Kayaking the Amazon

In centuries past, adventurers would visit South America in search of lost civilizations, hidden treasures and mythological beasts. Today the allure to discover and explore has only gotten stronger although now, adventurers visit the Amazon for very different reasons.

Take for example West Hansen and his Amazon Express 2012 expedition. Hansen, a talented kayaker from Texas, is leading a group of paddlers on a source-to-sea journey that began high in the Peruvian Andes and will continue until he reaches the Atlantic Ocean – covering a distance of more than 4200 miles. Along the way he also hopes to set a new speed record for running the length of the Amazon basin as well.

The journey began back on August 18 when Hansen and his team gathered on Mount Mismi, an 18,363-foot peak that has been identified as the furthest source of the Amazon. It is there that the Rio Apurímac, one of the river’s main tributaries, has its origins. Starting as a small stream and growing into a torrent of whitewater, the Apurímac stretches for 460 miles and features slot canyons, wild drops and class VI+ rapids.

That’s just the start of the challenges for this team however. Before they can reach the relatively serene Amazon, they’ll also have to pass through the legendary Acobamba Abyss. This stretch of water is quite literally a river of no return as the Apurímac passes into a steep canyon that can only be completed by successfully running the rapids. Only the best paddlers in the world have a hope of coming out of they Abyss unscathed.

West and his team have been on the river for more than a week and a half now and they’ve been posting regular updates to the expedition website. During the first few days it was slow going as they encountered low water flow and sudden snow storms, but since then the whitewater has picked up and the group has made better progress.

The expedition is still days away from reaching the Amazon proper, at which time they’ll exchange their whitewater kayaks in favor of flat water boats. At that point they’ll still be 3800 miles, and weeks  from reaching the mouth of the river on the Atlantic Ocean. Between now and then they’ll have to paddle across most of Peru and Brazil, which should prove to be quite an adventure. Follow along at TheAmazonExpress2012.com.

By Kraig Becker