Crushing waves on the Rio Futaleufu
After finishing an amazing day on the Rio Manso I got a phone call. "Chris, it's Nate. Can you be in Esquel tomorrow? We need you to take photos for some clients that are coming in."

The night sky in Futaleufu
The next morning I woke up super early, and went to the bus station in Bariloche.  My plan was to catch the first bus out of town at 7 AM. There were already two kayakers waiting at the end of an overly packed bus who were trying to squish their kayaks into the cargo area. I immediately walked into the terminal and swapped my ticket to the next available bus. An hour and a half later I was packing my kayak into the back of the bus and trying to get comfortable for the six hour bus ride south to Esquel. Once there, I was picked up by Adriana Radwanski, the manager of H2O Patagonia. She gave me the low down about what was going on. H2O Patagonia had two clients coming to the Futaleufu for a week who were interested in a photo package. I was there to create that photo package. We hopped in Adriana's truck and headed for the Argentina border. When we arrived the skies started to let loose.  The rain was coming down hard, and then harder. By the time we made it to the front of the Argentine border checkpoint line it was a torrential downpour outside. My kayak gear looked interesting to the border patrol, and they asked to thoroughly search my baggage. By the time they got done looking through all of my gear most of it was sopping wet. Adrian and I finally got our passport stamps and were on our way to do the same song and dance on the Chilean side.

Wild flowers cover the valley floor
A couple hundred yards further down the road at the Chilean border my gear was under questioning again. "Have you gotten your equipment washed?" The Chilean border control was trying to say that there had been a recent influx of Didymo algae in the Futaleufu valley, and they wanted all of my gear disinfected. Didymo is an invasive slime that attaches itself to the bottom of rivers, eating away and stifling all the naturally growing plants. The Chilean government is now taking steps to help slow down the spread of Didymo by washing all incoming water equipment, including boats, waders, fishing poles, and my mostly dry union suit. The Didymo can easily be killed off by completely drying your gear for 48 hours, or washing it with regular dish soap. So my mostly wet gear, from being searched in Argentina, got completely drenched with soapy water as I entered Chile.

Double click on the photo and check out the pollen on the bee
Arriving at H2O's base camp I was blown away by the amazing view of huge rugged mountains, bright blue skies above, and wildflowers below. The guides took me to the back porch, where a wood-fired hot tub was placed above the river.  The sun was setting and lighting up the sky with a bright orange blaze that was reflecting off the glacial blue river. The Rio Futaleufu was showing off. My day of bumpy roads and wet gear was definitely worth that view alone.

Gorgeous views after a solid hike
H20's guides Pedro Fernandez Cid, Tomas Binimelischatted, and Nate Mac brought me up to speed on the week's itinerary. The trip was going to show off the surreal beauty of Patagonia.

An average eddy on the Futaleufu
Paddling duckies on the the Rio Espolon
Pillow rock on the Rio Futaleufu
Steer wrangling competition at Media Luna
Impromptu steer wrangling via bicycle
Canyoneering in Cajon Jelves
Fabio putting the finishing touches on a amazing desert
By the time we returned to base camp everyday we were starving and tired. Chef Fabio Roman de Luca was also tired. He had been in the kitchen all day creating another amazing meal. Turning out great meals in the remote Futaleufu valley is not a talent, but an art.

Small blue woodpecker
An abandon building with a gorgeous garden
People place so much hype on paddling the Rio Futaleufu, but that's because it's worth it. The river really wants to be paddled. The water is relatively warm, the features are friendly, and the beautiful blue water with amazing mountain scenery creates a jaw dropping experience.

Futalefu hawk
After paddling both world renowned big water classics of the Futaleufu and the Zambezi within a short period of time, it's hard to say which I like better. The Zam is definitely more out of control. You just paddle into huge features and get annihilated. You can't do that as much on the Futa, it is a little more technical, and there are definitely a couple features that you don't want to paddle into. They are both gems, and both should be high on your list for amazing adventures.

Rafters in front of the Tres Monjas
Stay tuned for the next write up from an illegal river in Argentina that is slated for dam construction.
Another tale by Chris Baer


Mexico, part III

So Will and I have made it home back to Missoula Montana. We spent about three weeks in the state of Chiapas exploring and looking for rivers with the right flows, and another five weeks surfing the warm and sunny mainland cost of Mexico all the way north. This was a welcome switch up from the often cool and cloudy mountains of Vera Cruz and Chiapas.

The Agua Azul treated us nicely. Although a little turbid and high when we first arrived it lowered enough to show off its stunning blue waters. Unfortunately, at this point in the trip I took an impact on my L3, lumber, crushing it a little which left me out of commission for nearly the rest of the kayaking. I did get down the Agua Azul one time, but could only run the slides, non of the perfect looking water falls. We tried the impressively steep at (1900 ft per ml), and beautiful Santo Domingo but after waiting for five days in rain, the river did nothing but rise. So, due to high levels and a broken back we were cut short in Chiapas.

Trying to mark your line on the ague azul is half the fun. You monkey around on all the lips trying to extract some frame of reference as to where you want to be at. It is surprisingly difficult to see the line from kayak perspective with all the drops having such wide and flat lips.

As this drop shows. Its important to scout out the good landing spots in the traverntine rich pools below the drops. Lots of shallow spots.

It just keeps dropping and dropping.

Although the native Zapatista movement it much less volatile then it was in the resent past, it is still very evident and alive. As a tourists, we felt safe, but the movement and what it represents is something to be aware of. Its often good to talk to locals especially those with higher clout before tromping with your kayak through their lands. This will ensure a much smoother experience when you bump into the land owners or workers. These are a hard working people who are proud of their land and traditions and independence from the government. If respect was shown, it was often reciprocated.

Got to spread the fun where every we go. Despite nationality, we are all ambassadors of kayaking.
The rare view from behind the vale.

Will, sending it, about to break paddle number 4.

Surfing at Barra de la cruz.

Shot from the board.

A typical camp spot on the way home.

Thanks to Nick, and the others at WRSI who helped make this trip possible and keep my dome in one piece. While there I witnessed two cracked Sweet helmets. I too, took more then the usual amount of hits to my head on this trip. Mexican creeks in Vera Cruz are just low volume and steep. It gets fuzzy fast! I was super stoked to know my helmet could take multiple hits and would flex just enough not to give me a concussion with glancing blows. You guys rock. Look forward to some spring posts....Got some goods lined up this year in a little spot call Glacier National park, no big deal. Till then, excited to see what the other team members are up to.