Moving South from Santiago, we arrived in the Chilean lake district and made ourselves comfortable in the small town of Pucon. Coming here because we´d heard of a day trek up a snow covered volcano, we figured this was a good place to start our journey into Patagonia.
Unfortunately, the volcano was not meant to be. For what wasn’t the first and surely won’t be the last, the weather wasn’t going to cooperate with us. When we arrived in town we were told that it would be at least 3 days until we could go and do the volcano on account of the weather. And by weather they meant “rain”, heavy, continuous rain.
With our chances of hiking the volcano slipping away with every subsequent rain drop, we made the best of the town and headed out to do some mountain biking. A day of mountain biking on some rather nice, well tuned bikes…the first time we´ve had that combination on this trip, and we were back to our usual selves. Despite getting caught in the rain, biking through the hills on the gravel roads was a real treat after so long on a bus. We did a 35km loop around the surrounding country, including a set of waterfalls called Ojos de Aguas. Usually small waterfalls, the turbulent and swift moving water was anything but reassuring for our next activity, some whitewater kayaking.
I know what you’re thinking. Usually when we write a whitewater kayaking post it details a story that makes our mothers cringe. Have no fear mom, this story has a very happy ending.
Not since my terrible time in Ecuador several months ago have I been back in a boat. Those memories were still quite ummm.. prominent as were Jill´s of her rough times in Mexico. The warning from the outfitter…”we´ve had a lot of rain so the river is quite high” had us nervous, but she assured us the river was still Class III which was important to us as we were looking to regain some lost confidence. We regained some confidence alright, but the river was not at Class III.
The recent rains had put the river into flood stage. We spent the first half of the two hour trip floating down fast moving, flat water…just taking the time to adjust to the boats and get comfortable. As we approached the first of the rapids though, it was clear that this was not going to be the easy day we were expecting.
Relating our trip rapid by rapid would be impossible. Literally. The water was moving so fast that there were no breaks between the rapids so really it was all just one giant 7k rapid. We had expected the whitewater portion to take 45 minutes to an hour. I think in the end it took less than half that but it felt like even less still. At one point Jill spun her kayak around upstream (or was that by accident) and her wide-eyed “oh my god” face told it all. Crashing through the ice cold waves (this is glacier melt people!), we didn’t have a second of relief until we were on dry land. Scared the entire time we made it through without so much as a tip over. Neither of us needed to use our roll and this was by far the biggest water we´d ever been in. As we pulled the boats out of the water, our guide asked us if we had fun. “Yes,” Jill replied. “But I don’t want to do it again!”
I’m not actually sure if it was a stroke of luck or actual improvement of our skills, but we took it for what it was…a successful day on the river.