The fact that these photographs are not really in order, un-edited and of varying quality, and really don’t show much of anything is probably a better representation of a summer full of excess, a real lack of balance of any kind, and one that flew by at a speed like no other. There was no time for rest. It was to be a summer of accomplishment, getting stuff done. Stuff got done, but the paradox of planning, is that the more you plan, the more you greaten your chances for things to not go as planned!
Sometime after Christmas I got word from the Latinwave crew (a.k.a. Las Ratas de la Quinta Region), that they were heading down south to the land of lefts to ring in the New Year. Me, with not much better to do then getting drunk at Waitara and hopelessly trying to turn my Pichilemu land into something livable (both activities that would go on all summer and are still going on), decided to jump on board and make the caravan, b-line to Constitución. I don’t remember much of arriving there, only that it was dark, I was alone and tired, and I could make out what seemed to be some lines coming in where the break was. So with that little motivation, and the rumours about how the bank had been perfect of late, I threw out my sleeping bag and passed out in the dirt. I woke to head high and perfect, and spent the next 3 hours doing laps on a perfect left wave machine with just a few chillers out. It was then that I rode one all the way to shore and looked up and saw Las Ratas who had just arrived from an all night haul, and I must have given them the kind of ear to ear boyish grin that only shred sessions of that calibre can give. =)
The next few days saw lots of fun surf, exploring the beautiful and wild beaches of the south, hanging out, partying and camping under the stars. I even nailed down one session of battling a super sketchy slab solo in front of a fish dock with an even sketchier close out that could slam you into the cement break-water if you didn’t kick out in time, no one around except my friends in the car park and a belligerent German Shepard who I was on the verge of paddling out after me!
Las Ratas where convinced to spend New Years Eve camping under the stars, which sounded pretty sweet, but with the swell dropping and not much in the forecast, except for a wave of beautiful women that would be sweeping into Pichilemu sometime soon, and the fact I hadn’t properly showered in a few days, I made the call to head straight back to Pichi where I’d already planned to party with the Yavar brothers.
New Years 2016 was a long party. Somewhere around 3-5 all-nighters in a row; I honestly can’t remember. But I know that I was surrounded by truly great people the entire time, and that made it easy to push on with full energy each night. Brian and Silvana showed up with a bunch of kids, and Las Ratas came back.
That was pretty crazy. If it weren’t for Bri, none of this would have existed, as he was the reason I originally considered Chile as a place. And here he was, back with his awesome Chilean wife after a year of hard work and good living in Vancouver, playing the good Uncle-in-law by taking the cuñados’ kids out of their sheltered suburbia life, and into Pichilemu, Capital mundial del surf (and other awesome things too!). Well to make a long story longer, it was on one of those endless New Years party nights that I went outside the Yavar house for some fresh air and to check the scene on the street. A tiny little white kitten with black spots came over to me, cried, then climbed up on my shoulder. I’ve been taking care of the little orphan ever since. He has tripled in size since that night 3 months or so ago.
As fast as Brian and Silvana had come and left, another old high school buddy Steve showed up. The plan was simple: build a cabin on my property in Pichi, have fun doing other stuff too like surfing, partying and site seeing, and rent some enduro bikes and tour around. A pretty simple and sensible plan.
The first week we built a shed out of wood, where we could store items and perhaps sleep in it if necessary. Shed building went well. Cheeto hung out with us the whole time and pissed off Steve a lot. As well as Steve, Cheeto pissed off two of my best friends’ mothers of whom I hold dearly. Interestingly, I had never really taken into account the bad rep that cats have (which in hindsight is ridiculous because my own father is true blue feline hater, but I guess I never paid much attention to his cat rage). As believer in science and logic, I am not a “cat lover” nor “dog lover” nor any other kind of obsessed “…lover” person, but nor am I partial to any type of species of animal on this planet, which is probably why I chose to adopt and take care of the poor little abandoned bastard. So the “cat hate” was a bit of a shock to me, it even escalated to the point where they convinced me the best idea would be just to leave Cheeto on my property (an idea I am still not at all opposed to), but the problem is he is still just a baby, and the site is not yet enclosed, so after no sign of him for 3 days, I finally found that neighbour’s across the road had been taking care of him after they had come back one day to find he had been chased up a telephone pole by two big dobermans.
