Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The River Wild

We´ve been spending the last couple of days in the charming town of El Bolsón in Patagonia. Our days here were planned as low-key and relaxing days, but it seems like a sense of adventure seems to follow us wherever we go.

This morning, we headed to the Lago Puelo National Park, which is a small park based around a stunning lake that borders Chile. We wanted to do some hiking, and had heard about a great trail that takes you up to the Chilean border. We asked about the hike in the Park Ranger's office, and they were concerned about the height of the river and wanted to check it out for themselves before we were cleared to go. So, we had a nice, guided walk over to the river with a very helpful ranger. We got to the river's edge and he said declared it as "likely passable." Now, you must know that this trail involves you crossing through the river three times each way on the trail. So, that's six river crossings with approximately 7 hours of trail hiking in between. The river is also fed by snow melt from the Andes glaciers, so the water was nice and brisk, as well. The water was also moving very fast, so the ranger wanted to watch us cross the first arm of the river before he left us to our own devices. Rob graciously asked me if I was comfortable with this, to which I replied that I was a little nervous and intimidated, but still game for the experience. So, we decided to give it a shot. Rob headed out first, and then I braved the glacial waters. We waded in, wet up to our thighs (and hips for me), and I was struggling to remain standing. The ranger had found us both a couple of good walking sticks, but those were doing very little to help me with the current moving so fast. Rob, astutely reading the concern and mild panic in my eyes, again checked in to see if I was ok. If we only had to do this once or twice, I wouldn´t have hestitated to continue. However, at this point, we were going to have to cross like this 5 1/2 more times. So, I said "uncle" and we both headed back.

I thought I'd had my adventure for the day, but there was more in store for me. We decided to take a guided boat trip across the lake the the Chilean border, and ended up with a private tour. We had an amazing guide and were just about the only people out on this gorgeous lake, which had some of the clearest blue water we've seen. Our guide took us on a short hike around the area where the lake meets the Rio Puelo. We enjoyed our hike, and had incredible views of the rapids. We were crossing back to the shore were we docked our boat and came to a narrow part of the Rio Puelo. It was a short crossing and there were plenty of rocks to act as step stones, so we thought it would be fine. I was the last one across, and got out the middle of the crossing with no problems. Then, I took a step with a little too much momentum, completely lost my balance and fell backwards into the river. I got a couple of scrapes and bumps, but was otherwise fine. Apparently, I looked a little panicky and disoriented, but once Rob was there to help me out, I was fine and laughing about the whole thing. AT least I fell into a river in one of the most scenic places I've seen!


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