Whitewater Rafting Ecuador’s Napo River


napo2Yesterday’s whitewater rafting trip on the Napo River was the most fun I’ve had on the water since I was a kid! Wanted to be in the water but wasn’t sure how to find the right group – not too easy but not too hard…. Tony helped me pick the perfect guide – Alex, a Kichwa – and we had enough interested guests at the lodge to fill a small raft.

napo We left early and returned about 4:00 p.m. It’s been pouring the past few days and I wondered if the rafting would be cancelled – no way. When we started it was raining but it soon stopped. Clearer, hotter weather might have been less comfortable. We were wet the entire trip anyway. napo1 Our group included a fun young couple from the UK, an experienced Canadian whitewater rafter, and me. The four of us made a great team.

Alex positioned the two guys in the front on each side with the women behind them. He sat in the back shouting out paddling commands, and there was a spotter next to him. We also had a kayaker watching out for us and sometimes showing off his fancy moves as he tested the whitewater in advance. There were six paddling commands dealing with paddling forward or backwards, stopping, rescuing people in the water, protecting ourselves and the paddles, and of course high fiving with our paddles – which we did lots of!

napo3The Napo River is a fast-moving churning machine full of rocks and boulders. We were in one exciting set of rapids after another with many adrenalin rush moments! Our raft bounced off some of the large smooth boulders and a few times the boat was almost perpendicular in the water – fun!!!

Although the trip was to be Level III, there were several Level IV rapids because the water was very high – slightly scary but we did it. We didn’t tip our raft but four of the six people on board went into the river – luckily I wasn’t one of them. There was another raft following close behind us with four people, and they tipped a few times. Tipping in warm water is no big deal if you don’t fight the current. Some rafting groups do it for fun. Several people are always right there to help you get back in the raft.

Our Raft

Our Raft

We didn’t carry anything loose like cameras, jewelry, or sunglasses and wore helmets and life jackets. We saw a few monkeys, toucans, and a heron but no snakes or caiman. The group stopped for lunch and to view two waterfalls. At the bigger waterfall, we got out of our raft and stood underneath the flowing water – fun! I have gone on easy whitewater rafting trips in Oregon but never on a course this challenging. This is the first time I’ve felt the exhilaration and satisfaction of being part of a rafting team. I’m happy to have experienced it and really felt connected with my companions!

Kichwa Rafting Guides

Kichwa Rafting Guides

There’s a kayak and rafting competition in progress in Tena now with competitors from all over the world. They compete on class IV, V, and VI rapids in more challenging nearby rivers like the Jondachi, Quijos, and Jatunacu. Our guide and the kayaker (part Japanese, part Kichwa) who accompanied us have both been in professional competition. They made our day fun and exciting. Wish I’d been able to take photos of the trip but that would have meant an end for the camera.

On Wednesday, I head southwest to Cuenca. It’s a long bus ride – 12 hours – so an overnight stop on the way is possible, not sure yet. Although the deep jungle is enchanting, the climate is too much. Being on the water is great but with most activities you are hot and sweaty all day – not my favorite. Cuenca is a beautiful colonial city in the Andes with less humidity and cooler temperatures. If I like it there, may stay for a few weeks.

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