For more than a decade, I’ve been guiding people down numerous tributaries of the Amazon; but I never imagined that I’d someday have the fortune (or misfortune depending on your perspective) of kayaking the ENTIRE length of the mighty river.
After 11 years (Darcy) and 17 years (Don) of kayak guiding in Ecuador for Small World Adventures, we are leaving “reality” behind and setting off on a new adventure.
Having recently sold SWA and freed ourselves up for an undetermined amount of time, Don and I decided to join Midge on his long-time dream of paddling the Amazon River from its source in Peru to the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil.
We met Midge in 2007 as an SWA client. He was preparing (physically) to be able to paddle the whitewater portion of the Amazon and found Ecuador to be the perfect training ground and Don to be the perfect trainer. Six years and a few hundred gin and tonics later, Don and Darcy are committed to suffering with Midge through 4,200 miles (6,759 Km) of some of the planet’s least understood areas. To be sure, it will be the adventure of a lifetime for all of us, and we are excited that Midge is letting us on in his dream!
A little background on Darcy:
My somewhat unconventional life had an implausible beginning. I grew up in Aspen, Colorado and throughout my high school years I was certain that the Roaring Fork Valley had all I needed. Nothing beyond the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs had any appeal to me. I was content to never leave. I had life all planned out. I would graduate high school, become a ski patroller at Aspen Highlands like my Dad and call it good. I only wanted to live to the age of 30 as I figured life just wouldn’t be worth it after that (I take it back, I take it back)!
But then my “cruel and intolerant” parents impressed upon me that I had to go to college. I’m not sure why I finally gave in to their arguments, but I eventually did
So off I went to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY to play volleyball. Yes I’m really short and yes I was an outside hitter—a pretty good one too, setting a few records here and there. But I quickly got tired of the “Skidmore Grind,” which meant studying until midnight every night and then partying after that. This schedule left little time for the things I really enjoyed doing.
At that point in my life, I wanted to ski! After the volleyball season of my sophomore year, I transferred to Montana State University so that I could be a mere 16 miles from Bridger Bowl Ski area. It was a good move, I got to ski 5 days a week!
It was during these years that I was slowly learning that there was life beyond Aspen. Although I returned each summer to my job as a raft guide at Colorado Riff Raft and later Aspen Whitewater Rafting, I was gaining appreciation for the larger United States.
Then my friend Adam asked me if I wanted to skip fall semester and go to Nepal to go kayaking. This was 1998 and I had only recently begun kayaking, but for some reason this struck me as an opportunity that I shouldn’t pass up. Although I had very few kayaking skills, I did have a bomber combat roll, so I figured I’d be fine.
I remember getting out of the taxi from the airport in front of my $1.50 per night hotel in the middle of Katmandu and watching 3 guys slaughter a goat on the dirty streets. I thought to myself—“geeze, I sure am glad I’m a vegetarian!”
It was my first time out of North America. I was 20 years old, and that trip definitely helped shape and direct my life up to this point of departure for the Amazon River.
Fast forward to 2013 and I still haven’t become a ski patroller at Aspen Highlands—there is still time for that I reckon. But I have kayaked over 250 rivers in 11 different countries, had a wonderful career at Small World Adventures, and now am setting off on a rather long kayaking journey down the Amazon.
About the Trip:
Don, Midge and I plan to paddle from the Mantaro River in Peru (recently discovered by Rocky Contos to be the new source of the Amazon) all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. The source is defined as the longest tributary of the Amazon River. In 2012, Rocky determined that the Mantaro River was, indeed, 50 miles longer than the Apurimac which was long accepted as the source of the Amazon. The trip should take 5 months, give or take a month, and will include all sorts of imagined and unimagined adventures!
We fly to Lima, Peru on July 21st and will spend a few days making sure all the “last minute details” are in order—Jetboil fuel purchasing, visa arranging, transportation fixing, and probably eating a few last descent meals before our tenure of dehydrated food starts. Then we will put on the river! Hopefully this will happen about 1 week after we arrive in Peru. It will take a bit of time to locate the actual “source” which is reported to be a small puddle up in the highlands. For the next month or so we’ll be enjoying the whitewater of the Mantaro River. Once we hit the confluence of the Mantaro and Apurimac (old source of the Amazon) we’ll switch to sea kayaks and make ourselves comfortable because we’ll be in these boats for the next 3-4 months.
Trip details confirmed so far:
–Plane tickets purchased—fly to Lima on the 21st of July
–Perolita booked—this will be our support boat from Pucallpa, Peru to the Atlantic Ocean! Matt at Rainforest Cruises set up the Perolita for us and we are grateful for all of his help and patience!
–Snap Dragon spray skirts arrived
–Sea kayaks are more or less en route to Peru
–Sea kayak paddles arrived
–Whitewater boats (well most of them) are in hand and ready to load on our United Airlines flight—thanks United for accepting kayaks as luggage
We are all busy trying to pull together the rest of the logistics for the trip. There is a lot of planning that goes into a trip this long! But things are all coming together quickly now!
We plan to take photos and video along the way and will post them whenever we get the opportunity.