Chris' 1994  R100GS/PDChris' new bike, a 1996 F650 ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650
Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

March 8, 2002 -- 146 weeks

Credit to Futaleufú, Chile

-- Story by Erin --

Monday, March 4th: Sebastian and Sofia go on an excursion on the historical Patagonia Express train, while the rest of us decide to go strait to the Chilean border. Before we leave Esquel we meet an Argentine biker named Fernando, riding a new F650GS/Dakar. He is on holiday and interested in our plans to go rafting in Futaleufú, and decides to join us. Fernando rides on and agrees to meet us at the border. On the dirt road to the border, my shock breaks and it feels like I have just had a blowout. The undercarriage of my bike is resting on my back tire. We find that the bolt securing the bracket at the bottom of the shock, where it attaches to the rear linkage of the bike, has been sheared off.  The bouncing on the rocky/gravel road didn't help, and the aluminum bracket snapped.  Between the four of us checking our supply of spares, we manage to come up with an aluminum L-shaped piece of metal and a smaller bolt that patch it back together temporarily. I drive on, however very gently over the rough road. At the border, Fernando is nowhere to be found. We drive further and find him waiting for us in town.

Chris and Fernando get directions to the camp of "Fico" the owner of a rafting company we met the last time we were through there with Jason and the "Swiss lads". This time the weather is beautiful and clear, however a bit chilly. After much driving back and forth through the farms in the countryside, we finally find Fico’s camp, or what we thought was his camp. A couple of locals told us we were actually at the place where he keeps his rafts and equipment but that his actual camp is further away, across the nearby swing-bridge and down the other side of the river about 2 more kilometers down a dirt path. We inspect the swing-bridge, which has a sign indicating it can take up to 500 kilos, for durability. Can we take our heavily loaded bikes across this? The drop down to the river looks easily like 100 meters! It is getting dark and we decide to pitch our tents where we were and wait for him to arrive, which he does about an hour later. Fico is happy to see us and remembers us from before. He agrees to take us rafting the next day at the previously agreed upon rate of US$50/pp. (We got this rate dealing directly with him, as it is normally US$70/pp in town through an agent.)  After dark as we were cooking dinner by the campfire light, Sebastian and Sofia turn up on their Shadow cruiser.  We very surprised that they even found us! We found out later that they met up with Fernando in town and he told them where to find us. The night sky was crystal clear and we could see a million stars. After dinner we all walked down to the swing bridge, laid down on our backs, and stared up at the stars for some time.

Tuesday, March 5th: Fico arrives at around 11am and there are 4 Israeli’s there as well to go rafting. Fico’s group consists of himself as one guide (he is originally from Peru), another guide named Derek (from Quebec, Canada) , Derek’s girlfriend Ahnee (from Quebec), Jenica (a friend of Fico’s visiting from Vancouver, Canada) and 3 safety kayakers, 2 Swiss and 1 German. Quite an international crew! After loading up all the gear, we say goodbye to Sebastian and Sofia, who were driving on along the Carratera Austral to Chaiten that day. We had a sad goodby, then loaded into the van and headed out. 

At the river we were all given wetsuits, windbreakers, life vests and helmets. Derek gives us our safety briefing, what can go wrong (and right) on the river and what to expect in general. We split up into 2 rafts, Fico with the 4 Israeli’s and Jenica (in the mermaid position, which means sitting in the center with no paddle), and us (including Annet, Liam and Fernando) with Ahnee in Derek’s raft. Chris and Liam are situated in the lead paddling positions in the front of the raft, Annet and I next, Fernando and Ahnee behind us and Derek in the back steering. After we are in the raft, Derek gives us our instructions and tells us this is his first trip guiding down this particular river.  (He has been down the river several times the previous week).  Not to worry though, he’s guided down many other rivers in the world and also has his own rafting company in Canada. This is a big river, high volume of water with lots of waves, which rates it a 4+ on the difficulty scale for rafting (5 being the highest). Many people in the rafting community consider it to be in the top 10 rivers in the world.

Anxious about what lies ahead, someone starts singing ABBA songs, and in particular the song "Fernando", in honor of our Argentine friend in the boat. We decide ABBA is a good name for our "team" and we all give a big ABBA cheer to psyche ourselves up. Almost immediately we hit big waves and Derek is yelling at us to paddle hard as we crash head on into the waves, which nearly bend the boat in two. Chris gets thrown back on me and we bang helmets. Water crashes into us like getting hit by big surf on a beach. At one point I sense myself leaning sideways out of the boat and feel Ahnee’s hand slap onto my arm and pull me back in. Whew, and this was just the beginning! When we were out of the first set of rapids, Derek congratulates us and we can see he is just as thrilled (maybe more than us) that we made it through. We must have gone through 4 or 5 more sets of rapids (I lost count) all with ominous names like Shark, Montazuma's Revenge and Puma, etc. Derek would give us instructions before entering each set, like "we’ll have to back paddle on the right side" and, "we might get 'trashed' on this one so if we get flipped swim hard to the right side of the river and wait for the safety kayaks to pick us up."  (Dios Mio!!!) Being the hardcore tough bikers that we are we managed to stay in the boat for the entire ride, with special thanks to Derek who masterfully guided us through and kept our energy levels up so that we charged into each set with a vengeance.

At the end we were all riding a mental high, not quite believing that we managed to stay right side up, rubber side down (like on the motorbikes). Fico’s boat too, managed to stay up the entire time without losing a person overboard. The whole trip lasted about half the day and we got back to the camp around 6pm in the evening. The weather had turned cloudy during the day and by the time we were back a steady drizzle was falling. We said goodbye to the rafting crew and settled down to dinner by the campfire again and a few bottles of wine. Fernando stayed for dinner and we all reminisced about the exciting day.

Wednesday, March 6th: It had rained all night and was still raining lightly that morning. We took our time packing up while watching some Gaucho’s nearby ready their horses for a trekking trip. Fico arrived with Jenica on their way into town to run errands. Fico said he would be packing up his rafts soon and driving up to Peru where he spends the other 6 months of the year working up there. He runs 4-day rafting expeditions on a class 5 river there for US$200/pp. We agreed to look him up when we got there. Do I really feel ready to do a class 5 river for 4 days???

We got on the road back to the border and then said goodbye to Liam who was heading down south in Chile on the Carratera Austral. Annet parted from us just over the border to do some sightseeing of the local waterfalls. Chris and I returned to Esquel and checked into the same cabaña we had stayed in last time.


The merry band of overlanders heading back to Chile

L to R:   Chris, Erin, Liam, and Annet

Liam and Chris trying to sort a solution, on the side of the road

Bracket is bent and broken

View from Fico's property

Gauchos in our camp

The crew of the River Raft ABBA

Erin, Ahnee, Liam, Annet, Fernando, Derek, and Chris

More fun after rafting

Fico, Chris, Ahnee, Liam, Fernando, Derek (helmet), Jenica, Annet, and Erin


Unfortunately, Sofia and Sebastian ran into a bit of a roadblock on their way home


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