SierraRios Marañon trip: Upper Grand Canyon Amazon launch details [Huaraz rendezvous]

Marañon Upper Grand Canyon Amazon: HUARAZ departure: logistical information
This webpage describes details of Marañon trips with redezvous in Huaraz.

For more general info and trip planning stuff, be sure to review the Safety/Health, What to Pack and Foods/Alcohol/Water page. Everyone should be in Huaraz at least one day prior to the departure day, as we generally depart early in the morning. Our group's main rendezvous hotel in Huaraz will be the Mi Casa B&B in Huaraz.  Most information you need to know about the trip can be found on the main UpperGC Marañon and Central+LowerGC Marañón webpages. A list of items you should plan to pack can be found at the WHAT TO PACK page (also found as a link on the left column of the main webpage). Basically, you need to bring your own camping gear and some or all of your own personal paddling gear (PFD, jacket, helmet, skirt, throw-bag). Most items are available to RENT if you'd like to minimize what you travel with. Just let Rocky know if you'd like to reserve some of those items.   

Be sure to fill out the questionaire regarding medical problems, food restrictions, and other requests. You can see the typical foods we bring on the trip at the Foods/Alcohol/Water page.  For most of the trip we'll provide 1 can of beverage per day. We can bring more than 1 can/day/person on this trip even from the start, but you'll have to pay extra for it. Below are some relevant contact numbers: 

It is best to contact Rocky by email with any questions/concerns. Contact numbers are below. During the trip messages can be sent by or to anyone in the group via the appropriate satellite phone [note that Peru's country code is +51; the USA country code is +1; satellite phones have their own code +011]:

Rocky cell (Peru): +51 950 730 797  
Rocky cell (USA):  +1 206 484 5820
Pedro Peña cell (Peru): +51  997 813 827 
Satellite phone#1: 011 870 776 308 910
Satellite phone#2: 011 870 771 001 899
Rocky email:

For launches on the Upper Grand Canyon Amazon of Río Marañón (near the Río Puchka confluence), the official trip rendezvous point is Huaraz, a charming colonial city high in the Andes with lots to offer the adventurous traveller. Huaraz is a major destination of the Andes for trekkers and climbers, as it lies just below the highest tropical mountains in the world, including Huascarán. You might consider doing several days trekking before the trip, such as up to the Cordillera Huayhuash (one of the principal sources of the Amazon), and kayaking Ríos Santa or Puchka (class III-IV). Río Santa goes through Huaraz and is a fun class III-IV river. Though it is trashy and polluted in the city of Huaraz, the section above the city is still a relatively clean fine easier river to test out your kayak. Also, you might consider going to Chavin de Huantar to visit the ruins and soak in the hot springs there (check with the trip planner if the whole group is planning on this stop enroute to the put-in). You could easily spend several days in various activities around Huaraz.

Most international flights will land you in Lima. To get to Huaraz from Lima, you can fly (1 hr) or take a bus (8 hr).  Flights are only operated by LCPeru and generally depart early in the morning (e.g., 5:30am, 7:00am, 8:25 am; cost ~$121).  There are two primary bus companies servicing Huaraz with ~8 hr rides ($11-32). Price differences reflect the seat type: regular economico seats, semi-reclining semi-cama seats, and sometimes full-reclining cama seats. Note that many buses have mixed economico and semi-cama seats; others may have all cama seats. Buses usually depart in the morning or night from central Lima (generally La Victoria), but if you are planning to minimize time in Lima and go to the bus diectly from the airport, it is better to get your ticket and depart from Plaza Norte, a station closer to the airport and to Huaraz. Plaza Norte is a stop enroute to Huaraz for most buses departing from Lima and cuts off 40-50 minutes of Lima traffic from the ride. You can check on the bus schedules by click the links below for three of the main carriers:

Movil Tours (Paseo de la República 749, La Victoria; tel: 332-0004) has departures throughout day: e.g., 8:00am, 9:40am, 10:10am, 10:30am; 1:00pm, 9:40pm, 10:30pm; [40NS for economico seat; 60NS-80NS VIP semi-cama o cama; not all buses have all types of seats - be sure to check each seat type for the departure times available].

Transportes Linea (Javier Prado Oeste 1109, La Victoria) has a departure at 10:15pm.

Cruz del Sur (Javier Prado & Arriola, La Victoria) has departures usually 11:00am and 10:30pm from Javier Prado; $11-32 depending on seat type 

If you're going by bus, you generally can buy your ticket at the bus stations, which are close to the center of Lima. It's best to arrive >1 hr prior to departure. It's possible to purchase your ticket and reserve your seat online, but sometimes the online sites won't process foreign credit cards. If you are going from the airport to the bus terminal, it should cost about a 40NS taxi ride ($15) taxi ride. All taxi drivers know these streets and bus terminals.  

