Peru 2010: Rio Patchachaca

Evan Ross emerging from the shadows, Day 1. Photo: Nate Klema

After getting off the Rio Apurimac, we (Matt Wilson, Ryan Casey, Evan Ross, Ben Luck and Nate and Matthew Klema) stopped in the town of Abancay on the way back to Cuzco. The Patchachaca is a tributary of the Apurimac. This small river flows into the Apurimac about a mile upstream of Puente Pasaje, the take out for the Abysmo section of that river. It wasn’t until 2004 that the Patchachaca was run by Henry Munter and Brian Fletcher. It is surprising that it took so long to get run since it is on the major highway from Lima to Cuzco. It was also the cleanest river I had seen in Peru up to that point. From the road it looks like a low volume kayakers dream.

Nate Klema in the middle of the best sections of the run, late Day 1. Photo: Matthew Klema

We spent a day resupplying and resting up for what would be Matt, Evan and my last trip. Putting on the next morning we realized how quickly this little river was moving compared to the big water we had just gotten off of in the abysmo section of the Apurimac. It was fun to be back on more of what felt like a mountain stream and we headed downstream going through the first bedrock gorge visible from the road and past a lot of hot springs coming out of the walls.

Curtain of hot springs. Photo: Nate Klema

After the first bedrock gorge the gradient eased. The torrent ducks on this river were absolutely amazing. They must have liked this river because of its clarity. They are amazing swimmers. Swimming sieves, up to class VI underwater, and would often drop from the air into the seam of holes, where the downstream and upstream currents meet. By late afternoon the gradient picked up again and we got to some short really rocky steep sections that were only sometimes run able. After some portaging we reached a beautiful boulder garden rapid that was half a mile long. After scouting the whole thing we ran it in two groups of three. When we reached the bottom there was a great area for a camp. Nate and Ben unloaded their boats and headed back upstream to run the drop again.

Rio Patchachaca Canyon, Day 1. Photo: Matthew Klema

After an hour and a half of read and run class IV the next morning and the river’s gorge started to steepen. Picking our way carefully down we rounded a corner and the river dropped off the face of the earth, tumbling through some large holes and minor sieves and then into a major sieve (which the ducks ran). This necessitated an interesting portage with a lot of boat passing and eventual fifteen-foot seal launch back into the river.

Early Day 2, the crux of the run. Most of the river went under the boulders where the picture is taken from.

Photo: Matthew Klema

The rest of the day the river continued a relentless gradient through boulder gardens of granite and limestone. It was very continuous and very good, but in strange places there were very tight drops with very sticky holes backed up by random rocks and strangely placed dangerous sieves. This went on relentlessly for the rest of the day with hardly a pool in sight. I think we each had at least one good hole ride, a large boof onto a rock and each saw a sieve closer then we wanted to. Because of this I would say that this was probably the most serious run that we did while in Peru. I think we were all grateful when it started to get dark and we were able to pull over.

Matthew Klema working downstream. Photo: Nate Klema

The next morning, while the rapids maintained some of the same character, but the pools became more distinct in between them. After an hour on the river we got to a narrow gorge in the limestone bedrock. The whole river went through a little slot canyon about three feet wide for a quarter of a mile, dropping over a few falls directly into inescapable potholes. Then the gradient decreased, we encountered a few short run-able slots though other bands of limestone.

Ryan Casey powering over a large hole. Photo: Nate Klema

Looking back upstream at the confluence of the Apurimac (L) and the Patchachaca (R).

Photo: Matthew Klema

By nine o’clock on day three we reached the confluence with the Apurimac and were in sight of Puente Pasaje just in time to see the bus head up the switchbacks away from the river. We got to spend the whole day with a school group who were down for the day at the river. We had dinner that night in the towns little “restaurant” with the military operations team that had set up a drug checkpoint and do reconnoitering of the surrounding area.

Ben Luck contemplating how he feels about being at the infamous Puente Pasaje for the second time in less then a week. Photo: Matthew Klema

Catching the bus to Andhuyalas the next morning to retrace our steps back to Abancay and then Cuzco. It was a holiday, the Peruvian Halloween essentially, and when we arrived in Abancay that night there was not a place for us to stay, so the friendly Peruvian who we had stayed with four days earlier let the six of us crash on his living room floor for the night since he was out of rooms for the night. Upon getting back to Cuzco the next day. The group planned to go their separate ways. Nate, Ben and Ryan continuing to paddle in Peru. Matt, Evan and I returning to the U.S. to our prior commitments.

A big thanks to Juanito, Daniel, Leo and Diego for everything that they helped us with in Cuzco, from a place to stay to logistical help among many other things, but most of all sharing the rivers of Peru and the common love of Kayaking with us.

Matthew and Nathan Klema

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