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Futaleufu Multi-Sport Expedition: Part 1

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Send Yourself to Summer Camp
Maybe you had the opportunity to go away to summer or sports camp as a kid. I didn’t, but I certainly made up for it when I sent myself on an Earth River Expedition Trip. I decided on the Futaleufu River Multi-Sport expedition. The Futaleufu River (known as “The Fu”) is a river in northern Patagonia, famous for its intense whitewater rapids. Earth River made the first complete raft descent of the Futaleufu in 1990 and introduced commercial rafting to the river.


Getting There
I flew from the U.S. to Santiago, Chile. The next morning I flew from Santiago to Puerto Montt, Chile, and boarded a small charter plane to Chaiten. Upon arrival at the small airstrip at Chaiten, we boarded a bus for a spectacular three-hour drive past the snow-capped Andes mountains, lakes, and rivers to our first camp, with our bags arriving shortly thereafter by ox cart.


My Fellow Campers
Like a kid on the first day of summer camp, I felt a little nervous. Would I like the other kids at camp? Would they like me? I needn’t have worried. My fellow campers were interesting, unique, and accomplished. Ranging from twenty to sixty years old, they included an energy firm partner, an eye surgeon, a court-appointed child advocate, an EPA Water Board conservationist, an entrepreneur who’d started his own dirt bike touring company, a real estate investor and developer, pizza restaurant franchise owners, a car dealership manager, a retail chain executive, a lawyer, a physician, a high school teacher, and a gentleman whose job entailed some type of work in U.S. Government security that was never specifically identified.


I was traveling solo but I never felt like a third wheel; there were other solo travelers in our group. Traveling to South or Central America as a single woman traveler might have been daunting for me, but any worries I had disappeared during this highly organized group trip. I was only alone if I chose to be, to mediate in my own cliff dwelling under the stars.


Roughing It
If you’re a “girly girl,” this trip’s not for you. Don’t bother to get a manicure beforehand or bring make-up and a hairdryer. Don’t bother bringing your cell phone, either. There are no cell towers anywhere and no electrical outlets. You’re limited to one bag weighing twenty-two pounds, but you have to bring enough warm clothes for the evenings (which get quite cool). You’ll use every item of clothing you bring, but don’t expect anything to stay clean for long. You need to be comfortable with being dirty. Earth River provided a list of required gear to bring or purchase, including paddle jackets. The company provided much of the other equipment we would need such as wetsuits, life jackets, and helmets for rafting.


We traveled along the Fu to four different, exclusive camps owned by Earth River. Although we were roughing it, the camps (which included cliff dwellings and tree houses) were stunning, exotic, and very comfortable, surrounded by spectacular views. Each camp had several cabin dwellings (singles usually got their own dwellings and couples shared), hot showers (well, lukewarm), and hot tubs. “Beds” were wooden platforms on which we placed mattress pads, sleeping bags, and comforters. There were actually flush toilets at each camp, and although it was often quite a hike to get to the “outhouses,” the views surrounding them made it worth the trip, The camps are very eco-friendly and urinating near the river is discouraged; if you had to go during the night, you had to use a “green bucket” and you were responsible for emptying your bucket in the bathroom facilities in the morning.


Read about the expedition’s activities and evenings in Part 2.


Photo courtesy of Rayno van Heerden

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