Friday, February 8, 2013

First descent of Lower Rio Putumayo and another lap on the Rio Mocoa, Colombia

Common horses you know you want to drag kayaks into that valley, Chris Baer, Colombia, Rio, Putumayo
Come on horses you know you want to drag kayaks into that valley

South West of Villa Garzon is the gorgeous Rio Putumayo


map of Rio putumayo, chris baer, colombia

First descents are magical adventures. The opportunity to paddle through pristine valleys and test both judgement and paddling skill is truly… Epic! What most people don't think about is the leg work that goes into searching out these elusive gems.

Giorgio, Joel, and our motorcycle guides looking up into the Putumayo valley, Chris Baer, Colombia, rio
Giorgio, Joel, and our motorcycle guides looking up into the Putumayo valley

Fear and respect are often misconstrued. I respect the fact that I have no idea what is down stream during a first descent, there is no reason for me to fear that. White water is simply water, gradient, and obstructions. To understand these features and make solid judgement calls on the accessibility and kayak-ability of a given river takes years of practice.

Just an average day motorcycle scouting, Giorgio, Joel, Chris Baer, Colombia, rio, Putumayo
Just an average day motorcycle scouting
In the case of the Putumayo our team, Giorgio Codleuppi, Jared Page, Joel Fedak, and myself spent three full days scouting from busses, taxis, and motorcycles (three of us on the same motorcycle). After exhausting attempts to penetrate further into the canyon our team reluctantly agreed on a lower then desired put in location. The plan was to paddle for approximately six kilometers to the next accessible exit point: a small bridge in the village of La Mangua.
Joel Fedak, talked like a pirate the entire time, colombia, birds, parots, Chris Baer,
Joel Fedak, talked like a pirate the entire time
Paddling day we started early, awaking with the sun. Our first hurdle was obtaining a pickup truck to transport us and equipment to the microscopic village of El Carmen. From El Carmen it is approximately three miles to our desired put in location. Wanting to save energy for the unknowns down stream, our group entertained the idea of renting horses. It only took a few minutes of chatting and one of the locals offered up his services.

WaveSport horse, kayak on horse, colombia, chris baer
Wave Sport horse

look close we are bush whacking in there, horses with kayaks, colombia, rio, putumayo, chris Baer
look close we are bush whacking in there
If you have ever tried attaching kayaks to horses, you know it's a struggle. The saddle system our farmer had wasn't exactly kayak friendly. Our three mile hike took two and a half hours of constant kayak adjustment and prodding of the horses. Once we arrived at the river the farmer told us that we could paddle across, and hike another 20 minutes up the valley to arrive at our originally desired put in location. Daylight hours were burning fast, and we hesitantly gave up on hiking further into canyon.

What Colombian horses are supposed to do, moving lumber, Chris Baer,
What Colombian horses are supposed to do
We put on a beautiful river. The Lower Putumayo has clean clear water and the rapids consist of fun class 4+ boulder gardens. There were few blind horizon lines, but all main lines paddled well.

Chris Baer in another fun class 4 rapid, colombia, rio Putumayo
Chris Baer in an average rapid

Information I was able to attain after paddling the river

The headwaters is large, a heavy rain in the drainage could be disastrous to anyone in the gorge. The mountain the river cuts through has an amazing rock structure. The lowest formations are formed of large granite pieces. This would have the tendency to build large nearly vertical features. The canyon section will be very demanding and deserves more inspection. If you would like to know more please contact me.

Torrential rain at the take out bridge, Chris Baer, colombia, Rio Putumayo
Torrential rain at the take out bridge

beautiful red flower, colombia, chris baer

Rio Rumiyaco and Mocoa

Rio Macoa map, colombia, chris baer

International kayaking usually involves intricate logistics. That is not the case with this quick and easy afternoon lapper.

The river is truly across the street from the front door, casa del rio, rio mocoa, Chris Baer, Colombia
The river is truly across the street from the front door
beautiful blue flowers, colombia, rio mocoa, Chris Baer

Just South of the city of Mocoa, is Hostel Casa del Rio. I would strongly suggest basing here while paddling in the region. On a casual day you can truly walk across the street and put your boat in the local swimming hole, the Rio Rumiyaco. Paddle down and enjoy the local swimming hole culture for about a mile, and then confluence with the Rio Mocoa.

Giorgio with a swimming hole ride along, colombia Riio mocoa, Chris Baer
Giorgio with a swimming hole ride along
Unfortunately this river is attached to the plumbing of the bustling city of Mocoa. The water quality is bad. Wearing ear and nose plugs is definitely recommended. The good news is that the river is super fun class four. There are a ton of great boofs, tight slots, and attainment moves hidden everywhere. It can also be paddled from bottom of the barrel low to flood stage. The take out is just outside of Villa Garzon. Catch a truck in the town and zip your way back to Casa Del Rio just in time for happy hour.

another adventure brought to you by Chris Baer