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Episode 76: Kayaking the Amazon from Source to Sea with Darcy Gaechter

podcast Jan 10, 2022

In this episode, Darcy Gaechter joins Sharon to talk about her incredible whitewater kayaking expeditions. Darcy is the first (and only!) woman who has kayaked the Amazon River from its source to the sea. The journey took 148 days and had plenty of misadventures alongside all of the adventure. Darcy lives in Ecuador and runs a kayak tour business, helping others achieve their dreams of whitewater kayaking along the country's beautiful, winding rivers. Listen in as Darcy shares how her adventures have been successful through skill, perseverance, and learning the balance between planning ahead and improvising on-the-go. 

Links to Full Episode:

This Episode Will Teach You:

  • Darcy’s 148-day journey kayaking the Amazon River
  • The difference between flat water kayaking and whitewater kayaking
  • How long the group traveled during the days
  • What they would eat and how they would camp for the evenings
  • The animals they saw, like scarlet ibis flocks and 
  • How the Atlantic Ocean tides affected their journey
  • How the group went to the bathroom during their trip, and why they did so in the dark
  • The wideness of the Amazon River at the mouth of the ocean
  • How to change our own mental fortitude when we can't control external experiences

3 Biggest Takeaways:

  • Darcy Gaechter was the first woman to kayak the Amazon river from its source in Peru to the sea in Brazil. The journey took over 4,300 miles. After her adventure, she wrote a book about her experience, titled Amazon Woman. Darcy runs a whitewater kayaking guide company in Ecuador during the winter months where there is the highest concentration of rivers per square kilometer of any country in the world. Darcy loves that kayaking has been a gateway to meeting new people and traveling to places across the globe.
  • At first, Darcy did not set out to achieve a giant adventure first by kayaking the Amazon. Instead, she had a client, Midge, who decided to kayak the Amazon River though he had no previous experience. As Darcy and her boyfriend taught Midge how to kayak and navigate, he invited them to accompany him. She took her chance at getting a first. There were so many moving parts and logistics that Darcy and the team had to walk a fine line between careful planning and on-the-fly improvising. During the expedition, they kayaked anywhere from 6-10 hours a day, starting in high elevation with whitewater conditions and traveling downward toward more populated sections of the river with flat water.
  • Part of the journey took the group through the Amazon’s “red zone”, where it can get dangerous because of illegal logging and drug trafficking but they had relatively smooth rides until they got to the end stretch. The tides of the Atlantic Ocean move up through the Amazon river about 600 miles, meaning that, during high tide, the group had to paddle with more intention or risk getting blown back up the river. Alternatively, they would have to wait for several hours for the tide to retreat so they could continue their journey. The Amazon River is 250 miles wide at its mouth.

About the Guest:

Darcy Gaechter is the first and only woman to kayak the Amazon River from source to sea and is the author of Amazon Woman which is an adventure memoir about the experience. She has been whitewater kayaking for twenty-one years and, for the past fifteen years, she has been considered one of the world’s best female kayakers and one of the most accomplished expedition kayakers. She has won whitewater kayaking races throughout the world, and has participated in and led kayaking expeditions in eighteen different countries. In addition, she has been a kayak, raft and adventure travel guide for two decades and has owned and operated two kayak guiding businesses. She currently spends half the year in Ecuador running Small World Adventures and showing kayakers down some of her favorite rivers in the world.

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