We took a one day trip from Quito with Yacu Amu River Adventures. They run a variety of different rivers from Quito and Tena depending on the season and water levels. This particular trip covered the lower Toachi and then a section of the Blanco river after their union. The general area here is almost due west of Quito but the Andes necessitate a substantially longer drive to the south and then back around. The road from Quito to Santo Domingo is probably far more exciting than the river could possibly be. We recommend trying not to pay attention.
Santo Domingo is a sprawling series of traffic rotaries surrounded by Ecuador's most productive agricultural region. While the Toachi isn't exactly in a gorge by the time it passes Santo Domingo, it is relatively remote and there are almost no signs of habitacion along it.
The obligatory waterfall picture while rafting. As you may have noticed, we did not take any of these pictures, so we have to thank Tex - our sweep boater and impromptu photographer - for all of these images.
Another obligatory whitewater trip moment - the optional cliff jumping. This one is a bit challenging to get up to and it's just upstream of the only class IV rapid on the river.
The river itself is excellent whitewater. There seem to be an endless series of wave trains with very little in the way of undercut rocks, strainers or keeper holes. Basically, it's one huge play spot. It would've been fantastic to have our kayak here although it probably wouldn't have passed the strict weight limits on flights within Ecuador.
This is the entrance to El Sapo (the toad) which is the aforementioned class IV rapid. Tex took this picture from an eddy about halfway through looking upstream. Across from him, out of this frame are a series of jagged rocks with less than raft sized openings between them. Our guide, Santiago, assures us from personal experience that some of them are in fact undercut. Realistically though, this is fairly easy passage in a raft and then it's back to lots of fun class III stuff.
Somewhere just above the confluence of the Toachi and the Blanco we spotted a South American river otter. Unfortunately for it, it chose a path that brought it remarkably close to our raft when it next surfaced. If an otter has the ability to look surprised, this one managed it. The character of the river doesn't change noticeably after the Blanco flows in. Both are relatively wide, and nearly all the rapids are a direct result of brief narrowings or sand bars.
Stupid raft tricks. One noticeable thing about these rivers (at least compared to our home whitewater rivers) is the complete lack of other kayakers. Ecuador is undergoing a bit of a whitewater renaissance having recently hosted the world championships. However, Tena is supposedly a much bigger whitewater center. Tena was not easily accessible for us after Tungurahua erupted plus we were a bit out of season, so we'll have to save that report for another trip to Ecuador.