The Cotahuasi… a mixture of your favorite continuous class 4 run, placed in the bottom of a much tighter Grand Canyon, and then place all of that on Mars and you get an idea of what the Cotahuasi is all about.
We had a great crew, “Team Boof or Die,” Andy McMurray, John McConville and myself, Chris “Mc” Baer.
Let’s start with how you might get to this river:
1. Fly to Peru.
2. Take a long, loud, bumpy over night bus ride that you’re not going to sleep a wink on, to Arequipa.
3. Take another bus that is even bumpier and the window leaks on you to the town of Cotahuasi.
John and Andy in the town of Cotahuasi
4. Find a hostel in Cotahuasi at 4 am. SLEEP, you’re going to need it.
5. Wake up, eat as much as you can, find a driver and ask him to do a two part shuttle.
6. Get in a little 4-wheel-drive mini-van, with a tuff-as-nails driver, and 4-wheel your way to Puente bridge.
7. Get on the water with empty boats. This section has a ton of great white water. Most of the rapids are class 4, 4+ with a couple of class 5’s tossed in to keep you on your toes.
The team just about to put-in
Andy getting warmed up
John boofing in “5 lefts”
8. Get out at Sepia bridge, or if you are feeling really aware, keep going till you see the road on the left start to head up the hill. Then GET OUT! Sepia falls is just around the bend. Sepia falls is a multi-tiered 300 footer.
9. Jump back in your awesome drivers mini-van and head up over the pass to the far side of Sepia. Ask the driver to stop so you can get a peak at Sepia, a monstrous rapid that hides in a crack in the earth.
The view from the side of the road looking back up at Sepia
10. As you come down the back side of the pass you will enter into the tiny village of Chaupo. Chaupo is the real beginning to the multi-day trip. Grab your multi-day gear out of the van, cram it into the boats and get ready for an amazing adventure through one of the deepest canyons in the world.
11. Hike to the water, this hike is sketchy, take your time, hand the boats down to each other, don’t slip and fall 1000+ feet into the river.
Now that you are at the river it is time to enjoy your over-loaded creek boat in some amazing whitewater. We went a very short distance that first day and pulled over to camp. Camp was beautiful and right above a great section of class 5. We had a big camp fire, stuffed our faces with some calories and slept well with the anticipation of a big day to come. The next morning, with no warm-up, we bombed into a great first section, boofing over rocks and sliding through slots down to a particularly mean looking rapid.
This rapid looked gnarly. There was some large slab rocks on the right hand side of the river and the water was sliding down one of the slabs into a mean looking hole. The hole was backed up by three huge rocks that where definitely sieved out. If this wasn’t fun enough, all the water then shot hard right into a very undercut slab. After some deliberation, I walked back up, grabbed my boat and put it on my shoulder. It is always a hard decision to walk, but when you are in a super remote canyon with huge walls it becomes a little easier.
We got back on the water and started cruising down stream. Mile after mile of constant class 3 with great class 4 rapids tucked in everywhere. We bombed into some and scouted other rapids, but one thing was for sure we where making a lot of miles quick.
John boofing the edge of another nasty hole
Andy deep in the canyon
Night 2 camp had it’s issues with sand flies. They were every where. We got our fire started early and kept it smokey trying to detour the sand flies.
Camp 2 – the boys purifying water
Day 3 was amazing, tons and tons of class 4 with three great class 5 rapids mixed in. I almost got worked in a nasty rapid. All the water came in on a funny curler into a big rooster tail. The water on the left side of the rooster tail smashed into a undercut wall and the water on the right led you into a sticky hole. The hole on the left side was backed up by a wall, and looked very undercut. This is where I ended up, pulling hard on my right paddle blade trying to pull out of the back wash. I felt myself losing the battle and sliding backwards into the hole, I swapped my edges quickly and slid right across the hole and out the exit tongue. It was a close call in the deepest canyon I have ever been in.
Andy in another great rapid
Andy dropping into another dark canyon
John just above Meter Gorge
John coming into Centimeter Gorge
John coming through the Centimeter
John dealing in Big Hump
We blasted through Meter and Centimeter gorges, both holding some very cool rapids. We headed down stream to find the confluence with the Rio Maran. We stopped at the confluence for some photos and a small celebration. At this point the river changes names entirely and turns into the Rio Ocona, we paddled this down to a tree protected camp three. The winds at camp three were still harsh to say the least, this was great! it keep the sand flies at bay.
The view from Camp 3
Back on water and we paddled 5 hours through class 2-3 rapids with fish traps everywhere to the little town of Iquipi. Iquipi was our take out and we hiked up to town and ate some food, drank a delicious beer, listened to some disco, and passed out at the local hostel until 7 p.m.. That evening we got on the bumpiest loudest bus yet, which delivered us to Arequipa at 4 a.m. Hopped in a cab and cruised to our home here in Arequipa: Yunta Wasi B&B. This place is rad! The owner Pichin is super rad, he’s the dad that feeds you Pisco sours.
It is going to take a few days to decompress, catch back up on sleep and calories, and to start our next adventure to Chile.
Chris Baer Signing off in Peru.