Monday, February 28, 2005

places to sleep

i'm sure you'd like to hear all about my travelling, but somehow i find it difficult to sum up 37 days in any meaningful way. i could list all the places i went, but that wouldn't really give you much. i could post a map with a drawing of where i went, but again, there's so much lacking on a map (hint: if you actually want me to make said map, i can do so and post it here. just let me know). but i have to do something to satisfy you, so here's an attempt:

leaving santiago, i didn't really know what to expect, but since i am a fan of not expecting anything, that made my life easier. i took a bus from here to pucon. pucon is a really touristy town, just crawling with gringos, but surrounded by some really pretty naturaleza, so i had to visit. the first day there i rented a bike and went to ojos de caburgua, some pretty blue waterfalls. the bike ride was tiring, but nice since i took a dirt back road instead of the highway. the next day there i climbed volcan villarrica and got to see lava and eat lunch inside the crater and all that fun stuff. then i went to puerto varas, with the intention of travelling around the lake to some of the other towns. but instead i ended up heading immediately south to futaleufu, having to stop in puerto montt and chaiten along the way. chaiten is nothing more than a launching point, so i was glad not to stay there for long.

futaleufu was 2 weeks of my trip. a good two weeks without a doubt, but much longer than i had thought i would spend in one place. there i camped behind futaleufu explore, a rafting company owned and run by josh lowry, an excellent kayaker best characterized by his laugh, but since i don't have a recording of it, calling him an old hippie will have to suffice. i became a friend of his as well as of the guides who work there, so i had plenty of people to hang out with. this also obviously made the river trips a lot more fun, and made me feel more secure and thus enjoy the trips even more. i also met a couple of argentine brothers who live in esquel, argentina, just over the border from futa. they came to kayak, and ended up doing some rafting too. it was nice to spend time with them and talk in spanish instead of the english i was forced to use with the guides (who all come from the states, with the exception of matze, who's german, but speaks better english than spanish so there wasn't much difference). i guess i should explain a bit about the rivers i played in. the rio espolon is a really gentle river, not worth rafting in my opinion. so i went down part of it in a kayak twice (first two times in my life, and it showed. i need practice, lots of practice, if i want to call myself a beginning kayaker) and the whole run once in a ducky (inflatable kayak/canoe). kayaking was fun, but a bit rough, and the ducky was fun as well, and really forgiving. however, without a doubt, rafting was the highlight. i went rafting on the rio futaleufu, which is considered one of the best whitewater rivers in the world. by the time i left, i'd run all of the rapids on the river. the most common section, bridge to bridge, i ran 4 or 5 times. it is made up of 15 or so (i don't remember really) class IV, IV+ rapids in close succession. there's room to stop between most of them, if you head for the eddy right away, but it's mostly non-stop action. below the last bridge are 2 class V rapids, Mas o Menos and Casa de Piedra, which i ran twice. Casa is a long, big rapid, with a huge hole at the end. the first time i went through it an oar slipped out of the guide's hand just as we dropped into the final hole, and we turned a bit causing us to flip, making everyone swim, including the guide. luckily it was at the end of the rapid so there was no problem. the second time i went through the guide lost an oar (or maybe both) at the top of the rapid, causing us to come really close to the huge Casa rock, but luckily we were able to keep our line and nothing came of the problem. the rest of the rapids are above the first bridge, a part of the river i only ran once. the furthest upstream is canyon del infierno, a few kilometer long sheer-walled canyon. once inside, the only way out is downstream. it is considered a class V canyon, and with good reason. the rapids are huge and very close together. after the canyon is some flatwater, and then comes two rapids which are unraftable and hence portaged, Zeta (because it's shaped like a Z) and Throne Room. Zeta is very dangerous, with the walls on both sides of the river undercut. the rock there has been turned to swiss cheese by the river. just looking at the rapid was amazing. Throne Room is a huge rapid with one very large rock in the middle of the river at the end. the kayakers love to run it, but it's just to big for a raft. our raft when it was ghosted through flipped three times (ghosted means there's no one in it, just our spirit, so i ended up with a nice, freshly washed spirit). after some more flat water comes the wild mile, a mile of class III-IV rapids that are fun, but not quite as big as the rest of the river. next is Terminator, so called because the first run of the river stopped there. with over 60 holes, i can see why. when we scouted it, i was intimidated to say the least. but i had faith in our team: bret, the guide, the two argentine brothers (who are raft guides on a river similar to the espolon in argentina), me, and another guide paddling with us. we went through the mile-long class V rapid without a problem, so smoothly that i could hardly believe they call it class V. then there are 3 rapids all right next to eachother: Hijo de Terminator, Kyber Pass, and Himalayas, named for the huge 20-foot breaking waves. In style, we went right for the huge waves at the end of Himalaya which give the rapid it's name. the first wave was fine, but we had to highside in the second one (which we did successfully), but then the boat turned into the last wave, leaving us on the lowside struggling to get to the other side. one of the brothers and i made it to the high side and managed to stay in the boat (and maybe keep it from flipping), but bret and the other 2 paddlers got to go for a swim. fun times.

ok, sorry about that raft-geekiness, but i couldn't resist. from futa i went to the island of chiloe where i met up with icha. we spent a couple of days in the national park there, where i saw an unprotected pacific beach with huge waves. we also got to see some native forest, showing the sort of bogginess that used to cover the island before it became rolling farmland which looks like it belongs in england. from there we went to a smaller chilote island and spent the night in the tiny, calm town of achao. then we headed up to puerto varas for icha's mom's birthday since she was there on vacation. then we headed around lago llanquihue to ensenada and up to los saltos de petrohue and lago todos los santos. really pretty water, and good views of volcan osorno, but not as good as the view we got the next day when we went up to the ski lodge, as close as one can get to the top of the volcano without a guide. the volcano is almost a perfect cone, like mt. fuji. from there we continued around the lake to las cascadas and puerto octay, and then back to chiloe to go to the sunday crafts fair in dalcahue where artisans come from all over to sell the stuff they make. a very nice way to spend a sunday morning. then we went to ancud, where i took a trip to see some islands where magellanic and humboldt penguins go to breed. silly little birds, but i have pictures of them now. then we went to valdivia, which has a strong german influence, and finally to icha's grandpa's farm near chillan. he's dead, so her uncle now runs the farm, where they grow wheat, corn, and some really yummy tomatoes.

as you can see, i got tired and stopped putting in details, but you get the picture. it was a fun time, with lots of nice scenery and even nicer people. but it sure is nice not to have to look for a place to sleep at night.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Grandma would like a map!!!