After spending 2 nights in the glorious habitat of Cabanas Miraflores and paddling the Rio Nuble, we had the rest required to head for the combat paddling of the continuous cold crystal clear water of the Rio Laja. For most of the group the Rio Laja would prove to be a highlight piece of whitewater on the trip. The Rio Laja flows out of a lake that was created when the lava from Volcan Antuco (2985 meters) flowed free and dammed up the river. Almost fifty bird species inhabit the national park, and it also marks the northern limit for the growth of the mountain cypress and the monkey-puzzle tree, Chile’s national tree. Only seventy years ago volcanic activity was recorded in the volcano!
This river is as fun as fun gets, at least if you like combat paddling. It is a non-stop rollercoaster of moving between holes and crashing waves, and as it drops around 180 meters in 2.5 kilometers without a single vertical drop you know the action is fast. A swim is definitely not an option! Well at least that was my briefing to the crew…
From the time you take your first stroke it is game-on. The first rapid is the steepest one, and below it there is an occasional eddy you can catch before the gradient increases again. This would be the location that we gathered the group again after loosing our first swimmer in the first 100 meters of the run! After this welcoming start to the paddle day there are multiple lines everywhere; the most important part is to remember that on this river, you are on your own. And yeah, it is one of the most exhilarating rivers I know in Chile! We did manage to keep things under control until the last 100 meters of whitewater in the short 2.5km long section. In the final crux the excitement, fear, exhaustion, and mental energy finally had its breaking point and within seconds 3 out of 6 were taking an unscheduled swim-stop. Not recommended but survivable! The greatest part for me was that we only had another 25 meters of whitewater left before the class I-II float to the lake started! It took a few moments to communicate with everyone what happened and that the swimmers would have to walk the 600 meters remaining along the shore to the point where they could cross and get to the proper side of the river for our vehicles at the take-out. Once we all arrived together at the take-out the stories would flow more than the beer. Whether it was surviving the run, paddle the most continuous whitewater of their life, the stunning scenery, numb hands from the cold water, or a huge smile because all the equipment except 1 paddle was collected… Everyone had a personal experience that will never be forgotten!
Stay tuned to follow the adventures of team Whitewater Chile as we continue to move south and paddle….
For more info on the River of Chile check out www.whitewaterchile.com and find the guidebook ‘Whitewater Chile’.