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Feb
13

Chile

Patagonia International Kayak Safari, Argentina & Chile

It is the Rio Futaleufu that inspired this trip, translated it means Big River and it did not disappoint.

Early research via the web revealed that it would be difficult to take our own boats here as we have done on previous trips to other destinations.  It is relativley straight forward to get to Puerto Mont in Chile but from there it’s either a small plane, (no boats) a 13 hour ferry journey or a road trip down through Chile and Argentina to get to the Futa.

E mails to a number of companies revealed that boat hire was possible however it may prove difficult if we only wanted to hire boats, we soon realised that given our two week time constraint we would be best placed booking with one of the outfitters based there.

Numerous emails to all and sundry gathering information and researching possible trips followed, then my mobile rang, number withheld, an American voice asked me if I had had time to consider their e mail reply, Chris Spelius of http://www.exchile.com/ had followed up his earlier e mail with a call to see if he could offer any further assistance. I was impressed. 

Chris suggested sending me a couple a promotional DVDs for us to watch then arrange for  Skype computer conference call when we could all have the opportunity of asking our questions.  The DVDs arrived within the week and soon we were talking to Chris, working through our list of questions and promising to keep in touch via e mail, within a week or so four of us had booked up and paid a deposit.

Flights were booked from Heathrow, via Madrid to Santiago then onto Puerto Mont through LAN.  Although we knew we were going as it was some time away we pretty much pushed the details to the backs of our minds. 

With new year over and done the trip moved very much to the forefront of our minds, January passed quickly and we were on the planes heading south before we knew it.

Meeting Konrad from California and Tony from Minessota at Puerto Mont we discovered that Chris was not there to meet us as planned due to a minor accident however we were soon underway.

A four hour bus journey through the Chilean lake District saw us arrive at the hotel, eat food, drink beer, sleep then breakfast and brief for the trip when we all had the opportunity of outlining our expectations of the holiday.

Our first river was an easy float down the San Pedro with one major rapid, it gave Chris and Fergus the opportunity to assess the groups abilities and tailor the rest of the paddling accordingly.

Day two saw us running the Bridge to Bridge section of the Fuy, a step up from the previous day we were paddling amonngst snow capped Chilean peaks, excellent!

We spend three days based in Choshuenco exploring the three sections of the Fuy, the highlight being the 10 meter Las Leonas Falls.

However the Middle Fuy offers contineous grade 4 paddling and all of us are pumped by the end of the section, we get the opportunity of running it again the following day, the only down side is the walk in.

X Pres running the biggest drop on the middle Fuy

Upper Fuy

A flat lead in to the biggest horizon line any of us have seen sees us plunging to the pool below

There is more to follow as another, smaller, more technical drop lies below.

Up Early on the Thursday morning we leave Choshuenco just after dawn for the short drive to the ferry to Argentina.

We arrive in no mans land between Chile and Argentina and make our way to the border, Pato and Julian our Chiliean all round good guys sort the border crossing out for us and even manage to prevent Tony aka the Minnisota Kid from having and full cavity search as he has left a vital piece of paper behind on his plane journey into the country.

Later in the afternoon the van make noises of a terminal nature, none of us have a clue as to what might be wrong, but it sounds bad (later investigation reveals a dropped valve) 5 hours waiting for another vehicle is spent reading, playing Jellyfish ( a well known card game with a suitably changed name due to minors being present) and swiming in the lake we have coincidentally broken down next to.

Another mininbus arrives allowing us to continue and a Landrover to tow the stricken bus, now I have towed and been towed and I don’t like it, so I take my hat off to Pato and Julian, being towed 3 feet behind the Landy on a fixed bar.  Their nerves are shot to pieces as the Landy takes off like he has to get home before his tea gets fed to the dog, all we see is a cloud of dust and they are gone.

Arriving at our hotel in Bariloche at midnight we manage to get into a restauraunt and order the biggest steaks ever., X pres excels by finishing his own steak and the remnants of two others and is last seen walking down the road mooing loudly whilst being distracted by anything vaguely red in colour.   Before leaving Argentina we paddle the Rio Manso, another country to tick off our list.

