The Ariari is a river we have wanted to paddle since we started planning our trip back in the UK. The idea of hiking in for 3hours with mules, rather than putting us off, excited us quite a lot! But it did mean we had to get up at 5am!
We hired 3 mules- two kayaks per mule except for the ‘lucky’ one that only had to carry Dave’s boat, which was easily the heaviest and tied on in such a way that every step the mule took the boat hit him on the head!!! We all felt a mixture of guilt and amusement at the plight of these animals as we headed out on our walk to the river. They definately lived up to the saying ‘as stubborn as mules’ as they stopped every few minutes to eat anything that took their fancy, or relieve themselves on the path.
Eventually we got to the tributary of the Rio Ariari, the Rio Azul, where we were to start. The Azul was a great 2km section of class IV low volume steep creeking. We all set off together, but with our friend Emilio prefering the Lone Wolf style of paddling, we were quickly reduced to the 4 of us; occasionally catching up with him when there was something of interest!
After an hour we reached the Ariari. A beautiful, steep, technical, big volume class IV/IV+ river in a deep and commiting canyon. At first we were a bit purturbed by the horizon lines and huge boulders but we soon got into the swing of it; boofing, flaring and riding the waves for some sweet lines. However, we had a few interesting moments too: some unintended hole surfing, and an unfortunate swim from Niamh. All too quickly, it seemed, we reached the end of the canyon and the start of easier read and run class III which led us all the way back to Puente Ariari.
We celebrated at the take-out with a big fat sandwich and headed back, victorious, for swim beers. Little did we know that was not the end of the day. Upon arriving back at Rafting Guayuriba we were met with ‘Quieras Fiesta este noche?’ – Do you want to party tonight? Niamh’s face lit up and so we went back to the hostel for a shower and shave, then headed out for a night on the town in Villavicencio. After far too much rum and beer we found a night club that seemed to satify our French and Colombian compadres, but alas, it was too much for poor Fran who fell asleep in the club despite Shakira being on the playlist! Dave, Lowri and Niamh soldiered on and salsa-ed hard until 2am when we all bundled into a taxi for the half hour ride home. Another long but satisfying day in Colombia!