River of Dreams
|Introducing the Futaleufu Valley: Be prepared to get wet (Alissa Mears)|
Getting to South America takes long enough, but making it to a town of 900 people living in the bowels of Chile's PatagoniaÂ—one that the Rand McNally World Atlas has yet to acknowledge...now that takes some serious planning and patience. After four commercial flights, Christmas dinner in the Toronto Airport, a 20-minute chartered flight, and a jolting, four-hour drive through the austral Andes, I had finally arrived at my destination: the tiny village of FutaleufÃº, forgotten by the world if not for its infamously turbid river of the same name. From the air, the landscape between Puerto Montt and Chaiten (Futa's coastal gateway cityÂ—if you can call it that), inspired memories of Candy Land's Gum Drop Pass: verdant islands emerging like bobbing broccoli from swirling Mediterranean blues. Chaiten, a motley collection of ramshackle buildings, looks nestled in a world 100 years gone, but once you spend a week or two in Futa, Chaiten can feel like Manhattan on steroids.
During the four-hour stumble from Chaiten, the land that Pablo Nerruda called his "Thin Country" became deceptively meatier as we drove further south. In a childlike state of awe, I found myself severely regressing from board game associations to near-infant drooling as we rumbled into the dusty streets of FutaleufÃº. Surrounded by panoramic views of white-capped Andean peaks, the town is centered on a small, manicured plaza. The streets have yet to see pavement and caballos remain the favored mode of transportation. We pulled into the Centro Aventura FutaleufÃº Lodge, a rustic inn emitting the aromas of fresh homemade bread and the Chilean cocktail specialty, pisco sours. Expediciones Chile, the outfitter sponsoring my ten-day paddling binge in Futa, has several camps and lodges, and I would be spending my first few days here, easing further into the deceptively calm sections of the raging Fu River.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication