so, we made the 10 hour drive from santiago to pucon last wednesday night. this was our first real performance test for the car, and i have to say that i am still impressed. i am also impressed by the quality of the roads down here. this can probably be attributed to the hefty tolls ($3.50 x 10 toll booths between santiago and pucon!). we rolled into town around 3:00am, and poached a sweet campsite on one of the black sand beaches that line the enormous lake in pucon.
pucon is rad. huge mountains surround the town with a giant, snowy, smoking volcano stealing most of the attention. steep creeks scream down these mountains in every direction this time of year.
day one (thursday aka ¨bloody thursday¨) - alex, kyle and i met up with lane, capo, ian, and john downtown. rodrigo, a local boater who runs the kayak shop in town, took us to the rio puesco. the puesco was really really high, and i opted to wait for something a little more mellow for my intro to chilean whitewater. it turned out i should have gone paddling, because a local carabinero (policeman) stopped and told me that my friends and i were trespassing because we did not get permission from the national park. it was a mess. he forced me in his truck, threatened to arrest me, and made me wait with him (he was not afraid to show his gun) until the boys got off the river. kyle swam and nearly lost his boat. capo went after it and almost ended up in a class vi gorge by himself below the takeout. the police guy made us all go to the station and sign some kind of admission of guilt, but we were not charged with any official crime. turned out to be a simple case of a bored cop in a small town. definitely exciting for me.
we left the police station and headed for the rio palguin. the palguin is kind of the gem of chilean creeking, at least around pucon. it is only 20 minutes from town, and its 3 sections of whitewater pack in multiple waterfalls, boulder drops, and scary portages. ian garcia and john meyers (sp??) have been down here before, and they were eager to show us the goods. the middle section rocks hard with a 20 footer, followed by a scary double drop that consists of a 10 footer that lands in a room and then exits into a 35 footer, followed by a clean, vertical 50 footer. the water was super high. ian, john, rodrigo, and alex decided to fire up the 35 footer by launching in just above the lip. rodrigo lost his paddle at the bottom, had his helmet ripped off and was forced to swim just above the lip of the 50 footer. his boat ran the drop without him, but he managed to claw his way out with only a bloody finger. the other boys had clean lines.
alex decided to walk around the 50 footer, but ian and john were fired up to run it. ian´s line was clean, but john accidentally boofed out and landed completely flat. it was a horrifying moment, because we all feared that he had injured his back. luckily, the pool is very aerated, and his back is fine, but his nose smashed against the cockpit rim of his kayak and took a bit of a hit. bloody, but not broken.
we spent friday and saturday paddling two more fun rivers without any carnage. last night we all feasted chilean style (big barbeque, lots of different kinds of meat and bread). we returned to the palguin today with the addition of trip jennings and andy maser to run the upper section; it was super fun and stout with the extra water. good lines and good times. we may go back to check out the middle again in the morning.
we are all sharing a cabin at rodrigo´s father´s vacation rental property where we can safely keep our gear, cook, shower, and sleep. rodrigo and his girlfriend emma are both extremely generous and a really fun people to hang with down here. great spanish tutors, too.
i can´t wait to see where we go next. sorry about the rushed writing. i´m still working on the pictures...