Its been cancelled, our flight from Madrid to Santiago, Nick said. We were both tired and really could do with out this. Thankfully after being patient and talking with Iberia, they managed to get us on a flight that evening, so we were back on track!
Before I go much further, I would like to say a BIG thanks to Pueblito Expediciones, for inviting me out to Chile, to work on the 3rd Sea Kayak Symposium. Its a long way to travel, from the UK (30+ hours) so creating other plans and adventures, is essential for me.
After an evening in Valdivia, catching up with Kate Hives, the plan was to get a bus to Pucon and then on to Puesco Fest. A festival of whitewater paddling, local culture and supporting Patagonia without Dams. The event was in a super and beautiful location, great campsite with fire fits shared around the site. The white water we saw was extreme, so i for one was happy to soak up the atmosphere of the event. Evenings were taken up with live music, with a strong Reggae influence.
Back in Pucon and the lovely Ecole hostel, which served vegetarian meals with breakfast, lunches and dinners. In town but set a few blocks back from the main street. Ben from Kayak Chile had hired kayaks to Kate and Nick, the previous year. So after a few words we had kayaks, a driver and a van to drop us on the river and pick us up. Perfect!
Rio Liucura and the Rio Trancura, lower and upper were run over the following three days and a good mix from class 2-4. It was good for me to cover familiar ground again and work on getting a more accurate line, from a previous day. I was on a steep learning curve, that was for sure. Everything was faster, bigger and words such as 'pushy' became common place. Nick below.
Day four and Ben said he and a few buddies were off to do the Rio Machin a class IV, 7km. River running, amazing canyons and with some steeper rapids. Would we like to join them .... I was pleased with my progress and felt we had been working really well as a team. I won't know otherwise, so lets do it!
The Rio Machin had been amazing. Yes I had been scared and excited. I'd walk one short rapid, that looked really awkward. And even after that decision I was still happy with my call. I'd also paddled what felt like the crux rapid, which had taken me a few moments to gain my focus. I new I could make the right to left, must make move. Although what followed was much more hazy. Which probably explains why I landed in a hole and took a moment to roll up!!
A truly beautiful river. Technical and fast and at other times allowing enough time to pause. It was by far the hardest sustained and committing white water I had ever paddled. I was chuffed and tired!!
The following day I had booked to climb Villarica, with a company, as this was now a requirement. That evening was the first clear view of the Volcano towering over the town. Earlier in 2015 there had been an eruption, so the Volcano had been closed. Deciding to open the Volcano had moved very slow for the local companies, but at least there seemed to be a more standardised approach. For example, you could only access the mountain through booking on with a company and no more than 12 people with 3 guides also. I was looking forward to getting my legs working and at 2,800 mt, they were going to get worked!!
It took about 4.5 - 5 hours to get to the top and the view was amazing. It had been tough and I had felt the effects of altitude - feet very heavy, lungs not getting enough air and shuffling forwards. Max 12 people and 3 guides made sure people moved at an appropriate pace. Coming down was a total blast and took about 1.5 hours and is another advantage of going early in the season when there is more snow around. Your given a plastic bum sledge, which you clip into your waist belt. On the steeper sections you slide on the waterproof trousers and as the slope gets gentle, then the bum sledges are sat on and off you zoom. Each person has an ice axe to help control speed. I LOVED IT!!
Id never done a whitewater road trip before and the 4 of us fancied hiring a pick up truck and kayaks off Ben and heading over to the West to paddle the Rio Fuy class 3+ and 4k and then the Rio San Pedro class 3 and 18km.
This is the Rio Fuy from the bridge and the get on is down in the eddy on the right. The guide book said the first section was steeper, then it eased off. This was my 5th white water day and 6th day of action. It was going like a train and all of the other rivers, had begun steady and allowed me time to warm up. This was fast, powerful and I was feeling anxious. My quiet inner voice was saying 'drive the van and run the shuttle' and i tried positive self talk and actually talked my self into running the river. After all its only 4km and I'd paddled harder and much further ....
As i left the eddy, I wasn't happy and then I was hit, by a wave and I was over .... I rolled and paddled hard to the edge of the river and got into another eddy. I looked down river watching the other bounce about. As I left the eddy, wave after wave hit me, it was like i was in a boxing ring and all I could do was take the punches. I was finding it difficult to see any form of line, then I hit a hole. My weight was to far back and my bow went over my head and I got recirculated. What happened next I'm really not sure, but I hung in ... missed another roll and I felt I had moved out of the stopper, I set my self up for another roll and then felt the rocks pressing against me ... time to exit!
I popped up, grabbing my kayak and paddle kicking for the bank. Nick soon had his bow towards me and paddled backwards into the eddy. Few ... my first swim in 5 years!!
For the next 3.5 km Christian and Kate led and Nick worked with me. The end was a relief and I was pleased to have kept it together on the other rapids. Christian below, we met him at Puesco Fest and we all got on well. He was from France and had dovetailed well into the team and was clearly enjoying him self.
That afternoon we drove across to the start of the Rio San Pedro and I reflected back on the day. Was it wise to do the next river? I didn't want to hold my buddies back and create difficulties but it was supposed to be an easier river and it certainly looked like it started gentle!!
Well it was a super nights sleep, really peaceful and a still morning. There was a river gauge and it was reading 1:8 mt, which based on the fact there was others further up the bank, suggested it was not in spate and more like normal conditions?!
I did a load of stretching and had a leisurely breakfast. This worked well. I took my self off 30 mins before every one else and did load of rolls. Working on the belief and understanding that mind and body are linked, so if I can influence my physiology I can also effect my psychology. I got my self into a good place and I felt happy to give it all a go.
Two rapids had been huge. Amazing wave trains, like South Stack race being funnelled into a narrow channel. I just kept looking for my amigos, working hard to see my line and deciding to follow or go more left or right of them. With also an awareness and one eye on any recirculating holes. None appeared that were problematic, and could be easily avoided. Body forward, eyes up and concentrate on the line, was my mantra. I was very pleased to have decided to paddle the Rio San Pedro as it felt like a fitting end to my time before SKPS.http://www.skps.cl
It had been totally amazing and good, to be in that student learning place. Uncomfortable at times with a need to dig deep, but also to be reminded of that inner voice that's often quite and gentle, yet is so knowledgeable.
The four amigos, with Kate, Christian, Nick and my self. Thanks to both Kate and Nick for the white water photos and for sharing a super time in Chile. And enabling me to achieve a BIG tick on my 50 things to do in 50's - paddling ww outside the UK!
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