Erik Weihenmayer found himself in an odd situation a few days back. Canoe & Kayak magazine is reporting that Erik was detained by locals in Peru while kayaking down the Marañón River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon River. Weihenmayer is in South America with a group of 20 paddlers training for an attempt on the Grand Canyon next year and the team was mistaken for a group of scouts looking for suitable locations to build a dam on the Marañón. This is a highly controversial plan in Peru that has many of the locals up in arms.
According to the C&K report, the kayaking team was held overnight after being confronted by locals who warned them if they had proceeded further down river they would have been met by hostile villagers at the next location. Fortunately, the situation was resolved when it was revealed the paddling team's leader – James “Rocky” Contos – is a conservationist who is campaigning against damming efforts and has even made a film about the situation.
Weihenmayer is best known as the first blind person to summit Everest, but if you check out his website, you'll see that is just one of his many adventures. Erik has also climbed the rest of the Seven Summits, raced in the Leadville 100, competed in marathons and adventure races and a host of other activities.
After it was determined that the paddlers were not part of a dam survey team they were allowed to go on their way. But the situation underscores how passionate many Peruvians are about this topic. Commercial organizations have reportedly identified 20 locations to build a dam on the river, which will substantially alter its course and the landscapes around it.
These kinds of water rights issues are major points of contentions in South America at the moment. Chile is also facing similar resistance to several of it's rivers as well.