Every kayaker in winter wants to paddle somewhere warm. This winter wasn’t different, so in the middle of January we packed all our goods and kayaks, and we boarded a plane to Bogota in Colombia.
This country is well known as a country of cocaine and of course, as a country with lot of world class whitewater and many first descents yet to be explored. We start our paddling south of Bogota in Villavicencio area. With some rivers to warm up we spent three days there. Hiking with mules, walking through jungle and big water filled our first days here with lot of crazy stories.
Our second stop should be Medellin and the rivers nearby. From Villavicencio it is just 500 km, but a full nineteen hours of driving. Therefore we decided to split this long transfer with another nice river – Rio Negro. Located just 70km north from Bogota this river earned its name from its dark color. Class five rapids, deep gorges, dark water, and a flood wave which chased us made this river really tremendous and unforgettable.
Impressed with this river we ate a quick dinner and were again on the road. After all night driving, early at the morning we finally came to Medellin. In this area are just few roadside runs but lot of stuff for multiday. Starting with the class 5 Rio Caldera we begin our first three day trip in the middle of jungle. Nice rapids, scary portages in jungle and lot of coca fields with armed guys around show us Colombian river style.
We are slowly finding out, that you really have to be prepared for everything. Next multiday trip – Rio San Carlos – Verde – Samna showed us also a kinder sort of local peoples – gold miners. Here in the middle of nowhere, gold mining on the river banks is one of the main industries. They are everywhere, after every rapid, in pools there are people trying to find gold and earn some money for their families. Whenever we meet them they try to help us, whether with offering some place to sleep or hot coffee after long day of paddling, they are keen and communicative.
This river showed us also that you can start on technical tiny creek and end on really big water. Nice run again.
It wasn’t too many days before returing home now, and before we left from Colombia we had a big mission to go on the Rio Cauca. The Cauca is the second biggest river in Colombia, flowing across the hottest zone – with enormous coca fields, factories making cocaine, and bad guys with big guns. This three day paddle was really special for us, not just because of river and where it is, but because two weeks after our return home this river was dammed.
We were the second group, and probably the last people on this incredible river. Mighty big water rapids in the middle of coca fields where it’s better to paddle without scouting than to meet the guys on the river banks made this river special and unforgettable for us.
Our time in Colombia ran out quickly and after one more roadside run on the Rio San Juan, we had to go back to Bogota. In the twenty-three days we spent here we learned that in Colombia everything is possible but nothing is sure – that means – things don’t always go according to plan but if you have a lot of time and nerves this is probably one of the best countries you’ll find for a winter kayaking trip.