Paddeling and camping gives me a feeling of freedom
2018, It is the start of November, and generally in Colombia water levels around this time of the year are good. Kees van Kuipers, my partner and I, Maud Verboven decided to pack our kayaks and start paddling the Rio Magdalena down to Pericongo, and even a bit further. No hard core kayaking but cruising down class III (+) for 5 days and camping out.
At the put in, Puente Isnos, we cramp our kayaks full with camping gear, a stove, some cuttery and food for a few days. It gives me a feeling of freedom to `just` put in a river and start paddling knowing that we have everything we need with us.
The current water level, which can be seen upstream from the bridge shows 2.40 meter. Which is really a great level for the following parts of the Magdalena river.
The first few days it rains a lot in the mountains, which causes the river to rise every day a little more, which is perfect and causes beautiful waves and bouncy rapids. We cruise down the numerous class III rapids and enjoy the landscapes.
I really enjoy being here with Kees, observing all crazy plants and creatures nature has to offer. river is life.
we took it relaxed. Spending mornings sitting on the beach with a coffee, gazing at the river.......
For sleeping Kees has his hammock and I have a little 1 kg tent. We sleep in a cow fields, a forest, river beaches but we prefer little farmer huts, which provide a roof which sounds nice when it rains and gives us a homely feeling.
Just below the village of Oritoguaz we come across a farmer, informing us that more than 5 dams are being planned. And this part of the river will become the bottom of a big lake. He is gonna lose his land and home, where he and his ancestors have lived for centuries. He might get some money in return, but he lost his farmer life. This makes me very sad. How much nature and people's lives will be destroyed so politicians can fill up their pockets?
Below Pericongo the rivers starts really flatten out, and we are craving a beer. We take out and find transport to Paicol. The most beautiful village in the department of Huila. Here we enjoy the town for a few days.
Rio Paez, class II-III-(IV)over an estimated 80 km
On Sunday we take transport up to the village of Belalcazar, which is located in the department of Cauca. In Belalcazar we got a warm welcome by some locals which where mainly Indigenous people with whom we shared some drinks on the street. Next day were ready for more river life. So we put in Belalcazar by mid day.
How to describe the rio Paez, just like the Magdalena river it's scenery is interesting and always changing. There are a few beautiful canyons. Continuous class III(+) an occasional class IV rapid, sometimes a pool. Rio Magdalena is definitely more remote than rio Paez.
the contact with locals really is what give the trip some extra flavor
We came across some locals who all were very interested and friendly and gave us fruits from their fields or we shared a coffee and a little chat with them. learning more about their lives and learn about the history of the area.
Below the town of Paicol the flowing pools are getting larger between the wave trains rapids with occasionally a hydraulic. The scenery does not disappoint. We just keep on cruising down stream. We pass quite some `gold seekers`washing and starring in mud the whole day in the hope to find some nuggets.
And eventually we arrived where the Rio Paez flowed in the Rio Magdalena just below the Quimbo dam. This dam is ugly, like every dam. We took out 8 km after the confluence where the river meets the main road from Neiva to Pitalito. Here we drank a cold refreshing beer and found transport to San Agustin, where the luxuries of normal life are waiting for us.
In total we spend 11 days and 9 nights on the river. Yes it can be done in half the time, but this was never the idea.
If your interesting in paddling Rio Paez contact the local rafting company, Naventura in Paicol. They offer rafting trips on parts of the rio Paez. https://www.naventura.com/
For Rio Magdalena you can ask the local rafting company Magdalena rafting in San Agustin. https://sanagustinhuilacolombia.com.co/agencias-viajes-san-agustin-huila/magdalena-rafting/
Or feel free to ask us, always welcome.