Shit, shit,shit your pants, gently down the stream

Trip Start Jun 13, 2012
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Trip End Jun 14, 2013


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Flag of Chile  , Lake District,
Monday, January 28, 2013

Up until now, throughout my world travels around the globe there has been one country super conxious about keeping it's country clear of anything that could contain forighen bacterias, which could damage the country's eco system. Fruit, vegetable, gravel, seeds, you name it. Australia's airports are the most pedantic of all, but in this entry I am not discussing Australia but Chile. This pedanticness was exactly what Funny, Tonio and I were preparing for the day before we set off for Chile. A clearing of food was being taken plane. We ate everything so that there wouldnt be any problems at the strict border. When we arrived in the morning I was eating the last vegetable I had. A carrot. For some reason on the Argentinean side I was getting the looks and being questioned if I like the carrot (I doubt the official was making a homosexual reference but you never know), and on the Chilean side, Nothing. A quick question of "What is in you bag", "Cloths" and we were in. WHAT???!!! I was about to demand a refund for the food I consumed rappidly and without being hungery but suddenly I got called from the bus which was about to leave without me
A 10 KM south-west drive on a bus which awaited us on the chilean side, and we arrived at the little "Kibbutz" of Futaleufu. A 1000 people cute tiny town structured in grids, and made up of only wooden houses bulky like it was the 18th century, with a charming plaza in the middle concentrating basically ALL the important facilities humans are in need of in the 21st century. A bank, and a tourist information desk. 

 The bus dropped us off at a hostel. Apparently the bus works for the hostel (Great business idea), and right away some teenager came up and said; "Achi, Rafting?" it was a reminder that I have arrived to the second best river for rafting in the world, second only to the mighty Zambizi in southern Africa. I noted the option, but had others things to do. As we headed towards the information centre we realized money was going to be a great issue here, not only becuase it is expensive but mainly because the only bank in town doesn't expept Visa, and Vsa was the only card we all had. "Mierd" Tonio said when Daniella from the tourist infomation desk explained that the next place with a bank that accepts visa would be 350 KM south. For an hour we all sat in the plaza trying to figure our plan. I had cash but only Argentinean Pesos, they had neither, and were in much more trouble. "Why did no one inform us of this in Argentina?" Funny asked. A very reasonable question seeing the amount of preparation we were given about the food issue was enough to invaid a 3rd world county and take over the fruit and vegtable industry. Two Israeli dudes joined our circle in the street and helped me greatly by withdrawing a sufficient amount of Chilean Pessos and changing them for Argentinean with me. So I was set. The Frenchmen, well we set off to find a nice place to put up our tents near the river and take it easy. "Enjoy our trip why don't we?"

 So peaceful at the riverbed, it was so peaceful that we all fell asleep under the warm sun. My ants in my pants woke me up and I informed the charming couple I was off to explore. "I am not sure when I shal return, but I shall return with food" I told them in Spanish, seeing that was the language we all comunicated in. I headed up towards the "La Vandera" a hill overlooking the town just a 45 minute hike.  Prefect I told Daniella, "Nos vemos en un rato". And I was off. The view from above was beautiful. I could see the structure of the little town, and how much it resembled a Kibbutz back home. People walking around with trolies filled with kids, an odd tourist wondering around the many identical houses in search of a rafting company, actualy that was me the next day, but I am pretty sure I did see someone. Surronuding the town were two tall mountains with snow on top, and a blue wide river cruising alongside the town heading south. Behind me a green vally with an odd cottage or two, and many trees, pines covering the grassless ereas. A perfect moment to wip out my.... Book, sit down on one of rocks and read more about Patagonia, my book which I purchased in Israel 8 months ago, and finally understood what the whole fuss is about it.

 The next morning they left back to Argentina, we planned to meet up in El Chalten my ending point of the Caretera Austral through Chile, and they were going to hitch rides its equivelnt, Argentinean route 40. Sad, but also happy. Happy to be alone again, and to be able to adventure as I please. I sat on top of a rock right above the river and admired the beauty. As two kayakers came down I knew what I had to do. I packed up my equipment and headed back up to town through the bushes and trees to find myself a rafting trip for the afternoon. It was not an easy decision seeing I had been traumatized together with my entire family in the Zambizi as we took on the mighty river and almost died. At the time I couldn't find mum for minutes which seemed like years and ever since I have stayed away from the white rappids fearing death. "I gotta do it, I just gotta" I decided.

