22 December 2013

Kayaking in Pucon

Saturday 16th November.

Having tried and loved white water rafting whilst in Arequipa, I wanted to try other watersports. Pucon is one of the best places to do kayaking and I was there at one of the best times of the year to do it. Another opportunity to prove that few look good in a wetsuit.

The day started on the lake, learning the basics - paddling and control of the kayak. This mostly involved trying not to capsize the kayak whilst getting yourself around the lake, although obviously it resulted in a lot of getting cold & wet. It was a hot day, but the water was cold.

When you get in to a kayak for the first time there is a perfectly natural worry that when, not if, you capsize it you'll not be able to get out and will end-up trapped upside down underwater. From chatting to my instructor this is something everyone worries about; having capsized a kayak many times I can confirm that it is really easy to get out, so easy that I fell out a few times whilst trying to learn Eskimo Rolls.

An interesting part of learning to do Eskimo Rolls is intentionally capsizing the kayak and getting use to being upside-down underwater, which the first time you do it is scary and a lot easier after that. You just capsize the boat (very easy), wait for a bit (harder that in sounds whilst hanging upside down in a lake) and then have your instructor flip the kayak, bringing you back to the surface. Do that a couple of times and any fears about being trapped soon go - in my case as I fell out of the kayak the first time I tried it.

After a few hours on the lake doing a mixture of basic manoeuvring and failing to learn how to Eskimo Roll I was tired - a lot more tired than I was expecting. A 1.5 hour lunch break was most welcome.

The inability to do an Eskimo Roll made the afternoon's activities a little more interesting - 2.5 hours of paddling, covering about 10km of grade 2 river. My only choice if I capsize would be to pop out of the kayak and swim for the bank, keeping my paddle with me (something my instructor stressed several times - he would sort out the kayak.). Although the river was only grade 2 (i.e. mostly calm, a few faster & choppier bits - rapids-ish) and I'd very happily rafted down a grade 3-4 (i.e. lots of big fast rapids), this was more daunting.

Sadly I couldn't take my camera with me as there was no way of keeping it dry, and Gil was busy flying off a volcano (no, really) and so had her GoPro. This is a real shame I'd love to have captured the calm and beauty of slowly paddling down the river - the views of the river itself, along with Pucon's most famous view, the volcano. Stunning.

To my surprise, and that of the guy who runs the company, I managed to do the whole journey without falling in - I think in part as I was really *very* keen on not getting a soaking; I'd spent the morning cold & wet (and loving ever second).

Being cold & wet for hours, along with being surrounded by new germs - part of the fun of travelling - meant that the day after I was starting to come down with a cold, one that Gil had been fighting for a few days and for the rest of my time in Pucon I wasn't feeling well enough to get back in to the water - something I wanted to do.

Southern Chile is a place I want to return to and explore - I'll be back in Pucon and on its rivers.