Participants take an evening flight (On their own) from the U.S. to Santiago, Chile.
NOTE: For those people unable to take an extra day off and leave for the trip on Thursday evening you can easily join the trip by leaving on Friday evening as long as you arrive into Puerto Montt by 10:30 AM on Saturday.
Note: For information on joining the trip through Argentina, please see the "Getting there" section of the site. If you have any questions about the differences between the two country traveling options contact our office.
rriving in Santiago this morning, we pass through customs and transfer upstairs (in the same airport) to our hour and a half flight south to Puerto Montt. We arrive in Puerto Montt in the late morning, walk outside and take a taxi to the Cumbres Puerto Varas Hotel in the gorgeous Chilean town of Puerto Varas where a room will be waiting in your name. With Mount Fuji, snow-capped, Vulcano Osorno, rising directly out of it, Puerto Varas is one of the most beautiful towns in all of South America. The afternoon is free to explore the town. In the early evening we meet the Earth River guide, Maria, in the hotel lobby and go out for a welcome dinner.
This morning the group transfers (1/2 hour) to the Paloma Airport in Puerto Montt. The half hour flight is spectacular as we follow the rugged coastline of Pumilin National Park where deep fiords connect the ocean to wild rivers, framed withing a verdant rain forest that climbs to the snow line of the Patagonia Andes that pierce the clouds. Just before landing, we get a bird's eye view of the still smoldering Chaiten Volcanoe which erupted in 2008, burying 90% of the town in cement like ash deposited by diverted, swollen rivers. We board the bus and drive 1 hour to a trailhead where we embark on a spctacular hike to a glacier that meets the rain forest. This hike is time and weather dependent and is sometime not practical to do. We then board the bus. The next two hours are stunningly beautiful as the road passes beneath giant snow-capped peaks and hanging glaciers in a deep glaciated valley. We reach the Termniador Camp trailhead in the early afternoon and hike 1/2 mile into camp.
The first of Earth River's four stunning private camps on the Futaleufu, the Terminador Camp, has a mile of private river front and sits on a dramatic tree lined bluff over the raging river. A beautiful trail winds through the trees the entire length of the camp offering stunning views of the mile long rapid which churns the water into every imaginable shade of azure, white and turquoise. Hidden in the trees are 14 private, two person, hand-hewn wooden cliff dwellings each with beds and a bird's eye view of the surging flow, which creates dozens of waterfalls as it spills over giant, sculpted white granite boulders. The cliff dwelling at all the camps are located away from each other and from community gathering areas like campfires to assure the only noise you'll hear is the sound of the river. Located near the center of the camp is an 18-person wooden hot tub with a cypress deck and a view, which rivals the Zeta cliffside hot tub at Cave Camp. The deck is scribed around trees and giant rocks and tucked behind a truck size boulder that acts as both a screen from the river and a natural veranda. Sitting or standing a person is above the top of the rock and sees an unimpeded view up and down the entire mile long rapid and surrounding canyon. A trail from the deck leads down to the water's edge where there is a natural stone couch. This river-carved smooth granite boulder has natural seats with backrests for 5 or a person lying down. A peninsula of granite that juts out into the river and the bottom of the camp affords a view of the entire mile long avalanche of rock and water as it races down the impressive staircase. A professional masseuse, chef and videographer accompany most expeditions. That evening we have a welcome dinner.
*NOTE: Sleeping bags, flannel sleeping sheets, pillows and thick sleeping pads are included at no additional charge. With the exception of the masseuse and the professionally shot and edited trip DVD, everything is included in the cost.
Note: If you're arriving through Buenos Aires, Argentina you will need to transfer between the international and national airport (leave 3 hours) for the flight south to Baraloche. (See "Getting there" section of site for details.)
This morning we hike out of camp and take a 5 minute bus ride to our raft training put in. After a safety talk and flip drill we run a series of wonderful class 4 rapids. In the early afternoon we take out and drive 15 minutes to our inflatable kayak put in of the Rio Azul, a beautiful turquoise tributary of the Futaleufu. After kayak lesson we run the class 2 Azul down to the confluence with the Futaleufu and then kayak this beginner stretch of the Futaleufu down to the Terminador Camp where we spend the night.
Note: Inflatable kayaking on the Azul is subject to water levels. If the Azul is too high or two low, we will kayak the rio Espolon or an easy section of the Futaleufu.
This morning we hike 1/2 hour out of camp and drive an hour to the put-in on the upper Futaleufu. Soon we enter the wild, sheer-walled Class 5 Infierno Canyon. Racing between imposing walls, hundreds of feet high, the pulsing river boasts some of the most impressive commercially run rapids in the world including Infierno, Purgatorio and Escala de Jacobo. Each rapid in Infierno Canyon is separated by a swift pool which allows time for rescue and recovery if necessary. In the early afternoon we exit the canyon and raft down to Cave Camp. NOTE: Participants have the option of riding a horse or hiking on a stunning trail around the canyon down to lunch.
