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Days 21-25: Futaleufu, Chile

February 4th, 2011 by *MoonDogg*

When I think of Futaluefu, I think of many things. I had a very good time there, met some very interesting people, and if I have a chance, would like to stop there again on my way home.

We left Chaitén on Monday morning, the 31st. According to the posted schedules, the bus was supposed to leave at 8:30 AM. Or 9:30 AM. Or 11:00 AM. It ended up leaving at 11:30, and it was a 3 or 4 hour ride. I forget, because its already been about two weeks. That is how behind I am on updating my blog.  

We arrived in Futa and right away looked for the tourist info office. By now I realized that it’s your best bet in order to get maps, and advice on where to stay, what to do, etc. This is where I met Natalya. She was a  gorgeous Chilean girl, with mesmerizing eyes and spoke English with a beautiful accent.She gave us maps and advice and we were on our way. We also stopped at Patagonia Elements, the rafting company recommended by John from Canada, but they were closed. 

We we’re not having any luck finding a hostel with room, so we stopped and had lunch, then kept looking. We ended up finding a cabaña for a reasonable price. It was new, and there was a strong odor of wood and wood finishing chemicals. Also no heater. They had not installed it yet, it was that new. But it was nice, and roomy.

After getting settled in, I went back to Patagonia Elements and we talked about a rafting trip. My dad wanted to go, and my mom said maybe. Khristian was out due to lack of funds. Or manliness. You decide. The problem was that you need at least four paddlers in a boat, otherwise it is too light, and there is not enough ‘horsepower’ to maneuver it. So while we were singed up to go, unless at least one more person showed up, we would not be able. We would know by the following morning.

The next day, we all spent time at the Internet cafe. We had not had Internet for several days and were jonesing. I was getting even further behind on uploading photos. By the late morning it was determined we could go rafting, because they were going to invite one of their colleagues to go, but unfortunately my mom had changed her mind. So the trip was cancelled. I was told there was for sure an all day trip planned for the next day, and I put my name in for it. My parents decided they were going to move on to the next town on Wed, instead of waiting until Friday, to be safe. They needed to start heading back to Buenos Aires, and did not want to risk not getting out of town. Khristian, since he did not want to go rafting, decided to leave with them. So we had that afternoon to do a hike, then I would be by myself for a few days.

We started on our hike to a lookout over the city, but we didn’t get very far. First, Khristian for some reason is terrified of talking to strangers, and so instead of asking people for directions, he prefers to wonder around and hope that he finds the trailhead. So we walked for a ways and after it was obvious  we missed it, we ended up down by a river. That was when the rock skipping competition began. Now let me just say that regardless of what you might be told by any other participants of said competition, I was the first to skip a rock all the way across the river. It was a big river, and I was surprised when it happened. But it did happen, and I don’t care if anyone else saw it or not.

Now we have that straight, I will admit that there were some fierce skips from everyone, and I can’t call a winner. But it was fun, even though I threw my shoulder out. It started to rain, so we high-tailed it back to town.

That night we went out to dinner at a restaurant that was recommended by a couple met in Chaitén. It was a really cool restaurant, with couches in the corners and a small library of books. It was also a fly shop, the kind used for fishing. We had a really good trout dinner, with a salmon appetizer that was amazing, and a bottle of Chilean wine. And my parents decided to pick up the tab, which made it even better. Thanks mom and dad!

The next day, they left for the bus, and I chilled at the cabaña for a couple hours until I had to be at the rafting company. 

The Futaleufu river is supposedly one of the top rivers in the world for rafting. I’m not exactly sure what makes a river the best, but if that was the case, I certainly did not want to miss the opportunity to go rafting on it. I’ve only been on the Kern river in California a couple times, and that was with my dad in his inflatable two-man kayak. (That is a whole other story I won’t get into) So I was really looking forward to this trip.

It was a 45 minute drive to the put in. The owner and guide, Christian, drove a four wheel drive Mitsubishi van. I’ve dreamt of owning the same van, but they are not available in the US. Turns out only a few places in Chile are able to import them from Japan. 

Once we arrived at the river, we changed into our provided wetsuits, booties, and life vests. There were six of us going out that day in the raft. Two girls and four guys, all from different countries. Also in the raft was Christian, and in the river was two more emloyees. One in a sit-in kayak, and one in a cataraft, an inflatable catamaran type raft. Their jobs were to scout the river ahead of us, and also be there to help anyone that falls out of the raft. Fortunately nobody did that day, but we came close a few times.