As I said, the shed went up quick, but during that week, we were staying at the Waitara cabins, which gave us free entrances to the disco. It sure made for a good lot of fun, but that shed could have gone up even faster, and although we were staying directly in front of the surf, no waves were ridden that week.
Prior to summer vacations, my good friend and teaching colleague Kris from Calgary, had mentioned to me that him and his fiancé Carolina were planning a road trip into Patagonia, and asked if I might be interested in heading down with them – at which point I was a bit torn on what to do. Patagonia had long been on my list of places to check out, but I was reluctant to commit as my entire budget for the summer was based on a recently acquired bank loan (with massive interest) to pay for the costly utilities installations on my land, and hopefully have enough left over to frame a cabin. Apart from the costs, time was also a serious factor that was fast running out. And finally I had always felt as though Kris’ better half kind of had a way of patronizing me for who knows what, being a free spirit I suppose.
So personally, I was heavily leaning towards not going, but I needed to consider that Steve had just flown all the way down here to see me and have a great experience, and my reasoning to not go was rather selfish, so I felt it very necessary to throw out the idea to him. And Steve was all over it. Furthermore, he was convinced that we would indeed be able to rent motorcycles in Patagonia because that’s what people do, and that certainly made sense to me. So I said, “heck yeah, let’s go!”
Now I believe what the trip taught me was that if you want go down to Patagonia in the middle of the summer, your vehicle of choice should have wings, and if it doesn’t, then it must only have two wheels and an engine. Oh, how we tried to find ourselves some of those two-wheeled engine vehicles, but low and behold in the peak tourism time of February, there were none to be had. After three full days of driving – and apart from a ferry ride, there was not much more, just driving – and Savage Garden and Backstreet cranked on long, bumpy roads (not to mention 2 of the 3 days Steve and I had hangovers, 1 of the nights had myself and Caro arguing over stupidities, which by the way I place a considerable amount of blame on myself and hope not to offend any other friend fiancés and spouses, but the whole thing just went sour), I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed to do something fun.
All my years in Squamish working as a river guide, I had always been told by old raft guides and whitewater gurus about the world’s greatest rafting rivers: The Zambeze in Africa, The Grand Canyon in Arizona and The Futaleufu in Chile. And I remember that night as we finally started getting to Futaleufu after a long day of driving and not much else, I saw some very familiar sites of a half broken wooden sign that read RAFTING, a couple rafts randomly placed in field, a bunch of even more randomly placed kayaks, paddling gear strewn all over the place, some beat up VW vans where dirty kayakers from any corner of the world were probably crammed into some makeshift sleeping arrangement. And the nostalgia crept in. This was the place. This was the place I’d heard so much about way back in the day, and yet all this time in Chile, I just couldn’t find a reason to make it down to the point where I think I’d almost forgotten about it. We checked into a gringo owned and run hostel full of backpackers and outdoorsy types, and I sat down at a table with a young couple from the Bay Area. I couldn’t help to overhear that they were going rafting the next day, and quickly joined into the conversation. I said I was interested in perhaps joining them, but if they knew anything more about the river. They replied, “not much, it’s our first time, but that guy probably knows more.” Pointing at a fully bearded, broad-shouldered ginger, who while kind of half checking his emails, half talking to us and half slowly mellowing out his mood with beer, perks up and looks at me and says, “It’s good, man.” I didn’t have to sit there and continue hearing about him spending the last decade or so of his life paddling all over the world on the tight budget he gets just enough from sponsers who buy photos or videos of him throwing himself into harms way for kicks to know right away just from that quick legit expression and that two word response that: A. This guy is real whitewater guru. B. He knows what he’s talking about. Yes, he had me at “good” and I said to my California friends, I’m in.