In Huaraz, our main rendezvous hostel will be at Mi Casa ("My House") run by Patty Ames, located at Avenida 27 de noviembre 773, a few blocks from the plaza and 1.1 km from the Movil Tours bus stop (see map) [tel: 051-43-423375; email:]. The gear is stored there, and this is where the guides will be staying and organizing some gear/food. If you'd like to stay there, double rooms with two beds cost 80NS ($29) with breakfast, or 70NS ($25) without breakfast. Mi Casa has 13 beds, most in double rooms (two beds in a room). Since some of you may be arriving earlier than others and some of you may decide to stay elsewhere, you should send Patty an email to reserve your room - or if you're solo but would like to share a room with someone, let me know and I'll get you together with someone else from our group. Each person is responsible for paying Patty for their room. There are other accommodation options - see list here. If you stay somewhere else, just know that we will have a pre-trip meeting at Mi Casa at 7 pm (with some drinks) the day before departure day, so be at Mi Casa then. I general, we will leave in the bus/van on departure day at 7 am.

Before we depart for the river, you can leave a bag (such as a suitcase) to be sent to Lima to be waiting for you after the expedition - or alternatively sent to Bagua Chica where you can pick up when you get off the river. There is a small fee for this transport of a package (encomienda), which you pay when you pick up. You will need to write on a tag your name, passport #, contact phone # or email, the sending city (Huaraz) and the destination city (Bagua Chica or Lima).

All folks will be flying into Lima and you might want to spend a day there checking it out. You can find general info about Lima on the Lonely Planet website (scroll lower on this site for links to essential info like money, getting around, etc). You can get money in ATMs or by changing in Casas de Cambio. The currency of Peru is the nuevo sol (NS) with a current exchange rate of ~3.0 NS/dollar. There are ATMs in the airport (~3.0 NS/dollar but a fee to use) as well as money changers (but not a good rate of exchange - basically a 5% surcharge). It is better to change larger sums of money at a Casa de Cambio in a city (Miraflores, or even Huaraz). You'll be leaving the airport for somewhere like a hotel in Miraflores, the centro, or Plaza Norte (best place to get on the bus to Huaraz). It's usually a 50NS ($17USD) taxi ride to Miraflores, but you can sometimes get one for less by haggling or if you walk outside the airport lot and catch a taxi on the street. It costs a bit less to the centro (downtown). Miraflores is a bit far from the airport but one of the nicer parts of town to stay in and not too far from the central bus stations to Huaraz.  Nice things to do in Miraflores are to run/walk near the beach or on the cliffs above (maybe paraglide), walk around the center parks, and visit Huaca Pucllana ruins (pre-Inca). You can also consider a visit to the centro with its cathedrals, catecombs, and remains of Pizarro. If visiting the centro, most things there are within walking distance.  You'll have to book your own accommodations in Lima/Miraflores. I put some options below:  

There are various options of hotels/hostels in Miraflores.  You can check out various MIRAFLORES HOTELS/HOSTELS with private rooms. A reasonably priced one is Friend's House (email them at friends ). Other links to check: ; HOSTEL.COM ; LonelyPlanet Hitchhiker's Hostel  ; Albergue Miraflores 

Hotels close to the Lima airport:
If you arrive to Lima late and have a connection early the following morning or just need to pass a night comfortably, the Ramada Costa del Sol hotel is right at the airport in Lima and can easily be walked to, but it is expensive (>$150/night). An alternative hotel much more reasonably priced and within walking distance from the airport is Hotel Mundo Albergue Aeropuerto ($25-$40/night).  If you go with the latter option, walk out of the airport main building to the right to Avenida Faucett, cross the pedestrian bridge, then walk left, make a right on Avenida Tomás Valle, make the next right, and eight streets down on Calle O you'll find the hotel.  There are other hotels near the airport - some less expensive and some with better reviews - but they require a taxi to get to.  Check for hotels in Callao on Taxis can be cheap (10-15NS; $4-6) for short rides but only if you walk outside of the airport parking area to the main Avenida Faucett to catch them.  Getting a taxi within the airport will cost a minimum of ~25NS ($9).

The water levels on the Marañón can affect the difficulty of the river in various ways. While the UpperGC section can be safely rafted even at high flows, some folks may not be as comfortable with it. At higher flows the current is faster, wave trains in rapids go on for longer distances, sometimes giant fightening holes appear, and boils/eddylines/whirlpools get bigger and flip more kayakers (and even rafts sometimes). When deciding on a trip, especially if you want to paddle your own boat, you should consider the general water levels and make an appropriate decision about what you might be comfortable with. Some folks like a river that "feels" big - while others are more comfortable when water levels are lower and rapids are more technical. The river water can be clearish during the dry season (May-Sep) down to Río Rupac (~km 100) but generally be silty during the rest of the year due to runoff from rain. Even when the water is silty, many side streams remain clear, and these as well as springs will continue to provide clear drinking water. If you are doing a trip in the rainy season (Oct-Apr), you can expect to encounter spikes of flow at times, which can lead to flooding of camps.

