I will mention no names in this post other than my own. You would recognize the names as world class paddlers but my intention is just to relate a boondoggle not to judge or criticize. Every single paddler without exception has their boondoggle days on the river. If all works out well, we laugh afterwards and most importantly, gain wisdom from what we've learned. Here's the story.
My first guide was great! You would know his name if I told you. After a fun run on the Lower Trancura at a higher level with him he wanted to show me the Upper Trancura and Palguin, but as things went it was not to be. But that was OK because his friend, the young sensational paddler, stepped in as my guide. You would know his name also. I paddled one day on the lower Trancura with my new guide and it was fun but not challenging for me. The water had fallen back to very low. I wanted the Upper next. He's a sweet young man who views a woman of my age in a motherly, or even grandmotherly way. One NOT to endanger or break. He told me the upper was very low and that I would have to portage three rapids if he was to guide me. He said he didn't want to be responsible for me getting hurt. I hadn't paddled in six months and I just wanted to up my game and that was why I was there in Chile. Joining us on the this Upper Trancura run was a rich Dr.
The first run on the Upper Trancura was not quite what I expected. I flipped on a big rapid rolled and then slid into a hole. Got surfed, flipped, and when I still didn't flush I pulled. The rich Dr. had lots of problems with that rapid also. Then came the portages. My young sensational paddler, got right out and helped me portage the drop. Then to my surprise he had the rich Dr. run the rapid he'd just told me was too low to run. I took no joy in the fact that the rich Dr. had a bad run followed by an almost deadly pin. Ah well.
The next rapid, both the Dr. and I portaged and our young sensational paddler showed why he is world class. I loved watching him run Merriman Falls!! Then the last rapid called Last Love. My guide said at this level it was too low and too dangerous to run. My guide helped me portage the boat and I expected that the rich Dr. was portaging his own. Then he said he was going to run it with the rich Dr and they'd meet me at the bottom. Shit! I finished the day and hoped that the next day would be better.
The next day came and joining us for the Upper Trancura run was the handsome older super pro boater and another new comer to the camp I'll call the on fire young river nymph. A newer kayaker looking to up her game also. Did I mention she was oh so cute to boot?
So I had my rematch with the Devils Throat and I felt good. I watched and helped with the carnage from the rich Dr. Then as expected from my guide I walked the big three. I was quite disappointed that the rich Dr. and the on fire river nymph were running them it with the two pro boaters. But I know from experience that when the person leading doesn't want you to run something you respect their wishes.
At the rapid called Last Love, the handsome older pro boater stood safety on shore with a rope and the younger one was going to lead. I didn't care to watch them run so I just portaged down and was getting ready to jump into my boat when I saw a huge kerfuffle come garage sale'ing down. Boats, paddles, rich Dr. and the on fire river nymph all being chased by the young sensational paddler. I jumped in my boat and started to chase. The rich Dr. had swam to a mid river, yet river right, large rock and I asked if he was OK. He at that point took a long time to answer and I was worried he was dazed and stunned. Then he seemed to realize what I was saying and answered he was OK. In the meantime the handsome older super pro had joined the chase. After determining the rich Dr. was fine I went downstream to find the handsome one on a rock behind where the rich Dr.'s boat had pinned and the young sensational paddler had gotten the on fire young river nymph, her boat, and both the rich Dr.s and her paddles to the river left shore. But the guides paddle was not to be found. He went back up stream to look for it at the bottom of Last Love. I attained back up river to where I could talk to the rich Dr. He wanted to swim across so he jumped out into the water and I put him on the stern of my boat and ferried him to the river left shore and left him with the on fire girl.
Now with a paddle considered lost or downstream our next task was to un pin the boat. Both of the pro boaters had their kayaks up on rocks just behind where the boat was pinned. They were able to stand in the river behind the pinned boat and slip a rope through the side grab loop. My job was to stay in the river eddy behind them in case any of their boats floated off. This was made hard for me as a large loop of the throw bag rope was sharing the current and eddy with me. I had to be careful to not catch my paddle in the rope and I sure didn't want to flip with the rope right under me. The eddy wasn't all that big and had current flowing through it in the middle.
While watching the pro boaters at work I tried to get their attention and let them know that if they looped the rope around the front that when they pulled it would roll the cockpit up and off the rocks. Something I'd learned in swift water rescue class but it was hard to get their attention since they were focused on what they were doing and river noise. So I just stayed where I was, ready to help.
They pulled hard and the boat came loose. Unfortunately when it came loose a couple of things happened all at once. The boat, which was filled with water, caught the current right away and took off. In the mad scramble to try to stop the boat, the handsome older boater's boat was bumped off the rock. Then the young sensational paddler did a heroic dive into the current to try to swim and pull the now unpinned boat to shore. My job to get any of their boats that came loose was hampered by the loose coil of rope under me and the loose boat caught the current right away and started downstream. I decided that it was easier to just ferry the boat to river left, away from the rope eddy, since the handsome older super pro boater surely didn't need two boats on a rock out there.
With the handsome older pro boater's boat safely in the eddy I hollered to the rich Dr. "Did he get the boat over?" My question was visually answered when I saw it further downstream bobbing in the main rapid. A quick mental count of who was left in a boat...one. I tore out of the eddy and started chasing the boat through rapids I was unfamiliar with. Reading and running. A few times at the start of the chase, finding myself in some good rapids with a fully filled kayak slamming through next to me. Each slowing of the river I tried to shove it to the side. No easy feat when it's filled with water. I'd get it so close then the current would fight back and win.
|The bottom of Last Love|
Finally, above a rapid with a larger pool at the bottom, I was exhausted. At least I had it over far enough that it was out of the main current and floating off down the slow side of the rapid. I looked up stream to see the young sensational kayaker coming fast so I just waited. He got up to me and his first question to me was "are you alright?" The dear young man.....of course I am and the boat's just down there. He left to get the boat. I saw a float bag coming down the main rapid and scooped it up and joined him at at the bottom with the rich Dr.s boat.
Then we waited for everyone to regroup. The handsome, older super pro boater came down leading the on fire river nymph. The younger sensational paddler was then free to go down river in search of his lost paddle. He took the handsome ones paddle to use and the handsome older super pro boater pulled out a set of hand paddles to use. We waited a long time for the rich Dr. to hike all the way down to us and get back in his boat. The sun was very low when we boated to the end of the run.
At the end of the run everyone was unhurt and safe. The young sensational paddler's paddle was never found. We drank some great Chilean wine and I know we all felt bad about the lost paddle. It was noted that it was a full moon and I will argue with anyone who says that a full moon doesn't bring out the boondoggles for anyone...experienced pro to the newest paddlers. Some of our best luck on the river wasn't due to luck at all but to being prepared in advance. It's not luck that gains experience but training and time on the river. It's not luck that teaches you to bring extra equipment such as hand paddles and it's not luck that teaches you how to secure float bags and other safety accessories to the inside of our boats so they're not lost to the river. We laughed and called it a boondoggle but in reality it could have been much worse. The best river luck is the luck you make for yourself through education and experience.