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August 13, 2005

Rio Rircay, Ecuador

Gustavo, the coolest (and probably only) climber in Ecuador, showed us a couple of rivers near his home town of Cuenca that he thought might be interesting to paddle. One of them was the Rio Rircay, a creek that flows through a few fantastic mini gorges. We set up our base in Gustavo's house in Cuenca... an interesting place consisting of what looks like modern ruins from the outside, a nice home on the inside, and a climbing gym in Gustavo's room.

A first reconaissance trip to the Rio Rircay confirmed that it would be worth a try. Maps showed a resonable gradient, but we could not see everything in the gorges, so it was clear that we would have to be careful.

Dan and I set out to do it, with Gustavo driving the Jeep for the shuttle. Paddling with Dan was, once again, an amazing experience. He was relaxed, always in control, and seemed to always have an eye open for possible dangerous situations; very important on a trip like this. We put in right above a bridge over the first gorge.

The first half hour or so was quite mellow, and the little gorges were fascinating.

Dan was paddling a Pirouette (a very old and long boat, very different form todays short boats), but that did not stop him from playing around... Amazing.

After a while; the water became more interesting, and approached class IV. At one point, right above an easy looking rapid, Dan pointed out that we could not see around the corner and that there was no way to paddle back. So I stayed above the committing rapid, and Dan paddled ahead to check out what's beyond the bend. The idea was that if we can't go further, he would let the boat go, I would through him a rope, and he would scramble back along the canyon wall.

Fortunately, it was all flatwater beyond the bend, so we simply continued paddling.

Notice how high the water can get in this creek... Scary.

Locals tell us that sometimes, the water is completely clear. It would be nice to paddle it like that; if it weren't for the location and the water color, this would be a classic kayaking run.

I'd definitely like to do it again.


Posted by rick at August 13, 2005 08:46 PM