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Rio Altamachi Expedition 2011 first ever descent

Participants: Maciej Tarasin - expedition leader, Natasza Szałajska & Bolivian guide Waldo
Distance covered: over 250 km from San Agustin abandoned settlement
to Rio Cotacajes confluence with Rio Santa Elena
Equipment: Inner tubes, balsa tree & ropes


Excerpts from the expedition report:

"…Well aware of the fact that the Bolivian part of Amazonia is comparatively less threatened by deforestation and the wildest, it was there that I sought the river of my dreams and found the Rio Altamachi. On one side it is flanked by the Cordillera de Cocapata, and on the other by the Cordillera de Mosetenes. There are no towns or villages; just mountains and the jungle. I came across the blog of the Mosetenes—a group of Bolivian enthusiasts and treasure hunters who explore on foot the valleys of the Tres Tetillas, the Altamachi and the Moleto. There, you can read the mind-boggling stories of the treasures hidden by the Jesuits. The site also features a few rather poor-quality photographs of the Altamachi…"


"…Such difficult and dangerous moments are followed by moments of sheer pleasure when we take time to admire the yungas and enjoy watching wild animals. Yellow-tailed birds and multi-colored parrots fly low, barely above our heads, trying to chirp one another down. After the moments of tranquility, it is time to struggle. One of the struggles ends up in Natasza closely missing the raft. As a result, she is pulled between two boulders holding desperately to the wooden parts of the raft. Her thighs look pretty raw, tears and terror in her face, having experienced the power of the river. But she is fine. We pull her up onto the raft and continue our mission. The day of revelation is May 24 - my birthday. We are 30 km away from the point at which the Altamachi flows into the Santa Elena River. However, it is 30 km of whitewater in a powerful canyon with rocky walls that are seriously clogged by debris from the little tributaries pouring through the thick jungle. Wherever an even barely visible rivulet joins the mother river, there are huge boulders, rounded off rocks and shattered tree branches of immense sizes lying about in a mess. Miraculously, we float through the most difficult places suffering no bodily injury or any other damage. The next day we are relaxed, which soon has its unpleasant consequences. First, I fly off the raft as if blown away by a powerful gust just as we are halfway through the passage between two boulders as huge as delivery trucks. I manage to cling on to the raft with one hand and haul myself back on. I hold tight to my paddle. A paddle is a sacred thing. Then a moment later, the raft is hoisted into a vertical position by the powerful waves and subsequently gets turned upside down. We swim to the bank quickly to set it right before the next rapids, which we can see a few dozen meters ahead. We restore the raft to its proper position and, to our surprise, we notice a sort of a makeshift camp 200 meters away on the right side of the river. On seeing the smoke from the camp fire we realize that, after seven days spent in the great wilderness, we are going to see human beings again…".

Full report

Polish version

© Maciej Tarasin.
Created by: sakowww.com
Rio Altamachi Expedition 2011
Photo: Natasza Szałajska