Chile continues with the avocado crew...
The ferry from Puerto Monte to Chaiten takes 11-12 hours. It is one of only two easy ways to get into Patagonia and onto the Rio Futaleufu. Our Ferry was a night ferry, and with the help of a few hands of UNO and a little rum and coke I slept soundly for most of the trip. Waking up with just an hour to go.
When we arrived in Chaiten I was unsure what to expect. We had heard the town had been affected by ash from a nearby Volcano two years previously and that there was not much there. Driving off the boat a heavy white cloud stood over the town. We drove round parts which seemed to be the heart. A school, supermarket, restaurants. But just a few blocks away it was like something out of a zombie movie. Devastated buildings filled with ash, barely standing. Through the heart of it all a new paved road to the next big town. It only takes us thirty minutes of driving to get out of the mist which stood over Chaiten. The view that greeted us was mind blowing. Green grass, tall trees, mountains and volcanoes which made the ones around Pucon seem tiny and pathetic. But also so much dead vegetation, crippled and dead trees all the while on this perfect paved road. The paving didn’t last forever and we eventually slowed onto a dirt road on route to our destination, Futaleufu.
Arriving at our campsite we get settled in organise fresh bread for the mornings, and hit the river for the first time in what feels like forever. The weather is finally hot but this only seemed to make the dust road to the put in of our warm up section ‘Bridge to Campsite’ feel much dustier. The Rio Futaleufu itself was a fantastic shade of blue, the stuff that big volume dreams are made of. We all take turns figuring out the way down and trying desperately to adjust to the different style of paddling than what we had experienced in the north of the country. Marco is suffering from some kind of illness and has spent most of the day feeling bad, he elects to sleep this one off and take a break from kayaking, for today at least.
Futa day two is hot again and we have a fairly solid plan in place. gradually building up to a Todo Futa day later in the week. After a quick stop in the picturesque town of Futaleufu we hit the bridge to end section and luckily we even manage to pick up a hitch hiking local kayaker on the way there who volunteers to drive our shuttle. WINNING. The section deals out some carnage to Marco who takes an unlucky swim as he adapts to the different style of river.
The section is longer and has a couple of noticeably bigger rapids but we take it slow, scouting and working our way down through fantastic waves and chunky holes.
Day three is a slower start and the plan is to head up to the terminator section and finish at the camp. Some of the crew are suffering from tiredness and decide to sit this one out leaving just me and Wookie Joe to head up to the put on and ‘Get her Done’. Taking it slow again we opt for the sneak line on the Terminator. One of the biggest rapids I have ever seen the river is so wide the line looks confusing even from the bank. Right after the sneak we tackle another set of sweet rapids, slightly bigger than the previous day and just as fun. Day Four is scheduled for Todo Futa, from Inferno Canyon to Camp. A long day by anyones standard.
The morning of Day 4 is much greyer and cooler than the other days and I am thankful to have my Kokatat Gore-Tex drysuit with me. There is a palpable tension in the air as we eat breakfast and drink tea. We have organised for our shuttle to be driven by the lovely lady who owns the farm come campsite that we sleep at and cooks us fresh bread every day. Marco has already decided not to do the whole but to meet us at the terminator section put in. At the put on Wee Joe decides he doesn’t really fancy committing to Inferno Canyon either so we hatch a quick plan for the two of them to run the Rio Azul and meet us at the river confluence. We float off on the easy flat paddle to the start of Inferno Canyon. We are all excited and nervous. Wookie Joe has told us the story of how he swam here a year ago and it sits in the back of our minds as we paddle on.
The entrance to Inferno Canyon is tall and ominous, the river constricts into a tall gorge and the grey day only adds to the tension. We scout and dispatch the first rapid pretty quickly, then rally down the second without a problem. The third takes a little more scouting and a lot more climbing to see the rapid. Back to our boats and we all take down the rapid which caught Joe out last year without a hitch. The last rapid is fairly straight forward and we make our way out of the canyon on an adrenaline high through the next flat section before the next big rapid named Zeta. Zeta is really big and we all elect to portage and head on down the flat section to the next big rapid, Throne room.
Throne room is big and takes us a while to scout but I decide to fire it up first. I paddle my line perfectly but it still feels like being a tiny boat in a big stormy sea. As I crash through waves and avoid the big hole I am buzzing and excited to see Pundy go next. As I wait with the Camera he seems to take a long time, we later learn that Pundy had hiked through the bamboo jungle back past his boat and had to swim downstream to get back to it. Anyway Pundy styles the line as well and Wookie Joe has elected to walk. We all rally at the end and grab a quick cookie break before heading through even more flat water to meet with Wee Joe and Marco.
When we meet them it seems they have had a bit of an epic and Marco has taken a couple of swims on the Azul. But they have had a rest and decide it will be fine to continue. At Terminator we take the sneak line again but Marco decides to try and portage altogether. I knew this was a bad idea but was too tired to argue. An hour later and after a lot of climbing back through the forest we eventually find Marco and can continue onwards. One more swim on these rapids from Wee Joe and we eventually make it back to camp. Tired, hungry and so happy.
Photos by Marco, Pundy, Wookie Joe and myself.
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