Mexico: Ten weeks of Tacos, Tequila and Tall Waterfalls Part 2
Four Spanish kayakers, Jose Marie, Daniel, Asier and Pablo. Their english is as limited as my spanish, but luckily for me our first few days on the river we are joined by Aniol who speaks brilliant english and made the language barrier pretty easy.
We headed to the Big Banana which is my favourite bit of whitewater in Mexico. During my 10 week trip I did 9 and a half runs on the this section. Here’s the low down on Big Banana: After a long drive up a steep hill, then a short 10 minute down hill hike, a 5 minute bump and grind down a small tributary, then another 5 minute hike through the jungle gets to one of most impressive put-ins in North America, Big Banana falls. From here the river starts to gorge out with some mellow grade 3 gorges, then into some steeper grade 4 gorges, finally arriving at the first waterfall of the day. A sweet 20ft drop, a steep 18ft slide into a dark gorge, a flatter section and some smaller rapids, a 200m grade 4 gorge, a 40ft mandatory boof (portage-able), another set of small drops, a 15ft, a double 5ft, a flat section, 20ft meatlocker drop, a portage, a seal launch, a 15ft boof, a 10ft autoboof, some fun grade 3 boogie rapids then finally a fun 5ft boof into a narrow boily channel, into a 10ft drop (ideal for wavewheels). After all that fun and excitement the take out is just an easy 1 minute walk to a road bridge. Big Banana sees you on the water for a few hours in fairly remote Mexican jungle and often you won't see another person from the time you put-on to the take-out. After that head into town and devour some delicious tacos and a cold Cerveza (beer).
Then the rain started. And boy did it rain.
I was starting to feel pretty comfortable with running drops up to 40ft but the Spaniards, who were in their final week had their eyes on bigger targets. Cascada Tomata 70/75ft beast which after a night of heavy rain was looking literally brown. The water level was so high in-fact that the take-out was underwater so the next day was to be the day. As we nervously set up safety and scouted the line I have to admit I was scared.
I was second to go and after hearing that Daniel, the guy who had gone first, had swum I was more nervous. But I splashed some water on my face, peeled out of the eddy, took my last stroke and tucked tight. Too tight, after what felt like forever I felt myself go slightly over vertical about 10ft from the bottom. As I landed my paddle painlessly broke across my body, I could feel water rushing into boat, indicating my deck had imploded so I pushed out and started swimming with my boat. A mixture of elation and annoyance flowed for the rest of the day at having to do my first swim bootie of the trip.
3 Swims from a group of four, 1 broken boat, 1 broken paddle and 1 lost paddle. Undeterred we rallied the next day and headed to a hike and huck called Truchas.
To run this one we first hike through a jungle path, then abseil 20 metres down below an un-runnable waterfall and a finally portage above a manky slide and we arrive at the lip of a clean 55ft drop into a big friendly pool. I was pretty aware at this point that if I broke my last paddle it would be next to impossible to replace it. I made the decision that I would throw my paddle on the way down.
Luckily I can still hand roll. Although I wasn’t one hundred percent when I was at the lip.
The Spanish team, Aniol and Mathias all departed the next day, but just before they departed two Americans in a beat up 1980’s motorhome arrived.........
Photos: Lukas Strobl, Todd Richey and Mathias Fossum
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