Kayaking in Colombia

Copyright © 2001, Oregon Kayaking. No part of this page may be reproduced, linked, or copied without the express written permission of the Oregon Kayaking Webmaster.

The next time you find yourself complaining about river access problems here in America, remember Mauricio and his friends. Sure, we have our share of access difficulties here, but they pale in comparison to those experienced by the handful of bold and adventurous paddlers that call Colombia home. I received this email out of the blue, and though I have gotten others like it this one was truly exceptional. Mauricio and I have corresponded several times since this first mail, and he has sent me many photos of columbia from his paddling collection, some of which I have included here.

Best of luck to you, Mauricio... I hope peace finds your country soon.

Mauricio and friends.
Friday, August 31, 2001.

Hola, mi nombre es Mauricio, i have been extremely happy to find your page, it was referred to me by brian massey from the outdoorplay. i live way down south in Medellin, Colombia, a great place for kayaking, except for the war we are having with the crazy communist guerrillas. We are fighting them but they are making so much money growing drugs in the jungles and buying guns with all that money that is been very hard for our government to win this unfair and crazy war, but that is a different story.

For the kayaking i'm one of the pioneers down here , you won't believe it but in this country of 40 million we are only 3 states with kayaking action, one is call santander in a city call San Gil, a very old and colonial town with 2 great rivers, the Ponce for commercial rafting and the Chicamocha for the most advanced paddlers of which there are no more than 15. The other place is in Bogota the main capital of Colombia a huge 6 million person city and the kayakers population is around 20, and my city Medellin, the eternal spring city.

i was the one who brought the sport to Medellin around 3 years ago. We ordered 3 dagger boats by the internet. We got in to the river with out knowing nothing at all, not even roll. It was a disaster and i dont undestand why we did not die, after a few months we ordered an instructional black book 'KAYAK' that is in cartoons and we learn the basic stuff, it's been a long journey, kind of funny too. i remember when we order the first boats we order an outburst, a vortex and i ordered a C1 cascade, i did not what a C1 was and can you imagine my face when we got the boats an my friends where trying their kayaks and i was trying to sit and get my legs inside the boat as if it where a kayak? I thought what kind of chair is this man, that was so uncool, i was like what kind of boat is this? We finally figure it out i have to get on my knees, is that for praying on the river?

Man you won't believe it, i finally took off that seat in the Cascade and foam and made a home made kayak seat. I got in with my legs in front, but i was going crazy with that boat. Later i ordered a freefall, last year i order a gradient, then a Z and last week i order the outlaw from brian massey at the outdoorplay, my new boat it's on it's way, i can wait to get it soon. We have never tried any of those boats before we ordered them, pure internet catalog. right now the kayakers group in my city is 10 kayakers, every river is a first descent, my biggest accomplishment is the pacuare river in costa rica like a year ago, very similar like the buey river that was our school here. now we can no longer visit that river as the guerrilla is around so you can get kidnapped, so crazy and that is becoming the usual stuff, so we only can visit the san juan river that is good for our intermediate level, can you imagine that i'm the one who has taught all my friends? and i only know how to do ferrys, catch eddies, some surfing, i have a decent roll skill, and we have learn everything in the river by our self, i guess some day 1 of us will get a chance to get some real instruction for safety and develop the real skills and moves. i would love to carwheel, boof, etc...... but we dont do shit, just plain surfing. i read once that the kayakers spend half of their life avoiding the holes and the other half in a hole when you have the skills. we are still pretty much avoiding them and it's been a few years.

I'm 34 and married, all my group are almost the same age, i run a logistic and transportation business that's been in my family for 46 years, and in my free time i run my 650 honda enduro and paddle my boat but as i told you we can no longer go visit the far away places in the Andes as we used to, where the most incredible towns and rivers are located, is becoming very dangerous, hundreds of rivers in the middle of the rain forest and jungles, and the water is always warm, we only have 2 seasons, summer and rain, that's it.

So reading you web site it's been great for me, what a wonderful stories and pictures, i can believe that a paddler can develop such a great skill and iron nerve, and run such things, what wonderful places and rivers, we used to go camping too, maybe some day again. well, i want it to say hi and let you know that i'm very impressed with all your reports and a wonderful life you guys are having. i lived in the states from 92 to 95 in santa cruz and LA in california and I travelled all over the states in my westfalia, i went to school cabrillo and ucla for my professional designation in marketing that is my degree down here so that is why i speak some english.

