First Descent of the Huallaga. Trip Report, Part 2
The next morning, after a quality cream of wheat breakfast (aka prison food), we began packing our Tupperwear containers. Most of us still had 12 days of food to cram back in, except for the lucky person who won the Rock Scissors Paper battle the night before. We decided to risk it all and play Rock Scissors Paper to see whose kayak we would eat from that night. So the lucky vector got to lose 6 shares of their 12-share food allotment which equated to less weight and more space in their kayak.
Getting your kayak gear on, in most of Peru, is a rewarding feeling. For me it’s mostly the fact that I’m donning my “Sand Fly Armor”. It’s great to know those pesky biting bugs can’t get to your skin anymore. With our kayaks loaded to the rim and the sand fly armor on, we began to paddle toward the Chock Stone Gorge and our fear of the potentially un-navigable, walled in gorge that could force us into an epic multi-day portage.
We continued to run incredible Class V whitewater in a towering canyon that was already many thousands of feet deep. There’s the saying “don’t look down” when you’re uncomfortably high in the air. Well, in the Peruvian canyons I say “don’t look up” for the same reasons. Our Huallaga adventure was now in full swing as we soon found ourselves watching the “young buck” of the trip, Nate Klema, running the stout rapids leading into the Chock Stone Gorge. It was nine in the morning on our second day and we were at the beginning of the last un-run, major tributary to the Amazon.
We got in our boats and paddled out to the middle of the river under the chock stone as it was the only place we could see down stream without getting personal with the jungle. It was time to break out our go-fish technique. As Matt Klema explained earlier, we would send a couple of “fishes” down stream keeping their teammates with the fishing line in site. With 4 fishes and 2 fishermen we could get a long spread down the gorges. Then, if the front fishes found something big and scary they could relay back to the fishermen that they needed to be plucked out of the gorge with our super duty fishing line. Essentially the big boy fish line made for a get out of jail free card.
Our hearts were racing as we eased our way into the gorge, afraid of finding the edge of the earth and an epic portage; however, we were rewarded with wonderful pool drop rapids and meandering flat water through the Sistine Chappell of the Pongo De Aggiure. The jungle was overhanging the gorge, waterfalls were all around and we hadn’t fallen off the edge of the earth. This was our Shangri La.
We decided to make camp at noon that day, before committing to the next gorge that looked even steeper. We spent the afternoon in high spirits sipping our booze, feeding the sand flies and trying to think happy thoughts about the looming gorge down stream.
I awoke early the next morning with the third world body funk. The boys got their things together and we made a late departure from camp after I needed some more time to let the drugs kick in. We had another great rapid below camp; a super boof started things off, then several hole punches led into a paddle under a cascading waterfall through the end of the rapid. We continued to feel smaller that day, the canyon grander and the jungle creeper as we lost elevation.
While continuing its intimidating character, the Rio Hullaga kept with the incredible whitewater and all the attributes of a classic multi-day river. As we got near the end of the river’s gradient, the Hullaga dished up some bigger water action to top things off. We eventually made it down to the flats and paddled to our take out at Chinchavito, where the road Carreter Central from Huánuco to Tingo Maria comes back to the river downstream of the Pango De Aggiure section.
While we were waiting roadside for the next bus back to Huánuco one amazed local asked, “How did you survive, eating fish and trash?” By that afternoon, on the third day, we were back at our hostel in Huánuco celebrating with 2.2 liter Pilson beers and planning the rest of our kayaking assault on Peru.
A Brazilian company is currently working on a hydroelectric project that could drown the Great Bend as soon as 2013! It is hard to find information, but you can get some here. If you want to find yourself paddling in Peru, without all the headaches of trip planning, Kayak Telluride is offering guided trips on some of the best Peruvian Classics. More info at http://kayaktelluride.com/multi-day-trips/peru/
Stay tuned to the blogs for trip reports on some of the other Peruvian classics we were lucky enough to paddle. Like surviving an artillery strike on the Abesumo section of the Rio Apurimac or attempting to evade park rangers on the Rio Urubamba below Machu Picchu.