By Jesse Coombs

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We were kayaking in Brazil and were looking for some new rivers to run. One of the best way to find good runs is to locate waterfalls, which could lead to rivers with good geology.

On the morning we found Anaconda Falls we hit the road about 8:30 a.m., stopped off for a little breakfast and then drove to the Cachoeira Ponte de Pedra near Cuiaba. We had heard of a waterfall on the river near our breakfast place, but it was on private property.

We decided to check out the two falls at the Rio Correntes, Cachoeiras de Itumirim. We stopped at a very small town to ask about finding these falls, and the guy we asked said one of them was on his property. He told us that the first falls was 19 meters high and the second falls was 39 meters high ( 128 feet ). We headed off toward his house and another guy on a motorcycle showed us the way.

When we got to the house the wife was there and she was very friendly. We went down to see the first falls and unfortunately it had what looked like a shallow landing. We decided that this falls was not worth it. We did not hold much hope that the second falls would be runnable based on what they said about height and what we saw of the first falls. But then the wife told us that a seven meter Sucuri lived at the base of the falls ( A Sucuri is a Brazilian snake that is bigger than an Anaconda ).

Of course, that got our attention and we were definitely interested in seeing such a large snake! She told us to be very careful and to bring a large knife. She said that no one should go down there alone, but a group of five like us should be okay. Despite our low hope of finding a runnable waterfall, the lure of the snake was definitely enough to get us there. We got out the machete and headed down the trail. She told us to be very careful when we started getting muddy. We stuck close together and looked all around as we proceeded slowly and carefully.

We made our way toward the falls and kept a close eye out for the Sucuri. Unfortunately we never saw the snake, but we were very surprised to see that the falls looked runnable. The base of the falls had a huge boil that would surge to six feet or higher at times. This was beautiful for a couple reasons: First, it was picturesque to see the power of the river and how it could create such a surge of water. Second it was a very good sign that the pool was deep, because only with a deep pool could the water and air mixture get so deep to surge so high.

It is hard to tell how high the falls was by looking up from the bottom, but it was huge. The problem with looking at a falls from below is that it always looks smaller. Ben liked the looks of the falls and suggested we run the river to the lip. We knew there were trails around it and I was excited to get on the water.

Ben Stookesberry ( foreground, bottom-center of photo ) gets a first look at the monster.

We hiked back to the car still looking for the snake, but again no sign of her. We drove back to the house and told the woman we were going to kayak to the falls. She told us to be careful. We packed up our stuff and headed down the trail. Mac, Ben, Pedro and myself paddled down the river which was clearly at flood level. We knew there would be a big horizon line for the falls, but we were still going forward carefully. Yet Mac was paddling confidently and paddled right up on a 9 foot drop of a rapid while the rest of us were more conservative. We got through this rapid and we were quickly on the big falls.

We took an eddy on the right and Mac hiked to the lip to check out the view. He was only there a minute before he came running back yelling 'OPA! OPA!' I wasn't sure what this meant, but I thought this meant he had seen the snake. I pulled the 'falcone' (machete) out of its sheath and looked for his attacker. Then I see him swatting around his head and I knew it was the nasty bees that had periodically plagued us throughout the trip. The only descent remedy for these guys is to get away and get in water. We all dove for the eddy and stayed low while the bees dive bombed us. We waited several minutes and talked about what Mac briefly saw at the lip. Every time we started to get out of the water to make a move a bee would come in for the sting. It seemed they especially liked to buzz after Mac, while Pedro generally was not bothered by them.

After the bees left Pedro, Ben and I then crossed the river to get a look at things from the other side of the river. We could see the falls nicely from the left side and took a long look. I saw a tree hanging off the wall a bit that hung out and would provide a clearer view of the bottom. I carefully hiked and climbed out onto this tree and could see the landing zone. There were rocks on the back left and right, but the middle was pumping nicely with a great boil. Ben climbed out on the tree and after looking at the falls from several angles decided he would run it. We both measured it with throw bags and based on the length of the bag and what the guys at the bottom were saying about how much was left, we figured the falls was about 95-105 feet tall. The farmer said some people repelled off it and said it was 39 meters high. Without a climbing rope measurement, there was no way for us to know how high it was exactly.

Ben got ready to run the falls, and the rest of us got ready to film. We put Pedro at the top with a video camera and two-way radio. I was at the lip with a video camera. Mac was at the bottom with a video camera, and Chris was at the bottom with a photo camera. Mac had a boat set up at the lip for safety. Ben checked in with us to make sure we were ready, and then he got in the water. He charged for the falls, took some very active strokes and was in the falls. I got some great video of him and he nailed the line. Pedro and I couldn't believe watching him run the falls and stick the line. Unfortunately his skirt blew and despite almost hand rolling the full boat he had to get out as he was up against the wall. He collected his stuff along the wall, pumped his fist with excitement and ferried back into the current and down the river with Mac. WOW! That was the tallest falls I have ever personally watched someone run. Amazing!

Ben Stookesberry drops Anaconda Falls
Photos Copyright © Chris Zawacki

Pedro and I collected the gear we had at the top and made our way back across the river. We all reviewed the film we took and packed up the car. The farmer and his friends had watched Ben run the falls, and they could not believe their eyes.

Stoked at the bottom of Anaconda Falls.

The farmer invited us back to his house for fish he had caught in the same pool where Ben had landed. After packing up our gear we stopped at the local store for some drinks and headed back to his house.

The farmers wife was very friendly and talkative. They also had a twelve year old daughter that was glad to have the social interaction and also was very friendly. She had fun showing us her school work and toys. They made grilled and fried fish, rice, vegetables and local legumes. It was a great dinner and the fish was truly amazing. It was so fresh, light, flaky, tasty and well prepared.

We hung out and talked a bit and then went to bed. It was a warm evening, so I chose to break out the hammock I bought and try it out. In trying the hammock I learned that to make a good hammock you don't just take a square piece of material and tie the ends with rope. You need the sides to be a bit shorter than the middle. I think the one I bought is made with a square piece of material, so the sides are a bit slack when I am in it. This was the second night on this trip I have slept in a hammock, and it is really pretty good sleeping. Hammocks have a couple of advantages, especially when paddling in South America. The two main advantages are that a hammock packs lighter and smaller than a sleeping pad and stays off the ground. The downside of hammocks is that it can be too cool on a cold evening because there is no insulation underneath you. Also, a hammock also required two properly spaced trees which is not always available.

To see Ben's descent of Anaconda falls many other adventures around the world, check out Hotel Charley: The Lost World