Friday, December 17, 2010

Going Big in Pucon

The last part of our trip, Gareth and I ventured down to the town most people think about when they hear of going creek boating in Chile- Pucon. We got there by hitching a ride with some people we met at NubleFest and took a few days to make our way down and paddle a few rivers along the way.

Taking a break to enjoy the view and review the map

The Laja (one of the rivers we paddled on our way to Pucon)

One of many volcanoes in Chile
After arriving into Pucon we quickly hooked up with Matias (an Argentian friend who lived in the states for a long time) and spent the weekend hitting up the Pucon classics. That weekend we knocked off the Puesco, the Upper Palguin and multiple laps on the Nevados. The nice thing about Pucon is that everything is super close and relatively short so you can usually squeeze in 2-3 different sections of river in one day. Unfortunately while I got a photo on just about every rapid of the Nevados, I didn't get any shots on the other sections we did.
Matias and Gareth trying to figure out the stove

Gareth at the first drop of the Nevados

Matias sliding down the Nevados

Gareth dropping off the edge on the Nevados

Nicole Mansfield stomping the crack falls on the Nevados

Gareth at the Auto-boof rapid on the Nevados

Matias at Dulce Amor aka the wall boof on the Nevados

Nicole scouting the Demshitz drop

After saying goodbye to Matias, Gareth and I spent a few more days exploring some other runs in the area, including the Maichin and the Llancahue, both very enjoyable and beautiful sections of river. But before leaving town, there was one more beast so slay, the Middle Palguin waterfall. While Gareth was sold on this being something he had to do before leaving town, I was less certain of my interest in dropping off a 70 foot waterfall in my kayak. The second to last day we were in town, the opportunity arose to run the drop. I am the kind of boater that makes deciscions by the way I'm feeling, and I just wasn't feeling it that day. Gareth on the other hand was fired up and so I went for moral support to take photos and play safety. After a bit of scouting, our friend Danielle fired off the drop with a clean line and it was now Gareth's turn. I was anxious watching him up there alone getting ready to seal launch. That's one of the scariest parts about this drop, that to get in the water to run it, you either have to run a very stout 10 foot drop above it or seal launch in right above the falls.

Gareth scouting the falls

Danielle at the bottom after his run of the waterfall

Gareth going big off the Middle Palguin
Gareth had a beautiful line off the drop, but definitely took a hard hit at the bottom. He ended up hurting a couple ribs and rupturing his ear drum. That's part of the risk of running something that big- you might get hurt even if you have a good line. All in all though he was excited for the experience and was still encouraging me to have my go at it. I decided to see how I felt the next day.

I woke up our final morning in Pucon to cold and rainy weather, but also with a feeling of urge to go huck off a big waterfall. We joined up with the Demshitz crew and after managing to squeeze eight of us into a tiny truck, we were off to the falls. After watching a few of the boys give 'er, I decided it was my time to jump. I visualized what I needed to do one last time, then slid off the rock into the water. My seal launch went great, which I was pretty psyched about. Now it was time to go big, and I paddled off the lip. My plan had been to slowly get into my tuck and once there, simply drop my paddle right before hitting the water. I was a bit nervous about throwing my paddle since I had never done that before but it ended up working out really well. I tucked up tight as I slid into the water. I was waiting for the hardest hit of my life, but alas, it never came. The hit was soft. I couldn't believe it. And my skirt didn't blow. Another plus. I hit my first hands roll and paddled over to where my paddle was floating and smiled big because I had just run the biggest waterfall of my life.

Me getting ready to tuck up and toss the paddle
We then quickly headed back to Pucon where we grabbed our bags and made our way to the bus terminal (after a few celebritory beers of course). An overnight bus ride, a layover day in Santiago and an overnight plane ride later I was back in the states with only the memories of what turned out to be a way too short but very awesome trip to Chile.
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