Archive | August, 2013

Long Over Due Update

It has been nearly 3 weeks since our last blog post.  Internet access and time have been sparse as we have paddled the last 30 days in a row!

We are in Atalya now and, while we do have internet, it is not good enough for photo updates.

But here is a bit of an update from the past week.  I realize there is a big gap which we will have to fill in later…

This is taken from emails we have sent to our friends and family who have been wondering if we are still alive.

Enjoy!  Next update will be in about 7 days from Pucallpa.  Please excuse all spelling errors as there is no English spell check on this computer and I suck at spelling.


We have made it to Atalaya–yeah!   This means we have completed Phase 1 of the trip–The Whitewater.

We have also completed the Rio Ene y Rio Tambo.  Left in our phase 2 (Red Zone) is the Rio Ucayali, which will probably take us 7 more da

SO FAR, our experience of the red zone has been quite pleasant.  Most
people were very friendly and once they saw that we had all our
paperwork in order–permission letter from Ministry of Tourism and
permission letters from the Indigenous groups of the Rio Ene and Rio
Tambo–they were quite happy to have us there and pass.

We had a couple of weird things happen like a group of Asheninka
Indians were calling us over by waving at us from a far away bank.  As
it was not an official check point and we weren’t 100% sure if they
were calling us or waving at us we did not stop promptly.   After our
motorized canoe told us to stop we did.  The Asheninkas were a little
bit drunk and yelled at our guide Cesar for not radioing ahead to
tell them we were coming.  Then, very nicely, they proceeded to
appologize to us for being angry but explained that we had to
understand that they had to control the area because there have been
problems in the past with childern disapearing and gringos stealing
their organs…so, it turns out these myths really do exist down here!
Then they made Cesar do 50 push ups on the beach as his punishment
for not calling ahead.

The most logical explanation for how these stories about people
stealing their children and their children’s organs we have heard is
that often children will go swimming and end up drowning (aka
dissapearing).  They say there is a “parasitic catfish” in the rivers
up here that eats its prey from the inside out.  So the kids drown,
the catfish eat them (from the insides) and then people find them days
later dead with all their insides missing.  I am not sure if this is
true either, but it is the best explanation we have heard…

Today as we were approaching Atalya someone yelled from shore “oye,
pela cara” (hey, peeled face) at us.  But other than these 2 things,
everyone has been extremely nice and helpful to us.  Let’s just hope
that this luck continues!

Today was our 30th day in a row of paddling.  We are all feeling a
little wee bit tired, and so are taking a rest day tomorrow.  So
please do NOT be alarmed when you don’t see any movement on the

We have seen nice scenery so far and are well into the jungle now.
But it took a while, 95% of the Mantaro was desert and catus was the
dominant plant.  From the confluence with the Apurimac, up until
yesterday the rainforest looked more like New England…we were in a
part that people call the dry forest (I think) and when it is the dry
season–such as it is now–many of the trees lose their leaves.  There
were places where 75% of a hillside was trees with no leaves.

But now we are into the “normal” rainforest as we know it.   And, even
though it is the dry season, it has been raining for 3 days straight!

We have seen the following:
Andean Deer
Another Deer that looked much like a N. American deer but darker brown/grey
Andean Fox
Water Dog–an oversized otter than can swim but prefers shore
A real Otter

Cesar, our guide for the red zone, saw a Capybara, but we did not:-(

We have seen more parakeets than I can count, tons of macaws, tiger
herons, regular herons, eagles, hawks, osprey, cormorants and lots of
other birds we can not identify.

We have seen 2 billion ankle biters, but very few mosquitos so far.

In a response to this email, I also generated DAY TO DAY LIVING:

I have had a request for information on how our day to day living is…so here you go:
Wake up around 5am.  We have found that pooping before daylight is definitely the best way to go.  If we are in a remote area, the pre-dawn poop helps stave off the bugs.  Once it is light, the no–see–ums come out in force and you can only guess what that means if you have no pants on…
And if we are in a village, it means we can do our thing before there are too many people around.   This one is a bit more complicated because a motorized canoe seems to arrive at any town at 5am.  So we either have to go at 4:45am or 5:15am.
Then we proceed to heat water with our jet boils, put hot water in our dehydrated meals, make coffee, and then pack up camp while we wait for our food to rehydrate.   If you are wondering, this is day 31 of eating 2 dehydrated meals per day plus Cliff bars to supplement and YES, we are very sick of the dehydrated meals.  Especially those of us who only have 5 vegan flavors to choose from.  Supplemental food from villages has been tough.  I litterally do a little jig of joy if I can find plain potato chips which has been exactly twice in the last 14 days.
Due to this Amazon diet, we have all lost a bit of weight.  I made the BIG mistake of having an oversized wardrobe to begin with.  Due to the fact that I do not like “women’s cut” in clothing, I bought men’s pants for the trip.  Problem was, 30 was the smallest size they had.  30 was ok at the beginning of the trip but definitely is not now.  With my big pants, cinched belt, button up shirt, and haircut, Don says I look like a 15 year old boy trying to enlist in the army for WWII.
Sorry for the digression.
Next, we pack up our kayaks, put on our wet kayaking clothes and hit the river.  This has been normally happening between 7am and 8am.
Then we paddle.
We have now been on the flatwater for 6 days.   Our days of paddling consisit of a bit of talking, a bit of listening to music and books on tape, a bit of looking at the scenery, and looking at/waving at the locals.  Most interesting are our hourly GPS checks where we see how far we have gone and how much futher we have to go.  We also socialize for about 2 minutes and then get back to our business.  We also stop every 2-3 hours to stretch our legs, go pee, and complain about how uncomfortable the sea kayaks are.
Once on shore for the night we do a variety of things.  If we are camping without a village nearby, we unload the motorized canoe of things we need for the night, start cooking (yep, another dehydrated meal), have a bit of rum, do a bit of arguing and then go to bed.  It is a late night for us if we are awake until 7:30pm!
If we are in/near a village, we talk with the local guys for a bit while they check our paperwork, etc…then we go to town, meet the chief and anyone else who needs to meet us.  They we go to a store and buy what they might have to sell–crackers, beer, water….
We have had some very nice interactions with the people in this zone.  Especially in Poyeni, that was a great town with super nice people.
Then we go back to wherever they have allowed to camp, make said dehydrated meal, eat and go to sleep.
So, it is somewhat of a mundane and unwaivering existance.  Yet, contrary to this statement, each day has been unique (that’s very unique to you Midge)!
I can’t speak for the boys, .but I have very happy to be here, dispite my new found hatred for dehydrated meals!


We’ve finally made it to Huancayo and some decent internet, so here’s a quick update of what we’ve been up to.

Locals helping us find the river...

Locals helping us find the river!

1st August After yet more boat dragging, we finally hit kayak floatable water at San Juan mine. We then paddled across Lago Junin and saw flocks of flamingos. After portaging around Upamayo dam we’re told they are releasing at 52 cumecs (m3/sec). So we’ve gone from a tiny creek to a rather sizable river in a day!

A somewhat chunky first rapid...

A somewhat chunky first rapid…

2nd August Started the day with a four hour flat water paddle and then came across the first rapid on the Mantaro, a rather chunky waterfall Don christened “Bienvenidos” as it was a rather abrupt welcome to the whitewater section of the Mantaro. This gorge section was filled with boily big water rapids.

Don was entertaining the idea of doing an Australian rappel down...

Don was entertaining the idea of doing an Australian rappel down…

3rd August Flat water and minor rapids lead to Mal Paso dam. Luckily a hole in the fence meant we did’t have to rappel down it’s gigantic spillway!

Sea kayaks have cleared customs, phew!

Sea kayaks have cleared customs, phew!

4rd August Wake up to the news that the sea kayaks are out of customs and are ready for collection! The awesome West Hansen has also offered to drive them from Lima to San Francisco ready for us to use on the flat water section. Paddled through the town of La Oroya

Obligatory cute picture of puppy in kayak

Obligatory cute picture of puppy in kayak

5th August Paddled through the city of Huancayo where the municipal dump seems to be on the edge of the river. We kept our mouths closed during this section…

We are currently on schedule and are hoping that Tablachaca – the forth and final dam on our way to the Atlantic – is releasing enough water to allow for a great few days of kayaking!

Making Our Way Down the Amazon

Photos and a more thorough update will follow when we get to some descent internet, but here is a quick account of our last 4 days:

After paddling across Lago Acucocha we hiked to the source

After paddling across Lago Acucocha we hiked to the source

July 28th Don, Darcy, Midge made it to the source of the Amazon!  It is a beautiful place, and we all feel lucky to have made it this far.  We saw flamingos on the drive to Lago Acocacha (which we paddled across to reach the source) and saw a Condor on our paddle across the lake.  On top of this, there have been amazing wet land birds many species of which are new to us.

July 29th We started our morning with van troubles and so got a very late start on the river.  Luckily, the locals in a nearby town were more than happy to help and after a couple of hours they got us on our way.  Partly because of our late start, and partly because of the slow going that is “kayaking” the Amazon near the source, we did not make our car camp destination.  We thought this might happen and were sure to bring our bivy gear; but it was a chilly night nonetheless.

July 30th We all slept reasonably well considering but the morning was certainly a test of our committment!  Our kayaking socks and booties were so frozen that we literally could NOT get them on.   After trying to snuggle with our shoes in our bivy bags, sitting on them, spooning with them, and eventually dipping them in the river to get them pliable, we got the shoes on and set out again.  West was kind enough to walk the 3 miles upstream from the car camp to bring us water and boost our morale.  We made it to the van mid morning, had lunch and then set out again.  There was very little kayaking to speak of today, but lots of dragging the boats.

July 31st Spent most of the day carrying and dragging our kayaks along the Rio Gashon.  In the afternoon, we hit the Rio San Juan and were able to paddle a little bit.  Just enough to remind us that, “ah yes, we are here to go kayaking!”

We can not wait to get to some HOT weather.  It is rather cold up here near the soure of the Amazon!

Rio Amazonas here we come.