The get out on the Manso, on the left of the picture, Chile on the right Argentina and that is the way to bring your boat up from the river

Friday night we arrive in Julians home, he disappears off to see his folks for the first time in three months and is broken the next morning having been out all night with his buddies.

Driving over the high Andes

 

Saturday and we drive across the Andies arriving in Futaleufu in the afternoon and heading down to the camp at the confluence of the Futa and the Rio Azul

Saturday night is disco night in most places and down town Futaleufu is no different, we strutted our stuff into the early hours with the locals at the Chilean equivilant of Ziggys.

Arriving back early Sunday morning it was a somewhat jaded group that hit the Terminator section on the Fu, bigger and faster than it looked we were soon woken up by Asleep at the Wheel, follwed by Pillow, and the opportunity to surf a mid river cushion wave.

Terminator is a BIG rapd, mainline down the centre and it’s 5+, take the sneak route down the left and it’s 4 and its the scariest sneak route any of us have paddled with a combination of moves to make before the bottom and a whole heap of things that could go wrong.

The bottom section of Terminator’s sneak line, I’m following Fergs line through the hazards

H got squirreled round a bit on this run but stays focused, looking where she wants to go

PK gets nibbled, I dropped into the same hole later in the week to take my ticket and my beating, exiting unscathed there are still moves to make before you can eddy out river left

PK making the last move before eddying out next to Fergus

Terminator soon runs down to Khyber Pass, start left of centre working your way right to avoid the two holes river left and sneaking below hole occupying river right

 Then straight into Himalaya and the biggest waves on the river

After this it’s a short paddle to the get out or the beginning of the next Bridge to Bridge section, more contineous than Terminator but without the sheer size of the previous section.

We spend the week paddling the different sections of river, stopping for lunch at the end of the Terminator section before heading down for Bridge to Bridge and the final Mas O Menas to Casa de Piedra section or any combination we feel like.  Fergus is super easy going and the days are tailored pretty much around what you want to do.  Not everyone was up to paddling all the setions of the Fu and the guides took time out to discuss everyones requirements and people were able to paddle easier sections or head into town for coaching from Chris on th Espolon

Chris pitches his trips at grade three paddler so you don’t have to be paddling the hard stuff to go and have a great time, there are lost of other activities that can be arranged, horse riding and rafting to name two and once you have paid your trip money is pretty much all inclusive.  Would we go again, definatley, but not before we have ticked off a few more places on the worldwide paddling map.

Pillow

And Mundaca awaits the unwary a huge flushing hole in the centre of the river at the bottom of the rapid

X Pres nearing the bottom of the rapid and heading for Mundaca

PK about to get well and truly Mundacard

Entering

Mas O Menas

Over the two weeks we paddled

Sunday – San Pedro

Monday – Lower Middle & Lower Fuy

Tuesday – Middle Lower and Upper Fuy

Wednesday – Upper Fuy

 Friday – Rio Manso

 Sunday – Terminator & Azul

Monday – Terminator & Bridge to Bridge

Tuesday – Bridge to Bridge & Mas O Menas

Wednesday – White Mile

Thursday – Terminator, Bridge to Bridge, Mas O Menas & the Azul

Friday – Espolon, Inferno & White Mile

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At the end of the day it was back to the riverside camp to hang your kit up in the drying area

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Then sauna, fire on the beach,  food, wine and beers.

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This was an expensive trip but pound for pound we would say it’s good value for money, paddling so many sections of river would not have been possible had we been self supported, it would have taken us all day to run one section in finding the get ins and outs and sorting out the shuttle.  Add to that a guide on and off the river, the food and accomodation, an excellent package.

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The flight out from Chaiten follows the coastline and affords spectacular views of snow capped glacial volcanoes

PK in Throne, even scarier than the inferno Canyon

Want to know more about the Futalafeu, go on line http://www.exchile.com/ have a look then drop the guys a line.

A huge thank you to Fergus Coffey for guiding, fixing, sorting out the lift from disco and being an all round nice guy.

Ferg boofing the hell out of Las Leonas