Patagonia and Easter Island, December 2007
DAY 1: U.S./ SANTIAGO
DAY 2: SANTIAGO / PUERTO MONTT / CHAITEN
The first of Earth River’s four stunning private camps on the Futaleufu, the Terminador Camp, has a mile of private river front and sits on a dramatic bluff over the raging river. A beautiful trail winds through the trees the entire length of the camp offering stunning views of the mile long rapid which churns the water into every imaginable shade of azure, white and turquoise. Hidden in the trees are 12 private, two person, hand-hewn wooden cliff dwellings, each with beds and a bird’s eye view of the surging flow which creates dozens of waterfalls as it spills over giant, sculpted white granite boulders. Located near the center of the camp is an 18-person wooden and cypress deck with a view that rivals the Zeta cliffside hot tub at Cave Camp. The deck is scribed around trees and giant rocks and tucked behind a truck size boulder that acts as both a screen from the river and a natural veranda. Sitting or standing a person is above the top of the rock and sees an unimpeded view up and down the entire mile long rapid and surrounding canyon. A trail from the deck leads down to the water’s edge where there is a natural stone couch. This river-carved smooth granite boulder has natural seats with backrests for 5 or a couple lying down. Dinner is served at the bottom of the rapid on a peninsula of granite that juts out into the river and affords a view of the entire mile long avalanche of rock and water as it races down the impressive staircase we descended only hours earlier. The camp also has hot showers, flush toilets and a hand-hewn gazebo shelter and covered dining area in case of rain. A professional masseuse, chef and videographer accompany most expeditions. Camp amenities have been added in such a way as to not take away from the wild nature of the river and expedition. Sleeping bags, flannel sleeping sheets, pillows and thick sleeping pads are included at no additional charge. With he exception of the masseuse and the professionally shot and edited trip DVD, everything from the charter flight to Chaiten on the day you arrive until your return charter to Puerto Montt is included in the cost. That evening we have a welcome dinner.
In the early afternoon everyone rafts down to Campo Casa de Piedra, the private, 1,000 acre Earth River Cave Camp. This is the most exotic and diverse river camp in the world. Not a cave in the true sense, but a massive overhanging white granite slab that rests on two boulders, the main stone shelter is referred to by the locals as the House of Stone. There is a sand floor, two natural skylights and giant fireplace in the rear wall that draws smoke through a crack. With an interior space of over 1,600 square feet, this natural wonder is large enough to ride a horse inside and can keep the entire group warm and dry under any conditions. Meals are served here during times of inclement weather.
In front of the main stone shelter is a beautiful spring- fed pond/lake called Laguito Azul (Little Blue Lake). Set within a bowl of massive granite towers as high as 300 feet and surrounded by lush vegetation, Laguito Azul resembles a giant Japanese garden. Its brilliant blue water is so pure you can drink it and so clear you can see giant German brown trout and salmon of up to 25 pounds swimming 30 feet down. Kayaks are available and gliding over the transparent water feels almost surreal. A few hundred feet beyond Laguito Azul rages the most spectacular rapid on the river, Zeta, a Class 5-6, Z-shaped flume cut into solid granite.
Just downstream of Zeta, carved into the granite by the river in higher flows, is a heart-shaped, three-foot deep water-filled pothole, which we heat to 105°. With smooth, 45° sloping walls to lean against and fresh water every day, this chemical- free stone hot tub comfortably fits twelve people. The smooth granite ledges around the tub are ideal for relaxing and slope gently into the calm aerated blue pool below Zeta making transition from hot to cold water extremely easy. Soaking at night with the brilliant stars of the southern hemisphere aglow is an unforgettable experience.
The most popular place to
sleep at Cave Camp is in one of the 12 hand-hewn, cliff dwellings perched on and
between the massive boulders and cliffs overlooking Zeta Rapid. The dwellings have
walls and a door on the trailside for privacy. The sides facing the river, however, are
entirely open and the birds-eye view from your pillow of the tumultuous turquoise water
slicing through the rapid’s narrow granite slot is something you’ll never forget. In the
vicinity of the cliff dwellings is a large cliffside dining area, 18 person wooden hot tub
and a second spring- fed swimming pond. The cliff dwellings, hot tub and dining area are all well hidden from the Futaleufu, yet through the trees they command the river’s most
impressive camp view. A series of dramatic hand-hewn log sky bridges, 30 feet off the
ground, link the Zeta dining/sleeping area to the main stone shelter so that in times of
inclement weather the transition between the two areas is effortless. Downstream from
Zeta Rapid is Lost Beach. This private beach is so tucked away that people float right by
it on the main river without ever knowing it is there. The camp also has horses, flush
toilets and hot showers.
