Friday, October 10, 2008
El Rió Apurímac: IV
After two days aclimating to the thin air in Cusco at 11,000 feet, we managed to connect with Santiago at Mayuc Expeditions and tag along on a three day commercial trip on the Apurimac. This turned out to be the perfect way to kick off our trip. Mike, Zak and I still packed all our gear into creekboats, but the Mayuc crew shared food with us and showed us the lines through most of the rapids.
Mike, Zak, and the biggest pothole I´ve ever seen
To get there, we hired a local taxi for a mere $60 to drive us four hours to the put-in, most of which was on a poor dirt road switchbacking up and over a 15,000 foot pass and then decending down into the canyon. Glad we decided against taking a local bus, we hung out with roosters and a drunk Quechan local waiting for the rafters to get everything rigged up and ready.
Famous for being the highest source of the Amazon, the Apurimac flows through a canyon over two miles deep that Zak described well as resembling the Yuba canyon in California with Hells Canyon in Idaho stacked on top of it. The canyon was mostly arid mountainsides with a dramatic inner gorge of diorite and some fantastic whitewater.
On day one, we got a fairly late start and only made a couple miles through class III rapids until camping on a beautiful beach under enormous boulders. The next day, we woke up to some fun, easy boulder gardens that led to the first raft portage. From what we could see, the river poured over four successive drops with the third looking retentive and the fourth pushing into an undercut boulder. Below, the river disappeared into another blind boulder garden.
Mike in the run-out
Mike offered to film (watch our runs) and got to see me have a rough run, flipping above the fourth drop and rolling up uncomfortably close to the undercut. I quickly caught an eddy and picked my way through the rest of the rapid without incident.
Lots of boulder gardens to explore
The rafts portaged the next rapid as well, which we were able to pick our way through catching eddies and running fun channels through amazing boulder gardens. This was turning into a pretty fun river! Long granite boulder gardens continued for miles as we got used to paddling our fully loaded boats.
Mike and Zak in a smaller rapid
Eventually, we made it down to a picturesque rapid called ¨Purgatory.¨ Zak got a couple cartwheels, but otherwise we all had fun runs down a fast channel. At the bottom, the river constricted through a slot narrower than a slalom gate and rafts had to be lifted on edge to slide them through.
Mike and Zak at Purgatory. You can see the narrow crack in the background.
Afterward, the canyon opened up again with a couple more rapids. We paddled under this swinging footbridge shortly before making our way to camp for the night.
The water quality reminded me of the Klamath
The following morning, we were on the water early and made our way down to the biggest rapid on the run: Toothache. Toothache is a great class V rapid with a long lead-in to a steep section that drops 20 feet or so with some big hydraulics. Unfortunately, we were too focused on the rapid to bother with media and I only got one picture.
The crux drop of Toothache. Above here is a long boulder garden and below are several more powerful holes
The next rapid called ¨You First¨ was just as fun with a fast chute under an overhanging boulder. Again, no pictures. Below here the canyon opens up again and we were treated to two more fun, steep class IV drops before a couple miles of class III to the take out. We dried our gear in the sun while sitting in the shade of banana trees drinking beer until we got back in our taxi and headed home to Cusco.