Rapids are rated in classes, class 1 being the easiest, class 6 being the hardest and most dangerous. The Futa has many class 5 and I think one or two class 6. But the most extreme section is not done by commercial guides during the single day trips. However, there were still three class 5 rapids, with names like Terminator, Mundaca and Casa de Piedra. I have only run rapids in a small inflatable kayak previously, and that was really difficult. I have also ‘swam’ down a class 5 rapid called Royal Flush on the Kern River. Easily the most terrifying experience of my life. So I was a little nervous going in. But it turns out a big raft with 7 people is much more stable than I expected, and there was only one instance where the guide yelled ‘get down’, which basically means ‘get you but into the bottom of the boat and hang on for your life because we are about to lose it’. Fortunately we survived that moment, and while the whole trip was very exciting and fun, I think being in a kayak is really the only way to go for maximum excitement.  Of course, that takes a lot of training and practice. If I lived close to a river, for sure I would get into kayaking.

The river is an amazing turquoise blue color. And on the sides of the river is jungle with massive rock cliffs towering above. There are many waterfalls. The sun came out a few times, and it rained off and on. But as long as we were paddling, we were able to keep warm. Overall a very beautiful experience. At the end of the day, they provided a simple lunch for us, and then we took the hour drive back to town. 

I had to find a hostel, which turned out not too hard. It was actually a house I stayed in. They rent out a few of their rooms, and also allow camping in their yard. That night I met some Israeli travelers, Ron, Gal, Natalie, and Hela. Not sure I spelled those right. I ended up playing cards with them all night, a game they taught me called Yaniv, and talking a lot about Judaism and witnessing to them.

Turns out they were going rafting the next day, and I tried to go again, but there was no room. So I just chilled, uploaded photos, had lunch, took a nap. They had invited me to have dinner with them them that night, and of course I agreed, and was looking forward to it.

But wait, did I mention the Kingdom Hall? I don’t think I did. I have been looking for them in the various places we have visited, and have found them a couple times, but I definitely was not expecting one in this town. But I was walking down the street the first night, looked up at a small house and there was the sign, Salon del Reino. I was really surprised. It was such a small building. There was a sign with the meeting times and initially we weren’t going to be there those days. But because I stayed behind I was going to be able to make it to the Minsitry School/Service Meeting. So Thursday night, I showed up and there was a brother coming out of the house behind the hall, and he informed me the sign was incorrect, that the meeting was an hour later. So I went down to the tourist office to hang out with and say goodbye to Natalya. Did I mention she was the Futa Rodeo Queen, and easily the cutest girl I had seen in Chile? I hung out talking to her and another guy that was a guide in town. 

An hour later I returned to the KH and went inside. To say it is small is an understatement. I think there we’re about 20 seats, 25 at most. I met the 6 publishers, of which only one spoke any English, and only very little. I let them know that my Spanish was not very good, and I would just be listening, not commenting. They had offered me a Spanish Bible, and I declined since I had my English. I realized later that I should have taken it, so at a minimum I could at least read scriptures from it. Also, I could have prepared a comment or two in Spanish ahead of time, like I did when I was in Mexico, but I procrastinated and ran out of time.

The meeting began, and I enjoyed it. Being only 6 publishers, obviously everyone comments. A lot. And the 3 brother took turns on every other part. I realized how much preparation each must do for every meeting. Because for sure they have several parts each. Every week.

When the meeting was over they invited me to eat, which would have been great, but I already made plans with the Israelis. I took a photo with them and said goodbye, and promised I would try to return someday when my spanish was better and I could participate.

I ran back the 6 blocks back to the hostel, because I was late for dinner. When I got there, Natalie was slaving over the stove, adding eggs to what looked like cross between stew and pasta sauce. It’s called Shakshooka. They asked me to say a prayer, which i thought was interesting. (Later Ron told me he was impressed with my prayer and realized he should pray more. The problem was he did not know who to pray to. That turned into another good discussion while we were traveling on the bus.), We ate it with bread. It was super good and I am definitely going to try and make it when I get home. I stayed up again playing cards with them and talking more about religion. 

Friday morning it was off to the bus stop. I stopped at the hall to leave some money for a donation, because I had forgot the night before. I left it with the brother who lived behind the hall. I was told previously that he and his wife were special pioneers. He accepted and urged me to return someday.

The bus ride was uneventful. You have to switch buses at the border. Once we were in Esquel, I had lunch with the Israelis and the took a taxi to the hostel where my family was staying.

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