The 1,000 acre Earth River Cave Camp is the most exotic and diverse river camp in the world. Not a cave in the true sense, but a massive overhanging white granite slab that rests on two boulders, the main stone shelter is referred to by the locals as the House of Stone. There is a sand floor, two large, natural skylights and giant centrally located fireplace in the rear wall that draws smoke through a crack. With an interior space of over 1,600 square feet, this natural wonder is large enough to ride a horse inside and can keep the entire group warm and dry under any conditions. Meals are served here during times of inclement weather. In front of the main stone shelter is a beautiful spring-fed pond/lake called Laguito Azul (Little Blue Lake). Set within a bowl of massive granite towers as high as 300 feet and surrounded by lush vegetation, Laguito Azul resembles a giant Japanese garden. Its brilliant blue water is so pure you can drink it and so clear you can see giant German brown trout and salmon of up to 25 pounds swimming 30 feet down. Kayaks are available and gliding over the transparent water feels almost surreal. A few hundred feet beyond Laguito Azul rages the most spectacular rapid on the river, Zeta, a Class 5-6, Z-shaped flume cut into solid granite. Just downstream of Zeta, carved into the granite by the river in higher flows, is a heart-shaped, three-foot deep water-filled pothole, which we heat to 105°. With smooth, 45° sloping walls to lean against and fresh water every day, this chemical-free stone hot tub comfortably fits twelve people. The smooth granite ledges around the tub are ideal for relaxing and slope gently into the calm aerated blue pool below Zeta making transition from hot to cold water extremely easy. Soaking at night with the brilliant stars of the granite slot is something you'll never forget. In the vicinity of the cliff dwellings is a large cliffside dining area, 18 person wooden hot tub and a second spring-fed swimming pond. The cliff dwellings, hot tub and dining area are all well hidden from the Futaleufu, yet through the trees they command the river's most impressive camp view. A series of dramatic hand-hewn log sky bridges , 30 feet off the ground, link the Zeta dining/sleeping area to the main stone shelter so that in times of inclement weather the transition between the two areas is effortless. Downstream from Zeta Rapid is Lost Beach . This private beach is so tucked away that people float right by it on the main river without ever knowing it is there. The camp also has flush toilets and hot showers.
This morning we set up a dramatic Tyrolean traverse across the river. Wearing a climbing harness attached to a pulley, participants pull themselves across a rope stretched between sheer granite walls over the heart of Zeta Rapid. Although not risky or particularly strenuous, hanging and then crossing over the class 6 rapid is extremely exhilarating. Upon reaching the other side, we begin climbing out of the inner canyon. The moderately strenuous 1,500 vertical foot hike takes us past a beautiful 100 foot tributary waterfall and breathtaking views of the river and Cave Camp with dramatic peaks rising above it. After two hours we crest the top of the inner canyon and enter a wonderful old growth hardwood forest. Tucked away in the center of this enchanted, moss-draped land of giants is a 10 acre, 50 foot deep Lake of the Frogs, the centerpeice of the Tree House Camp. Cut out by the glacier, the lake drops straight off the edge like a giant, bottomless swimming pool. Surrounded by native old growth forest on three sides, with dramatic mountain views on the fourth, this intimate body of water offers wonderful opportunities for swimming and canoeing (there are two canoes). A natural wood deck and a hand made 16 person hot tub sits on the edge of the lake. Hidden back in the trees is a hand-hewn log gazebo structure with a fireplace in case of inclement weather. Just beyond the gazebo, 35 feet up in a majestic closely-knit stand of old growth giants are 8 wonderful, hexagon shaped tree houses. They are connected like the spokes of a wheel from one central tree and a circular staircase. These amazing architectural gems are each unique and were hand crafted by a Chilean master carpenter. Each tree house was designed to be self-supported and not a single nail was placed into the trees. In the afternoon there is the option of swimming and relaxing in the hot tub or taking a short hike to the breathtaking Tree House Camp Canyon Overlook. Engulfed by snow-capped mountains on all sides, this wonderful spot affords us 360 degree views including two gorgeous lakes and seven miles of the turquoise Futaleufu River canyon stretching as far as the eye can see. Condors are frequently seen soaring in the updrafts. We spend the evening above the lower canopy with stunning views of the lake, surrounding forest and mountains.