Many launches based out of Huaraz will be going through the Inner Gorge. This is a tougher section of river that has caused much consternation among paddlers. Although most of the rapids are of similar difficulty to the other sections of the river, two stand out among all (Wasson's Landslide and Llamara), and there are some other sections with long chains of rapids. If someone is not feeling very confident on the river in the UpperGC section during the first ~7 days of the trip, it is possible to skip the Inner Gorge section by getting a ride from Huchus (km 127) to Chagual (km 207) [in fact, the trip leader may mandate it for somone who is having too many flips/swims/problems]. You'd miss 3-4 days on the river, but might still enjoy meeting the people along the way and seeing some more towns. Although on some initial trips we have made the decision to drive around the Inner Gorge and covered the expense, at this point we are well familiar with it at a range of water levels, so a special shuttle around the Inner Gorge will not be covered in the cost of your contribution (i.e., be very honest about your ability levels before signing up). Although taking a ride from Huchus (km 127) to Chagual (km 207) is preferred way to skip the Inner Gorge, you can also get a ride at  Puente Jitaraxan (km 102) or by hiking up out of canyon just before Wasson's (km 154) to Chillia where buses regularly depart to Chagual.  

The most significant obstacle in the entire Grand Canyon Amazon is Wasson's Landslide, a class V (or V+) rapid that is the toughest and most notorious rapid on the raftable section of the Marañon. The rapid was first described by John Wasson in his article about their first descent trip in 1977. This rapid of 200-300 m length provides a serious challenge with steep drops in a boulder garden and then half the river entering a sieve at the end on RL (at least, at lower flows). This danger has prompted me on the previous two trips to request participants to portage some bags through while I and the other guides (and those who are comfortable helping) portage/line the rafts through. I have run kayaks through most or all of the rapid, as it's easier to stay far RR in the lower part.  The flow can greatly change the difficulty of lining and running Wasson's. In general very low flows expose more rocks so it's a bit harder to get heavy rafts past them. Best flows for lining are somewhat medium levels (such as May to early June; and often in October).  The group will have a plan that I'll go over the night before we get to Wasson's, but it will probably involve getting to the rapid very early in the day, stopping to portage bags while everyone scouts the section, kayakers portaging part/all, and then several of the guides and group getting the kayaks and rafts through by rowing/paddling parts and lining others. We usually have folks portage their personal bags becuase there have been problems at times - rafts flipping during the lining, gear falling off, and even a raft getting away (broken rope)! Extra care should be taken for such essential items. After the lining, there are 1-3 more class IVs just downstream (especially beware of the Bitch Hole on RL!) and then more action farther down in the Inner Gorge. You should expect to take most of the day getting through Wasson's. We have made it through by afternoon and then down to the next camp, but this is not usually the case. Often we have been working to very late and end up camping among the rocks at Wasson's (not the greatest camp, but there are some flat spots you can find). PLEASE BE FOREWARNED. This is a difficult section of river.  If you do not think you will be comfortable walking over the boulders around this rapid and possibly portaging your kayak, you will have the option to catch rides around the Inner Gorge section.

Llamara is another class V rapid about 10 km downstream of Wasson's. It is an easier rapid to get through but does still pose a significant challenge, and most boaters portage it. The rapid is sometimes arrived at the day after Wasson's, but also sometimes two days after. It is a very long rapid of ~500 m that starts out class III-IV (where it passes Quebrada Llamara entering on RL), then goes over a steep ledge drop (of ~2 m drop in most places, but can be up to 3 m), and ends with a ~400 m runout of class IV waves/holes in wide river. Most water drops past the ledge of Llamara on the far RR channel into the wall and nasty pillows/holes (not recommended to venture over there!), while there are often 3-4 other channels in the middle and on the right with less water - some of which offer good lines to drop over or boof. While most folks portage Llamara on the left side (not possible on RR), at low to medium river levels the guides and more expert (bold?) folks will run many of the kayaks and rafts through one of these RL channels. At such levels, this rapid does not have as much potential for problems, so we usually keep the gear on the rafts when taking them through. However, when running the ledge, there should be some safety kayakers in the eddy just past the ledge drop who can help out in case a raft does have a problem. If you are portaging the rapid, you will have to cross Río Llamara, which has a significant amount of water. During lower water times of the year, I've found it best to cross right by the mouth to the main river, but you can also find spots farther upstream. At high water times of the year, someone bold should paddle just downstream to provide a rope for support of folks crossing the creek on foot. I've noticed that about half of boaters want to portage a bit more of the rapid downstream of the ledge, while others are comfortable running the long class IV runout. Guides generally paddle or row some of the boats for portaging folks down to a point where it is less intimidating. Note that just downstream and around the right bend from Llamara is another stout class IV rapid: Pinto. This is usually best run on RR (low flows) though at medium levels it can be better to go on RR.

On the last trips I had requests from folks living along the river (especially for folks in Balsas, Mendán, Tupén Grande, and Awajún villages) for more toys, clothing, camping gear, and even old laptops to be donated. You might also consider printing/bringing shirts/caps/other items with anti-dam slogans such as "Marañón Sin Represas".  Please consider bringing and donating items - it will be greatly appreciated.  I can send these items down to Cajamarca or Bagua/Jaén for us to pick up later so we don't have to carry them on most of the trip.

Liability: Each paticipant must realize that whitewater river expeditions involve certain inherent risks and must agree to voluntarily assume those risks. Also, each partipant in charge of a raft, kayak, or other SierraRios LLC gear is responsible for any damage or loss that occurs while the equipment is in their control. We require all participants on SierraRios LLC trips to sign a liability acknowledgement form. We will also ask you to fill out a participant information sheet with emergency contact information, allergy and health issues, and various preferences.

Traveler's Insurance: We strongly recommend that you get a travel insurance policy that covers emergency evacuations, medical treatment, theft, loss of equipment, and missed flights that might arise during your travel abroad. You can find such insurance policies through Squaremouth, Travelguard, and Travelsafe. You are responsible for your own equipment loss, missed flights, evacuation or medical costs before and during the expedition.

Crisis plan: In general, on this river we'll never be very far from trails/roads out, so in the event of incapacitating but non-life threatening injuries, the plan will be to raft the person to the nearest point out and arrange a ride to the nearest city/hospital. In some cases, we may build a litter and carry the person to the nearest road. With exceptional injuries/circumstances or life-threatening conditions, we may use the satellite phone to contact the nearest government officials with access to a helicopter and request an air evacuation. SierraRios LLC is not responsible for evacuation or medical costs incurred for problems arising during the expedition.

Safety/Repair Items:  There will be two spare kayak paddles, raft patch kits and material, duct tape/Gorilla tape, and 1-2 spare oars for each raft.  Each raft will have a 100' bow line.  There will be at least one Z-drag setup (bring one if you have it) which might be employed in the event a raft gets stuck somewhere and/or during Wasson's lining.

Electronics: It is possible to recharge electronics possibly at Chagual (~day 11) and certainly at Balsas/Celendin (~day 18) and possibly with a GoalZero solar charger/inverter we might bring along on the trip.

Satellite Phone: For communication we will have a Inmarsat satellite phone on the expedition.  You can make calls anywhere for $1.50/min.  The signal was always very good everywhere checked on the last trips.  Also, some areas on the river have cell phone coverage.  

All maps of the river are marked with rapids and available online (i.e. a "guide") to members of SierraRios with an acknowledgement from you that the access codes or map copies will not be given out to anybody - rather, you have to agree to direct others interested in the maps to the SierraRios website or Rocky.  The links to the maps, various artcles, the film, petition, and trip info are:


You can read/see more about the river and area, and Peru in general at the following (I'll have a lot of these books along on the trip):

Articles about the Marañon:
American Whitewater: Grand Canyon of the Amazon; by Contos
International Rivers: R ío Marañon; by Contos
Canoe & Kayak: Grand Canyon of the Amazon; by Contos

Movie: Aguirre, the Wrath of God  : unforgettable imagery and story
Book: Last Days of the Incas : McQuarrie does a great job describing the conquest of the Incas: Pizarro's defeat of Atahualpa at Cajamarca 
Book: Running the Amazon  : Joe Kane and Piotr Chmielinski with others kayak/raft the Apurimac-Amazon 1987
Book: Three Rivers of the Amazon : Tim Biggs kayaks down Marañon, Urubamba, and Apurimac 2008
Book: Two Against the Amazon  : Brown/Snow and the sources of the Amazon (Marañon) 1953
Book: My Amazon Adventure   Sebastian Snow travels down the Marañon-Amazon from the source (1953)
Book: River of Darkness : Orellana's Amazon first descent voyage of 1540
Book: Lonely Planet Peru: great travel guide

Amazon Source News:
True Source of the Amazon (C&K magazine article now online)
Fastest to the Atlantic Wins (Outside magazine article now online)

AREA: Correct Placement of the Most Distant Source of the Amazon in the Mantaro River Drainage : [scientific article]
La Republica article: (national news of Peru)
National Geographic article (blurb about new source but dissing it somewhat)
Fox News article nonlinonlin
Geography Directions post (something I wrote about the discovery)