A rushing river with cold waters that descends from the Andes through an unbelievable array of green and foggy mountains in the higher zone, huge trees on the riversides, mammals, birds and insects that emit their characteristic sounds, a slight drizzle that gently falls on the Amazon jungles and a set of sensorial experiences all set the tone for the Adventure that is about to begin in Napo, a province of the Amazon region, in the home country of the four worlds: Ecuador.
Upon leaving Tena, capital of Napo, towards the Jatunyacu River, whose meaning in Kichwa is “Big Water”, the “Trade Ecuador” Magazine team had mixed feelings of expectation and uncertainty about what it would be like to go rafting for the first time. This is a category 3 river. Once we reached the loading site, adrenaline and emotions ran high as we were about to experience one of the most thrilling Adventure sports that exists, rafting.
The Jatunyacu River is a river branch that is formed by the Mulatos and Verdeyacu rivers, which originate from the Cotopaxi volcano and the lakes of the National Park Llanganates. This river carries sediments from the moorlands and cloud forests it crosses. The Jatunyacu, together with the Anzu Rivers, are the principal tributaries of the majestic Napo River that runs through the northern part of Ecuador’s Amazon Region and flows into the great Amazon River described Andrés Samper, our instructor and guide at Torrent Duck, the tour operator that has organized this rafting tour in the province of Napo.
Prior to reaching the boarding site, Alex Grefa, the guide that accompanies Samper, spots a group of small black monkeys that are jumping on the trees and exclaims: “¡Look!, up there to the right, there is a group of monkeys jumping on the tree tops.” We immediately focus on the group of monkeys at the precise moment when they are jumping up and down on the branches. We feel that with a beginning like this, the tour will be wonderful, so we go to the shore to prepare the equipment and receive the respective instructions.
First, Samper talks to us about safety. He shows us how we must use the helmets, vests and windbreakers or “wetsuits” to avoid the cold water and wind. Next, he addresses the potential scenarios that we may encounter during the tour down the Jatunyacu, including several types of falls and risks that are inherent to this Adventure sport. Samper stresses that “the majority of accidents do not happen when one falls off the boat, but rather these happen on the boat.”
“It is important to hold the oar, by the T, which is at the top of the oar, because you could hurt another person,” says Samper. In case someone falls overboard into the water, he states that the person must grab the external rope fixed to the boat and wait for other people to assist him or her return to the boat using the supports that have been placed on the upper part of the life-vests. He also tells us that if a person falls into the water he or she must adopt a “floating position in rushing waters,” that is, floating in the same direction as the river current, so that the feet are alert to any rock or tree trunk in the river.
Another instruction he gave us is to never stand while in the river since there could be obstacles created by rocks and/or branches. He also informs us that Alex, the other guide, will be following us in a kayak close to the side of the rafting boat, in the event that anybody falls into the river. “If a person falls into the water, they must grab the back of the kayak and hug it close to the chest, in order to minimize the weight, and start kicking until told otherwise,” said Samper. Following the safety talk, the guides lead us to a small beach on the shore of the Jatunyacu River. There we must practice rowing and coordinating this with the guide’s instructions. After a few practice rounds, we started down the river.
LOOK FOR GUIDES THAT ARE CERTIFIED BY THE INTERNATIONAL RAFTING FEDERATION (IRF) AND BY THE AMERICAN CANOE ASSOCIATION (ACA).
The adrenaline and expectation increases as we descend through the first rapids in the river. There are small and large waves that resemble those found in the ocean. As we pass through the waves and the sections with rocks, we shout with great emotion. After the first rapids, we have the opportunity to contemplate the beautiful landscape that accompanies us throughout the journey: rugged forested mountains, large trees on the shores along the river and a light rain that cools the atmosphere. After the first rapids, we have the opportunity to contemplate the beautiful landscape that accompanies us throughout the journey: rugged forested mountains, large trees on the shores along the river and a light rain that cools the atmosphere.
A considerable physical effort is required to row during the trip, especially when we have to row against the current to avoid passing through certain “holes” in the river, or specific sites where the river becomes very turbulent and could overturn the boat. Suddenly we find ourselves in another rapid, with big waves (considering that this is a river) and everyone yells with excitement as the boat rises and suddenly falls during this section of the Jatunyacu River.
While resting on the river shore, Tony Eid, a Political Science student, mentions that this has been a very remarkable experience that has made it possible for him to “gain insight into the lifestyle of those who partake in this activity daily.” Eid further concludes that, “this purifies my soul, spirit and mind. It leaves you with a sensation of peace and a strong connection with nature. I recommend that everyone, beginners or Adventurers, practice this Adventure sport at least once in their lifetime. This is truly something that fulfills you as a person.” Maria Esther Vera commented that she felt that this was “a very good experience for Adventuresome people as well as for those who are not adventurous, but want to experience new things within their own country. You do not need to leave Ecuador to live this type of experience, which has been very enriching for me.”
She then added that in the beginning it seemed that it would be an easy and peaceful trip, however “as we moved along through the river, I realized this sport requires a great deal of physical effort and team work. You go through many emotions. It has definitely surpassed my initial expectations and I recommend this to anybody,” concluded Vera.
Three hours after we began our descent down the river, the guides told us that we would stop for lunch at a cabin located on the right side of the Rivershore. While the guides from Torrent Duck prepared some delicious cheese, ham and vegetable sandwiches for the starving adventurers, we decided to take a swim in the river and float for a few minutes in order to feel the power, energy and temperature of the water, which turned out to be quite cold.
We felt the river purify and connect us with the magical environment of the Amazon jungle. Some 20 minutes later, our guides called us to have a delicious lunch, accompanied by pineapple slices and cookies for dessert. Upon finishing our lunch we spent some time contemplating the surrounding landscape, which includes large trees, small hills near the river and large mountains where the Jatunyacu River begins. We were also able to hear the different sounds of the Amazon jungle: amphibians crowing, insects flying around us, birds singing and the most amazing sound, the rushing waters of the Jatunyacu River.
Afterwards, we continued the trip to Puerto Napo, our final tour destination. Before reaching the port, there was a light fog that rose from the river and created a sublime vision of the jungle, the river and the sky, that in that instant all seemed to merge. After crossing the meeting point of the Jatunyacu and Anzu Rivers, which form the immense Napo River, we reached the first port if the Ecuadorian Amazon region: Puerto Napo.
With an aching and exhausted body, but with greatly surpassed initial expectations, we concluded our rafting experience. Rafting is an Adventure sport that attracts many people, primarily from the province of Pichincha, as well as from other countries, who come to experience the sport in the province of Napo, an ideal place to raft that should be promoted on a national and international level.
Thus, an intense day filled with great emotions leaves us with the desire to come back several more times and to recommend it to people who are anxious to experience these Adventures in Ecuador, an Adventure destination of excellence.
Ecuador is a very diverse country as it relates to rivers and rafting. In the Amazon region, on the lower zone of the Napo province are the Jatunyacu, Anzu, Misahuallí, Jondachi, Hollín and Pusuno Rivers. Meanwhile, on the Napo’s high zone we find the Quijos, Papallacta and Oyacachi Rivers. In the region of Baños de Agua Santa, are the Topo, Río Verde and Pastaza Rivers. Further south in Macas, Morona Santiago is the Upano River. On the western side of the Andes Mountain Range, rafting can be practiced in Pichincha, Mindo; and in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, the Blanco, Toachi TO PRACTICE RAFTING and Mulaute Rivers, as explained by Andrés Samper, co-owner of Torrent Duck tour operators.