Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Boondoggle! Did I Mention a Full Moon to Boot?

Last Love

  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.
Merriman Falls

  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.
Devil's Throat

   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  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.
Salto Feo
   As for me, the long solo read and run through rapids I didn't know and chasing after that boat, was one of my most enjoyable moments of kayaking on my trip...I ditched my babysitter and it was a good feeling!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cinco Pesos

  Valentines Day and I was stood up by a man!  Can you believe it?  Not for a loving date but for the sale of my boat.  I was leaving Chile the next day and did not want to bring the kayak back with me.  I was traveling alone.  Delta does NOT fly kayaks and I had no way of transporting it between all the buses and flights I needed to make to get home to Minnesota.  I was sick to my stomach with worry!  I tried with the help of Ellie, my hostel hostess, to contact all the other boaters we could to see if I could make another quick sale but the answer was not what I wanted to hear.  It was a brand new Villain!  Barely used!   I went to sleep sick with worry about what I would do with the boat the next day.

  I woke up at 3:30am and checked to see if the buyer had contacted me on the  I couldn't go back to sleep after that.  It was the 15th and I was leaving.  I would have to find some way of taking it back with me. As one person traveling alone for her first time unleashed on the international world, I was scared!

  I had plenty of time to think of how I would possibly  handle moving all my bags and an 8'8" boat.  The thought of wheels on the boat crossed my mind and I thought Graham's skateboard would work great but where would I ever find a skateboard on very short notice in Pucon, Chile?

  I was waiting at the hardware store 10 minutes before it opened to buy a tarp to wrap it in.  I was standing outside trying to come up with alternatives and solutions to problems that hadn't begun to exist yet, when I looked down and saw a shiny new cinco peso coin on the bricks.  Now I am a believer in "Pennies from Heaven".  When you find a penny it means someone in heaven is looking out for you!  This was not a uno peso coin...this was a whopping cinco pesos and a peace settled in me that what ever happens today God has this one....relax...try to relax.  You only need to get the boat from the hostel to the bus depot.  Get it on the bus to Temuco.  Transfer it somehow from the Temuco bus depot to the airport a half hour away.  Get it on the LAN Airlines to Santiago.  Then the really daunting task of getting it on Delta, we do NOT fly kayaks, Airlines.   Then home to Minnesota.  All this by myself and I can't speak Spanish well nor can I hear well.  But God gave me five peso's...not one...five, so I have faith...along with a sick stomach and nerves.

  The hardware store opened up and I walked in.  There were beautiful wood cooking stoves right at the front.  Yes, I can and have cooked a lot on those and do miss it.  Right after the wood stoves, on a table, were about 5 skateboards!!  OMG!  When God gives you skateboards you buy a skateboard!  And they were cheap!  Only 8 Lukas!!  So I had a tarp and wheels to boot!  Back at Ellie's I wrapped and tied the boat with my paddles in a nice bundle with a skateboard for wheels!  Straps for handles.  It looked good!  Ellie gave me a ride to the bus depot and said farewell.   She is such an awesome person and gave me her phone number in case I needed any help from Pucon to Temuco.  She would be there for me!  Knowing someone like her in a foreign country is priceless!!  Thank you Ellie for everything!

  I walked the boat up with all my other bags to a lot of stares and comments.  When my bus came and I tried to load, the bus driver took one look and said NO!  He was very firm!  NO!  Then a lot of Spanish and finally two young men who could speak English came to my rescue.  I was directed next door to the freight shipping to talk with the man there.  No he could not get it to the airport before my flight left.  I wanted to cry then but the man was a Jefe.  He took charge in a very authoritative way.  He walked back to the buses and talked with a different bus had left...and three men determinedly stuffed the boat under the bus.  By putting it in diagonally and raising the back, it fit without a half inch to spare, not kidding!!  I was so happy I hugged them all while almost crying.  They took it in stride and loaded me on the bus and bid me farewell.  Driving out of Pucon tears did come.  I loved the people, the culture, the country, the water.  Chile is amazing and I couldn't have picked a better place for my first International destination!  I was on my way!  I will be back again someday.

