Chile was amazing!

Since the last time I wrote on my blog was before I even left Chile, I feel I should at least sum up what was an absolutely amazing once in a life time trip.

In Chile I met lots of incredible boaters, but I’d like to take the time to mention the other students on the course as they have all individually inspired me in kayaking and other areas of life. MaryKatherine, AlexisGrace, Hunt, Carson, Isaac, Eric and Will. 7 amazing kayakers, wonderful people and (I hope they think the same), life long friends.

Despite being the only Brit, and certainly the only non North American, they included me. Whilst there was much teasing over my weird accent and funny sayings and occasionally even confusion, we formed a small team of supportive and enthusiastic kayakers.

Whilst I met so many amazing people, I cannot honestly say that Chile was always perfect. The kayak school was an incredible learning experience, and I had more time on the water with plenty of people capable of looking after me on anything I could even contemplate paddling. However, the name kayak school would imply there was more to it than just being supervised on the water. Whilst we did morning work outs, intense warm up sessions before paddling and discussed paddling dynamics off the water, there were far more days when the intermediate group was simply led down a river. There were even days when we were left to ‘catch up’ on academic work, whilst the expert group went off on more exciting trips that were not suitable for us. This honestly would be fine if we’d had a second coach and been able to go on an easier trip separate from the harder one, but unfortunately our second coach Nathan had injured his back and was mostly unable to paddle with us. (He did however prove to be a fantastic and enthusiastic video teacher).

Now maybe I’m being unfair, there were certainly afternoons where David would take us on the river and work us hard doing exercises and learning new strokes or stroke combinations to improve our paddling efficiency, and we’d come back too tired to bother with our homework. Mostly though this was not the norm, certainly towards the second half of the trip, the boys left to go to the Gol Gol and Argentina, whilst we stayed in Pucon with Lowri. I have paddled a lot with her as my coach, and she would have been happy to coach us and even did a little despite David refusing to hire her to coach us when our coach Mathias was not only unavailable through the afternoon, but was now in fact in a different country. (After Lorenzo had disappeared far earlier in the semester than had been expected to train for the WWGP and we were temporarily left without a coach at all!)

The last couple of weeks were certainly a let down in comparison to the start of the trip. And whilst I felt like I learnt an awful lot in Chile, I still feel that the potential to have learned an awful lot more was some what wasted by the disorganisation of the kayak school.

In fairness, David has listened to and has been trying to adapt the semester to address these concerns, and the semester that I attended was the first of its kind for university aged students. However the way the semesters have now been arranged, there will be an ‘advanced’ semester and a ‘beginner’ semester. I think this will be a much better system and have high hopes for the improvement year on year of the course! I believe that it will eventually be one of the best gap year/ semester out courses you could possibly dream to go on. I did have a fantastic number of amazing, challenging and difficult but beneficial experiences. It has definitely been a huge step in my paddling and I feel that it gave me the confidence and ability to cope with and enjoy much of the rest of the travelling I did on my gap year. Finally despite the doubts I have about the course, I would still encourage people to go on it, and will be doing my very best to ensure my younger brother Mike goes on the course when he is old enough too.

I really really love Chile!

Fun times in Chile!  

Investigating Whether the Truful Truful river should be a WWGP event location!

Why the Truful Truful should be a WWGP event:

 The short one to two minute section of grade 5 white water is ideally located a 5 minute drive from the local town Melipeuco which has Hostels, camping and most importantly (but hopefully not most necessary) a hospital.

To get to the Truful Truful you should drive through Melipeuco on the main road, heading towards the park. You will drive across a bridge which currently has road works on. Immediately after the bridge turn left onto a dirt road, and follow until you see a black driveway into a parking lot. The parking is easily big enough for 7 vehicles, and the river access from the parking is good. The lava field allows a good view of the section, with not too many trees obscuring camera coverage, viewing or safety. It is also open giving an incredible view of the surrounding lava and volcanoes, an amazing atmosphere for a world class event!

From the parking lot you can walk down some steps and onto a sand/gravel path, the path runs up the entire section of river with occasional ups and downs over lava features. There is a fence which has a large gap underneath which you can easily crawl under, with plenty of space for passing boats through too. 

