After the long, bouncy, dusty, but incredibly beautiful Carretera Austral we were ready to kick back and relax for a bit doing some water related things. What better way to start doing that than a lodge with hot springs on the sea? Puyuhuapi Lodge is accessible only by boat and surrounded by rivers, waterfalls, fjords, mountains and glaciers. It rained quite a bit while we were there so we spent our time relaxing in the hotsprings and hanging out in the cozy lodge next to the fire drinking nalca sours made from the giant rhubarb looking plants that inhabit the region. We also had an epic game of pool that lasted for way too long. Must have been the table and not our skill level. 🙂 Seriously though, I think the pockets were a bit small.
The next day we took the ferry back across the inland sea and hiked up to Queulat National Parks Ventisquero Colgante (Hanging Glacier). By this point Kelsey and I have seen a couple of glaciers, including tromping around on quite a few in our attempts to climb things, and I can honestly say this was one of our favorites.
The trail was very muddy but after 2 miles or so you get to a breathtaking view overlooking the valley. The glacier is perched high above the rocky basin with a series of waterfalls cascading out from underneath it. Every once in a while you get lucky and a piece of ice calves off, falling to the rocks hundreds of feet below and exploding with enough force that the thunderous booms echo their way down the valley. Adding to the beauty, the lake at the valley floor catches water from numerous cascading waterfalls from all sides.
After slipping and sliding back down the trail we headed north with the goal of making it all the way to Futaleufu before nightfall. On our drive we passed through the site of a tragic mudslide that destroyed much of the small Village of Santa Lucia back in December. They had recently cut a swath through the mud which towered on either side of the car as we drove through. About half of the town was destroyed and it was spooky seeing where the line of mud spared some houses and destroyed others forever changing the lives of many.
Winding our way through the mountains we finally arrived at Futaleufu. It is a small quaint town with not too much to see and do unless you are interested in sampling all of the natural beauty that surrounds it. The Futaleufu river is widely considered one of the top whitewater destinations in the world, along with the Zambezi and the Colorado, with numerous class 4 and 5 rapids on crystal clear water winding through lush green canyons. Though I would not say that Kelsey and I are avid rafters we had heard so much about the Fu we had to do it! We are so glad we did.
The trip was through Patagonia Elements and the guides that we had were top notch. Nico, the guide manning the oars on our raft, gave great instruction and after a bit of practice we hit the first set of rapids. The Fu fully lived up to its reputation. The river had risen a couple of feet overnight due to recent rains making for bigger rapids than normal. It was the perfect experience for us. We hit exciting rapid after rapid with short flat water sections that allowed you to catch your breath in between. In one of these sections there was a fun cliff to jump off of. The rafts allowed for 6 passengers with the guide manning two oars in the back. I would say it was as exciting as we wanted without it ever getting scary. Kelsey, who is quite catlike in her disdain for activities where there is a chance of getting wet, said that she would do it again in a second if we had more time.
We stayed in a couple different places while in Futaleufu and they were all quite different. Barranco is the nicest in town option and had incredible food. Hostel Las Natalias was a great place to meet people to go on adventures with (such as rafting). We also talked at length with Sue(who is an old friend of Kurt, the owner of Wildland) whose family runs the hostel and has led an incredible life. We really enjoyed our time there. It is a well run and extremely friendly place to stay, especially if you want to meet other travelers.
Uman, the last place we stayed is definitely in a class all on its own. Everything is top notch from its location perched above a cliff looking out over the valley to the incredible design and great food, much of which comes from the farmland stretching below right up against the river. They have a beautiful network of trails and lookouts that allows you to wander the expansive property, sampling fruit, baaing at sheep, and cuddling packs of kittens. When you get back, the hamman is waiting!
We had not really been very active over the last couple of weeks so we got out and did some normal exercising. We ran along the Futaleufu on a beautiful gravel road along rivers and farmland, hiked to the top of an overlook next to the town and did a longer run up to Piedra del Aguila (Eagle Rock) which had a spectacular rock feature to scramble up to the top of which, of course, we did.
Switching climates and countries we are headed to Esquel and hopefully going to climb at the Piedra Parada where we hear the weather s always good.
Kelsey and Andy