Uploaded on Apr 1, 2011
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Entry from: Esquel, Argentina
Entry Title: "Day 190: February 21, 2008 Cait"
"Day 190: February 21, 2008 Caitén to Esquel, Argentina
Caitén was completely socked in with fog when we awoke. We slept very well and there was surprisingly little noise during the night. We dressed and checked out. Stopping first to gas up at the COPEC station across the street, we drove around looking for a place to eat breakfast. We finally found the Hotel Schilling, the nicest place in town, and ate a standard Chilean breakfast.
We reviewed our options for the day. We could continue north and take the ferry to Puerto Montt or return southward 85 km, or so, and cross the Andes to Esquel, at Futaleufú. Because we were starting to get concerned about kilometrage overcharges and the amount of driving to get Liz back to Punta Arenas for her return flight to the US, we elected to return to Argentina via Futaleufú. As we left town, we picked up two women hitchhikers. They were Chilean law students from Santiago and were very excited and grateful to get a ride all the way to Futaleufú, their intended destination.
The weather showed signs of clearing by the time we reached the Futaleufú turnoff and cleared rapidly the higher we got. Soon, we were traveling up a beautiful mountain valley that reminded me of my days in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, near Platoro. The Futaleufú Valley has many more people living in it than Platoro did in 1974 but otherwise they held many similarities. On the way, we picked up two college-age guys to join the women in the back. They were both kayakers, Raul, from the Netherlands, and Phil, from Montreal and Ottawa. The four in the back seemed to have a great time as we drove through the beautiful scenery. The Río Futaleufú is one of the world's premiere kayaking sites. It is threatened by a hydroelectric project and is rallying support against damming the river. It would be criminal to hide this area beneath a reservoir on a continent blessed with so much wind power.
When we got to Futaleufú, we let our riders out. The guys asked if they could continue with us to Esquel after they packed up their campsite. We agreed. I asked Phil if he knew where I could find Chris Spelius, an Olympic kayaker from Bryson City, NC, who spends half of each year running river/adventure trips in Futaleufú as well as its nicest hotel. Phil went off and returned a few minutes later to tell me where his office was located.
People have been telling me for the last 9 years that I should meet Chris; I always thought it would happen in North Carolina. My first wife, Haidee, helped deliver Chiloe Spelius, 9. Robert Dye and Mark Zwick both know Chris and, over the years, told me that we should meet-Zwick reiterated this via email a week ago. We found him in his office and had a great 15-minute chat. Unfortunately, our remaining time did not allow us to do a raft trip on the river so we agreed we would do so on our return visit. The whole time we were there Chiloe sat intensely looking at the computer screen. She is completely fluent in Spanish and English, her mother being Chilean.
We walked back to the central plaza and had a picnic lunch on the bandstand amongst manicured, almost topiary, trees and several araucarias. At the appointed time, Phil and Raul returned and piled in to the back of the pick-up. A few kilometers down the road, we picked up a young Chilean couple. At the border, we breezed through the Chilean side. The Argentines were a little slower and insisted that it was illegal for anyone to ride in the back of a pick-up. I thought of the family that Toyo and I saw in Salta riding in the back of a pick-up while the drunken father wove down the highway. We piled all four of our guests into the back of the cab. It was a tight fit but they were all grateful for the ride.
The ride into Esquel was scenic and only took about an hour. High, dry mountains stood in stark contrast to the forested peaks we had just passed through in Chile. I spent two nights in Esquel in 1989 with Haidee and my ..."
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Photos from this trip:
1. "Caitén Bay"
2. "Caitén Bay II"
3. "Slow Bridge Crossing"
4. "River Crossing"
5. "Futaleufú Valley"
6. "Futaleufú Valley II"
7. "Futaleufú Valley III"
8. "Futaleufú Araucaria"
9. "Futaleufú Main Street"
10. "Futaleufú Park"
11. "Near Futaleufú Border Crossing"
12. "Chilean Side of Border"
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