Futaleufú! A world-renowned center of whitewater rafting, home to high mountains and grand valleys, and generally just a really cool place to spend three weeks. We came here for two reasons: a trek around Espolón Lake and a week-long rafting trip down the Futaleufú River.
After a few pleasant days acquainting ourselves with the delightful town of Futaleufú, we launched into the trek. Our first stop was a campesino farm accessible only by ferry or mountain trail. We were warmly welcomed by Ervín and got to explore his land and enjoy his small farmhouse, staying the night before catching the ferry to the far end of the lake, a very remote part of the region.
We were lucky enough to spend the next night in the backyard of a rural elementary school and learn about life in the campo with a morning making cheese and gardening. We hiked over a mountain pass and climbed around a beautiful lake to arrive at our our next campsite. That night John made us all brownie scramble, a gourmet backcountry treat!
On our last day, we tackled eight miles, the entire time along a gorgeous lake, witnessing landscape so incredible we all agreed we didn’t want to stop. We got to walk straight from the trek into the hostel, a proud moment. We settled in for a well deserved sleep in the “uni-room,” with three bunk beds for our entire group to live together, and organized our gear in preparation for our journey down the river.
The first two days of the river trip were focused on orientation, learning important knots and rafting terms and the use of the equipment, while simultaneously picking potatoes, herding cattle, milking cows and goats, and enjoying an incredible meal at Don Benny’s farm made entirely of local produce.
On Day 3 our downstream journey commenced! We put our practice into action, going over proper paddling form and making our way through a few Class 3 rapids. Patagonia’s notoriously rainy conditions were not lacking, but in the rafts, a little more water from above only made the trip more exciting.
We camped the next two nights at what some members of the group went so far as to call the most amazing place they had ever been! Some highlights were a giant natural cave to take shelter from the rain, a wood-fired hot tub overlooking the rapid, and the soothing white noise from the river as we slept in two-person, three-walled cabins. Using the site as basecamp, we took a day off of rafting to hike up a neighboring ridge. At the top we were welcomed by a rainbow stretching across the sky, a wonderful reward after the 700-meter climb.
We continued downriver to a campsite overlooking Terminator, considered the biggest commercially-guided rapid in the world. We could not have been in better hands, with five guide boats there in case anything happened. Our last two days brought blue skies and perfect days with more thrilling challenges on the river. Neither raft passed the final rapid perfectly, with one flipping and the other finishing with only half of its original paddlers. IT WAS AWESOME! The guide boats boats immediately picked up the paddlers, though some folks opted to keep swimming. We ended the expedition by sharing a traditional Patagonian asado with the guides as we expressed our gratitude to them. Our drive up the river took us past the same ridge we had hiked along days before, a cool way to reflect on our adventure as we begin to prepare to return to Chile Chico.