Return to the Stevens Family Homepage
Return to the Stevens travel home page

White-water rafting on the Trancura River

Meanwhile I started organizing rafting and my hike up the mountain. Rafting started at 3500 pesos, about $8, but I found on walking from shop to shop that there were alto and baja parts to the river, and that to do the alto rapids, the most exciting, the price was more like $20. I settled on a company where an attractive British girl who appeared to work there told me that for $30 they were doing both the alto and baja in one afternoon, starting at one, an hour and a half from then. I wouldn't need anything: the company provided helmets, life jackets, wetsuits and booties, so I could do without a bathing suit. The stuff I had brought would be safe in the van, I was told, and I hadn't seen anything during my stay in Chile to doubt that it would.

To cool my heels for an hour, the girl recommended the Tetera coffeehouse, run by a Swiss guy named Hans, and his Chilean wife. This place it turned out had a huge map on the wall of the area, and photos of the thermas, or hot springs, plus lots of their useful info on the area, plus the best, maybe only, expresso in town. I had one of their sandwiches in addition to the coffee and took to hanging out there.

Meanwhile, when I returned to the rafting outfit, ready to get cold, wet, and scared shitless, the British girl was gone, and the trip had been cancelled. Of the other 4 who were supposed to go with me, two had got sick and the others had decided to delay their own trips because they were all one group, or so I was told. So much for my afternoon, I thought. But I persisted in going around to other places that had rafts out front until I found a lady named Erma who called another outfit for me and found a trip leaving in half an hour. So I walked the two blocks to the other end of town and joined that group. The name of the company was Trancura, same as the river.

If you've ever run serious white water, then you know that the movements of all on a raft must be coordinated. Paddling the right direction at the right time and with enough force is one way to avoid capsizing, and at times all bodies are required on one side of the craft to counter the effect of a standing wave which might flip the raft, a maneuver known as "high side". Commands are issued by the guide in charge and must be followed with alacrity, or someone might become a short swimmer (overboard but hanging on) or worse a long swimmer, having been thrown completely from the boat and heading downstream on your own i.e. no power. In that case, you turn your back to current and wait for a rope. I knew all this from the Zambezi, which helped because here all these explanations were given in Spanish (and I was able to translate to the other non-Spanish speakers in the group). Adelante in Spanish means paddle full speed ahead, atras means backpaddle. Dereche and escierba are confusing even in English, but the commands were "high side" dereche, "high side" escierba, to put weight on the side of the raft about to cause the capsize. I forget the command for "hold the ropes" but it was clear at the time.

Then we hauled the raft into the river for some quick practice before the first set of rapids. What followed was a good time for a couple of hours, and I got a great photo out of it, the requisite shot taken from the bank of us coming off the first set of rapids. But the river was a bit high for really exciting rafting, and many of the drops lacked afterwaves. The guides said some of the rapids were grade 4, but I think they meant they would be 4 when the river was lower, and I would have given the best of them a 3. I enjoyed it, but I didn't go out of my way to repeat the experience.

Return to the Chile "storyboard"

Use your browser's BACK button to return to a previous page

For comments, suggestions, or further information on this page, contact Vance Stevens, page author and webmaster.

Last updated: November 12, 1997