Whitewater rafting Upper Trancura River

by CameronM Fri, April 07 2006 21:40

Today was our last day in Pucon before heading back to Santiago on the night bus, so we were keen to make the most of it. We headed off in our Politur minibus again, this time to Upper Trancura River for a two hour whitewater rafting trip.

As it is heading towards winter, I was pleased to know that the tour company provided full wetsuits and even booties and gloves to keep us warm. The river contains rapids up to class 4, however as the water level is low at this time of year, they had dropped to about 3.5. There was still enough foam to make three of the rapids a little scary, but under the watchful eye of our safety kayaker, and in the trusted hands of our guide, we were able to conquer them without flipping, falling in or otherwise coming to grief.

At one point we had to leave the rafts as the guides took them through a very rocky section alone. We walked for a few hundred metres beside the river before having to jump in, off a rocky outcrop about 4 metres above the water. It was great fun, although during the fall I did have time to think that the water seemed to be a lot further away than it initially looked!

Sitting in the front of the raft and being responsible for setting the pace for my side of the raft, meant that I tried very hard to respond to the guides commands. This meant that after an hour I was completely knackered. Luckily I was able to ease up on the paddling and rest a little between rapids, although our guide did seem to have a nasty streek and sometimes made us paddle for an extended period, just to watch us run into a rock at full speed.

Finally we reached the half way point on the river, between the easy lower section and more difficult upper section. This was the end of the road for us and it was with some relief that I sat down and rested, while enjoying a Pisco Sour and a ham sandwich.

Yerko and Corine had purchased tickets for the executive overnight bus service to Santiago. This is the middle class of the three standards for long distance buses and appears to be the one most commonly used by tourists, as our bus was full of fellow backpackers and adventurers. The seats recline and there is plenty of leg room, so in theory you can get a good nights sleep. In practice though, at least for me, you tend to spend the night trying to get into a comfortable position and just as you drop off to sleep, you are awaken as the bus stops at one of the many toll stations or bus depots, or you are kept awake by the snoring of other travellers.

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Ojos del Caburgua

by CameronM Thu, April 06 2006 21:37

Today we swapped hiking boots for mountain bikes and headed from Pucon towards a nearby waterfall named Ojos del Caburgua. The first half of the trip is alongside (or at least near) a river and on a bumpy gravel road. The scenery is great and it is nice to get on the bike again after a long absence.

We reached the waterfall in time for lunch and enjoyed the falls, which come from two sources and meet in a nice little pool. After lunch we finshed our Life Direction Seminar, before jumping on the bikes again for the return leg, which was via the main road.

Yerko and I headed off together and pushed through the stiff head wind to cover the 18 kilometres in about 50 minutes. Not too bad, especially since my legs were already sore from the climb yesterday.

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Volcan Villarica

by CameronM Wed, April 05 2006 22:22

Standing an impressive 2800 metres above sea level, the most active volcano in South America, named Volcan Villarica is an impressive sight from just about anywhere in Pucon.

Today we joined a 'crowd' of other thrill seekers and climbed to the summit. Thankfully the tour bus drops you off at about 1500 metres and the chairlift, used for the ski season, takes you a further 300, so you total climb for the day is only about 1000 metres.

Having said that, even at the end of summer, the top half of the climb is through ice and snow (actually part of it is a glazier), so that adds a fair amount a 'challenge to the trip.

With our two English speaking guides, but minus Yerko and Corine, who were having a 'couple' day, we headed up the first roicky section of the mountain.

After about half an hour we broke into two groups and I went on with Luke, Rachel and two fellow adventurers, while the rest of our team trailed along behind.

After an hour we reached the snow line and donned our grampons (those metal spikes that fit on you shoes) and headed up. It was slow progress, as the path zig-zags across the face, but as walking with grampons is a little strange, I was glad not to be going flat out.

Another hour or so later we stopped and removed the grampons as the last 45 minutes is rocky. Eventually we reached the summit, but sadly as the vulcano smokes out toxic gases, we could only stay for about five minutes.

The trip down was a little scary, as I think our guide must have had urgent business to take care of. We almost ran through the ice and snow, with hardly a break to catch our breath. I was freaking out, because we were carrying an ice pick and I was worried about falling onto it and impalling myself.

About one third of the way down, the slope eased and we started to 'slide' down. To do this we wore a pair of 'nappy' like pants over our snow gear. It didn't work very well, as the slope was very bumpy, but a little while later we reached an area where frequent sliders have carved out a route down the mountain. It was great fun, and a lot easier than walking.

All of our group made it up to the summit, which was great and on the ride back to town we were able to bask in the glory of a hard days effort.

In the evening we headed to thermal baths of Los Pozones, located about 45 minutes from Pucon and soaked our sore muscles.

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Civilisation at last!

by CameronM Tue, April 04 2006 22:20

After saying our goodbyes to Henry and his wife Isobel, we boarded our bus to Tumuco, the nearest 'big' city to Hualpin. The ride was a lot better than the outbound trip and I was able to enjoy the coutryside, which consisted mainly of farmland and beautiful hills. Chile is lucky to have a cold enough winter for the trees to lose their leaves, so at the moment many of the trees are starting to show their autumn colours.

Luckily we only had a short wait in Tumuco until we could board another bus for the hour and a half trip to Pucon. After spending the last week or so in virtual isolation from the outside world, Pucon was a sight for sore eyes. With internet cafes, call centres and enough Adventure Tour companies to satisfy even the most die-hard extreme tourist.

We stayed in a nice compex of chalets about 15 minutes walk from the centre, but what it lacked in location it made up for with charm. As an added bonus, I also didn't have to put up my tent (first time in about 10 days) or sleep in my sleeping bag (first time in about 16 days), so I was very happy.

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