This morning we hike an hour and a half back down to the river. From the trail we can see aerial views of the river, surrounding canyon and the majestic Tower of the Winds which we will be climbing and rappelling down later in the day. The trail ends at a 250 foot zip line. Like a giant "fun ride" we hold a loop handle attached to a pulley over our heads and leap off a 25 foot cliff, shooting 250 feet down an angled rope letting go into the pool below. Zeta Rapid. A soak in the nearby 105° natural stone hot tub is the perfect transition from the 60° river. On the cliff just above the hot tub there is a 10 to 42 foot high cliff jump into the aerated blue pool below Zeta Rapid. The aerated water cushions the impact by nearly half. Lunch that day is served near the stone hot tub on the smooth ledges at Zeta. After lunch we receive a climbing safety briefing and put on our climbing harnesses for the Tower climb. For those people not wishing to make the climb, options include; swimming at Lost beach, kayaking on the Blue Lake, trout fishing or relaxing in the stone hot tub. The tower climb involves a dynamic three-part rock climb up the backside of the 320 foot granite Torre de los Vientos (Tower of the Winds). No previous climbing experience is necessary, and people from 5 to 78 years old have made the climb. Once on top, we venture out on the dramatic Knife's Edge, crossing its narrow natural bridge, with sheer 300 foot drop offs on either side. The views of Zeta Rapid, Laguito Azul and the surrounding canyon from the Knife's Edge are exquisite and among the most impressive found on the river. To descend from the tower we do a dramatic, 320 foot, two-stage rappel (self lowering by rope) off the Tower's sheer north wall. For most people switching ropes at the mid- station is as exhilarating as any of the river's class 5 rapids*. Once reaching the bottom of the tower, a short trail leads to the Huck Finn lake crossing which saves a mile hike around Lago Azul to get back to the cliff dwellings, hot tubs and dining area. We spend the night at the cave camp. *Note: An optional, less demanding, 100 ft. rappel off the back side of the tower is also available.
A short float this morning takes us to unrunnable Throne Room Rapid where the boats are pushed through empty (ghost boated). The next couple of hours are spent running a series of long, exciting class 4+ rapids, down to lunch on a beach at the confluence of the Futaleufu and turquoise Rio Azul River. After lunch we paddle some more exciting class 4+ rapids down to the Earth River Mapu Leufu Camp. Situated on a secluded bluff, 120 feet over the river with dramatic 360° views, this 300-acre camp has over two miles of private riverfront. Hand-hewn wooden cliff dwellings offer breathtaking views of granite towers rising from the turquoise river. Dramatically perched on the cliff is an 18-person wooden hot tub. Meals are served outdoors at the cliff-side dining area with stunning views of granite spires rising from the turquoise river in one direction and glacier-capped, Alp-like peaks in the other. There is also a tributary stream with waterfalls and deep pools and a deep, spring-fed pond for kayak lessons for anyone interested. The camp also has flush toilets, hot showers, a hand-hewn gazebo-like shelter and a covered dining area if it rains. In the afternoon, we have the option of horseback riding or mountain biking on beautiful trails on the other side of the river accessed by a manual cable car or canyoneering through the 400 foot deep Rio Blanco slot canyo. Wearing wetsuits and river shoes, we hike, climb, and swim through this incredible natural labyrinth of white boulders, clear azure pools and waterfalls. Those people not wishing to partake in the Rio Blanco canyoning, can relax at camp.
Today is an impressive rafting day. * Within minutes of pushing off we enter class 5 Terminador Rapid, the most demanding rapid on the river. Immediately downstream of Terminador are the 15 foot waves of the Himalayas. In this stretch the rapids flow together making nearly a mile and a half of non-stop Class 5 action. (Class 4 clients can hike around the most exposed sections on a beautiful trail and run the rest). After the Himalayas there is a series of giant Class 4+ rapids (some nearly a mile long) and two Class 5 rapids: Cojin (the cushion) and Mundaca. After another long stretch of Class 4+water, we have lunch. In the afternoon we run two of the most difficult Class 5 rapids on the river; Mas o Menos and Casa De Piedra. After the last rapid, the canyon boasts some of its most impressive scenery with grand vistas of towering mountains and glaciers. In the early afternoon we take out and drive a few minutes to the Mapu Leufu trailhead and hike 1/2 hour on a beautiful trail into Mapu where we spend the night. Our farewell dinner that evening is a traditional Chilean Asado (roasted sheep over a fire) prepared by our neighbor and friend, Sugundo Zapata.
*Option: Class 4 participants have the option of hiking on a trail around short sections of the bigger rapids. Often people who chose to walk around Inferno Canyon earlier in the trip feel more comfortable and run many of the large rapids today. This decision, however, is always left up to the guides.
This morning we drive 3 hours to the Chaiten Airport where we board the commuter flight to Puerto Montt. In Puerto Montt, we transfer to our flight to Santiago and then on to the U.S..
NOTE: If you joined the trip through Argentina, you will be driven (by Earth River) to the Argentina border in the afternoon, after the rafting, on day 9 where you will meet a taxi which will take them to the hotel in Esquel. The following morning they will transfer (on their own) by taxi or bus to the Baroloche Airport for their flights back to Buenos Aires and on to the U.S.. Our office will help you with all these logistics
This morning we arrive in the United States and transfer to our connecting flights.