Amazon Region / Ecuador / Ecuador Lifestyle

Kayak and/or Die–Kayaking in Ecuador, Rio Cofanes

For some aquatic-loving adventurers, to live is to kayak.  For me, to kayak would mean certain death.

A more daring, younger me used to crave the thrill of rappelling, parachuting and white-water rafting.  Those days are far behind me.

Now I get dizzy swinging in a hammock.

My adrenalin-pumping days are over, thank you very much.  Just reading this first-hand account of kayaking the Grand Canyon of Ecuador on Rio Cofanes made me positively queasy.

The anxiety-provoking diary entries, labeled “First Ascent 2010 Ecuador,” says that the 2-day kayak trip, which turned into 3 days, took place in Sucumbios Province, at a location that was “very, very remote . . .”  “Untouched jungle.”

“Morning.  Day One.  Somewhere along the border.”   The dialog begins with these clipped remarks, then really got my attention with these words:

“More guys with guns.

What follows is an exciting, well-written account by Brian Snyder as he and his two companions, Abe and Brandon, paddle fast and furious on what sounds like the out-of-control adventure of a lifetime.

Here’s an example of writing that reduced me to a state of dry-mouthed, heart-stopping rigor mortis:

“The rivers in northern Ecuador are infamous for walling up. We had all heard the horror stories from the Chingual – the next drainage east – of people paddling off into the void, of partners never seen again, epic bailouts, and terrifying rains. The road along the Chingual is never more than 5 km away. If the Cofanes sank into some unrunnable gorge deep in the jungle, would we be able to get around it? And if not, would retreat even be possible?”

Can you handle more?

Day 3 -“Thunder echoes off the walls so loud that we are forced to shout from only a few feet away. Huge river-wide holes stack on top of one another. I look around for any kind of break, scout, or portage. There is no escape.

“For the next quarter mile we fight for our lives, digging through walled-in hydraulic after walled-in hydraulic. Out in front, the stress of laying the line is nothing compared to the anxiety of watching the others come through. They are the longest seconds of my life. A million rescue scenarios run through my head. None of them are very convincing.”

And later:  “It is more of the same – walls, horizons, powerful holes. Only now, the sieves we were dreading have finally arrived. We can hear their sinister sucking noises from the eddies above the rapids. If we were anywhere else, we would all be scouting this next series. But there’s no other option. It is still raining, and we’ve got to keep moving.”

Don’t pretend that you can’t wait to find out what happened next.  Go ahead–read the article.

Whether you are a kayaking aficionado or a wanna-be, I’m betting this article will thrill you, excite you, perhaps scare you.  It may even lure you into taking your own life-or-death fling down these Ecuador gorges, waterfalls and pitfalls.

But not me.  I’m not entrusting my life to a little pointy piece of floating plastic.

Where’s my hammock?

The company that does these tours is not too far from Cotacachi.



  1. Very cool story…but too scary for me to dream about.

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