Tambopata or Apurimac? - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 05-13-2011   #1
 
san francisco, California
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: May 2011
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Tambopata or Apurimac?

We have a family with 4 teenagers and we have several rafting trips under our belts (main and middle salmon, snake, etc). We are heading to Peru and want a multi-day (supported) trip. Has anyone done either of these rivers?

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Old 05-13-2011   #2
 
Matt J's Avatar
 
Leadvillian, Colorado
Join Date: May 2005
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I have paddled the Apurimac, but not the Tambopata. As I understand it the Tambopata is usually a much longer trip, less difficult whitewater, and warmer more tropical scenery. The Apurimac is in the remote high Andes, in a spectacular canyon, and has some very difficult drops a few of which are typically portaged. The Apurimac can be run in as few as two days although usually two nights are spent on the river due to the difficulty in accessing the put-in. I would strongly recommend Terra Explorer Peru if you decide to raft the Apurimac. I'm not sure I would want to paddle that section with anyone else even having seen it once. The water levels can change dramatically.
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Old 05-13-2011   #3
 
san francisco, California
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Matt, thanks for your response. I like really like the idea of warm/tropical (and longer), but I can't find anyone who has actually paddled the Tambopata. I am the mom, so I need to make sure it will be interesting and adventurous enough for our thrill-seeking teenagers, but not too sketchy (especially for me!). Thanks for the operator recommendation too!
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Old 05-13-2011   #4
 
Boulder, Colorado
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We did the tambopata last year unsupported- very challenging... The Apurimac, from what I've heard, is more predictable, because it's done so often. We put in at the end of May- the river is steep, and if there are big rains in the mountains, it can rise dramatically. We have a video you can watch (I'm in Boulder).
-Greg
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Old 05-13-2011   #5
 
Boulder, Colorado
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PS we did it in duckies- it would be much more manageable in large rafts (16'+), and also with someone who has done it many times before... It's remote, beautiful, minimum 5 days- but more like 7 would be better.
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Old 05-13-2011   #6
 
san francisco, California
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Thanks for the info. Was the river challenging or just the trip in general? Would you recommend it (using an outfitter)? We will be going later than you did, probably late July.
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Old 05-13-2011   #7
 
carbondale, Colorado
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the tampopata is much easier and longer. i think it would be a better family trip. the apurimac is more difficilt than the salmon or the snake. when are you going?
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Old 05-13-2011   #8
 
Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 1986
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I have guided both rivers commercially in rafts, although it has been 10 years since I was on either one. As said before, the Apurimac has much tougher rapids than the Tambopata. It is primarily a whitewater trip, although the canyon is gorgeous. It is much, much more difficult than the long Idaho river trips with lots of big drops and several long portages. The river is super high this year (right now anyway) and it is a pretty serious raft trip. I wouldn't go with just any outfitter - I can only recommend Amazonas Explorer and Apumayo. People have died on this run.

The Tambopata is one of the more remote rivers you can run in the world, and it also has fun whitewater. It is more like class III-IV. Water levels fluctuate a lot, and the river can double or triple in size in a matter of hours if it is raining in the highlands. The Tambopata is more of an expedition into the Amazon Basin than just a whitewater trip, although the whitewater is fun. You start by driving across the altiplano near Lake Titicaca and then cross a pass over 15,000 feet before dropping down into the cloud forest and the jungle to start rafting around 3,000 feet. We had tapir walk through our camp on one trip and saw a jaguar by the river on another. You can end up at the Tambopata Research Center, one of the best jungle lodges in the world for wildlife viewing with a world famous macaw clay lick Can you tell i like this trip? I took my 12 year old nephew on the trip and he went on to major in Spanish and became a Class v kayaker and raft guide. I think he had fun on the trip.

I sell both trips through my company Detour at www.detourdestinations.com. Give a call (number on the website) and ask for Greg and I'd be happy to talk to you about both rivers.
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Old 05-13-2011   #9
 
Boulder, Colorado
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I can tell you that in late May we encountered several class V rapids on the Tambopata; maybe beyond V. We had the river rise over 4 ft in one night- we lost gear & nearly lost our boats. We had to portage 3 or 4 times. We didn't see any other humans for 4 days- we took 5 days before we got to the research center. It's a steep river so hard to see beyond the horizon line, and often hard to scout, especially in the rain, due to lots of big, slippery boulders. It's probably much easier in low water.

Greg- how many times have you been on the Tambopata? How many times have you been the guide? Just curious.
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Old 05-14-2011   #10
 
Bozeman, Montana
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Greg, I ran the Tambopata 4 times -- 3 times with clients (once the clients were mostly my family) and once just with guides to check out the river before running it commercially. Pretty cool that you have done it as it isn't well known. Another one you might want to check out is the Tuichi in Bolivia.

You must have seen really high water as I have not seen any Class V on the Tambopata. That said, it would have looked a lot different in duckies than in our loaded rafts and cataraft, especially at really high water. We did have huge variations in the flow, including one day when the river probably tripled in a few hours and our camp disappeared completely. Most people in Peru that I know call the river Class IV. It definitely can change a lot at different water levels.

Here are some trip reports written by my mom (67 years old at the time) from our trip in 2000, as they might help the OP with her decision. The trip from Puno to Putina Punco was a solid 24 hours back then, and the road was really bad. Definitely the most dangerous part of the trip. The road has been improved since then but I haven't been back so can't comment on what it is like now.

Driving to the Tambopata
Rafting the Tambopata
The Tambopata Research Center
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