We didn’t explore access to the river right bank, but it looked like there were also many more camera positions to be explored over there too. It would be easy to ferry across above the rapid, or potentially to hike up that side of the river from the bridge. 

The Truful Truful grade 5 section consists of two parts, ending in a high volume (roughly) 20 foot waterfall. There are plenty of eddies above the section which could provide good starting places. The first section is a double drop, the first drop around 7 feet tall, and the second drop around 9 feet. There is a good position for safety cover at the bottom of the second drop, where someone could stand with a throw rope.

There is then a short grade 3 linking section before the second section, which is another double drop, the first drop is around 6 feet with a U shaped seam/hole (this would be the race line for a lot of competitors). The 20 foot waterfall is around 15 feet after the first drop, with a large boil pushing towards river left. Competitors should be aware of the pocket/cave at the bottom on river left, this would be an important place to have safety cover, with a live bait rescue prepared. Safety boaters and another throw rope in the bottom pool could also be good cover. Another factor is behind the curtain of the waterfall the water appears to be pushing behind the waterfall. 

There are also plenty of rocks in the bottom pool which could be used as the finish line for the race.

Also to note there is a porter potty at the turn off from the bridge, presumably for the road workers, but could easily be used by competitors, there is also plenty of bushes above the trail if you walk up the hill.

( Coordinates: 38degrees49’34.80″S 71degrees39’01.87″W ele 1808 ft )

Here is a link to Isaac’s reconnaissance video on my YouTube channel:

Rio Claro

We arrived in the town of Molina where we spent the day in a restaurant, whilst a group headed on in the van to go kayaking. Those of us staying behind (there wasn’t room for everyone in the van at once) killed time eating ice creams and charging our laptops.

The van eventually returned to pick us up and drove us over to the hostel where we were staying, and we had dinner and went to bed.

The next day we headed up to the siete tazas, the ‘seven teacups’ with a short hike in, but a very steep path down to into the canyon, meaning we had to lower the boats in. Once we were down we got in our boats and headed down the first 15 footer, which I managed to land flat but sideways. Sidewaysness



learning to boof waterfalls

MKat boofing the first drop

The next drop was a short slide drop, and the one after had a tree in it and so we portaged round. Slide dropThe next two drops were also small and we didn’t realise (until we ran out sooner than expected) that they were part of the 7. I thought there were 7 tea cups?The 6th and 7th teacups were both 20 feet, we boofed (kind of) the first, which had an interesting curve round the left side making things difficult. The second we plugged, although I managed to go a little over-vert, and face planted… 🙁 ouch. Going Over-vert!

MKat dropping off one of the 20 footer

There is also an eighth drop which apparently only runs when it is low, and so after scouting the interesting climb up a vertical(ish) cliff out, we ran this also. The 8th drop curves to the left, with a wall in front as you go down, you hit a right boof and land in a huge cave around the corner.

The guys also ran the veinte dos, 22 saltos, and another group ran the 7 teacups again.

The next day we headed back down to the teacups for my round two. This time round was much more successful, and I hit every boof! Unfortunately I went even more over-vert on the 20 footer though, ouch ouch!!

Nuble fest!

So after two days of staying at the Maipo our plan was to drive to the Claro for two days, before heading over to the Nuble fest. Unfortunately the Durango broke, resulting in a long day of sitting around doing not much and even less kayaking.

Lorenzo eventually returned, and the next day we hired a van to take us to the Nuble fest, in time to paddle before dinner. The section turned out to be very low, and so we had a very relaxed run down some shallow grade 2, before heading to the hostel to pitch tents and eat dinner. 

Lowri also arrived, and so, several hours later, did her stuff which got stuck on one of her flights!

The Saturday of the Nuble fest consisted of lots of races. We all competed in as many as we could. Lowri, MaryKatherine and I were the only females racing, and so we all claimed medals for the top three places… definitely made me feel better about coming last when I still got a medal (and a bottle of wine!).

We also had two teams in the raft races, one made up of Lorenzo and the guys… the strongest and fastest since Lorenzo is so competitive and us weaker girls weren’t picked for their raft. Instead we made a team with the help of some other gringos who’d driven up from the kayak hostel in Pucon. Lorenzo’s team of course won, whilst we came third.

