Antigua Lower Canyon - Jalco to Paso Limon

Trip Start Feb 05, 2010
Trip End Feb 13, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hotel La Villa

Flag of Mexico  , Veracruz-Llave,
Monday, February 8, 2010

This morning began with a light drizzle and alot of fog. The Mexican term for light rain is "chipi chipi". As I began to get dressed for yoga I got a terrible cramp in the stomach and had a round of montezuma. Donna went to yoga at Casa Esprit while I stayed back at the hotel. I managed to check my email and I made it over to Esprit early prior to breakfast. Mil asked why I wasn't at yoga and I explained about my stomach. She went to the Bertas and asked for a special tea they make for queasy stomachs. It is a very bitter tasting tea made from a plant the locals call Burro Leaf. They use it for upset stomachs all the time and I found it really calmed the rumbling in my stomach.

At 8:30 a.m. we had breakfast at Esprit. We had pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs, and I had more burro tea. At 10:00 a.m. we left for the river. The game plan for the day was to run 16 miles of the Rio Antigua starting in Jalcomulco and going to Paso Limón in the Lower Canyon of the Antigua.

We ran the same rapids in the upper section of the Antigua, from Jalco to Coetzala, as yesterday but instead of taking out in Coetzala that was our lunch stop. Today I saw a man in his underwear washing his clothes in the river. I quickly realized it was the same man we saw everyday on our beginner trip because he had a unique way of winding his pants around his head like a turban to keep them from getting wet while he did his laundry. I shared the story with a few of the girls and we named him "Señor Sin Pantalones".

In the upper section I had a great combat roll coming through a class III rapid and I hit the eddy line coming off a cliff after a drop the wrong way and got flipped. I rolled immediately. The wall near the Coetzala take-out was quickly becoming my nemesis. Every time I tried a different maneuver in the very fast chute of current near the wall I'd get flipped and pinned against the wall on my on-side. I don't have a combat off-side roll so I had to swim. It happened today and yesterday as well! Anna and Mil drained my kayak while it was still in the river and we did an in-water entry to get me back in my kayak.

Once I was back in my kayak we continued just down stream to the take-out in Coetzala. Instead of taking out Lalo delivered lunch for us. We had turkey, tomato, lettuce and cheese sandwiches on a delicious date roll with cookies and water. We saw lots of locals crossing this swing bridge. We always draw lots of stares when we are in our river gear. We played another little game before we got back onto the river. We had roughly another 8.5 miles to paddle and we were not entering the Lower Canyon of the Antigua, which I had not been in before. I was a bit nervous about running the Lower Canyon because I hadn't seen it before and I heard there were some larger rapids and a few class IV down there. I relaxed because I had already rolled and swam once so I just relaxed and thought what will be will be.

Each section of the Antigua is very pretty. In the Lower Canyon we saw bamboo fields, banana trees and mango tree plantations. Ofcourse there were plenty of the local baskets along the river used to harvest acamaya, a large river shrimp native to the area. Today we didn't really focus on instructional kayaking and instead just ran rapids. It was more of a lesson in river reading.

Once we entered the Lower Canyon the rapids became progressively more difficult. I could see why we took out in Coetzala with the beginner trip. There were several class IV rapids in this section with much larger holes and waves. Anna had told us at the beginning that there were a few rapids in this section that we were going to scout but as we went she decided that we were doing well enough that we didn't need to scout.

One of the bigger rapids we came to was called "The Thing". It was a confusing mess of foaming whitewater, diagonal waves and several large holes. The line was right to just left of center to avoid a large boulder hidden among the whitewater and rooster tails. I followed after Laura so I was sure she knew where she was going, I just stayed on her line. We had a few flips but everyone rolled.
Right after "the Thing" we had another slightly smaller rapid where we had to dodge through huge boulders from right to left and back again. It was alot like a slalom course with a decent amount of pushy water.

