In Running the Amazon, the published account of the first kayak descent of the entire 4,200 mile length of the Amazon from the source of the Apurimac River to the Atlantic Ocean, author Joe Kane describes the portion of their journey through Arequipa, Peru:
At some time during the night we veered east and began climbing into the Andes. At dawn we pulled into Arequipa, Peru’s forgotten metropolis, a high, sunny, desert city set against a spectacular trio of snow-covered volcanoes. Arequipa is home to six hundred thousand short, calm people, no flies and no joggers. The city takes its name from the Quechua expression that means “You are welcome to stay.”
Arequipa is indeed a forgotten metropolis. Most foreign visitors to Peru travel a well established circuit from Lima to Cuzco, hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and return to Lima. This trip has been jokingly dubbed the “Gringo Trail” by Peruvians due to the volume of travelers of European descent who make this pilgrimage. By taking the road less traveled by, The Wet Planet Peru Rafting and Kayaking Expedition affords our clients a deeper cultural experience, while paddling world class whitewater rapids in settings that very few travelers get to see. Our trip will be the only commercial rafting and kayaking expedition on the Cotahuasi River in 2011.
Wet Planet is the first Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking company to become certified by the organization Sustainable Travel International.
Nicole Lynch, Wet Planet’s Sustainability Coordinator, organized the partnership with STI. Wet Planet benefits from STI’s consultation on everything from cutting energy costs to sustainable travel practices. On Wet Planet International Trips, our guides and clients are not tourists that exploit the communities we experience. We are ethical travelers who employ the help of locals, support their economy, and help to protect their wild places while carrying out our expedition.
Joe Kane is right; a high percentage of the population of Arequipa is noticeably shorter than many other Latin American citizens due to their indigenous Quechua heritage. While Lima is very demographically diverse, Arequipa is rooted in Incan heritage. Street signs are printed in Spanish and Quechua, and throughout the city at any time of day, traditional flute music is heard.
While jogging and other forms of outdoor recreation are becoming more popular now than in 1985 when Kane and crew first visited Arequipa, the friendly, welcoming vibe remains. On the first Wet Planet Peru trip, I arrived in Arequipa let-lagged and exhausted from the journey. I met expedition leader Gian Marco Vellutino for the first time and he greeted me with, “Welcome home brother.”
After getting acquainted with Arequipa on Day 1, we will raft and kayak the Rio Chile on Day 2. In close proximity to the city, the Rio Chile is comparable to our home river here at Wet Planet: The White Salmon River
The White Salmon River is located across the street from the Wet Planet base of operations in southern Washington.
Just like the Rio Chile, the White Salmon is easily accessible with a lot of action packed into a one-day trip.
The first descent of the Rio Chile was completed in 1982 by Gian Marco’s father Antonio Velutino and Cholo (Alvaro) Ibanez.
After this paddling warm-up, we will have a large cena (dinner) and then explore the Plaza de Armas area in the downtown district of Arequipa. Then we’ll get rested up for the next leg of the journey: a 6-day rafting and kayaking expedition through the deepest canyon in the world on the Rio Cotahuasi.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog…