Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mexico, a canoeing paradise!

Photo by Matt Partridge

This year I was invited by Jim Coffey to join him in Mexico as a guest paddler on his Week of Rivers programme. I have never visited Mexico before but have heard many stories of big waterfalls, warm and continuous white water, sometimes all the way into the ocean! I have also recently heard stories of dangerous drug cartels and lawlessness. I spent two weeks cruising around Veracruz State and found many rivers with warm, continuous white water, waterfalls and even one that had rapids all the way into the ocean.

Mexico Revolution day celebrations, just close the road and have a party!

I met many friendly Mexicans who were excited to see us and offered to help us out when and where they could, I saw no sign of lawlessness or violence but was attacked fairly frequently by no see 'um bugs, so forget the drug cartels and worry about insect repellent!

Take out for the Rio de Oro!

Fishing with the locals on the beach

Fish everywhere!

Surprise rapid

Jim has a superb fleet of Esquif canoes down in Jalcomulco and so instead of flying a boat over I just borrowed his, flying without a canoe makes life so easy. Borrowing boats gave me the perfect opportunity to compare the decked and open L'Edges back to back. I have read a lot about the differences but had not paddled the open L'Edge, only the decked version and my custom hybrid.

The open L'Edge is noticeably lighter than the decked version and to my mind much more pleasing on the eye, it just looks like a ww canoe. Most rivers we paddled required a certain amount of hiking in so I was keen to use the lighter boat. I have read much about the difference in rolling the two models, one being easier than the other and blah blah blah...I didn't deliberatle capsize to test these theories just rolled when I capsized, I found both boats quite easy to roll when necessary and have concluded that boiling and aerated white water makes much more of a difference to how easy it is to roll than whether I have gunwales or lids on my canoe.

The decked L'Edge is noticeably drier than the open version, in fact the difference really surprised me. It is not that the open version takes on water easily it is just that the decked version is incredibly dry, even in crazy rapids the water just doesn't find its way in, it is simply stunning! I am hoping that my hybrid will be very nearly as dry as the decked L'Edge and not much heavier than the open L'Edge.

We paddled 7 sections of 5 rivers from 3 different drainage systems, I must admit to not knowing exactly everything about each section because Jim was a great host and organised everything, I just had to paddle!

Just nice 'n'easy rapids all day long

The Barranca Grande from Amititla to Jalcomulco; a visually stunning 3day trip on mostly ww2 to ww3 with a nice section of four ww4ish rapids on the third day. Food and gear can be driven into the beautiful riverside camps so it is just paddling with no need to pack a boat full of gear, awesome!

Filo Bobos; after a dirt track drive and a 20minute hike down to the river we put in and cruised for 3hours on read and run ww3 and ww4, we took out at a bridge with a restaurant on river right and ate freshly cooked prawns and drank a cold cerveza, it was great day out!

Matt drops the entry fall on the Actopan

Actopan; we drove to a butterfly sanctuary and put in there, the start is an easy 4metreish slidey drop and then the river just cruises on through the jungle with mostly easy ww2 and a few ww3 rapids. Look out for low bridges and take some cash for the restaurant on the river right bank for lunch or a cold beer. We took out at a low stone bridge with many small arches.

Rio de Oro, the one that flows into the ocean; Jim's local knowledge was key here, we hooked up with a local fixer who arranged for us to 4X4 as far as possible to the put in, we only had to hike 30mins or so after the drive, without the fixer we would have been walking for maybe 2hours! TheRio de Oro is a sweet little jungle creek with ww3 and ww4 rapids and two big drops; the first 12m and the second 9m, once you commit to the first you kinda have to run the second too, climbing out is not an easy option but you can portage them both on river right. I don't know much about the river below the drops other than that there are easy rapids all the way to the beach, we paddled out in the dark and saw nothing!

Photo by Seppi Strohmeier

Tomata; this is my favourite Mexican river, several short, steep sections with ww3 to ww5 and many drops and a few really challenging lines to master. The upper requires a relativity short hike, 15mins, and then sweet creeking and two drops, one tight and tricky the other easier. The roadside section is a bit easier than the upper but equally as rewarding with many rapids to ride and enjoy. I think there is much more of this river to explore and enjoy and I can't wait to get back over to Mexico to check it out!

L'Edge in Mexico from Funkidreadz on Vimeo.

A big shout out to Jim, Barbara and the rest of the Esprit crew in Jalcomulco for inviting me, looking after me and showing me many superb sections of white water, to taco man and the juice ladies for cooking up the best food and smoothies in Jalco and finally to my awesome wife Lilli for looking after 5month old Max on her own whilst I was off paddling on the other side of the World.

Paddle safe and see you on the water,