Celebrating the New Year Kayaking in Ecuador

Feliz Año Nuevo!

I’m writing this in a hammock in a jungle in Ecuador on the banks of the Quijos River. Its New Year’s morning, I have a mug of delicious Costa Rican coffee. Its all quiet at the lodge as everyone sleeps off their festivities.


I’m a week into Pro Leisure Tour: Winter Edition, and the living is pretty fantastic. All those weeks in a trailer in the Kroger parking lot were certainly worth it.

Kayakin Day 1-55

Costa Rica Recap: We were a day late getting into San Jose because our plane got struck by lightening mid-flight forcing us to land and wait for repairs, which made us miss our connection. When we finally arrived late on Christmas Day, a few things popped out: GIANT iguanas that like to perch delicately on top of trees, enormous ferns, and coffee everywhere.

The second day I was there, my friend Eric showed up at 5 am in an old Land Rover Defender to take me kayaking. We drove for three hours up winding roads deep into the rain forest. We made a pit stop at a little roadside café for beans and rice with eggs and coffee, a traditional breakfast. After picking up a boat for me, we headed to the put in and did a short section of the Sarapique river.

Let me say this: Quality. We floated through a jungle, paddled through giant wave trains, saw monkeys swinging from branch to branch on trees, and found a poison dart frog. It was amazing!

dart frog

The rest of the trip was well spent. Ben David and I went surfing; we did a lot of touristy things with my family, and overall had a blast. On the way out of town, we stopped several times for bags of coffee to bring to our next stop: Ecuador.

Ecuador: This trip started out: exhausting and amazing. We caught a flight in Miami at midnight, putting us in Quito at 4 am. Once we stumbled through customs and found the car Juliet had arranged for us, we passed out and slept for the next two hours until we arrived at the beautiful Rio Quijos Eco Lodge. This lodge is gorgeous. Situated on the banks of the Quijos River, it has a yoga platform and beautiful gardens. We made coffee and had huevos and toast, and settled in.

Ecuador-28Yoga Lodge.jpg

A few hours later, Tosh (our boss from NOC, no less), called us. He is working right up the river at another kayaking center. He sent a taxi for us and we packed into it with boats and gear and headed for a little creek that feeds into the Quijos. The water here is incredible. Wave after wave with giant holes, amazing scenery, and endless fun. It was beyond amazing. We kayaked for a couple hours until we were back at the lodge, where we started the search for food. There was none.

Kayakin Day 1-68.jpg

None of us speak that much Spanish, but Ben David knows enough to get us around. He was able to communicate the state of dire hunger we were in to Rosa, an employee at the Lodge. She helped us get on the bus and dropped us off at a delicious restaurant where we had a huge dinner for $3.50. We bought some food and then headed back.

New Years Eve was similar: amazing kayaking with Tosh, delicious food, plenty of Chilean wine, and crashing well before midnight because of our desire for kayaking today. In Ecuador there’s a tradition involving men dressing up as women and dancing in front of cars on main roads for money. We passed several of them on our shuttle ride. They waved baby dolls at our truck and snaked their heads around in merriment.

Kayakin Day 1-167

I can’t believe how quality the whitewater is here. Ecuador seems to have it all: mostly easy access, vibrant green scenery, clear water, and amazing waves.

And here we are, bringing in the New Year in a new country. As I read this in the peace and quiet of the early morning, I am thinking of my goals for this year.

  • Get my WFR again! (‘nuf said)
  • Improve my writing skills
  • Travel to even more countries to kayak
  • Have grace with myself.

Having grace with myself is something I try to do better every year. When I’m kayaking, if I hit a rock and get bounced off line (which already happened here!), I rely on my recovery skills to mend the situation and continue downstream. A well-timed brace or a snappy roll is how I know I’m a good kayaker, not how perfectly I hit every line.

The same is true in life. Having grace with myself means relying on my recovery skills in life. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last 27 years, its that life will never go as planned. Even down to when you arrive in a foreign country. When our flight got missed, instead of getting upset and having a terrible Christmas Eve, we went to a movie and had a nice dinner. We recovered the best we could and made the most of it.

We get one life. We only get one shot at this. I’ve lost too many friends, and seen too many deaths in 2015 alone, to know the truth of this. We have no control over when we get to go. The only control we have is how we spend however long we do have. I want to spend it happy, I want to have grace with myself, I want to recover well in life, not just on the river.

Kayakin Day 1-154.jpg

Here’s to a 2016 of living happy.


One thought on “Celebrating the New Year Kayaking in Ecuador

  1. I am so glad you enjoyed your time in Ecuador. I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, but I lived mostly in a small village called General Villamil Playas, or for short, Playas. I recently had a dream that I was in Ecuador kayaking and when I saw your first picture in this post I told myself, “That is the place I saw in my dream.” By the way, I completely forgot about men dressing up as women. When I was a kid it was a hoot to watch them. Another tradition is to burn the old year which consists of picking a character that could be a politician, actor, etc., and right as the New Year is about to begin we burn it. Go figure! I enjoyed it when I was a kid. Thanks for sharing your cool pics:-)

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