The Rio Chiguaza (also known as Tuna Chiguaza) flows into the Rio
Pastaza at Mama Ibelia's place; the bridge over the Rio Pastaza on the
Tena - Macas road. It looked pretty attractive to paddle, and since we
had such a wonderful base camp here, we tried to find out more about it.
Ibelia and Orlando, amongst others, told us that it disappears into a
intriguing, and tempting to explore. A Shuar named Paulito seemed
to be quite knowledgeable about it and confirmed the stories about the
The maps showed the river going
through a narrow, but not very high gorge, with a moderate gradient.
Flow was about 1200cfs, and the water quite clear. The road followed
the river at a distance of about 2 miles. There seemed to be at least
one trail crossing the river. Interestingly, this was one of the rivers
were locals did not
tell us that we would die if we tried to paddle it.
They also told us that nobody had ever paddled it, and that they have
never seen kayaks here. Given that they live at the only possible take
out for the river, this seemed to be reliable information. However, it
turned out to be incorrect, though just barely -- it
had been run exactly once, as I would find out much later.
This sounded like the type of adventure I love - a trip into an
unknown, but most likely interesting and beautiful place. A chance to
explore, with the excitement of not knowing what lies ahead, what we
will see around the next bend.
We decided to give it a shot. Orlando, a very nice local who was doing
some work for the government exploring development and tourism
potential for the area, was eager to help us with the shuttle and
dropped us off at the put it. Paulito came along to shows us how to get
to the river. He was a very nice, soft spoken individual.
Interestingly, he was taking care of a baby; quite unusual in this part
of the world.
We put in at the Bridge to Huamboya, in early November. Information
water levels throughout the year was too contradictary to be useful.
river started out as a beautiful class II, with lots of waterfalls
coming in from both sides. After about two hours of paddling,
mostly class II but some class III,
we approached a very narrow gorge, much narrower than a map could show.
The water was not moving very fast, so it must have been very deep.
here on, we proceeded extremely carefully and slowly -- noting possible
exit points that allowed climbing the canyon walls to get out, in case
we could not continue. Fortunately, there was never a point when we
could not have backtracked to a climb-out possibility. If we'd
had to climb out, we
probably would have had to leave the boats behind.
The next half mile probably took another hour or so; we started to get
nervous as it was getting late and we did not have overnight gear.
is also the reason why we did not take more pictures of this incredibly
beautiful canyon. There were some caves I would have loved to
explore - plenty of reasons to go back some day. Towards the end of the
gorge, there was one spot where all the water disappeared into a cave.
We found out later that you can actually paddle through the cave -- but
not knowing this at the time,
we decided to portage on the right.
the gorge opened up, and just as we were about to decide to camp
without any gear, we saw a cable crossing the river. This meant that
there was a trail, and a way to get out. We left the boats behind, and
hiked out. We made it to the road just as it got dark, and took a bus
back to our base camp. It was quite surreal to be back in civilization
only a couple of hours after being in such an inaccessible place.
The next day, we continued early, since the map indicated another gorge
lying ahead of us. The second gorge was not as intense, and the final
section to the confluence was uneventful, though still beautiful.
Just the facts
The Chiguaza is very seldomly paddled; first descent probably by Dan
Dixon in 1999 or so.
Class II with one III at 1200cfs. Somewhat technical, some easy but
important moves required.
Take out: Road from Tena to Macas - bridge over Pastaza and Chiguaza,
at the confluence
Put in: Drive south from the put in, towards Macas. Turn right towards
Huamboya. about 1h drive??
Base camp: At take out. Ask at the little restaurant on the peninsula
between the rivers (run by Sra Ibelia).
Length: 3 hours?
Times in table below based on very slow exploratory run.
||In, II, lots of falls
||Pulley X, Falls
||Rio Nahimibi joins from
steep, maybe runnable with more water, V
||Enter gorge, marked by
HUGE boulder in middle
(run on right, fun to climb)
Various potential portages, Cave, Seal launch necessary (10ft), watch
||Exit gorge. River goes
spill on right runnable, or portage on right
||Cable crossing, trail to
bus stop on right,
200m up 20 min walk. Bus stop 47km, little
shelter/bus stop on other side.
||Significant rapid, III on
right, V on left
|| Gorge gets narrow again
HUGE boulders, beautiful, cave to paddle in
||Rio Chamuquima enters
from right with a IV-V rapid
Trail, pulley crossing.
||Narrow again, 4 feet,
huge boulders, but not difficult
||Takeout at confluence
Please email if you run this -- would love to hear about it. And send
warm greetings to Sra Ibelia.