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Backpack and Kayak

Whitewater Grand prix - Pucon Chile

AUSTRALIA | Tuesday, 18 December 2012 | Views [1032]



























As the sun slowly revealed mountain tops shrouded in cloud, the tips of the Andes soon gave into the power of the sun, fighting the cloud, revealing the capital city of Santiago. A welcome sight after nearly 50 hours on a plane since leaving Hobart, Tasmania some 4 connecting flights before. 

Chile, the Andes and Patagonia have been on my bucket list since a very early age, their beauty, physical size and grandure have always impressed me as a young boy. Now to be arriving here at age 25 not for the purpose of personal exploration as is the case of so many of my trips, but to be part of an international team of paddlers, coming together to compete in an event im sure i never imagined even existed as a boy. 


The Whitewater Grand Prix is a 5 stage kayaking event being held in the southern reaches of chile, from Pucon where we will meet as a team for the first time, heading south to Chaiten and further into Patagonia to the Rio (river) Futeleafu.


Arriving in the beautiful adventure capital of Pucon i am very much surprised at the level of comfort and living all people, both foreigners and locals alike are afforded. Its not that i expected chile to be under developed, although i new little of chile's not so colourful history surrounding the dictatorship under Augusto Pinoche. Maybe i somehow expected a country stunted by political wills and strategic minds, but with the surrounding mountains their soils so furtile, i can see how chile and its people have regrown even stronger from the ground up.

 Pucon is a bustle of tourists and locals, adventure businesses, restaurants and cafes all frequented during the day by people like myself, looking to get amongst the beauty of chiles natural surroundings.

Sad to leave so soon after arriving, day one however takes us further south, for stage one of our competition near the town or Osorno and the Rio Gol Gol. The river here is a dream, many clean, safe runnable waterfalls, just what chile is famous for. Many of my friends have traveled here in previous years and bragged at no end about the countries whitewater gems. Here i am finally beside the river and its just as i expected, but also nothing like i expected either. The river flows through some beautiful temperate rainforest, trees like the Notafogaus (murtle) remind me of my home in Tasmania, however the river is not emerald blue like so many others here, but a milky grey, carrying with it ash and floating rocks from the recent eruption of a nearby volcano.


One of the primary concerns here at the event for both racers and organisers is safety, and with the river rising fast due to heavy localised rain, we wait with anticipation to find out if the race will be cancelled and moved to another river. One thing i am proud to say about my kayaking is that i believe myself to have good judgment. To know when to go and when to be safe, bury my ego and walk safely along the bank. Every one wants to be a hero in their sport but being here for the long ride and taking my time building skills is the most important thing for me. I am very pleased at the organisers decision to leave it for the racers to decided, However being chosen in group A that leaves the task to me and 15 other racers to make the call for the rest of Group B who will be setting safety for us. The river was indeed high, but with a good safety team and forward planning, anticipating the possible dangers we continue on as planned. 


Stage one is a huge success, and with the Gol Gol race complete we make our way back to Pucon. Thankfully for us, recent local elections have allowed us to continue with the blessing and support of the town, the new government taking effect the day before we slide our boats into the rivers surrounding Pucon. This had been the idea behind having the first stage so far south, it is a priority on any travels to make sure you cooperate fully and immerse yourself in the local culture. The organisers recognising the towns leaders are especially keen to have us in their area to help showcase to us and the rest of the world via our All Star media team the beauty of their area. I feel privileged to be so openly accepted and welcomed into these areas.

Stage three on the Rio Nevados blew my mind. I am not much of a racer normally, and today its the last thing on my mind. Crystal clear water, fun slides and waterfalls great us at the river, vivid green vines hang into the steep walled gorge reminding me of scenes from indianna jones.

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