Rafting the Futaleufu

I can hear the rush of the river as I stand by the aqua water. Mountains rise up around me, some with snow still on their peaks. I’m here, in Futaleufu, and a part of me still can’t believe it. I’ve never seen a place so beautiful, untouched, and a part of my heart feels like I’ve come home – like I belong in this place.

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I pull on a wetsuit, the water coming straight from the snowpack is cold, and if I end up swimming it’s my only protection from hypothermia. In truth, this water is warmer than the American River in California and the heat of the day is brutal. One the wetsuit is on, I jump in and float for awhile letting the water cool me off.

Then we’re in the boat and I’m front paddle. Three men and myself along with a guide. We go through the safety practices, falling out of the boat, being rescued by the kayaks and our fellow rafters. Christian our guide explains that the water is very high from recent rain and snowmelt, and Futaleufu doesn’t have slow pools. Instead, it runs fast, hard, with large holes that eat boats and spits them out.

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And then we’re in it. Powering down the mighty river, paddling hard through massive waves. Think the Perfect Storm kind of waves but in a raft instead of a boat (okay maybe not that big, but in that raft it feels like it). I try to paddle, but the boat is up so high above the bottom of the wave that my paddle catches water instead of air. Then a wave is splashing over me and I’m screaming with joy. It’s a rush like no other – nature at it’s finest beauty and power and me on its wild ride.

 

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When Christian does pull us into an eddy to explain the next rapid, I stare at the beauty around me. Far away from the craziness of regular life, I feel wrapped in mother nature’s heart beat. Serenity fills me and I realize that there are companies out there who desire to dam this beautiful river for profit. For years, the town of Futaleufu and the few N. American rafting companies who run trips five months out of the year, have fought the corporations and government trying to protect this gem. But Futaleufu is tiny, barely anyone lives in this town. Many in the area still live a simple life of farming in this beautiful valley without the need for the outside world. Internet access is available in town, and they have a beautiful school, but life is simple here.

If they dam this river like so many others in the world what will it do to this amazing area. Are we willing to sacrifice our earth, the sanctuaries left, for a few to profit?

And then the boat is taking off again, plunging into waves, running past those huge holes, and I ‘m alive, happy, and prayerful that this place will never be harmed.

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