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Rapids and Inca Ruins (03/26/07)

The Age of Conquest

Hang ten, hit the road, or paddle a raging river with your closest friends to turn your wild escapes into buddy trips with bragging rights.

A great river trip is more than a foaming roller-coaster ride. It’s a voyage to terra incognita, inaccessible to all but the most intrepid paddlers. And on the Cotahuasi River, in Peru, it’s a passage through time and nature to a realm little introduced by modern life. Tackling it can bond friends for life. Running from the Andes to the Pacific, the Cotahuasi cuts through a gorge thought to be twice the depth of the Grand Canyon, and its banks are lined with lost Inca cities, burial sites, and stone terraces as well preserved as Macchu Picchu. “There’s awesome whitewater too,” says Bio Bio Expeditions’ Marc Goddard (www.bbxrafting.com), “continuous Class IV, plus some Class V that we generally walk around.” From June through November, the 11-day trips ($3000) begin with a 4WD ride from the city of Arequipa, climb a 15,500-foot pass, and end in the village of Cotahuasi—“a happy little place in the middle of nowhere,” as Goddard puts it. From there a ten-mile, mule-assisted hike (around impassable 400-foot Sipia Falls) leads to six wild days on the river. The watercourse even runs by villages connected to the world by the same footpaths upon which Inca messengers once delivered fresh fish from the Pacific to their rulers in the mountains. Bio Bio doesn’t provide fresh fish or luxury camping, but you’ll enjoy comfortable sites on riverside beaches, good food, and a heady sense of discovery—-and the memory of fellowship.

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