Ecuador - a whitewater paradise

by seth-ashworth
Friday, February 03, 2017
Friday, February 03, 2017
Ecuador is a fun place to paddle with plenty of options for everyone.
Seth Ashworth
by Seth Ashworth

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Last year I spent a big chunk of my winter whitewater kayaking in Ecuador. I’m doing the same again this year and wanted to share some of my knowledge on what’s up there.

Is there a guidebook

YES, and it’s actually a pretty good one in terms of accurately describing put ins/take outs etc. It gives a good history of exploration on each different boating area. The rivers of Ecuador are prone to intense seasonal flooding which means the rivers themselves can change dramatically. So take the river descriptions in there with a pinch of salt, the outline will be the same. For example if a river goes in and out of a deep canyon that will still be true, but the rapids within the canyon may have changed since the time of writing.

Ecuador has something for everyone, Seth enjoying the endless boulder garden style rapids
Ecuador has something for everyone, including endless boulder garden style rapids

What is it like

Continuous boulder gardens for days. Its not super vertical, almost no waterfalls, but a short day on the river is 10km of Whitewater.

When to go

Ecuador is equatorial so in theory you can paddle all year round, but if you want people to paddle with, the safest bet is November through to March.

Where to go

Ecuador has three distinct popular boating areas, plus a couple of other options. Baeza, Tena and Banos. All three are excellent and each has a slightly different feel. Fly into Quito, then travel by bus to Baeza. If there are a couple of people travelling, then splitting a taxi ride can be economical.

Getting around

Once you get there, go pick up a cheap pre-pay cell phone, you’ll need this to call taxi drivers to come pick you up and drop you off at all of the epic rivers you are going to paddle. Around the popular boating areas there is a network of taxi drivers (pickup truck taxis) that know most of the put-ins and take-outs. But just in case they don’t, try to keep an eye on a map to avoid getting lost on the way to the put-in and having to pay more money.

Key things to take with you

Dry bags! The standard format for most rivers is, get dropped off at the put-in by a taxi, put your dry clothes in a dry bag, and stuff it in your boat. Paddle an epic river, then at the takeout call a taxi and get a ride home. If you don’t have a dry bag you will have wet clothes which isn’t ideal on cooler days.

Seth rocking his Rogue dry top
Mike Reeder dropping in to a tricky rapid on Rio Encanto, in his Rogue dry top

What’s the water temp like

Baeza is somewhat glacial, so a dry top is pretty nice. I usually rock my GORE-TEX Rogue dry top most days. Tena is hot and humid and usually a dry top is not needed, although sometimes it can get cold there during a rain storm. For these days I like to wear my NeoCore thermal as an outer layer. Banos can be varied weather, and I’ve had days wearing a dry top and days without.

And the Weather

Usually pretty warm; last year I wore shorts for my entire stay, although in the evenings a hoodie or jacket was nice. Tena is super hot and sticky.

Other essentials

Dollar bills! Ecuador uses US Dollars and having a good stash of One Dollar bills is very, very useful.

A headlamp; it gets light and dark at 6am and 6pm, and getting caught trying to hike out in the dark after an epic day can SUCK.

Seth Ashworth - Ecuador
Seth Ashworth - Ecuador

And that’s most of what you need to know. Ecuador is a fun place to paddle with plenty of options from Class 2-5. With something for everyone, a low cost of living, and cheap air fares from North America, I’m sure I’ll see you down there.

If you are looking for more of a guided experience on a tight time frame, check out Endless Adventure International, plus you’ll get to hang out with me.