Prices for world class extreme excursions are ridiculesly expensive as one would imagine, therefor deciding I was gonna do it meant I have to do a little survey in order to understand the prices, the packages etc. Time for my good old Koda travel business card. I headed towards that first hostel from the day before with some information and prices from another company seeing the kid was keen to get the Israeli. "Yalla Achi, Rafting?" he approached. "Shalom, Ma shlomcha?" I responded and saw him become all confused. He told me I was about to experience the best 4.5 hours of my life." Why 4.5? The other companies sell for an hour and a half". "We have a special excursion today and it's only 70,000 pesos" = 140$. Jesus Christ. Within a second my card was out and the boy was on the phone with the boss. 45,000 is the lowest. Done. When? Now.

Seeing I was going to be on the road for a week or so I had to sort out my flights. I got on the phone hoping it would be a matter of minutes. Unfortunately it was 25 minutes of anguish having to apologize to the other tourists waiting only for me, being pissed off by Jorge from LAN who gave me a run for my money litteraly, but finally I had changed over my flights. My South America trip had been extend until the 11th of March. Bullseye! Half a year exactly in the incredible continent. Listo! (I wasn't very happy at the time seeing I got charged extra, and the staff that was awaiting me wanted to tear me apart, but in retrospect pretty pleased about it)

 Not knowing what I was in for, I was surprised to see wetsuits awaiting us together with a staff of 6 accompanying us 6 tourists. It was more serious then I expected, and I was reassured and pleased to see the amount of professionalism that Patagonia Azul had. Together with a German girl and 4 locals from santiago we were debriefed by Muller our guide who was sitting on his plank/chair like a true captain. Instructions were given out in Spanish, and I was having a taugh time following it seeing it was fast and in Chilean slang and accent, nonetheless I managed and was asked to sit in front of the raft seeing the little amount of muscles I still had were enough to be the leader of the left plank. 
Half an hour of practicing the commands in Spanish down the tranquil Rio Azul until we met up with the mighty Rio Futaleufu. Time to level up, enough with the games. Our first big rapid was a class 5 rapid by the name of Terminator. "Great" I thought to myself. Sarcastically. "Why did I sign up to this trip??" going down the rappid I was totally oblivious of the commands and of my responsibilities flashbacks from the Zambizi were coming back and I was so enclosed by the huge rapids and white froth everywhere that as we arrived to calm water at the bottom of the rapid I got told off as if I almost caused us all to die. "You have one more chance" I was told by Muller in a super serious tone. Shit, this is serious business I thought and quickly reassured everyone that I am back on track and that I just need Fernanda behind me to repeat the command lowdly because going down level 5 rappids is not easy to hear much. Our next rapid was The Himalaya. As the name suggests it was made up of a range of rapids all turning into big waves that surfers would kill for. When we went down my heart pissed it's pants. The water turned completely white, we were pushed up high only to hit the water back down with a big splash time after time after time. Both holding on for dear life, listening carefully to the instructions in Spanish "adelante, alto, adelante..." and paddling as hard as I could we survived. What a relief! I was ready to get off and eat. But I had 3 hours to go. Holy shit. From then on until the end I was more confident yet much colder. The cold water from the snow above together with my anxiety got me shivering non stop. Pedro the boss who was on his Cat rapht making sure we were all gonna survive gave us wind and water proof jackets which did the job wuite rappidly. Down we continued, through the more technical rapids we all worked as a team. I heard the commands, everyone followed and rapid by rapid we became that much closer to be the first international team to participate in the World championship of rafting. At the end of the very tiering day we were all very pleased. Pleased to have survived but really just pleased to eat the pasta and cookies that was set up by Pedro by the riverbed for us. High fives were given out and within an hour it was time to part. I took my luggage parted from the group and was left stranded in the middle of the dirt path leading to the famous Caretera Aaustral. 
After 2 hours of waiting, only three cars passing and ignoring my pleads and the fact that the it was around 19:00 I came to a conclusion that it was only natural for me to spend my night sleeping side by side with my beloved Futaleufu river. We corresed with passion as I closed my eyes listening to the rapids in the distance.

 For those of you who are interested, "Patagonia Azul adventure trip" are a company run by Pedro who told me that most important for him is the safety and staff. And to tell you the truth, safety wise I give them the full 10 points. Staff wise, they could do better, at least with Muller and that annoying kid.. "Let the truth be told!" a great experience overall, and thankfully I am alive to tell it. 
Pedro Aguirre cerda 436, 65-721424, patagoniaazul@hotmail.com
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