Dec 6, 2016

Peru - Machu Picchu Kayak Fest

In just its first year, Machu Picchu Kayak Fest was one for the books. After two days of flights and a long shuttle from Cusco I made it to Cocalmayo Lodge, outside Santa Teresa, Peru, just in time to unload my gear and hop in the back of a truck to head into to town for... I wasn't quite sure. We drove a few minutes arriving at the main square and were ushered into town hall where several of the town leaders welcomed all of the kayakers and the event into Santa Teresa. We were greeted with kind smiles full of love and camaraderie. After a full rundown of events for the weekend we were all fed amazing food, prepared in the traditional ways of the Inca. Beef, pork, lamb and chicken, along with potatoes, rice and drink were given to everyone. I immediately realized this was to be a weekend like I had never seen!

Niceto giving the weekend's breakdown
We all went back to the lodge after, danced and had a great time! Sat started off with the timed heats through three different sections: Pro, Expert and Beginner. The Urubamba river has a classic big water feel and was NOT low, each section providing some BIG holes to miss, especially the Pro section! Stacked, tight moves made it a savage slalom between time killers and potential swims. Since this was my first day seeing the river I elected to roll with the safety crew and shoot photos from different spots. If you didn't know the course it would be easy to wind up in one of those holes and a swim would be long and dangerous, no pools here.

some holes out there

Racers launched every 30 seconds or so but the course was long enough some were overtaken by each finish line and everyone was charging hard this weekend! Great to see tough competition and all smiles at the finish line!!


Julio Cesar Baca Vargas charging down the Pro section




racers in other categories, like Joseph, helped with safety when not racing themselves,  for a safe event all around


the Urubamba Valley does not dissappoint





competition was fierce as were the rapids

caliente caliente fuego!


Get stuck in a hole, miss a couple strokes or just get blown offline and you might just get passed. Everyone wanted to win this weekend, but in the end any problems on the river were handled quickly with teamwork. Yeah boys.


Machu Picchu Fest was definitely a community event and it was great to see many locals up and down the river come out to see the races and for us to have a chance to meet and talk with them. Machu Picchu Fest is also a great cause to help raise awareness on issues like conservation, pollution, stewardship and general reverence for el rio e pachamama. The cool thing I'm seeing, especially in the younger generations is that this river culture is spreading and there is less and less of the idea to just throw your trash on the ground, or wash your car in the river, things like that. Baby steps lead to change.

fighting hard through the Expert section












Niceto coming in with that hot hot fire



when you get blown offline, ya might jus' get smoked









After the timed races were complete we all headed to the Boatercross Xtreme course, directly in front of the Colcamayo Aguas Termales. The course began with a 4 meter tall ramp launching directly into a long class IV+ rapid with some poorly placed, uncomfortably large holes. Racers launched two at a time, side by side, from the top of the ramp and straight into the rapid. If you're not first, your LAST!!

you don't have time to miss a stroke

Leo and myself stoked with such an awesome turnout and water level

a few practice launches off the ramp before the event 

Everyone wanted to compete in this event, so I elected to set safety and enjoy the stoke. Can't say enough great things about the community and event. Being only its first year, I am positive Machu Picchu Kayak Fest will only be more as the years pass. That said, I think it was the best kayaking festival I've ever been too. So much friendship and kindness out there, not to mention the quality of the river, race courses, hot springs, lodge and local area. Definitely coming back.

giving awards in town square

Santa Teresa is such a beautiful small mountain town

After a great night of celebrating victories for the racers and for the environment through awareness, Sunday held the Giant Slalom event. The community made a strong showing here and everyone made a great effort setting up and tearing down this one-day portion of the event. Stoked to be apart and to see how legendary this festival becomes. Juanito was definitely here in spirit.






solutions begin with awareness


Everyone played a part this weekend. If they weren't racing they were helping in some way, even with food. The food!!!

knowing there are options is the first step to conservation and good stewardship of Pachamama (mother earth)


Huge thanks go to Sandra de Ugarte Puga, Niceto Yalan Quintana and Leonardo Gonzales Mulanovich for leading the charge for Machu Picchu Kayak Fest, helping raise this awareness and being the motivation for so many others to come together for this incredible and heartfelt event!! Thanks to everyone who participated and made it one to remember. It was great seeing you all and I can't wait to see how next year turns out. #juanlove #doitforyourbrother #wereallbrothersandsisters




Here's a great video wrap up from a talented local videographer, Alexander Estrada. Look him up on the social media sites and give him a like! cheers


MachuPicchu Kayak Fest from Inkacolors Producciones on Vimeo.