Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rio Maranon part dos

Descending the mighty Grand Canyon of the Amazon, the Rio Maranon, part two.....

Once we were on the river the grinding travel of the prior few days quickly faded into fuzzy memory, and life's focus shifted towards rapids, beaches, camps, hikes, and food, as all river trips do.  

The first challenge was the appropriately-termed "Narrows", where the entire river flows through a constriction that is about an inch wider than a cataraft!  In a kayak it was a non-event;

 but for the rafts it was fairly interesting:

fortunately there is not a ton of current going through here; if there was things would be much different.  

After running a bunch of rapids and a camping on a couple of sublime beaches, we came to a riverside farm where we did a layover day.  Rosemeil and his wife grew the requisite bananas, papayas, corn, and potatoes, and something else that doesn't grow very often in the US:  fighting cocks!
Rossmeil's wife and baby; a fairly hardscrabble life down deep in an inhospitable canyon. 
Rossmeil told us that there were some good ruins up the trail that led out of the canyon, and was willing to give us a tour:
their farm is below.  also the floodplain of the tributary creek that they rely on for water, that blew out in a thunderstorm some years ago and took out much of their crops and arable land. 
The trail was pretty well-hewn by their burros
One of the ruin sites on the left
Rossmeil was probably a bit surprised at how much the tall gringo knew about these ruins!

I think he got a bit more appreciation for them as a result?

Coupla dorks 
The intrepid explorer Rocky Contos going in to see what he can find

are those bones? 
Indeed, it's a human femur. 
Ash contemplating pre-columbian life
Nico said that Rossmeil's sandals were pretty much the same design that the people who lived  -and apparently died  -in the ruins.  
There were lots of potshards (is that one word?) around; usually when you are at an Anasazi site in Utah the shards are laid out on the rocks; these were just mixed into the rocks in the area of the ruins. Not a lot of gringos who care about that kind of stuff visit these parts.  
Since Ash and I had the first chance to blow a bit of the carbon of the carbon that had built up in our lungs from a few days of inactivity, we charged up the trail for a couple more thousand feet, then returned for a nice dip in Rossmeil's stream:
Behold the (clean!) Amazon Woman!
Back on the river, we found some more whitewater:

The Flying Scotsman living up to his name

Andrey  - as always -taking the "most interesting" line

David sticking the nose into the meat
Ash nailing her first boof
and rightfully being quit pleased by it!
The outflow from said boof
One of these guys is clearly confused as to which way the river flows
Some nice flatwater:

Some nice camps:

some locals:

some scintillating camp life:
More ruins:

a nice one-bedroom bungalow, perfect for you and the kids! 
And a bunch of river dorks:

yeah, a Scottish Gandalf....that's it

A true Amazon Woman!
Resident entymologist
the enigmatic trip leader:  The Thinker
Pedro's the coolest river runner in Peru, but using his cell phone on the rio?  Dork!

coupla strapping lads above and below

Coupla 50 year olds trying to keep 'er young
and speaking of turning 50.....when Andy turned 40 we were on the south fork of the Salmon in Idaho, and The Scotsman's lovely wife gave him the special present of letting Andy lick cake frosting off her nipples!  (and there's a backstory to that...).  Kathy couldn't make this trip, unfortunately, but The Scotsman  -being the good "mate" that he is, and wanting to keep a good thing going - obliged!

However, our riparian bliss had a big wake up call that was a pretty big buzzkill.  Deep in the heart of the Inner Gorge we came across these guys:

 They are doing site analysis for one of twenty dams planned for the Rio Maranon.  Damming the biggest tributary to the biggest river in the world seems like the height of hubris, much less taking out a world class river trip that gringos would  -  and do - travel thousands of miles and spend thousands of dollars to do.

Here's Rocky talking to the project manager, who was not psyched about any photos being taken.  I shot this one backwards over my shoulder
The power generated from this plant will likely be exported, and while the workers are Peruvian, the company is a multi-national.  A stark reminder that this river will likely be completely gone in coming years.

But what to do besides carry on downstream?

the next significant element to the trip was a rapid that Rocky has been calling Wasson's Landslide.  John Wasson was one of the early-ish intrepid kayakers (and longtime friend of Patagonia's; tho it was confusing because there was another John Wasson who was an employee of Patagonia as well) who did one of the first gringo descents of the Maranon and was the only one to write much about that trip, so Rocky gave the rapid his name.  All of the rapids on the Rio Maranon were formed by side creeks that had flooded debris into the river (similar to those of the Colorado in the Grand Canyon; most famously Crystal Rapid that formed after a huge rain event in upper Crystal Creek in the mid-60's), but Wasson's was formed by a big landslide that threw a lot of house-sized rocks in the river (and is similar to some of the huge portages that Rocky and I had high upstream).  It's a pretty stompin' rapid that is not only quite long (about 700m) but also has The Sieve Rock where a good bit of the river flow piles into a huge rock and only a little of it goes around the rock; the rest goes under it and re-emerges in huge boils downstream.  Impressive.  Much of it was runnable in a kayak, and if it were roadside it would likely be fully raftable by bold folks, but for us it was a daylong effort of lining the rafts or very carefully running them with plenty of safety in place.
lining one of the rafts, frantically pulling in slack line as the raft speeds down.  
I think this is me going through the entrance hole
another perspective of the same zone
More raft antics

Ash scouting downstream mayhem in the heart of the Wasson's gorge
most of the water piling up against that big boulder on the right goes under it.  And the ledge hole above the "sneak" on the right is pretty fearsome.  
Even though we had a torn tube during one of the lining episodes and no shortage of tense moments, we made it through in the day (there have been several uncomfortable bivouacs in the boulders in the middle of the portage) and were able to run some of the fun class 4 rapids below.  Mike was kind enough to lend me the oars for this section, and given my relative lack of experience at the oars in this kind of water I was on the edge of my seat!
both of us relieved in our own ways after not flipping in a pretty big hole
It was a pretty tiring day
That ended in an unlikely-looking - but surprisingly comfortable - camp:

The next day was the 2nd biggest rapid of the trip, and it provided some good excitement:
Pedro launching a 10' ledge
He dove forward to keep the momentum of the boat going past the recirculating hole at the bottom
Tomas had a slightly different technique....
Yo no need no stinking oars!  
Once through that we had plenty more good whitewater:
The Scotsman focusing
Ash and I charging through a fun class 4
Mike sneaking it down the gut
Andre sneaking it down the gut

Rocket Man
Though not many people float the Maranon, there are plenty of communities upstream, and unlike some of the Western US river, there's a fair bit of trash that gets caught in bushes during the rainy season floods.  To clean it all up would be overwhelming, but we targeted a couple of beaches to get them pretty clean so that Rocky can see if it's worth doing again in the future.
picking up the garbage

plastic bags; the litter scourge of Latin America

the burn pile.  
And the trip neared the end.  There's enough "end" that it's worth another quick blawg post and this has been quite long enough, so I'll do a part III soon.....