DAY 5: CAVE CAMP / TYROLEAN TRAVERSE / TREE HOUSE CAMP
Hidden back in the trees is a hand- hewn log gazebo structure with a fireplace in case of inclement weather. Just beyond the gazebo, 35 feet up in a majestic closely-knit stand of old growth giants are 8 wonderful, hexagon shaped tree houses. They are connected like the spokes of a wheel from one central tree and a circular staircase. These amazing architectural gems are each unique and were hand crafted by a Chilean master carpenter. Each tree house was designed to be self-supported and not a single nail was placed into the trees. In the afternoon there is the option of swimming and relaxing in the hot tub or taking a short hike to the breathtaking Tree House Camp Canyon Overlook. Engulfed by snow-capped mountains on all sides, this wonderful spot affords us 360 degree views including two gorgeous lakes and seven miles of the turquoise Futaleufu River canyon stretching as far as the eye can see. Condors are frequently seen soaring in the updrafts. We spend the evening suspended above the lower canopy with stunning views of the lake, forest and mountains.
After lunch we receive a climbing safety briefing and put on our climbing harnesses for the Tower climb. For those people not wishing to make the climb, there are the options of hiking, horseback riding, kayaking on the pond, excellent trout fishing or relaxing in the stone hot tub. The tower climb involves a dynamic three-part rock climb up the backside of the 320 foot granite Torre de los Vientos (Tower of the Winds). No previous climbing experience is necessary, and people from 5 to 78 years old have made the climb. Once on top, we venture out on the dramatic Knife’s Edge, crossing its narrow natural bridge, with sheer 300 foot drop offs on either side (Holy crap - I know Lori won't be doing this). The views of Zeta Rapid, Laguito Azul and the surrounding canyon from the Knife’s Edge are exquisite and among the most impressive found on the river.
To descend from the tower we do a dramatic, 320 foot, two-stage rappel (self- lowering by rope) off the Tower’s sheer north wall. For most people switching ropes at the mid-station is as exhilarating as any of the river’s class 5 rapids (Damn, this trip is so much more than rafting). An optional, less demanding, 100 ft. rappel off the back side of the tower is also available. We spend the night at the cave camp.
While lunch is being served, at the bottom of the Himalayas, the rafts are loaded onto an ox cart and taken back up river above Terminator which will allow us to run this incredible stretch of whitewater again the following day. After lunch we hike 1.5 miles on a beautiful trail overlooking Terminator and the surrounding snowcapped mountains to the mouth of the Rio Blanco Canyon. Those people not wishing to partake in the Rio Blanco canyoneering (We plan on canyoneering - whatever that is), take a manual cable car across the river to the Mapu Leufu Camp. Situated on a secluded bluff, 120 feet over the river with dramatic 360° views, this 300-acre camp has over two miles of private riverfront. Hand-hewn wooden cliff dwellings offer breathtaking views of granite towers rising from the turquoise river. Dramatically perched on the cliff is an 18-person wooden hot tub. Meals are served outdoors at the cliff- side dining area with stunning views of granite spires rising from the turquoise river in one direction and glacier-capped, Alp- like peaks in the other. (a covered dining area is used if it rains). The camp also has flush toilets, hot showers and a hand-hewn gazebo- like shelter. There is also a 30- foot deep pond for kayaking (lessons) and wonderful swimming at a beach on the main river or in a tributary stream with waterfalls and deep pools. In the afternoon there is a choice between kayak lessons on a clear pond, single-track mountain biking, hiking up to two lakes and an old growth forest or relaxing in the hot tub and canyoneering through the 400 foot deep Rio Blanco slot canyon. Wearing wetsuits and river shoes, we hike, climb and swim through this incredible natural labyrinth of white boulders, clear azure pools and waterfalls. For many people this experience is a highlight of the trip.
In the afternoon we run two of the most difficult Class 5 rapids on the river; Mas o Menos and Casa De Piedra. After the last rapid the canyon boasts some of its most impressive scenery with grand vistas of towering mountains and glaciers. In the early afternoon we take out and drive half an hour back to the Campo Mapu Leufu trailhead. A one mile hike takes us into camp. That evening there is a farewell dinner celebration in the form of a traditional Chilean Asado (roasted sheep over a fire).
*OPTION: Class 4 participants have the option of hiking on a trail around short sections
of the bigger rapids. Often people who chose to walk around Inferno Canyon earlier in
the trip feel more comfortable and run many of the large rapids today. This decision,
however, is always left up to the guides.
DAY 10-16: EASTER ISLAND
On our last day we have marathon flight (18+ hours I think) from Easter Island back to Santiago, then NYC and finally back home to Boston.