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Two Weeks on the Futaleufu...
by Wendy & Andy Laakman - February 1-15, 2003

Wendy: Needless to say, I was a little bit reluctant to come to Chile. Andy was "terrified" when he was last here (his word), meaning I'd be spending 2 weeks with ulcers, overwhelming anxiety and many sleepless nights. Not to mention the fact that it rains frequently, so we'd be camping in a waterlogged tent. And I was just coming off the whole food poisoning thing in New Zealand, making me reluctant to try my hand at Chilean food. But alas, my old adage that I'll try anything once comes into play yet again, and off we go to Chile.

The Futa is like the Grand Canyon of South America. HUGE water (10 to 40 thousand cubic feet per second) is what the river is known for (for comparison sake, most rivers in California run between 500 and 3,000 cfs). Our first week was spent with Brit and Larry, two guys from Wisconsin. Unfortunately it was cold and rainy every day that week. Even worse was the fact that the region had had so much rain that they were spilling water from the local dam to keep it from breaking, meaning that the Futa was consistently running 30-50,000 cfs. The river was too high to kayak safely, so we opted for some class 3 runs on the Rio Azul and Rio Tigre. Week 2 was much better, with 6 straight days of sunny weather (thank you mother nature!!), and a full week spent on the Futa. There was only one other guest and three guides, so we got premium service!

My reluctance went out of the window as soon as we got there. The camp was so incredibly beautiful, the people friendly and fun, and the food amazing! The camp employs a Chilean family to cook and take care of the property, so although we were living in a bubble there, we did get a taste of local culture. My fear of the whitewater dissipated as well, once I learned that I could portage the class 5 rapids. My crowning glory was running the Bridge to Bridge section (solid class 4), putting in below the Entrada rapid (hardest rapid on that section). Huge waves and holes, and 8 class 4 rapids stacked back to back were what that run was all about. Somehow I managed to make it through mostly upright, and also to LOVE it! The waves were so big that they routinely flipped you head over heels with their 12 foot faces. It was basically a week long rollercoaster ride, like if you took every rapid on the Grand Canyon and put them back to back into a continuous section of river. We were already planning our trip back on the last day, since I couldn't get the whitewater out of my head the second we left. If you haven't been and you have any interest in water, the Futa is not to be missed.

View of the Tres Monjas (three nuns) from the camp lodge.  They tower 5000 feet above camp.
What better then a gaggle of boats, and baby kitties to play with?
Morning fog over the Futalafu (Fu) river.  This was the view from camp in the mornings!
Another view of Tres Monjas (three nuns), from the camp beach. Our tent was literally 50 feet up this beach...can't beat the view!
Opening rapid of Inferno Canyon - for perspective, the river is over 200 feet wide at this point! 
This man is proud of this trout.  And he should be, it's HUGE!
The MAN - our host - Chris Spelius
Just another gorgeous lunch spot
Andy :  Two weeks on the Futaleufu is a great way to close out three epic months of kayaking.  It just doesn't get any better than the this river - with its huge (HUGE!) rapids that'll just blow your mind.  Last year - as Wendy so aptly described - I was a tad nervous.  At the top of rapids, I'd usually be cowering in the back of the eddy, hoping nobody would notice me and I'd not have to run the next drop. I can't say all the fear was gone this year, but at least I wanted to run each rapid, even if I was nervous :)  A great two weeks! 
Wendy, seal launching below the Zeta rapid on the upper section.
The group, entering the Entrada rapid, Bridge to Bridge section.
Dayna, one of the guides, illustrating how to penetrate the monstrous Mundaca wave. If you find yourself confronted by this wave (meaning you've blown the better line through the rapid), there is only one thing to do - assume the position. The wave cycles, and you may - or may not - get your "moses ticket" and make it through safely. If your "moses ticket" didn't come in, hold on 'cause you are about to get worked - Futa style.
Dayna, coming off the side of Pillow Rapid. The entire river piles into a gigantic rock. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to aim right for the rock (and associated 10 foot high foam pile), set an aggressive right brace, and try to stay up as you fly around the side of the rock!
The tail end of the wonderful Mundaca rapid.  Good clean fun!
Andy, suiting up for Inferno Canyon.
Looking down at the entrance into Inferno Canyon

Expediciones Chile specializes in adventure travel vacations in Patagonia Chile. Rafting in Chile on the Futaleufu River. Torres del Paine, Cerro FitzRoy trekking in Patagonia. Off season skiing in Chile and Argentina. Equestrian vacations and mountain biking holidays in the Futaleufu Valley. Whitewater kayaking in Chile. Whitewater rafting outdoor guide school. Fly fishing in Patagonia Chile and Argentina. Learn to roll a kayak at the Expediciones Chile kayak school. Eco tours and yoga vacations. Information on the climate of Patagonia, traveling in Patagonia and regional maps.

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