By the end of the day everyone was very tired and ready for dinner. After which however we had to go to the awards ceremony where we were given our medals, wine and for a few first place winners giant cheques!

After the award ceremony we headed back to camp for a while, where we played ‘Never have I ever’ drinking games, until the discoteca opened. We then walked around town a LOT trying to find it, until eventually some Chilean girls showed us how to get there. A lot of dancing and alcohol later we made it back to our tents at around 4.30 in the morning, leaving us just enough time to catch a couple of hours sleep before breakfast and our drive to the Claro!!

Staying at Cascadas in the Maipo Valley

We made it up to the Maipo valley, where Lorenzo grew up, on Monday.
On the journey down we stopped to eat at a Chilean burger place, where Lorenzo ordered each of our lunches. When said lunch arrived, a plate with the biggest burger I have ever seen (except on man vs. food…YUCK) was placed in front of me. Containing avocado, tomato, lots of other vegetables, 2 layers of bacon, about 14 slices of pork, more avocado and then the bread bun enclosing it all. We all set to work, and they were fantastic! Unfortunately so good that I ate far too much, and felt pretty ill for the rest of the day. So when we arrived, after setting up camp… consisting of throwing mats on the ground and laying out our sleeping bags, everyone else went kayaking, whilst I slept it off!
Fortunately I was feeling better for paddling the next day!

Surrounded by mountains, and baked in sunshine, the Maipo river flows down bellow us in the valley. High with brown water which on closer inspection (so close it was in my contact lenses! 🙁 ) is the grittiest water I have ever paddled in!
After a morning of catching up on work, before going to set some safety for the guys paddling the upper, on French man’s corner (or French curve?? there was some debate…) we had lunch and then geared up to paddle!
The Lower Maipo is an easier run than the Lower Middle Fuy, however the thickness of the dirt in the water makes the river feel much more intimidating, and feels as though it is harder to read, luckily we could follow Hunt’s lines down, whilst he was coaching us and giving us tips on our paddling.

Later that night we were invited to Lorenzo’s cousin’s Barbecue, and so we headed over the bridge…

Lorenzo’s family own the whole area, including the mountains, and there is one bridge across the river, leading to their family compound, consisting of about 40 family members they have a number of houses across the bridge. The bridge is a footbridge, and there are no vehicles on that side of the river, they are incredibly eco-friendly and ensure that everything is self-sustaining.
They also, have a pet puma in a cage, along side a cage filled with parrots, and other cages containing birds of prey… It seems to me, as though Lorenzo grew up in a fairy tail, or the Chilean version of Jungle book! With the mountains and river to explore as he was growing up, it certainly explains why he is such an incredible kayaker, and now coach.

Climbing the Volcan Villarica

Yesterday we hiked up 2847 vertical metres of Chilean Volcano! This was most definitely the ‘stoutest hike’ (as Carson puts it) I have ever done! Equipped with crampons (which we didn’t actually end up using) and ice axes (which we most definitely did!) as well as a tonne of water and sun screen! The first 400 (vertical) metres was on dirt, volcanic ashy rocky dirt, which slid so much you took one step down for every three you took up! This was possibly the hardest part of the climb, as my ankle was in an immense amount of pain from the motion of the walk. Luckily, just as I was contemplating giving up, the dirt turned to snow, and the new motion of lifting and placing your feet so you don’t slide, meant my ankle was no longer hurting, and so, the real climb began!

We had rests every so often as we climbed, in the few flat-ish places permitting time to stop, take off your rucksack, eat a snack, drink as much water as possible, and re-apply sun block!

Resting on the flat

The climb was mostly consistently steep snow, although occasionally it got steeper (and icier), and we reached the false peak, after climbing up the steepest part yet! Just to see the real peak towering high above us, and the people already climbing, tiny dots on the volcano side!

up the Volcano side

We each had a guide, or a guide to two, and so Carson and I were together with a guide. This turned out to be an unfortunate mix, as being very tall, Carson has much longer legs than I do! This resulted in the guide (in-front of me) taking huge steps, and me trying to keep up and stay out of Carson (behind me)’s way, so I basically jogged with huge strides up the Volcano.

