Going somewhere warm and sunny during the cold dark months of winter is nice. Two weeks might seem a long holiday, but, when most paddling destinations in December are in the Southern hemisphere travel time quickly eats into the number of days spent on the water. These are my top tips to getting the most out of a two week paddling holiday and some of the reasons that brought me to Ecuador.
Find a river that’s not far from the airport – after a long tiring international flight, don’t lose another day driving to the river. We had arranged for Rodrigo, the owner of Hostal La Casa de Rodrigo in Baeza to collect us from the airport. When we arrived in Quito, Rodrigo was already there waiting for us and within two hours we were in Baeza. After a quick nap and getting our gear sorted we headed off to meet friends on the upper Cosanga.
Pick an area with many paddling options – your number of days to kayak is a priority, so the last thing you want is to wait around for rain and water levels to rise. Thankfully, it rains a lot in Baeza, during our stay it rained pretty much every day. Instead of worrying about the lack of water, we had to contend with too much water. One of the advantages of Ecuador is that if rivers are too high in one region you can always move to another area two or three hours away. (One thing to note, during times of heavy rain landslides are prevalent and road closures are common for maintenance work). There are numerous rivers/sections of rivers to paddle, something will always be good to go. We moved to Tena when the rivers in Baeza got too high. Tena is only two hours away and river levels there were perfect.
There are many amazing rivers to paddle in Ecuador, my favorites were the Piatua, The Middle Jondachi and the Cosanga.
Find reliable transport – sometimes it can take a number of days to sort out transport when you arrive somewhere new. It can be difficult to organise shuttles to and from the river, this couldn’t be easier in Ecuador. The majority of taxi drivers know all the rivers; the put on, take out, and they’ll have a better idea of the time it’ll take than you. For the most part our taxi driver was waiting at the end for us. They all seem to drive pickup trucks that can easily take four people and gear.
The more paddlers around the easier it is to paddle – kayakers come from all over the world to spend Christmas in Baeza. A local restaurant and hostel owner Gina, throws a party for paddlers on Christmas Eve, lots of people from Tena and Baños travel to Baeza especially for this. With so many paddlers around, finding someone of the same level to paddle with or getting local knowledge on a particular section is very easy.
Ecuador is a stunning place to paddle as logistics are so easy. Twelve days is a relatively short time to spend in Ecuador, but if that’s all you have, I can’t think of a better place to paddle this time of year.