I'm back in Coyhaique now, and what formerly felt like a medium-sized town now feels to me more like a big city after almost a week in Futa.
There are a few things to catch up on from my last couple of days in Futa, starting with a little bit of context for my stay, because I realized that I never explained that when I arrived. Patagonia Sur, the company with which I'm working, has an associated foundation that works in communities near the company's properties to advance conservation and sustainable development. As part of this work, the foundation employs two teachers of English and environmental conservation, one of whom is based in Futa. Melanie, the teacher in Futa, was incredibly welcoming from the moment that I arrived, setting me up with a spot in the hospedaje (a sort of guest house) where she was living with several Chileans working in the school system. She was invaluable as a translator, tour guide, and friend, and introduced me to a lot of great people in town that made my stay an absolute pleasure, even if I could sometimes only understand a small portion of what they were saying. Melanie, Jessica, Bill, Rodrigo, Jonathan (x2), Pedro, Carlos, Andres, Alfredo, and others that I'm probably forgetting, thanks for being so wonderful and welcoming.
With that, here are a few random pictures to give a better sense of life in town:
I love the wood-burning stoves in Patagonia - this one is a modern take on the classic design
Streets of Futa from my hospedaje
Friday was mostly devoted to a significant amount of work on my project, which had taken a back seat to travel and outdoor and cultural experiences. But at night I made it out to a birthday party with several of the people mentioned above. The party was at a disco that was a 10-minute walk outside of town - a rustic, barn-like building with a great sound and light system inside. The contrast gave it a unique vibe, and I'd imagine it'd be quite an experience in the high season with all of the tourists in town. Though Chilean parties apparently often go until 5 or 6 in the morning, I took off somewhat early because I had a big day planned for Saturday, involving....
Rafting the Futa! Though it's early in the season and there aren't really any organized trips going out yet, I was lucky enough to get in on a guide training trip with a guy named Josh at Futaleufu Explore. Josh is from Colorado, and first came to kayak the Futa about 20 years ago. It took him 9 years to get back again, but has been guiding there ever since.
The Futaleufu River is one of the top few stretches of whitewater in the world, with people coming from all over to raft or kayak, many on a 5km section known as the Puente a Puente (bridge to bridge). Between the two bridges are back-to-back rapids, with only maybe a hundred yards between each one. There's a lot of water in a hurry to lose some altitude, making for a swift current and some serious consequences for those without significant experience, especially in kayaks. Fortunately I had an experienced guide and a raft that stayed upright through the rapids, but it was quite a ride. And on top of all that, there was absolutely stunning scenery to either side, from lush forests to snowfields to craggy peaks.
Unfortunately my camera couldn't come with me on the raft, but I have a few pictures from before and after:
Entering Futa - the sign says "A landscape painted by God"