Waterfalls, Breakdowns and the UN

Waterfalls, Breakdowns and the UN

by Cassie Hayden

Foreign Policy is a touchy subject no matter what country is involved. Now the US has a certain flair but there are plenty of other countries that need a little help along the lines of diplomacy.

It would appear that no matter how many stupid reason there are to squabble over who has the oil reserves the real questions are why Vegemite is the poor bastardization of Marmite and why Kylie Minogue truly was the best thing to come from Australia. For this reason we conducted our own version of the UN for a two-week trial period. The venue was the Mercedes van traveling at breakneck speeds to and from various rivers while the delegates were treated to the finest steak and the best whitewater in Chile.

The countries that were represented were New Zealand, Britain, Australia, United States, Chile, Canada, Texas and South Africa. Included was a token Irishman for two days but no one could understand anything he said so he doesn’t really count.

Why it takes so long to cross borders in South America I will never quite understand. The fact you have to get cleared to leave the first and then pass the second checkpoint for the other country after passing through no-man’s land certainly does not help. Unfortunately the days of greased palms are a distant memory down here and they frown upon the custom now. Shame really because it would be way more efficient.

Due to extenuating circumstances our arrival back in Chile was somewhat delayed. This meant an extra night in Bariloche. For those that know this place you will understand my excitement, if not I highly encourage you to go.

Back in Chile the festivities started the very first night with half of the UN counsel deciding that a pre-river lubrication session would be advisable. It was not, and they were hurting the next morning as we headed to the Rio San Pedro. Thankfully though the San Pedro treated us to a mellow big water run with a great play spot to have lunch next to and play in the whirlpools behind.

Moving swiftly on to the next town it was time to go and negotiate the Rio Fuy. This was the perfect setting for our international discussions as basing out of the town of Choshuenco allowed many debates out on the patio watching the sunsets over the lake.

Meanwhile the kayaking continued. After a quick warm up on the Lower Fuy it was off to the Middle/Upper Fuy. A short hike in leads to a beautiful exit to the gorge and the put in for the section. A quick start leads rapidly into continuous class 4 until a small building on river right indicates the biggest drop on the run.
The rapid was a short drop with three potential slots split by a small piece of bedrock from which to scout. Getting out proved difficult and the middle slide slot seemed the best option. After everyone ran the slide I probed the left slot that yielded a great banking move to punch the hole at the bottom.
On the second run after helping the last person off the split rock I slid backwards into the so far un-probed right slot. Sliding off thinking “Oooops”, this was not the best, nor the worst, situation. One or two backstrokes, as it was not wide enough to turn around, and tuck the paddle as I go off the bottom drop expecting to get pasted into the wall. A stroke of good fortune and all went well. The group made a few startled faces but off downstream we went with my heart rate slowly coming down to normal.

With the real goal of the trip still to come we headed to the Upper Fuy and got warmed up with some great entrance drops. Due to some wonderful forestry work several of the drops had significant wood but high water had cleared some routes. After several ledges and smaller rapids we arrived at the horizon line we had been waiting for.

Las Leonas is a clean 25 footer set in a lush sub-tropical forest. This falls leads into some more complicated but smaller drops that culminate in the end of the run and a 15-foot falls.

For some this was going to be the biggest falls of their boating so far. After nervously discussing the necessary technique, it was decided that rolling the lip with a nice slow stroke into the tuck would be the way to go. Helen having broken her back sledding the year before was ready to go but did not manage to get her bow down so she landed fairly flat in the pool. This put her out for a couple of days while her muscles relaxed. The others all performed the tuck wonderfully with Ian resurfacing in an amazing rocket move. After a couple of runs and many photos a slightly smaller group of us headed downstream to finish the run down to the 15 footer. The next rapid made the decision for a lot of the group with a technical lead in avoiding a pin down a steep ramp and then off a 5 ft river-wide pourover. PK and I ran without incident.

Now please remember that we are in South America. Things are going well so something is bound to go wrong. Most likely when you are least expecting it.

With Julian having broken the heart of one local girl it was time to leave Choshuenco and head to Argentina, the land of great steak and beautiful women. After catching the morning ferry across Lago Fuy to the border everything was going well until The Minnesota Kid forgot a key piece of paper.

Quick travel tip: When traveling to Chile keep the little yellow paper they stamp and give you until you leave the country.
This didn’t cost too much time and we were on track for a great night in Bariloche, with ”I’m Horny” as the soundtrack for the night blasting on the stereo. Unfortunately Zie Germans had other plans for us. Halfway into the trip the Mercedes busted a gut and came banging to a grizzly end.
Five hours later we were speeding our way to Bariloche, just with a little more dust. Rolling into town at midnight we checked into the hotel and ran out for our first steak of the trip. Dinner finished at 1:30 am, just in time to hit the disco and see some live music. The rest of the group bailed claiming anything from age to fatigue to the fact that we had to paddle the next day and all retired to bed. So the Crazy South African and I headed out into the night. Why is it that dancing like loons is so much fun? Anyway….

One more river and it was off to Julian’s home town of El Bolson and a night of true debate. With the Yanks retiring early it was more of a Commonwealth discussion at the bar. As with any true antipodean group this turned to ragging on each other very quickly. I feel the Brits came out on top due to sheer numbers.
The next day we were all feeling a little less active as we finally headed back into Chile. It was disco night, and never wanting to miss an opportunity to take part in a little cultural misunderstanding, the group descended on the disco. Apparently it is not acceptable to dance by yourself or in groups in South America. You must dance man with woman at all times or be considered worthy of picking a fight with. With the night finishing just as the sun was coming up it was time to get some sleep before venturing onto the Fu.

As for the international relations nothing really got sorted out except that Marmite is the true yeast extract spread.

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