Whitewater kayaking is growing up.
From long, fiberglass kayaks and 90 degree paddles to roto-molded plastic and carbon kevlar foam-core, kayaking and its devoted participants have seen significant changes within the sport since its initial popularity over half a century ago.
Initial explorers mapped out drainages, tested gear and got skunked with water levels all for the sake of the next best thing in kayaking. Moving beyond the 50 states, international kayak trips turned this up a notch with seemily limitless exploration potential.
Just like skinny jeans and cool kids, the “expedition” has progressively gained popularity outside of the core crew of advanced kayakers. Now, everyone wants to wear skinny jeans (except for the author who finds their movement constriction repulsive).
This doesn’t mean it isn’t scary (expeditions, not skinny jeans). Detailed planning, endless logistics, in-depth research…its a lot of work.
However, evolution has accounted for this group within the whitewater kayaking population, making international kayaking expeditions and trips more accessible for everyone.
A primary example: Peru’s ultimate multi-day river trips with Wet Planet.
The whitewater addicts at Wet Planet painstakingly planned and organized arguably the world’s top multi-day river trips with the singular hope that it might be made more available for everyone.
Think of it as task-management amongst a group of travelers. One person books flights, another takes care of land transport, another arranges river logistics. However, with interntaional travel you soon find a mountain of additional logistics to sort through and suddenly it no longer feels like vacation.
When organizing these type of international river trips, companies like Wet Planet take on all the difficult stuff.
What is left? Well…
- The world’s deepest river canyon
- Ancient Incan ruins to explore at camp
- Andean mountains looming in the distance
- Small South American towns with colonial influences
- Continuous class III-IV whitewater
- Local cuisine influenced meals
- Loud and colorful craft markets
- Donkey shuttles
- Incredible rapids
You get the idea.
Using years of river and international travel experience, a domestic outfitter can explore local connections for transport, food and guides. In the case of Wet Planet and Peru, a team of rafters and kayakers scouted the Cotahuasi and Apurimac Rivers in 2008. The experience partially served as a staff trip (who doesn’t love a company that supports their employees in international adventures?) and partially as an exploratory trip. Partnering up with local kayak legend and guide Gian Marco Vellutino, the trip gradually became clearer.
While outfitters test and plan out details for these type of trips, the “expedition” experience inevitably remains for participants.
This is a foreign country we are talking about. Not one of the ones with speed-of-light-railsystems, english-as-a-second-language, or even trust-your-drinking-water kind of countries.
The regions surrounding these canyons could not be more remote.
Thus, the thrill of adventure remains.
While buses may break down, protests could block roadways and natural disasters might hit; you can trust that your experienced outfitter will know what to do.
So take on the “expedition” of an international whitewater kayak trip, but go easy on yourself. Make your first jaunt into the unknown and complicated real of foreign river travel easier.
Who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to plan your next adventure to Norway, Africa or China on the flight home.
Susan Hollingsworth, writer and instructor, has just updated her international river life list.