If you were a woman going alone on a kayaking trip... - Mountain Buzz

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Old 07-25-2004   #1
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 120
If you were a woman going alone on a kayaking trip...

to south or central america, where/when would you go?

My specifics are:
I haven't done much travelling (only place abroad has been England).
I have very basic spanish though willing to work on it beforehand.
I am a class IV-V kayaker.
I'd like to do it relatively cheaply (minimal guides) and hook up with other boaters and spend a month or more at it.

So, for those of you who have been to central or south america... where / when would you recommend as safe, do you think I should try to set up plans with a group before I go, any other suggestions or advice would be sooooo much appreciated!


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Old 07-26-2004   #2
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 1
Female kayaker in Central America

A suggestion might be to go to Costa Rica. Many of the rafting guides there are also kayakers, speak English, and are always happy to help out. There is a little town there called Turialba where many kayakers live- it is by the put in for the Pacuare. You might also contact Rios Tropicales or Aventuras Naturales. They are the major rafting companies on the Pacuare and may be able to put you in contact with a guide/kayaker who could hook you up. You can find them on the internet.

Also, if you contact Leo Vasquez at H2O Adventures in Quepos/Manuel Antonio, he can help you find some kayakers and might have some suggestions for you. He should have a web site. I could get you his direct email address if you cant find it.

Good luck!
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Old 07-26-2004   #3
latenightjoneser's Avatar
steamboat, Colorado
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 421
If you go, go in winter. That is when more gringos will be down there. That way you will plenty of peeps to hook up with. I only got a paddle a little, but Tena, Ecuador is a great base for a kayaking trip. Plenty of boats to rent and plenty of water. Some places get 20 feet/year.

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Old 07-26-2004   #4
Marine Biologist
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 90
Hey Claire!
That sounds like a hell of an adventure. If you are alone, I might consider dying your hair dark to attract less attention, seriously. On an up note, Zeph and I are probably going to be in Chile in late December and January. He grew up in Mexico for the first twelve years of his life, so is fluent and will make a hell of a guide. I think the tentative plan is to run the FU, and maybe any undammed sections of the Bio Bio, but I haven't studied up. We may also try to hit some rivers in Xalapa, Mexico, near his home town before we head south. It would be awesome to meet up. When are you planning on going that way? I'll stay in touch via email. Oh, and I got health insurance (temporary) through Gradmed, and all I had to do was sign up with CU as an alumnus. It's a $500 deductible with benefits to 1 million, and is basically damage insurance, but costs only $75 per month (it's about $450 every six). I did not ask them about international coverage, but most companies will agree that if you save reciepts they will reimburse you. You can call and ask at 1-800-922-1245. See you in winter or during boating season next summer.
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Old 07-26-2004   #5
FoCo,NoCo, Colorado
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 325
My experience

I've paddled Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Chile. My picks (for paddling/extended vacation) would be in reverse order #1 Chile, #2 Ecuador, #3 Costa Rica, #4 Mexico. (If you were on a board surfing safari, the order would be reversed.)

All three are friendly countires and have some great adventures waiting. However, Chile is a long way away. You have the time. There is awesome whitewater, scenery, and some amazing OTHER things to do, Like Torres del Paine, Acoma desert, etc.

Travelling alone opens up many opportunites that American travellers often miss, such as meeting locals and understanding what their life is like. You should exercise the usual caution in cities/towns and stay in ospedajes or similar when not out in the wilds, and even then...

The US posse can be annoying, but useful for running rivers. Since Chile is so large, having possible rendevouz options with groups is a good idea. Safety is found in numbers most of the time, but also cuts costs, reduces stress, and provides willing probes.

Have an awesome time,
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Old 07-26-2004   #6
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 75
Have fun! Sounds like and awesome trip. I've traveled alone a bunch (Mostly Europe and some Asia for business.) One of the things that I've done in the past is wear a fake wedding band. Most people will respect that if you pretend to. Although American Business men in Asia seem to neither respect yours or theirs...

Picking up a bit of language is helpful too if you can.

Good luck and have fun!
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Old 07-27-2004   #7
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 120
Thanks so much for the replies, both here and email, I appreciate it.

Perry, lets keep in touch. I don't know my plans yet. It depends when I finish up at CU. I'm trying to be done before October. Also depends on not having a job. All that said I'd love to meet you guys down in Chile, or even some in Mexico, so keep in touch. Thanks for the insurance info too.
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Old 07-28-2004   #8
Have paddled a Quest
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1984
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 102
SA Boating

Planning a solo SA trip eh? Fantastic! You go girl! Traveling solo can be a very rewarding experience, and you will find that the locals open up to you much more than if you were traveling with a group of friends.

