The Apurimac is one of the most famous rivers of South America. Known as the source of the Amazon, it has been kayaked and rafted for decades already. However, it is below the commercial section that the Abyss awaits. This is where the walls close in, where the canyon is at its deepest, and where you can feel the magic of the Incas as you are granted safe passage, paddling the powerful waters of the Acombamba Abyss.
Reading the stories that have emerged from between the canyon walls from previous trips, it is only normal to be very nervous as you slide into the murky waters at Banos Cconoc. There are tales of huge, pushy whitewater, close calls, horrendous swims, rockfalls, thunderstorms, non-portagable canyons and blind rapids, narco traffic and guerrilla encounters. However, what these tales fail to emphasize, is the pure beauty of this three-day trip, the incredible canyons that make you feel so small, the beautiful campspots, the difficult, but fair whitewater, the ancient Inca ruins and the pure quality of this journey. I came out of the Abyss somewhat changed, deeply touched by its serene beauty.
Funnily enough I found my own personal vendetta halfway into day one, in a sneaky little class four. The exit of it was blind, and being on the entirely wrong line I soon found myself severly stuck in the nasty little pocket hole. The following swim was not pleasant, but at least there was a little pool right behind the rapid which allowed for us to collect all my gear fairly quickly. From then on we decided that scouting was a good idea! The first day was long, and beautiful. The whitewater seldom reached higher than class four, and a couple of places we had to portage. We passed through an incredibly deep canyon, where you felt like the walls must reach the sky, the light being eerie and the power of the water echoed between the walls. The last few rapids of the day were the hardest ones, as we had entered the steepest section of the river. Big boulders blocked the flow of water, and we found a nice little beach perched between the boulders as a campsite. As we had just gotten the tents up, a huge storme broke lose. Huddling under a big boulder we watched in awe as lightning crisscrossed the sky and the thunder rumbled through the canyon, it hailed, then it rained. A lot. One hour later the storm was gone, and the fire burning nicely on the beach.
Day two was the hardest when it came to the whitewater. The section out of camp was very blocked, but still pushy. There were siphons the size of houses, and we had to cross back and forth in front of them a lot. By lunchtime I had definitely got rid of my fear of siphons, as there were millions in there. But the whitewater was always fair. Sitting on a beach for lunch we suddenly got rained upon by rocks, and seeking shelter under a big boulder we watched as some big rocks landed just where we had been sitting. Grabbing our gear we quickly hurried downstream. Throughout the day there were plenty of rocks falling in the water, as a little eerie reminder of the power of the canyon. Passing under a little footbridge our Peruvian friend pointed out the trail on river right, and told us about the ruins of the Inca city that the Spaniards never found. It takes six hours to hike to the little brother of Macchu Picchu, and I swore to myself that next time I would allow for two days more so that I could climb the trail and get a peak at the old Inca civilization myself. After some long hours on the water we found maybe the most perfect camp spot ever. A huge boulder stood over a nice little beach, plenty of firewood and with a perfect swim spot just in front.
On the last day we found the last vertical walled canyon of the trip. Yes, it was indeed non-portagable, but the whitewater was nice enough, and provided no difficulties. Easy class four guided us down to Puente Pasajes, the stopping point for us. Below here you head into narco traffic area, and there is an additional two days of paddling to the city of San Francisco. We had opted for hiring a taxi from Cusco to pick us up (a 12 hours drive!), and not even five minutes after we dragged our kayaks into the little village did the taxi arrive. Amazing timing! Passing slowly over the 3000 meter pass that shelters the Acombamba Abyss from the world, I realized just how far away from anything we had been. Slowly entering the real world, I could feel how the magic of the Incas slowly slipped back into the deep canyons of the Abissmo, after having been with me for three days and three nights.