A kayaking trip to Chile can be summed up by stunning scenery, confused locals and waterfalls, lots of waterfalls. Chile has something for everybody from friendly medium volume rivers to incredible steep creeking. It's the perfect winter creek boating getaway.
Back in late 2012 myself and fellow Palm paddler James Edward Smith spent a tedious time researching many different airlines and baggage policies to find the cheapest option. The majority of airlines had a restriction on kayaks or charged 150 USD each way to bring them. This cost seemed high and unnecessary. Nevertheless I rang up James one evening with the flight codes to the cheapest flights I could find with American Airlines and we booked them. With very little thought, we were committed.
For kayaks we explored other options including rental from local dealers in Pucon which also proved expensive at 10,000 pesos (16 €) a day. You can also contact Ben May at Kayak Chile and ask him if he has any secondhand kayaks for sale. Luckily we both knew people who were in Chile at the time and contacted to buy their boats off them. This worked out great, they were keen to avoid the hassle and charges associated with flying boats and we both worked out good deals. Now all we had to do was to find somebody to buy our boats before we went home, but sure that was a long term problem!
Tip: To save your self money on baggage, cable tie and duct tape your paddle bag to your normal bag, I did this on both legs and nothing was said!
As the trip grew closer we began to do some real research into how to survive on as little money as possible while we were there! We couldn’t find any written pieces by dirt-bag kayakers on how to live cheap. So here it is from the horse's mouth!
First thing is first, Chile is the most developed country in South America with the highest standards of living. It is a First World country, expect First World prices for a lot of things especially around the capital Santiago.
Nobody speaks any English whatsoever, however I found Chileans to be very welcoming and helpful despite having no idea what I was saying. Buy a phrasebook and learn some basic Spanish before you go, especially numbers, it will make your life a hell of a lot easier.
Tip: Empanadas are great for on the road snacks, pretty cheap and you can get them everywhere. They are a pastry with some fillings, for instance the Napolina has ham cheese and tomato inside and tastes exactly like pizza. Take care not to crack your teeth on the single olive stone in each empanada though.
Top tip: Buy a fishing rod. The rivers there seem to be teeming with fish, especially the Futaleufu river, we saved a lot of money and ate some delicious meals this way.
When we first arrived the Futa river was low but still very big volume, then over night the river rose about a foot and a half and the rapids changed quite a bit! Generally speaking the river has more sticky holes but less consequence on low water. It has quite a few great sections and you can run all 44 km or so in one day. Heres a quick guide of what to expect:
Being safe on the water over there isn’t too difficult, but here are some tips from my experiences:
So that is pretty much all I can think to write about for now and in case you are wondering we managed to offload our boats to Ben May at Kayak Chile before we left, a really nice guy! He had our boats for sale in his shop for a small commission and once they were sold, he transfered us the money. It worked out to be a perfect solution for us. Sorry for keeping you so long but if you are planning a trip there I hope this comes in handy! Amazing place, amazing boating! – Andrew