Thinking about how this trip started and how it ended, I am reminded of so many wonderful experiences and feelings that it is sometimes difficult to describe. From re-visiting my hometown, stirring up old memories of my past, to creating new ones with friends on the best rivers in Brazil, the trip was yet another mile marker on my life’s journey as a paddler.
At the end of the first episode of “On the Way to the South”, I had just arrived in Jaragua do Sul, where Hertel introduced me to Marcelo Ludvichak, the kayaker who would show me the Red River, and welcome me into his home for the next two nights.
The Red River usually requires two hours of paddling with low flow, the characteristics of rivers in Brazil are mostly narrow with this special brown color.
During the first hour paddling I was already amazed by the nature of the Red river and those drops just at the beginning of it. We know Brazil is also known as the country of big forests and jungle! It is a nice experience encountering those beautiful and special animal species.
The river was mostly class 4 rapids and few class 5 and paddly this river with Ludvichak was a pleasure because he was well recommended and after a good quality of time paddlying together we were able to make a safe descent, we managed to complete the trip successfully and returned to his place to relax and prepare to the next river.
Early the next morning, I was ready to take the sixth and seventh buses to Santo Amaro da Imperatriz, home of the legendary Cubatao River. Every year kayakers from all of Brazil and also from abroad come to an event called! Canoe meeting of Cubatao river but unfortunately I got there too early as the event happens around March.
There I met Julio, the owner of Ativa rafting in Santo Amaro da Imperatriz, who hosted me for three nights. During the months before my trip, I looked at several videos and pictures of the Cubatao River. I could feel my anticipation growing as I recalled those images and got ready to paddle.
The famous black canyon is the most exciting section of this river, the Double Drop, a class IV rapid, and the exhilarating Armageddon, a class V waterfall.
At Cubatao River, I paddled with Julio who was not a kayaker but he knows that river really well! He was by duck (an inflatable that looks like a kayak).
As I did not find any kayaker to paddle with on those days I finished the trip to Cubatao River after a few descents enjoying the serenity of the river all to myself.
Once more it was time to move on to a place in South Brazil where I had never been before! Rio Grande do Sul is the last state in Brazil, on the border with Uruguay and Argentina.
To get there I needed to take three more buses to Caxias do Sul where someone would be waiting to pick me up and drive one more hour to get to my destination, Eco Parque Cia Aventura and the Antas River. But, on the way to catch the ninth bus, trying to find a taxi that could also fit a kayak was difficult. So, with all my gear on my back, I had no choice but to take a grueling walk to the bus stop. Eventually, I arrived at my bus and once on board, I succumbed to fatigue and happily drifted to sleep during the ride.
On my first day at Eco Parque Cia Aventura, I was introduced to several kind of people who worked there. I happened to know one of them previously, Jose Vitor ( Zequinha ) an young and really good friend of mine. At Eco Parque, you can find many types of activities in nature and on the water. It is a sprawling area between the mountains with a mesmerizing landscape and the Antas River down the hill.
On my first paddling day, I got surprised with the first rapid at Antas River, a pure class V waterfall. It was approximately an eight meters drop with a strong and pushing current against the side walls.
When I first saw the drop I realized that it is a perfect challenge with a technical line that starts on the river right, crossing all the way to the river left. Before the drop, all of the current pushes the boat against the wall on the river right. I had the line in my mind and I was sure that I could do it, so I went for it and paddled it beautifully.
Coming back from the river, I was thrilled to learn that I was the first kayaker to drop the Armageddon waterfall of the Antas River!!
The day was going perfectly, and to top it off, I also got a message from Hertel asking me if I would join him on the Chile expedition! Without thinking, I answered “YES”. Although I was excited to continue my adventures on the way to the south, which ultimately inspired the name of this expedition, I still had several days of nice whitewater ahead of me on the Antas River.
I worked for nine days as a safety kayaker and paddling on the beautiful Antas River. I was lucky to have a surprise as the water level changed each day, which is unusual for this river. As I wrapped up my time at Eco Parque, I realized that my time in this part of southern Brazil was about more than just paddling! I had an incredible life experience with my own people and one of the most interesting cultures in the country. The people are simple and welcoming and they accommodate anyone who comes to visit. In Brazil we say that, “everything that is good passes quickly.” Luckily for me, my journey wasn’t finished as I was only few days from starting the Chile expedition, going deeper into the South than I had ever been before.
