Our team just returned from our epic adventure to the Challana River basin, where we attempted a huge first descent. Unfortunately, after nearly a week of carrying our boats and gear from village to village, down from 14,000 ft to 8,000 ft, we got shut down at the putin. We hiked through days of rain and arrived at a river just slightly too swollen for us to feel comfortable paddling, so we took a layover day and watched as the river slowly dropped to a perfect level. As we crawled under our tarp for the night, we dreamed about the days of spectacular kayaking that lay ahead.
Unfortunately, we awoke in the middle of the night to a torrential downpour. I laid in my bivy saying over and over again, “please stop, please stop!” but it continued for most of the night. We awoke to a completely flooded river and the end of our Challana first descent attempt. So we broke camp, shouldered our boats, hit the trail and climbed right back out the way we came in. Needless to say, we are very thankful that we didn’t get caught on the river as it flash-flooded.
Our team has had an absolutely epic run of successful first descents in the last year and a half in Papua New Guinea, Tibet and Congo. In this case though, the best decision was to walk away.
We have 2 more weeks left in Bolivia though, and more huge adventures lined up. We’re heading out early tomorrow morning for several days of kayaking and a summit attempt of the 22,000 ft glacial peak that supplies much of the area with drinking water. We also have another first descent on tap, in addition to further exploration of the Zongo River drainage.
On the science and conservation side of the expedition, we have our most exciting interviews lined up with hydrologist Edson Ramirez, advocacy groups working to further water access for citizens of La Paz and El Alto, and policy makers developing adaptation plans for this metropolis that is quickly running out of water.
Check back early next week for another update from our team in Bolivia!
Also, if you didn’t catch it, I posted an update to the National Geographic Adventure blog last week also: http://ngadventure.typepad.com/blog/2009/04/k.html