of the story will be the Hollin Chico, a rarely run jungle mission that's right off the highway, but remote enough that even the locals were saying "no se puede ir al rio, es impossible."  That is until we met the right local, who said "Si, tengo una finca al lado del rio, el sendero va desde aqui mismo"  and proceeded to describe to us exactly how to get down to his farm from the highway, on a somewhat confusing network of trails down steep muddy slopes, through crazy bogs where a mistep meant being waist deep in mud, down tiny tribs, until 3 hours later we reached the river.  I didn't get many photos on this mission, mostly because we were very worried that we'd run out of light and sleeping in the jungle kinda sucks.

Joining Scotty and I on this mission was our buddy Charlie from New England and Joni, another Pacific Northwest boater making the most of the winter boating opportunities.  Scotty and Charlie are very familiar with jungle missions like this, and the difficulty of access and work involved came as no surprise. And while Joni hadn't been on missions like this, if she was surprised, it certainly didn't show.  She was however very thankful to have just worn some thin pants rather than her farmer jane, as Scotty firmly suggested.  Hiking around the jungle, you want to be fully covered for the bugs and the unfriendly jungle flora, but it's hot and humid, so you have to wear thin stuff, a tricky balancing act.

In the end, Joni killed it, we got down to the river with time to spare... and found super low flows.  We manked down the river for 5 miles or so, with only this one sweet bedrock gem interrupting the endless boulder gardens.

Finally Some Bedrock! 

With more water, the run would be sweet, but with the flows we had, it was just a lot of work.  But work often comes with a reward, and the end of the run soon arrived, where a sweet folding 40 footer awaits, right before the confluence with the Hollin Grande, which also serves as the takeout.  Considering the low flows, nobody was too fired up but me (it's been on my list since last year) and considering that my trip was nearly done, I decided to give it a go anyway.  The line when super smooth, soft hit despite the low flow, came out upright, did some hooting and hollering, took a right stroke, then tried a left, then realized that I had broken my left blade off!

Coming in smooth.  This falls has an eddy right at the lip, so you can peel out right into it, and just hold the stroke all the way through to your tuck.  Pretty sweet.

No roll?  Sweet!

Well I'll be darned, me blade be gone!

I was quite bummed, knowing that that waterfall had just cost me $150 bones.  But better my paddle than my body, and I C-1'd the boat across the pool, thanked the friends for setting safety, and we all walked up the stairs to a small cafe and grabbed a beer.  Given that this waterfall is an easy park and huck, it does get run somewhat often, most recently by a river boarder, but it felt really good to get a top to bottom decent of the Hollin Chico.  Parking and Hucking feels like cheating almost, but on this day, I sure as hell earned it!

More to come on Ecuador later, but for now, adios!



gumby zenkayaker said...

is there any yakking near the town of CUENCA ??? I have friends moveing there in july !!!! glad you enjoyed it there thanks for pic's and foot notes lol.later ENJOY zenkayaker[in NC USA}

Matt said...

There is some boating around Cuenca, most of which has yet to be explored, but the river that runs right through town has some cool sections. Also, Cuenca isn't too far from banos, which has some of the best runs in Ecuador (El Rio Topo is a must!)