The day arrived and I was excited to begin a new adventure in “the south of the South.” To join the Brazilian crew, consisting of Marcelo Hertel, Fabiano Pasqualli and Daniella Stulzer,
I needed to move again by bus, starting what would turn out to be the longuest driving journey I ever have been done. We began our trip on December 23rd and it took us three days to get to Pucon.
On the way we spent our Christmas in Argentina, in a city called 25 de Mayo. We spent almost half an hour searching for a place to have dinner, and finally found a sweet restaurant to celebrate Christmas and enjoy the holidays together. After long days of driving finally, at the border of Chile, we were ecstatic to see the first sign saying: Pucon 70km. I was already feeling the vibe from what was waiting for us, one of the most famous kayaking destinations in the world!
Since I started rafting in 2008 in Brotas city, I have spent the last six years educating and pushing myself to get into the white water professional level. In 2011, when I started to seriously paddle kayak in Slovenia, I realized that kayak and rafting is my life. And being in Chile, about to paddle these amazing rivers, I reflected on how far I had come to realize my dreams.
The best time to paddle in Chile is between November and December if you are around Pucon, otherwise January is the time to go further to the south. We arrived in Pucon at the end of December so there was not much water waiting for us, just enough to paddle a few sections nearby.
Palguin was our first river in Chile. Every year I watch the Palguin festival video and I always get excited seeing the perfectly beautiful rapids of this river! And finally, it was my turn to be there and paddle it myself. The upper section was our challenge on the second day. On the first descent, I was a bit careful, paying more attention in each rapid. Even though I had watched a few videos from that section, being there, staring at that rapid from my kayak, is a big difference.
A big challenge with paddling that river was that Hertel and I only had experience with small waterfalls and the ones on the Palaguin and Fuy were anything but small! Marcelo Galizio (BRA) and Daniel Rodriguez (ARG) were our first partners and who showed us the lines. After paddling Palguin and Trancura River with them we did not get other partners to paddle with every day, but we still enjoyed ourselves paddling between Paguin, Trancura and Fuy River.
At Etnico, where we stayed in Pucon, we met Rodolfo Rada and Pao Horton, a sweet couple who own a perfect hostel next to the Villarrica Lake. I loved that cool hostel! We met so many people there and made a lot of new friendships! For New Year´s Eve, everybody agreed to join and make an international dinner, as we had cooks from all over the world! With some creativity in the kitchen, we cooked a perfect dinner, making the New Year´s Eve party the greatest one ever. After filling our stomachs with delicious international food, it was time to walk for few minutes to the Villarrica Lake where we watched the fireworks, getting the best vibe to finish the year.
Starting the year in a kayaking paradise is one of the best things for me and I was more than happy to share that with my new friend, Rodolfo Rada, a chilean who had never paddled the Fuy River. The Upper session of the Fuy River is a perfect class V stretch with a few nice waterfalls at the end including Leonas Falls as the main core. Our crew consisted of me, Hertel, Pasqualli, and Rada we were ready to have some fun with the first descent. Hertel and I paddled this section twice before but for the others it was the first exciting descent. With its thrilling drops, it was impossible to paddle it just once, even when I broke my paddle during the first descent. So, as Pasqualli gave up after swim at Leonas Falls and lent me his paddle so I could go for round two!
Paddling in Chile was a dream come true and, combined with my trip to South Brazil, “On the Way to the South” easily became my favorite kayak trip to date. By the end, I had spent 37 days between South Brazil and Chile, paddling 8 new rivers, 13 buses with 53kg of gear including a kayak, each bus having a different story. I would do it all again but next time, I think I’ll plan to have some company as I traveled in Brazil alone. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find some friends to join me on the next “On the Way to the South” expedition!
All my thanks to Alpin Action, Ophion Paddles and everyone who somehow was a part of my journey. Special thanks to Rita and Julio from Ativa Rafting, Marcelo Ludvichak, Julio and Juliane from Cia Aventura, Rodolfo Rada and Pao Horton from Atnico Hostel, and Hertel, Pasqualli and Daniela, my travel partners.
My memories from this trip will always remind me of amazing places and special people that I had the opportunity to meet:) Meu muito Obrigado e até a proxima.
Marry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my Family and friends around the world! I wish all health and good state of mind to make 2015 the year of ACHIEVEMENTS.