late afternoon we were ready to launch. Spelius
and his Chilean wife, Rosie, took the lead in
their German double kayak. One by one we pushed
off into the fast-flowing river. We were soon
racing along faster than I had ever traveled in
a sea kayak before. The tangle of thick temperate
rain forest along the river's banks appeared to
flash by. We scanned the river ahead for sandbars
and other obstructions while at the same time
trying to take in the breathtaking vistas that
opened up around every turn.
I noticed a disturbing change on the lake's surface
in the distance. “Kinsey, look!” I said, pointing
with my paddle toward a distinct dark line on
the water. A powerful wind shear was quickly bearing
down on us. “Get ready,” I shouted. I snatched
my water bottle and wool cap from beneath the
deck bungee cords and stuffed them into the cockpit.
I snapped my sprayskirt back in place just in
wind slammed into us, and with amazing suddenness
the placid lake transformed into rolling whitecaps.
Two-foot-high waves broke over the bow and stuck
me full in the chest. “Rudder right,” I yelled
back to Kinsey. We headed closer to shore, hoping
for more protection from the squall.
The next morning the wind had vanished, and the
lake was transformed back to the tranquil state
of the previous morning. The Andes were reflected
in the lake's near-perfect mirror surface. We
slipped into our kayaks and continued paddling
west through the mountains, toward the distant