We did eventually make it to the top, and the view was honestly incredible. We could also see into the crater, although we couldn’t see far enough down to see the Lava, we could see the smoke coming out in wispy little clouds. We ate some lunch, and wandered around the sides of the crater to see the different views, before (after drinking more water and applying more suncream) we started the head back down.

Reaching the crater of the volcano

The volcano’s alive!

On top of the Volcano

View from the top!

Happy family at the top!

The first part of the down hill hike was a little sketchy, being the steepest part of the mountain. We had to dig our heels in, and take one step at a time down each icy footprint. Soon however, we got past the iciest part, and for pretty much the rest of the way down, we slid down on our butts. This was so much fun, and in places there was more than one track, and we had races down. I went super fast, since I was small, and I had a few moments where I lost control and ended up going down on my side… but I managed to sit back up and slide down!

When we got to the bottom we stretched out and put our stuff in the sun. We took off our soaking wet boots and got into the bus, before driving back for the Chilean asado.

About an hour after my wonderful hot shower, my legs started to ache. Shortly after they were aching so much that I was in quite a lot of pain. After I walked to get dinner they were aching so badly I was holding back tears just to walk to get something to eat. Eventually John went to get me some painkillers, and after dosing up, and then setting my alarm for 2am, I said goodnight to all the university kids at the asado, and went to bed.

My alarm woke me up and I took some more painkillers, before sleeping the rest of the night.

The moral of the story?

Don’t try to keep up with tall people when hiking a volcano… go your own pace!

P.S. Be careful when sliding down volcanoes with an ice axe in your hand… It’s easy to stab yourself in the leg!

Praying for Rain

We pray for rain to fall and drive,
To drown the empty bed alive
Now dusty dry.
New trickles form from beads of dew,
The rocks a chain of pearls in view
Now sinking down.
So soon the river turns in sleep,
To wake from slumber and dreams so deep
Now rising up.
The banks begin to fill to brim,
As water rushes to dance and sing
Now spinning round.
All animals flee to ground up high,
As mother nature starts to cry
Now pouring tears.
And into boats of air and plastic,
We jump to brave the water fantastic
Now breaking out.
We soar and glide across the waves,
And even the birds become amazed
Now staring down,
At us.


I wrote this poem for my Video project: Express a poem through video media, I have yet to make the video part, but I thought it would be cool to publish the finished poem since I spent hours and hours editing it until it was right! 🙂

Our weekend at the River Fuy!

We set off early friday morning, having to pack in ten minutes as it turned out the bus went at 8, from Pucón! John, AlexisGrace, Eric and I got the bus as there was not enough room for everyone inside the Durango. We arrived at the first bus stop on schedule, but the second bus however was late, and so after standing around for 40 minutes, and being told the next one was in twenty, we decided to go and try to find some snacks. We had fried bread things with cheese, and then walked back to the bus stop. The bus eventually arrived, and we crammed on, standing up to start with until some people got off at the next stop and we slowly got seats. The third bus however we discovered was not even running until 8pm, due to it being a holiday.

This meant we spent 45 minutes wandering around a small town, we went to find something else to eat and I had my first Ensalada(??) thing. Basically a bread/pastry style thing filled with meat and an egg. Was pretty good, but we were distracted sitting in the restaurant as the woman kept running back to the door and locking people out. We couldn’t see who was trying to get in, but we were all curious and a little concerned!

Eventually when we were done, she unlocked the door to let us out and we walked away, we couldn’t see anyone trying to get in, but obviously there had been before!

Eventually the Durango with the others in it arrived in town, and we crammed 12 people inside for the last 40 minutes of the Journey, possibly the most uncomfortable experience I’ve ever had, as I had to sit between the driver’s seat and the front passenger seat (which had Hunt and John both squished in) and was basically doing a constant sit-up to avoid falling backwards onto Nathan, Jake, AlexisGrace and Carson. Whilst MaryKatherine, Will and Isaac had to put up with Eric sprawled across all three of their laps!

