Tracy won the trip to Ecuador at the Ladies Southeast Paddling Series party and raffle in October. Here, she tells her experience in her own words:
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I stepped off the plane in Ecuador, but I knew it was going to be awesome. I met my other trip mates when we waited for luggage, and I knew we were in for a wild ride.
Everywhere you looked in Ecuador was jaw-dropping, especially when we crossed over a 14k foot pass in the Andes to get to the EcoLodge. The rainforest was stunning – I saw scenes I never even imagined were possible. Waterfalls dropped out of cliffs alongside the rivers we paddled, and purple flowers sprang out of the hillsides. On the Jatunyacu, we even paddled into a cave and a canyon only wide enough for your boat that led to a green wonderland. The waves on the Jatunyacu were out of this world too – some seemed like they were taller than my boat is long. I love big water, so I aimed for the heart of everything I could.
Our days in Quito were top-notch – we visited gorgeous cathedrals and a wonderful little market where we all bought more colorful alpaca blankets than we could carry. I practiced my fledgling Spanish and was excited whenever anyone could understand me. I actually got so excited about learning Spanish that I started taking a Spanish class in my hometown the day after I returned from Ecuador! I’m hoping to return to South America for kayaking, and I’d love to be able to hold conversations with the people who live there.
The first day we kayaked, I got off line and had a, shall we say, memorable surf that I swam out of. The other women on the trip were so encouraging and supportive that I actually ended up feeling like a tougher kayaker after I swam than I did before. I don’t know what kind of magic that is, but I think it’s what happens when you put 10 strong women together and take them out of their comfort zone. On the last day, we did the same stretch of river again, and I was thrilled to make it through with flying colors.
I feel like I really developed as a paddler- Juliet, Anna, and Craig were on hand to show us the way down, set safety, and offer tips on how we could improve our paddling. It was interesting seeing how the rest of the women paddled – everyone had their own strengths, whether it was their surfing ability, their head game, or their ability to ferry and attain. I definitely learned some things I can work on.
Our mornings were spent doing yoga with Anna. I’m not the biggest yogi around, but I learned that’s a fantastic way to wake up, and it kept us limber and relaxed.
One of the coolest parts of the trip was how we got to do things in the local community during downtime, whether it was catching our own dinner at a trout farm (vegetarian options available for the tender hearted) or visiting a local tea farm. One of my favorite parts was the lodge we visited in Tena that was home to tons of wild monkeys, some of whom would come into the dining area while you ate.
The trip felt like we were all at summer camp – it was great to unplug and really connect with other people in a way that’s hard to do at home. Many nights, my friends and I would stay up laughing until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer.
Ecuador was incredible – I made memories and friendships that will last a lifetime, and I would unquestionably do it all again in a heartbeat!
Ecuador 2018 dates coming soon!!