“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation.” -Pearl S. Buck
Towering at 146meters (480 feet) Cascada de San Rafael, the tallest waterfall in Ecuador will not look the same once the dam project upstream on the Coca River is complete.
I might say the most drastic transition I could take from a conference with 23,000 scientists in attendance would be to a tiny town in Ecuador, with only my kayak and gear in tow. A breather, whitewater and mountains was all I wanted to wash away the overstimulation of a week in San Francisco. Luckily for me, my passion for learning finds me everywhere I go. On this adventure it found me on the Upper Rio Misahualli when I started chatting with Matt Terry, Executive Director of the Ecuadorian Rivers Institute, a volunteer run organization that he started in 2002. Over dinner in Tena I continued to take in as much information from him as possible. The efforts that he has put into preserving the rivers of Ecuador are phenomenal, the resistance he has faced, and his continued perseverance are mind blowing. His most current work is to keep the Upper Jondachi River flowing by developing well founded opposition to the proposed hydroelectric project that would have lower financial returns than the revenues from the international kayaking community that visits Ecuador every year. ERI is hosting the first annual Jondachi Fest next week to demonstrate the value of this headwater catchment in the proposed Ecological Corridor that Matt has put together.
Although we made our mission an all-ladies trip, we found ourselves surrounded by a wonderful kayaking community in Baeza, the kind of community that makes me fall in love with the river lifestyle over and over again. We met the Wells brothers, a pair of professional kayakers that just released their new two part film 'Journey to the Stikine and the Sacred Headwaters'. I was already impressed by these two after spending a couple of weeks hanging out with them, but watching their film when I returned made me so excited- It is exactly the type of film that the paddling community is prime to deliver- one that gets you stoked about boating and gives you insight into the bigger issues that these rivers and the local communities are facing. My new years resolution - give back to my kayaking family in some way that matches/supports the work the people I met on this trip already have done, and are continuing to do.