Sunday, August 2, 2015

Rio Maranon - final post

When you go on any trip to a great place, it's easy to take pictures of all the gnarly stuff and try to capture the most beautiful views you can to (usually unsuccessfully) try to convey how amazing it is on "film".  But the truth is that biggest component of any great trip is the crew.  When Kiwi Andy said he wanted to put together a crew to do this trip and Rocky was going to spearhead the organization, I knew that would end up being a stellar crew.  And I was not disappointed.  So below is a quick series of snapshots of the crew:
Bruce the Kiwi Pharmacist yapping it up with the local kids
David the smooth rafter from Colorado - who pulled off the trip with a week's notice  - sporting the original Patagonia CFS shoes that he loves to love, which of course made my heart sing!
The aforementioned ace archeologist Nico, trying out an old school watercraft
Whitewater ninja masters Pedro y Andrey
Fico, a Peruvian river legend.  

striking a striking pose, Rocky Contos, deep in another gorge; his element.  
a coupla goofballs testing the dubious integrity of a skitchy old ruin
Ruggedly handsome Mike Brehm safely transporting wood downriver. 
Kiwi Rich enjoying the tropical river's bounty
Tomas, the unflappable Chilean, proud of the gigantic South American avocados
some strange ogre who had a bad run in with some burrs whilst dropping his "trousers" for a foray
in the weeds
Kiwi Andy taking the only shower of his trip
The ever-grinning Ross (with Andrey)
the Paraguayan Paddler Ariel
One thing that some of the great river of the American West have is natural hot springs.  The middle fork of the Salmon has probably "the best", but there are great springs on the main Salmon, the Bruneau, the Owyhee, the Payette, and others.    Not to be outdone, the Rio Maranon has one that rivals it's American brethren:
the perfect 104 degrees, good river access, and you can scout the rapid from here!
the locals clearly prize this gem....
One critical aspect of river trips is side hikes; the Grand Canyon has a zillion, and the trail networks along the Selway, Middle Fork, and Main Salmon are extensive.  The Rio Maranon has its share, tho most are pretty short. here are some samples:
trying to hold it together
a coupla cool gorges

feeling the power of the canyon
Ash exploring a cool gorge

Locals had dammed this a bit to get some irrigation water. 
And then it came time for the end of the rio.  We tore down the boats with help from the locals:
And did the gratuitous end of trip shots:

We ended on a beach adjacent to a village that had one restaurant and a hostal:
I wish I was cool enough to have a "Hostal Tom" named after me
Our diminutive hostess, who was wondering where these giants came from.
Despite the remote nature of this village, there is a real airstrip there:
Note the turn; we. started way back and went roaring around the corner with plenty of G-forces
the open air "terminal" with the ticket agent working on a jungle-wood table
This was the only clock in the place, and it didn't work; good thing someone brought a watch!
After the corner the runway was only 400m long, so the pilot wound the engines up to full throttle with the brake on before releasing the brake (and maybe smoking the tires?), roaring around the corner, blasting off the end of the runway, and then working hard to get out of the canyon.
Ash pretty excited by a pretty exciting flight. 
We ended up in Huanchaco on the coast after a 45 minute flight; the crew who went back with the river gear took 16 hours (on class 5 roads) to make the same distance!  

Huanchaco is a well-known surf mecca, so a few of us (who know how) surfed and a few of us thrashed around in the surf with wetsuits and boards and took a healthy beating.  We realized that there are other easily accessible ruins in Peru that are not Macchu Picchu; near Huanchaco/Trujillo are some amazing ruins

Pre-Incan stuff
Nico once again moves to the fore with his vast knowledge of Old Peru

These hairless dogs are native to Peru, and there are multi-thousand year images of these dogs in the ruins.   It's a law that all antiquity sites have at least one of these dogs as a resident.  She needs a daily dose of sunscreen!    

And joins the tours!

this particular ruin mandates a guide, and this guy was quite a character with a great passion for the place and vast knowledge that he acquired on his own, without any formal schooling. 

This ruin is huge, and was only discovered 20 years ago.

Having come recently from Alaska myself, I wondered what it was about Alaska that inspired a Peruvian candy bar!

Gringos lost in the desert
And then we headed for home. 

The worst thing about this trip is that this amazing river and canyon is that it's getting dammed.  This past week the Salt Lake City Weekly ran a cover story on the River of No Return:

Which is a romantic-sounding old-time nickname for the Salmon river but it sorta nonsensical today.  But the Rio Maranon may indeed be the true "River of No Return", because only one dam can ruin hundreds of miles of that narrow gorge, and they are planning somewhere between 10 and 20 dams!  So if you have an inkling to do an amazing river that will likely go the way of the Bio Bio start making plans now (I can put you in touch with Rocky/Sierra Rios).  And if enough people go, it has the potential to make the governments rethink the dams in favor of preservation (not only of the river, but of the thousands of people who live along it) and recreation, ala the Futalefu river (in Chile) which may have staved off damming for this reason, and the national park in Pumalin, Chile.  

Thanks again to Rocky and his crew for helping with an amazing adventure and for spreading the word to the world that this gem is not only incredible but also endangered, to the Scotsman and Fico for some of their pics that I liberally poached, and our excellent crew who made the trip a hoot.  

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