Having traveled & kayaked extensively in Ecuador, Chile & Argentina, and done a quick trip to Costa Rica, here are my suggestions:

Chile & Argentina (Patagonia):

- Definitely my favorite boating in South/Central America. Tons of great runs of all types- Class III play, big water Class IV, 300+ feet per mile creek runs, fantastic play spots, waterfalls, hair raising 20k cfs class V, etc. You name it. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is more kayaking in Chile & Argentina than in all of N. America.

- These two countries are much more “1st World” in terms of municipal infrastructure and transportation. In nearly 6 months of traveling during two trips, I only got sick once from food. I drank tap water constantly and had no problems- almost all of the city water supplies are chlorinated, and the river water is cleaner than many rivers in the US. Both countries have good internal airline flights and bus transportation.

- The people are fantastic! Chileans are a bit more reserved at first, but open up once you get to know them, whereas Argentines are open and gregarious from the moment you meet them. Many people in both countries are well educated and speak english, particularly those involved in tourism. In the big cities petty crimes can be a concern- on our second trip we had some boating gear stolen from a line outside of a hostel in Bariloche, AR, and on my first trip I had a pickpocket nab my wallet in a bus station in Santiago, Chile. Be vigilant in big cities and crowded areas. I have good friends in both Chile and Argentina from my trips down there.

- Pucon, Chile is a great place to hang out and meet boaters. It is the “Glenwood Springs” of Chile, with hot springs, Lago Villarica, and a volcano above town. There are tons of outdoors activities, and the main street is lined with outfitters plying their trips, with at least 4 companies that rent kayaks and run river trips. All you have to do to find other boaters is hang out on one of the restaurant patios on the main street and look for folks who look like gringo boaters- it won’t take long to find them!

- Costs in Argentina are much less than Chile- when I was down there a year and a half ago, accommodations in Chile ranged from $10-$25 per night for hospedaje accommodations in Pucon (a room in a house), whereas Argentina was $3-$10 per night for hostel accommodations.

- The down side to Chile/Argentina is that other than around Pucon, you often have to drive from one river to another, so vehicle and shuttle arrangements can some times be difficult if you don’t have a rental vehicle. However, there are plenty of boaters down there and it might well be that you can hook up with others that have transportation. For some of the runs around Pucon you can utilize the transportation services of taxis and outfitters.

- Time to go down there: December thru March is summer down there- much sunnier and drier- similar to Pacific NW in the summer.

- links for more info:

Click on “Kayaking” in the left menu

Click on “Patagonia” in the top menu- not a lot about boating, but good travel info, and more SA links in the “links” section.


- Again plenty of great boating for all levels. Tena Ecuador, on the Amazon side of the Andes, is a great place to hang out. Plenty of gringo boaters there and many of the taxi drivers know directions to the put-ins and take-outs of the various runs which surround the town.

- Less expensive than Chile, similar to or less than Argentina- in the $3-$10 per night range for hotels in Tena (as of 3 years ago).

- Definitely 3rd world. Don’t drink the tap water- bottled water only, and check the seal. Don’t eat raw vegetables that have been washed in water. No ice in your drinks. The bus transportation is relatively regular, although the vehicles are not as well maintained.

- Again the people are very nice, but not as many speak english. Knowing some spanish comes in handy, particularly when buying bus tickets and arranging transportation. Be wary when in crowded situations such as bus stations, markets, etc.

- Time to go there: I have been to Tena in November & January, both were good times.

- For a bit more info, check out my web site:


- Also, if you decide you want to go the packaged trip route, Small World Adventures runs great trips in Ecuador:


Costa Rica

- I haven’t been there in eight years. It was my first intro to traveling outside of the states, and got me hooked on traveling and boating in Central/South America. From what I remember the prices were more expensive than Ecuador, but less than Chile. Turrialba is the best boater hangout town, with 5 or 6 good runs near by- I remember the Turrialtico was a fun place to stay and there were other boaters there. We got around by renting a car and hiring a driver to run shuttle for us, although others were using taxis. We were there in October.

Drop me an e-mail for more info, and I can get you some contact info for local boating friends, and perhaps find others that are headed down there-

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Old 07-29-2004   #9
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 14
Try out Rios Tropicales

I last boated in Turrialba, Costa Rica in 2001. Be wary of some shady operators, i.e. Ticos, with poor safety records. I boated with them and later found out that they had a death due to putting on when everyone else cancelled for storm weather. I later paddled with a great operator, Rios Tropicales, run by Ray McLain, an American and ex world class C1 boater. It was a good outfit and well run.

Have a blast,
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Old 08-02-2004   #10
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 120
Thanks Adam, and Mark for that TON of awesome info. I will be in touch for sure Mark, I'll email with more questions at some point. THANKS!!

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