Saturday, May 12, 2007

Old Photos From My First Trip to Chile

photos by Beaz

Sorry the formatting is a little whacko on this post.

The Team

This trip to Chile was my first time traveling out of the country to go paddling. The group that I was traveling with was Bob Beazley, Bill Hester, and myself. We had worked all season on the Chattooga river guiding and paddling for NOC. In the airport we ran into Peter Spiers, we had no idea who he was at the time, but later found out he was perfect for the group. All totalled we paddled 26 different sections of river in 28 days. We had 8 flat tires, blew out the shocks, dropped the muffler, popped out the rear windshield, and broke the shift linkage.

Tomate Grande

The cars name was, el Tomate Grande or The Big Tomato. It was a 1967 Chevy Impala with, "3 on the tree". The car was in itself a huge adventure. Between the three of us we knew 3 words of Spanish when we arrived but by the time we left we knew most of the parts of a car out of complete necessity. The jack didn't work so we had to put rocks under the axle and then dig the tire out so that we could change it. The seals on the doors didn't keep any of the dust out of the car so we wore bandana masks in the back seat or rode on the front hood to stay out of the billowing cloud that was inside the car. We learned how to shift with a string that went out the window, under the hood, and attached to the linkage. We learned how to stick matchsticks in small holes in the gas tank to stop leaks, and we argued constantly over the best technique for driving over long rutted dirt roads. "Fast so as to glide over the bumps", or "Slow and Easy".

In this shot we were driving up to the Laja river. At the time it was a very long dirt road. Beaz was driving and we decided that fast and floating over the ruts was the only way to go. The music was blasting and we were floating along fine when over the horizon we came and there was a pothole the size of the car. There was huge bang and suddenly the engine was really loud. The muffler had been ripped off. I jumped out to check out the damage. Not only had the muffler been ripped off but as it came off it sliced the tire. It was a double whammy. As I walked towards the back of the car I suddenly started to realize that I could hear the others a little too well and when I looked back something wasn't right. The others started cracking up and then it dawned on me, there was no rear windshield. In one pothole we had lost the muffler, blown a tire, and dropped the windshield. After an hour of digging we had the tire changed and duct tape had the rear window back in place. The picture where I am sitting next to the car you can see the tire, the muffler, and Billy working on the windshield. There is also the Pink Floyd tape that had gotten Beaz so fired up to drive fast. This trip still lives as one of my all time favs because of everything that happened. The trips where everything goes super smoothly are great and all, but give me a little adventure and it will be something I will remember the rest of my life.

First Drop of the Siete Tazas

Chile is an incredible paddling destination because there is so much to do. If you start in Santiago and go up each river towards the Andes you pretty much will always find a good stretch of whitewater. The directions are easy go south out of Santiago on Route 5 and turn left at a river. Drive up to the top and paddle what you can. Go back to Route 5 and go south turn left at next river, etc, etc, etc...

I think this is one of the drops in the 22 Saltos section.

Some simple Spanish word problems that we ran into.

Oyo is hole. Oho is eyes. This can be a big problem when you are trying to tell a cute Chilean girl that she has beautiful eyes.

Mayonaise is mayonaise you just say it wierd. Veinesse is kind of like hotdog and if you slur it really good they sound similar. And when you are expecting a "Completo" without the mayonaise and you get one without the hotdog it can be really confusing.

Everyone knows that Huevo is egg, but its also balls, as in, you know, your balls. So you have to word it correctly. It gets pretty funny in a store when you ask someone if they have any balls.

Oh yeah another one I learned was when dancing with a Chilean never tell them they are a hot dancer. Its pretty much like telling them they are a slut. Dammit I messed that one up.

The Big One on the Upper Tazas

We called it, "Zona De Bomba"
pump zone, bomb zone, or I think
firestation or something like that as well.
We got the name off of signs that we saw.
It was a super cool drop. We actually sent
Beaz off this one blind. He was cussing at me as
he dropped.

Jugbuster on the Bio Bio River

Now this is another big story from this trip. We had planned a big NOC staff trip on the Bio Bio with a bunch of other guides and that is where the trouble started. When you get that many proffessional guides together something bad is always going to happen. This time it was the huge gear boat that got swept into this beautiful pinspot. We tried everything to get it off without having to unload and deflate. I actually don't know how long we worked on it but I do remember realizing with about 2 hours of sunlight left that we were going to be staying the night on the pile of rocks that created Jugbuster rapid. Thats me standing on the rock trying to keep all the lines organized and just thinking how the hell am I going to get off of here if the boat comes loose because I am not getting in the middle of all those ropes. After a dinner of wine and chocolate we slept out on the rocks wondering if we would ever get off that rock.
The next morning after unloading the whole boat and deflating a couple thwarts she floated off easily.

The Rio Fuy, Salto De La Leona

Lunch beneath the Tres Monjas near The Futaleufu River

There were two problems with the Futaleufu. One was while we were there the weather was crazy. One day snow. One day like this. Lots and lots of days of rain. I at one point slept under a bridge with a bunch of pigs. Not raft guides actual pigs. At least I was dry. The other problem was food. I'll go into that later.

The Classic Ender Spot on the Futa

Notice the Response before logos, also before thigh braces.
The hull split on the Fuy and some super nice German guys gave me a couple sticks of Ptex. So I hot melted welded my boat every couple days for the rest of the trip. Hey it worked!

The Futa was awesome we spent a couple weeks there and met several groups that were exploring it as well for the first time. We teamed up with infamous Peruvian, Fico and his crew for a few days and watched him and his team style the big stuff in rafts.


Fishing on the Futa

Thank goodness for fish because we would have starved on the Futa without them. Funds were running out and we still had to drive all the way back to Santiago so we were saving every penny we had left. We went so far as to try to catch rabbits. Ok even worse we were running around in a field trying to hit rabbits with rocks. Thats how bad it got. Then Billy and I caught enough fish to feed ourselves for a couple days and it became our main source of food.

The drive back to Santiago was no less exciting. I nearly killed us on an uphill pass. We went to the ocean and surfed with sea lions and got our asses handed to us in huge waves that none of the surfers would go out in except this one old grizzled dude who laughed at me with my big eyes as I barely made it out over a monster wave, and he said, Big Hunh? All I could think about was how the hell was I going to survive this.

Then the Tomate Grande took center stage again and started dropping gears. First you had to skip second gear and go straight from 1st to 3rd. Then every gear was making a noise so loud that we all put headphones on and then finally 3rd gear failed. We had only one gear left and it was deafening. We were going 25 miles an hour in first gear for over 100 kilometers. It was hilarious. Then to top it all off, not 4 blocks from the place where we could sell the car back to the original owner, we were hit by a car. I swear he ran a light everyone else swears I did. The guy still bought the car and the super beautiful waitress still liked us.

So a perfect ending to a perfect trip.

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