  I arrived at the bus depot in the middle of downtown Temuco.  I asked a man at the desk to call me a taxi, por favor.  Un grande taxi!  I had a grande package.  He saw the boat...everyone saw it because it was so large and said a taxi couldn't help me but not to worry.  He had another man come out who spoke English and he explained they had some calls out and were waiting to hear back.  Good news.  A man with a red truck would come right away and pick me up!  OMG!  The kindness of Chileans!  The young man with the red truck was so nice!  He couldn't speak English but I did understand that his sister speaks it very well.  In fact he went to pick his sister up on the way to the airport just so she could ride along and talk to me.  She is in her last year of college to become an English teacher and she was so happy to talk to an American!  On the way to the airport we passed a taxi and they explained that it was their Dad.  He was the taxi driver who arranged for his son to pick me up.  They dropped me off at the airport and she offered to translate if needed.   The lady at the counter spoke English so we hugged and kissed a Chilean goodbye and when I offered them a tip they refused and literally ran out the door so I couldn't give it to them!  The sweetest people!!

  I turned to the counter lady and she looked at the grande package and said "Is that a kayak?  We don't fly kayaks".  Oh no!  My heart sank.  I mumbled something to the effect that it was a surf ski and like a kayak but not.  I told her the story of how it was supposed to have been sold the night before but the sale fell through and now I had to get it home somehow.  She got it and looked me dead in the eye and said "It's NOT a kayak then?"  And I said no it's not. She knew it was and God bless her for allowing it.   She did say that it was only checked through to Santiago though and then I would have to check it through "We don't fly kayaks" Delta.  The charge for the over size was a nominal $24.  Her last question for me and she was serious..."it's NOT a canoe is it?"  Ha!  Oh's definitely not a canoe but I do have one at home.   It was now 2pm and my flight left at 6:55pm but everything was working with a five peso promise of faith.  I got really hungry waiting for my flight and bought a chocolate bar to survive on until I could eat again.  It was a long afternoon but I was very thankful for the amazing chain of events that had gotten me to where I was with my boat.  The next jump was the crux.  I had faith.  I had cinco pesos in my pocket.

  Joining me on my flight to Santiago were two families from the New River Kayak Academy.  They were also  flying back to the states that evening.  The Jennings's family was on the same flight in Santiago to Atlanta as I was.  It was good to travel with other boaters at that point!  Again, in the Santiago Airport, my grande package was attracting a lot of attention from airline workers and from travelers.  One man even asked to take a photo of it.  This was the crux of my trip.  If I could get it checked on this flight it was home safe.  The Jennings  family and I knew how crucial this was. I had told them the story of the five pesos so we all had faith.   Alexis Grace helped me bring it to the counter...this was it.  The man took one look and said.  "That will be $ that OK"   YES!!!!  OMG!!  YES!!  It was on!  Euphoria set in!  All was well!  More than well as the convoluted trail of occurrences could only have been orchestrated by God! The kayak was coming home!  Thank you Lord!!

What!? I have to recheck it in Atlanta?  Nutz...I missed my flight by time I had gotten through customs and Homeland Security.  Unbelievably I was rebooked on a direct flight instead that arrived before the original two more flights I was to have been on.  Things were still going strong.  I called my friend Shirley, who was picking me up in her Audi, and told her that I would have to leave the boat at the airport and come back with my truck.  She suggested I call Miguel and have him come up with his truck and pick me up boat and all as he was off work today.  Thank you Miguel!!  Right now I and my boat and everything are home.  My truck started right up after sitting for three weeks! .   My house still stands and everything is fine here.  I'm waiting for the heat to come up and the hot water heater to heat up some water for a shower.   I have another boat.  I'm sure it will be put to good use.  My son doesn't really fit well in the Habitat so maybe a large Villain will be a better fit.  Either way I had not named this boat as it was to be sold.  Before leaving for Chile I had shaped some closed cell foam to outfit the new Villain I would have in Chile.  I had come to the conclusion that I wanted my thighs in tighter and really loved the way the new outfitting worked with the new boat.  I was a bit upset about the sale falling through but to be honest, deep in my heart I'm glad the kayak came home with me.  The outfitting is perfect for me!   The color was my first choice of color but curiously the bottom of the boat's mixed up colors actually resemble the Andes Mountains.  My three souvenirs from Chile are a black geode bracelet, a mate cup and my Villain.  On my way home during all of this I wanted to name the boat.  Something Chilean or Spanish.  Something to remind me of my time in Pucon.   Only one name comes to mind...Cinco. 

