We seem to have spent most days trying to get a replacement window sorted for the truck before having to give up and head to the rivers instead. Eventually after a hungover morning drive to the next town we had a new window, and in the mean time we've run the Puesco, upper and lower Palguin and had a bit of an epic day on the Panqui - a broken paddle, nasty swim and a generally disappointing first gorge left us somewhat underwhelmed and we decided to give the rest of it a miss.
Now the truck is fixed, and we've paddled most of the Rio's in the Pucon area that we had wanted to on this first visit, we're going to load up the truck and head North.
Joe in the middle of the hardest section on the Rio Puesco.
Lee lines up the small drop just below the portage on the Rio Panqui.
Rob charges over the boil on the lower Palguin.
Keen to make the most of having the truck we headed out in search of more whitewater, and found the Rio Maichin.
Nice read and run bouldery grade IV with this harder rapid near the start, the Maichin was just what we wanted - leaving us feeling comfortable in the boats and ready for something a bit bigger.
Unfortunately some pikey scum did their best to ruin our day, as we woke up to find the window of the truck smashed in. Amongst the kit lost was all my camera equipment - fortunately I had just backed up all my photos, but am now without my DLSR for the rest of our time in Chile. I've picked up a mediocre bridge camera, in the hope that I can manage to grab a few OK shots of the rest of the trip, and will be borrowing Nigels DSLR as and when I can!
We'd heard conflicting reports on the levels of the Rio Nevado, so were pleased to discover there was plenty of water in it, as we just about managed to scout our way through the steep gorge.
Later in the year, there's a boater X on the Upper Rio Palguin, so we headed up to check out this short waterfall run and have some beer and a BBQ with Ben who has the best located house in the world - right above the river.
After a month of travelling from Bogota through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia I was once again back in Chile. After meeting Joe, Nigel and Lee at the airport in Santiago we made our way south to Pucon to pick up my kit and collect our pick up truck for 7 weeks of paddling.
Having skimmed through the photos in the guidebook several times and made countless plans for our trip we headed out for our first river together - the Rio Trancura, a pool drop grade IV, and the perfect warm up for us.
The current plan involves drinking a good amount of wine and pisco whilst consulting the guidebook for the next days river - with so many IV-V runs to choose from, we're spoilt for choice! The only certainty is that we all need to train and practice a lot more if we want to avoid too much embarrassment in the Pucon river fest and Palguin boaterX race in December.
It seems that no trip to South America is compete without a visit to the "lost" Inca city of Machu Picchu, so I found myself heading towards the tourist trap of Cusco and the towns of Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientas. (Yes, I cheated and took the train to Aguas Calientas, before taking the bus up to the ruins - no Inca trek for me due to a lack of time. Maybe on my next trip to S America?)
Keen to avoid the crowds of other tourists, I spent the night in Aguas Calientas, getting up before dawn to catch the bus to the ruins in time for the gates to open, allowing me to get in and wander around before too many others were doing the same. Even at 6am, as the gates opened there were perhaps 150-200 people waiting outside, fortunately the site is large and after getting the classic postcard photo from the top I was able to wander around the ruins for a few hours without bumping into too many other people. By 10am though, more trains from Cusco had arrived bringing with them hoardes of tourists, and the site became horribly full of large groups all listening to different stories from their guides, so I beat a hasty retreat back to the town.
After a night in Chiclayo - a large dusty hot city in Northern Peru, I headed for the small former fishing village of Huanchaco. Now popular with surfers and travellers looking to escape Peru's endless archeological remains and big cities, there is a very chilled out atmosphere in the village. Surf combined with dirt cheap accomodation and food made it somewhere that I could probably have stayed a lot longer (my surfing could definitely do with a bit more practice!) but there's still a lot of Peru to get through before I return to Chile.
I skipped Lima (I've heard it's slightly sketchy, which combined with my dislike of big cities didn't make it too appealing!), and instead headed for Ica and the nearby sandy playground of Huacachina. Built for upper class Peruvians, this desert oasis is now a relaxed place for gringo's to hang out and explore the sand dunes by buggy or go sandboarding.
I gave the sandboarding a go, and was a bit dissappointed with it - much slower and less graceful than snowboarding... I've got a bus to Cusco later on, so should be at Machu Picchu at some point in the next few days for a bit more stereotypical sightseeing before continuing south.