Internet is such a great tool that get people so close, thank you for all the stories and pictures, i have been amazed for the last few days reading and getting all over your web site.

Pura vida

Viajando por Colombia y para Colombia, nos place saludarlos.

Mauricio Arredondo L.

This is a collection of photos of paddling, paddlers, and Columbia that Mauricio has sent me, along with descriptions and stories..

This picture is of our last visit to the Buey river in 1999, i was in my new gradient by then.

We had to leave the area of the Buey river 2 years ago, because the guerrilla started to visit the area, to kidnap people there and on the way. it is only 1 hour and 20 minutes driving from here, but it's a very huge native forest kind of tropical jungle way down the entire canyon, they are not everytime in there, they just go, hit and leave, so all of us are afraid.

The Buey has a at least 30 meter water fall, i can go and take a pic but it is kind of dangerous to go. I'll check first with the locals and i may go in my cycle really fast and take pictures of the beautiful Buey river, this is so hard for us lately.

Mauricio, his wife Naty, and Friends at the put-in for the San Juan River

Can you believe what happened to us on the San Juan River around a month ago. The San Juan is at least 80 kms long but we just paddle around the last 15. We can not go to the upper part because it could be dangerous, not the river, the place because of the guerillas.

So last month we where paddling the San Juan and in the middle of our trip we found a body in the shore. The guy was headless his hands tied and it seems he has been there for few days. We talked with some locals to report it and they where like, "just keep quiet guys, this happens often, we can not do anything, those bodies comes from the upper part, bodies from the war, just wait until the river takes him back down and no one saw nothing!"

That is the insane kind of live the guerrilla is making us live everyday, intimadating the entire country with terrorism, car bombs, kidnapping, blowing entire towns, and all the atrosities you can imagine. They dont have any clear ideal, just comunism an chaos at any price. We are a 40 million person country and they are just around 15,000, but very well armed, trained and making mess all over. Last month the police busted 3 guys from the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that where here in colombia training the guerrilla in urban terrorism. They have gained so much power because they got so rich growing and smuggling drugs, and kidnaping and extortion to so many people everyday. No one is safe down here this days, it is incredible we keep the economy running, we have a refrain that say "we the better are more, let's keep up" but believe me it is so hard, we just hope every day that the international community help us with this mess so we the entire country can live in peace and keep on. If you watch the news down here it is like watching a Rambo movie.

We were a long time without kayaking because the other rivers near by were in the road to bogota the main capital, rivers like, the Rio claro, the samana, very simular to some of the pictures i have seen in your page like the white salmon river, and all those with clear blue water and all class from 3 to 5, but for the last year is one of the most dangerous area in my state, and it is our main road from my city to Bogota the main capital, in just 2 hours from here you'll find your self crossing the most spectacular jungle and some amazing rivers, my last visit was 2,5 years ago, today is one of the forts of the guerrilla, they just control the area, so crazy.

So we found the buey river on one of our motorcycle cruises, here are some pics flooded and in the middle of summer, this river is the one for us right now, we just paddled class 3 to 4, no more than that.

This is of me in the C1 Cascade when we first started, notice how we tied the paddle to the boat because we were afraid to loose the paddle, can you believe it? remember none of us knew how to roll for a long time.

The pic Put in San Juan, thats me in blue, and my friends, as i told you here we only are a group of 8 kayakers, we are the only ones.

last year one gringo was living down here working for chiquita, he was the visepresident down here and was so happy in Colombia, he was here for 1.5 years and the company moved out from colombia a year ago, he still very sad, he always was telling us that this is paradise, the heaven of beautiful woman, the only place he was flying parachute in the morning and kayaking in the afternoon and riding his enduro at night with a beautiful girl, and specially the warmth of the colombian people, now he writes all the time from the usa telling us how lonely he is.

This is me in a interview on the river. As i told you i don't know much but i'm the pioneer in this sport and i carry the flag of the sport down here. They made me an interview and a very cool 30 minutes for a local T.V show, isn't that funny??

Down here the rivers are low and clear only during summer, we have 2 summers and 2 raining seasons, during raining river are kind of flooded and kind of dark, down here is very warm but it rains a lot. I wish we had some videos that would help us down here, rescue, moves, and basically how to improve our paddling, river learning... all that stuff, how to figure out undercuts, and all the holes stuff.

A picture from my terrace, you can see Medellin (it's a modern and beautiful eternal spring city)

If you want more info on boating in Colombia, feel free to contact Mauricio at: kayak@epm.net.co