Letter from Stookesberry

'This is one of those opportunities to experience a place that time and progress has left behind'

Chris Korbulic, left, and Ben Stookesberry study the figurative road map. Photo: Darin McQuoid/ darinmcquoid.com

(Ed’s note: Last week, when we saw this video by Ben Stookesberry, we reached out to him for more details. He sent this email instead.)

Finally, after two weeks of extended meetings and film showings in Brazil, the real objective of our trip to Brazil is directly infront of us. I know what you must be thinking and, no, Carnival is still five months out. For Chris Korbulic, Pedro Oliva and I, the real point of our annual reunion in Brazil has always been based on the next big river descent.

The Brazilian wrecking crew: Pedro Oliva, Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic, from left. Photo: Ben Stookesberry collection


Unlike previous years, where we have been traveling to the far ends of this massive country, this time around our destination is located precisely between the two largest cities in Brazil, if not in the world: São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Brazil’s coast hems in a sizable portion of the South Atlantic Ocean and for much of that the Serra do Mar (Sea Mountains) rise up from the coast line, appearing in Rio de Janeiro as the iconic Sugar Loaf and other granite massives. In fact, further down the coast toward São Paulo, these mountains form the largest costal land form in Brasil, extending 40 miles into the interior and peaking out over 6,000 feet in elevation and giving rise to sizable river whose main stem drops 4,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean in just 20 miles: the Rio Mambukaba.

Luckily for Brazil and the outside world, this one-of-a-kind watershed has been completely protected from deforestation and pollution. Unluckily for kayakers, there is limited access and what little access is available is restricted by a national park designation not so different from our Yellowstone. So it is good to have friends in Brazil that know how to pull this mission off and not get thrown in federal prisson.

In fact Pedro was a part of the team that made the first and only descent of the Mambukaba five years ago, following such kayaking visionaries as John Grace, Pat Keller, Andrew Holcombe, Jason Hale, and not to mention Emmy award winning cinematographer Ryan McPherson. But by all accounts it was a nasty, portaged-filled affair with the vast majority of the 72-hour descent spent climbing through some of the densest jungle on earth and running from hummingbird sized wasps.

So why go back? Well, for one thing, we are here at the end of the dry season and the river should be as tame as it is ever going to get. But really, this is one of those opportunities to experience a place that time and progress has left behind, which in theory, is worth a few days of suffering… I will let you know.

Cheers,
Ben Stookesberry

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Stookesberry, Korbulic and Oliva, by the way, are sort of central figures in the whitewater expedition kayaking world, and here on C&K. Find some related Brazilian content below… Meanwhile, last year, the trio starred in a 13-episode Brazilian TV show, “Kaiak,” and now they’re at work on Season 2.

• April 3, 2009: Waterfall World Record: Pedro Comes Clean
• March 22, 2011: Ben Stookesberry Reports from Brazil: 40 Meter Monster
• May 9, 2008: Brazil Paddle Trip with Jesse Coombs, Part 1

Ben Stookesberry speaks with reporters at the Rocky Spirit Film Festival in São Paulo, Brazil, earlier this month. Photo: Ben Stookesberry collection

Geography (and cloud banks) of Rio. Photo: Ben Stookesberry

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