We ended up arriving in Choshuenco in time for lunch at the hostel where we were staying. We then planned to go to paddle the Lower Fuy, however the guys were going to paddle the Lower Middle first, and we were going to meet them, but after they got to the river some local Chileans told them they had to come back to disinfect their boats to prevent some kind of bacteria getting in the water. So after spraying all our kayaks, gear and paddles, they eventually set off to just do the lower, but I opted to stay back at the hostel as I was tired from travelling and wanted a chance to Skype the ‘rents and brother since it was already 5pm as they were driving off!

They arrived back for dinner, and then the other group read out their paragraphs to everyone. We then handed our Video1 and Video2 projects into Nathan and eventually went to bed.

This morning we got up for breakfast at 9, and were all packed and ready to set off for the Lower Middle (there is some debate as to whether it should be called the Lower Middle section, or the Upper Lower section!) Fuy. MaryKatherine and Will planned to meet us at the put in for the Lower section.

We arrived at the put in, and had an interesting hike down a very steep path down to the river, but we eventually arrived at the river for one of the funnest stretches of river I have ever paddled!

Incredible blue water, accompanied by warm sunshine, huge waves, and Holes all over the river, resulted in one continuous stretch of river. I followed Lorenzo’s line down the river, weaving between one hole and the next, around pourovers and over boofs. There was one rapid which was a slide, which we paddled down the centre avoiding holes on the left and right, to then paddle right, to avoid the next hole!

We then reached the bridge where the other two were meeting us, and had a fun run down the bouncy Lower section!

Made it to Chile!

So I arrived in Chile, made it all the way to Santiago airport where I met MaryKatherine, Isaac and Eric at the gate, after a long queue for immigration, and a difficult conversation with a woman at the baggage pick up, because my paddle bag (also the bag containing ALL my clothes) was still in Madrid!

We then flew into Pucon, where we met Dave and John at the airport, loaded all the bags and kayaks and kids into the trailer and car, before heading to base!

We arrived at Pucon Kayak Hostel and after being shown our rooms and some kayaks we’d be using (until ours arrived) we hit the water! We paddled the Lower Trancura, which although (in retrospect!) a very easy stretch, has big wave trains and I was extremely nervous. I was super tired because of jet lag, so after tea I headed straight to bed!

I woke up ridiculously early the next morning, and spent time writing and reading my book. Eventually other people appeared to show me where breakfast was. 🙂

We then kayaked, talked about how our lessons would work, learnt how to tie boats on the trailer and threw throwlines. A busy day of learning how things worked around the hostel before we started school.

A couple of days later we headed up for our first run of the Upper Trancura, which was pretty exciting, but also scary, as it was a new river again. My nerves were up, but I had a good run, and ran Garganta and Feo first time after scouting.

I’ve now (nearly two weeks later) run this run a LOT of times! The Upper Trancura is like our training ground, and today we (we being the development group consisting of MK, Will and I) even ran the bottom half of last laugh! Fun times!

In the time between getting here and me (finally) writing this first blog post there’s been a lot happening. We start the day with a morning workout, followed by breakfast. We then normally have lessons in the morning, and then go kayaking after lunch. We’ve also been having salsa dance lessons twice a week, which is actually really fun, but most of the guys seem to hate. We’ve got the bus into Pucon lots, and we even drove to get firewood from a local farm as one of our Spanish lessons.

There are a quite a few options for classes, there is Video class, Advanced video class, Spanish 1, Spanish 2, English, Graphic Arts and Survival class. I am taking the video class, Spanish 1 and Graphic Arts, but since the Graphic Arts and Advanced video classes overlap so much, I am actually going to Advanced Video lessons at the moment.

So far the development group has only run the Upper and Lower Trancura, the Leacura (which flows into the Lower Trancura) and the Upper Palguin down to above the crack drop. We have only paddled the Palguin once, and the trip resulted in Will going over a waterfall upside down and making a hole in his lower lip (all the way through!) and having to go to the hospital.

Bottom of the first drop

Bottom of the first drop

Hunt at the bottom of the waterfall

Bottom of the 20ft waterfall

We are planning a trip to the Fui this weekend, with video lab en route! Getting back in time for Dance class on Monday and an Ensada (BBQ?) thing with some Chilean ‘English students’ afterwards.