We paddled through several other rapids and saw boys swimming in the river with no idea how they got down into the gorge, possibly by burro trails on the riverside. It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining, there is something special about a river gorge that really takes you away from everyday life and allows you to just be in the moment.
Everyone pulled over in an eddy for a stretch break. Anna used the moment to talk us through the line of the next rapid, the "Gates of Hell". The Gates of Hell consisted of two humongeous boulders in the middle of the river that nearly touched. Each boulder produced a pillow with large diagonal waves coming off of it. The line was to charge at the boulder on river right and clips its pillow and continue aiming right until you were past both boulders.

First we passed through several smaller rapids but once I heard shouts of "Ánimo" coming down the river I knew we were entering the "Gates of Hell". I watched as Anna charged at the right hand rock and got rejected by the pillow wave and nearly flipped, next Salli went in and flipped, Donna followed her and flipped and next it was my turn. I mentally calculated the river experience each of the three woman had as I saw each of their kayaks upside down, I charged at the "Gates of Hell" and thought I don't stand a chance in hell!

I went as hard as I could at the right-hand boulder, ran right up the pillow and got spit out backwards. Looking behind me I could still see both Donna and Salli trying to roll so I kept going backwards and steering around them so I wouldn't run them over. Somehow I managed to pull an eddy backwards as Donna and Salli rolled up. We watched the rest come through "the Gates of Hell" and it was total carnage! Only 4 of 13 kayaks came through upright, we had multiple flips, a few swims, bloody knuckles and a broken paddle! It was wild, thank god it was our last rapid. We collected people, paddles, remnants of paddles, water bottles and kayaks and got everything straightened out.

We continued just down river where Cailyn was waiting on the bridge to get a group shot of us. We formed a large circle with our kayaks in the river and she took a picture just before we passed under the bridge. We took out in Paso Limón just under the bridge where we changed with plenty of onlookers. We took a few pictures and then loaded the trailer to go back to Jalco with beer in hand. We drank and sang all the way back to town.

I came away from this river trip feeling pretty good. I was one of the 4 who went through the last rapid upright and I felt like I was doing o.k. Back in town we decided to use the rest of the afternoon to walk around, take a few pictures and see if we could find that Tajin spice we had for dinner last night. We couldn't locate the spice but I ended up buying one of the lights made from gourds at the shop next to Esprit. We returned to La Villa to shower and change prior to happy hour.

We had Kenya Sunrises for happy hour and quesadillas and guacamole as appetizers. For dinner we had Pollo barbecado, rice, beans and a salad with star fruit, raisins and beets with balsamic vinaigrette. We had sliced apples and cajeta quemada, a type of carmel made from goat's milk for dessert.
After we finished eating we watched our pictures and video, they were great, especially the pictures of the carnage from the "Gates of Hell"! We walked to the traffic bridge where we sat and talked for awhile before going back to La Villa for the night.
Back at La Villa I checked my email. They had set out donuts for us so we enjoyed a donut and a cup of tea while journaling and talking before we went to bed for the night.

 Things Learned on Day 4:

1. Chipi Chipi is what the Mexicans say when there is a light drizzle.

 2. A plant called Burro Leaf is used to make a bitter tea to aid queasy stomachs.

 3. Acamaya is large river shrimp native to the area:

 4. An On-side Roll refers to the side of the kayak a paddler normally goes to for their roll. It is their more dominant side and usually a more reliable roll.

 5. An Off-side Roll refers to the paddler's weaker and non-dominant side. It is usually less reliable.

 6. A In-water re-entry refers to a maneuver where a swimming paddler drains their kayak, with the help of another kayaker. You must then straddle the kayak without re-capsizing and reenter the kayak while in the river.

 7. Whitewater Slalom info:

 8. Ánimo is a spanish expression meaning "You can Do it"  or something similar

 9. Cajeta Quemada is a type of carmel made from goat's milk.

 10. Rio Antigua info:
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