Thursday, February 02, 2012

First Days in Pucon!

The flight down was a combination of delay, relay and run for plane.  But as it always does everything worked out and I landed on time in Temuco, Chile!   I wasn't in the country but an hour when I got my first kiss!  It's customary to kiss cheeks when you meet or say goodbye here...I'm going to like this place!

  I arrived at the Pucon Kayak Hostel in late afternoon.  Sun shining bright and hot out!  I hadn't slept in well over 24 hours so I was fried.  Still I hiked around and looked at the river and checked out my boat.  The hostel is an amazing place!  From domes to bunkhouses to gypsies wagons.  The center piece is a quincho!   This building is a pure form of artwork!  It's the gathering place for everyone here.

   My second day here the weather had turned colder and misty.  Still tired from my trip and not too much for cold weather paddling I went about getting my pesos and shopping done.  When I finished the weather turned to a cold drizzling rain so I just decided to hang out and outfit my boat.

  The third day the temps were very cold and still overcast and drizzle.  I took a mountain bike and put on 30K for a good start.  Just after I got back to the hostel the rain came down seriously and it rained for two days....remember all those prayers for rain up north.  Well God does deliver but he gets to choose the time and place.  No matter.  I had a guide arraigned for the next day and the waters were rising!  Sunshine and warmer was predicted!

  Well as things go when the water rises guides go (understandably) for the class V fun so I had to wait till afternoon for my run on the lower Trancura.  I took the bike up the Rio Turbio for another 30K bike ride.  Just an amazing place!  I met a young college student going the same way and he wanted to talk English and I wanted to talk Spanish.  It worked and we had a great time exploring.  There are climbing areas back the and I was also able to do a little bouldering.  But oh my!  Such great sport routes up there on fantastic rocks!!

  Back at the hostel my guide was back and ready to go.  Nothing is done in a hurry down here and I really don't realize time or days's good.  My guide is Tino Specht from Bomb Flow!!  Oh yeah!  I know I won't have to worry on this river.  Looking at the river there were far less rocks, thank you rain!  We warmed up on the first drop and then headed down.  The water was just big water fun.  Nothing too hard...just big fast fun!  One wave was so big it almost stopped and surfed my Villain!  I felt pretty good after warming up on that run.  Unfortunately Tino had plans to head to the Fuy the next day so I ended up getting another guide. I wanted one more run on the Lower Trancura for warm up before hitting harder runs.  My guide for my second run is Aniol Serrasolses from Spain!  Watch for the next Bomb Flow episode and you'll see Aniol!  As it turned out Tino didn't go to the Fuy as planned and another couple joined us with Tino as his guide.  The water had fallen back to the level it was the day before but it was still fun.

  Next up today the upper Trancura...a step up from the lower.  Then maybe work up to the Palguin.   So far there have been amazing things down here.  The buildings are incredible works of natural art!  The food is amazing!  I had the pleasure of going out and dancing one night and I can still move it :)  All is good!  So would I ever come back here!!  Oh hell yes!   I can see why many boaters and people make this place their home.  Next year for sure!
  I have 2 more weeks here!  I'll write more when I can get to town which isn't often.  Con amour de Chile!!
Did I mention Volcanos!! Wow!!