Friday, June 9, 2017

The Abysmo

Peru is an expedition kayaker's paradise with rivers as big as it's famous mountains. With two weeks off at the end of October and a good kayaking buddy temporarily living in Cusco it was time to experience it for myself. The trip came together with the usual international traveling headaches ("traveling in a kayak is fun, traveling with a kayak is not fun" - Tyson Titensor) and the usual trepidation about water levels (rivers were on the rise as the rainy season approached). The usual cast of characters showed up and we spoke of the usual things (rivers, water levels, old river story, joke, repeat) as we drove the long winding roads out of Cusco towards the Rio Apurimac. 

The usual suspects….

Will Rawstron aka "the Water Buffalo"

Tyson Titensor (on extended sabatical in Peru)

"El Ferrari"
 Due to clandestine and dubious circumstances, we were all forbidden to use this guys name on the internet. So henceforth he will be referred to by his Peruvian name "El Ferrari"

The Author

The usual concerns about high water levels lead to the usual rushed decision making and within 24 hours of landing in Cusco we found ourselves at the put in for "the Abysmo" - one of the most challenging and committing runs in Peru. A warmup would have been ideal but as usual - it wasn't in the cards. 

The team enjoying the scenery and the flat water "warm up" to 'The Abysmo"

"El Ferrari" finds the end of the flat water

A couple big rapids down, the team enters "the abyss"

Big rivers round big boulders. The crew eats lunch among giants.

"El Ferrari" feeling the old fire and teeing up on one the rest of us walked

Stunning place for kayaking and portaging

The "Water Buffalo" exiting a rather stout "sneak". 

"El Ferrari" in said "sneak"

By late afternoon we were in the thick of it, running big rapids stacked on top of one another. It was engaging boating, requiring focus and teamwork. As a group it had been over 3 years since we'd been on a big trip together but we quickly fell into our old rhythms, moving efficiently and safely through challenging whitewater. It had been a long time since I'd been on a big kayaking trip - and I reveled in the moment. It was a perfect evening and the river running with old friends felt extremely peaceful despite the intensity of it. 

A quiet moment amongst big rapids

Darkness comes early near the equator and before too long we had to call it quits.

We were up early the next morning with big plans. We had the crux of the run ahead - a rather steep section of rapids. We were hoping to be done with this stretch by noon so we could hike 5,000 feet from the river to secluded Incan ruins at 10,000 feet (Choquequirao). Our good friend Xavier, who'd drowned 2 years earlier, had always talked of going and we wanted to go for him. 

Tents are a must in Peru - lots of biting bugs


"El Ferrari" must've filled his tank with bad gas - because we barely got started  before he was demanding frequent pit stops to relieve himself. Tough moment for that to happen. But he rallied and was able to drive at appropriate speeds in between pit stops. We laughed at him but we should have known better, we all had it coming.

Random moment in front of the lens for yours truly

"El Ferrari" reconnoitering the route

 Big water and sieves. So many sieves…

Finish line (the bridge) in sight

We got to the trail a little late. The heat was oppressive and the trail did switch backs in the sun for as far as the eye could see. Tyson, the local, had already been a couple times and was happy reading and relaxing in the shade. Will and "El Ferrari" stripped down to the their underwear, made some disparaging remarks about how hot it was, commented on the fact that they only had one pair of pants, and off we went. 

Getting ready to hike sans pants

We were a rag tag bunch on the trail. We had one small backpack for the 3 of us, and we were hiking at the worst time of day. We were flushed, sweating buckets, and in the case of "El Ferrari" and Will, in our underwear. Choquequirao is normally a 3 day trek so we were passed by many backpackers, who looked very prepared with their large packs. It was hard to explain what we'd been through to get there. That morning we'd been class V ninja's - but by that afternoon we were were just a sunburned, dehydrated, ill equipped, and pathetic looking lot. Sticking out like sore thumbs we received incredulous looks as we hiked.

It took us 5 hours to reach Choqueuirao but it was worth every step. We were the only ones there - and the play of the early evening light on the ruins was magical.

Will and "El Ferrari" traipsing or frolicking through the ruins, I haven't decided which one.

This one was for you "Xavi". Thanks for inspiring us. 

Snacks at a little tienda on the long dark walk home

After a brief search in the morning for the Water Buffalo's pants - they'd disappeared hanging up at the campground - we paddled downstream. Tyson graciously loaned the Water Buffalo his spare pair of pants, to Will's great relief. Facing the spiders and bugs of Peru in only your underwear is a daunting prospect to say the least. 

Spectacular scenery and whitewater awaited us...

"El Ferrari" doing a poor job at convincing the rest of us to run this one 

The immensity of the place was truly staggering. I couldn't stop taking pictures and what I did shoot doesn't do it justice. It was stunning.

 Entrance rapid to a short mini gorge

 Water Buffalo having some issues in said rapid

Salvation for the Water Buffalo

There were some quieter moments too

Gathering drinking water for camp



The scenery at camp turned out to be ok

 "El Porpoise" rocketing through an immense hole

After passing the confluence with the Rio Patchachaca and exiting "the Abysmo"

 The finish line. A very remote bridge and road in the Andes

Our driver was late but showed up which seemed key because minus one other car there was no other traffic on the road. It was a long all night drive back to Cusco but the nervous anxiety was gone. Our whitewater appetites satiated, we watched a glorious sunset and I felt extremely lucky to have seen such a remote, beautiful part of the earth. 

1 comment:

  1. There aren't enough people that take the time to shoot these days, and even fewer that make more than a token effort to share. Thanks for being one of 'em.