Saturday, February 9th: We left Santiago in the
morning and drove south for a few hours on route 5. A few minutes after noon, our stomachs
began to growl and we decided to look for lunch a few kms away, near the town of Curicó.
Chris pulled off the road in the direction of the Shell station on the service road. Gabi
mentioned she saw a winery on the side of the road and we both noticed it had a
restaurant. We made Chris drive in that direction. It turned out to be one of Chiles
best-known vineyards, Bodega Miguel Torres. We were a bit early for lunch so they let us
sit in the courtyard area while they were preparing the food in the kitchen. In the
meantime they opened a fresh bottle of their brut champagne and offered it to us along
with light appetizers of toast with humus and tiny shish kebabs of chicken and mushrooms.
Lunch was a set menu with a salad, roast pork entrée with veggies, and desert of meringue
with strawberries drizzled with a chocolate sauce. Each course was served with a different
wine from the vineyard selected by the chef. It was all served in a fabulous setting
surrounded by the vines of the vineyard. These 5-star meal costs just over $13.00/pp, and
was a bargain, especially with our cheap standards! We arrived in the town of Chillian
late in the afternoon, and found a great little hotel on top of an old office building.
The staff was all terrific and very attentive.
Sunday, February 10th: Left Chillian in the morning after making a visit to
the market for some fresh veggies for lunch. Arrived in Pucon in the early evening and
found a nice little hotel near the lake.
Monday, February 11th: After breakfast we ventured out to find a rafting
tour. Met a nice English couple, Ray and Karen, outside one shop and started to share
travel stories. We ended up going on the same afternoon trip. The rapids were class 4 and
very technical-----meaning that the low water level meant there were many big rocks to
About half way down the river we came upon a set of rapids with a 7-meter
drop----higher than anyone was willing to try (we were not even offered the chance). We
found shelter near some rocks on the side and all got out. With our paddles in hand we
climbed our way over the mountain of rocks up to a cliff. One guide at the front halted us
in this place until everyone caught up. When everyone was accounted for he said okay here
is where we get back into the water-----by jumping off the cliff (maybe 25feet high) into
the rushing water below. The guides had maneuvered our rafts over the drop using ropes and
the rafts were waiting for us at the bottom by the side. Dutifully we all jumped (a
feeling much like doing a bungy jump) and swam quickly over to the rafts.
Back in our rafts and navigation the river quite well (we thought), we came to the
final set of rapids. The raft turned a bit sideways, and the last thing we all remember is
the guide mumbling, "aww, shi
.". The bow went to the left side of the big
rock, but the tail swung to the right, pinning us against the boulder. If we werent
in the rapids, we probably easily would have spun out of it. However, that would have been
a boring "if" story.
Wedged against the boulder with tons of water pounding in/over the side, it took only a
few minutes for the raft to become a bucket, filling with water, with the upstream side
sinking under the rapids. We ended up all on the high side of the raft, gripping the rope
while the raft managed to nearly capsize with all the water rushing in. The raft behind us
flipped over the first drop (about 10 meters behind us) and pitched all of its riders into
the rapids. We tried to grab some of them as they were carried by us, but to no avail. The
water was running so fast that they slipped through our fingers, literally. A brief panic
erupted as their boat rammed into us and we thought some of their riders were stuck under
Luckily everyone got down river to safety from his or her boat. Meanwhile, we were
still stuck in the same position wondering what was to become of us! One of the guides
managed to the get the other raft flipped over and perched up on the side rocks in a
secure position. We shuffled ourselves from our precarious position to the other raft. Our
guide managed to get our raft flipped back over and rode it down the next set of rapids by
himself. At the bottom we all breathed a huge sigh of relief and switched back into our
original rafts. Chris had such a good time he is setting his sights on going back to
Futaleufú in the south to try again to raft the class 5 rapids of the Bio Bio river.
On the way back to the hotel, Chris met Jose and Jaime Garcia, 2 Spaniards travelling
in South America on a R1150GS and Africa Twin. Weve been communicating via email,
and trying to connect as they were heading south through Chile while we were travelling
north. Somehow we missed them several weeks ago near Coyhaique, which was odd as we were
travelling opposite directions, and there was only one road!
Tuesday, Feb. 12th: Get up late and enjoyed a leisurely morning. Drove out
to Lago Caburgua and to the thermal pools at Quimey-Co and Huife. Quimey-Co is a more
rustic place with rock-rimmed, purpose-built pools next to the Rio Liucura. We had lunch
here and walked a short path up the river to a narrow gorge with rapids. After lunch we
visited the more luxurious Huife pools, but decided not to take the plunge because there
were too many people.
That night we met up again with Ray, Karen, an Australian couple named Andrew and
Karen, and Liam. The 2 couples had met while hiking up to the volcano that day. We had
many pisco sours while debriefing about their days adventure. Just after midnight,
we toasted Feb 13th, a special day for us
Wednesday, Feb. 13th: