Yesterday we had a break from biking – and from packing our bags and moving to a different town and hotel again. Javier and Tristan offered to take the group to the nearby city of Puerto Montt for the morning to see the fish market and enjoy some fresh seafood for lunch. Nearly everyone from the tour took them up on their offer. My lunch of king crab was delicious and it was very interesting to see how the fish is sold to locals. I’m glad I went.
Fish Market 2
During the afternoon we had three choices: go back to Puerto Varas to enjoy town and a leisurely afternoon, go white water rafting or try canyoning. The tour leaders explained canyoning as jumping off cliffs into pools, riding waterfalls, and rappelling down near a waterfall. This sounded like quite the adrenaline rush, and as someone who always likes to try new things, an opportunity I could not pass up.
Two other members of the tour and our tour leader, Tristan, felt the same way. We picked up our guide in Puerto Montt and drove part of the way around the volcano into a nature reserve where the company was waiting with full-body wetsuits, worn out tennis shoes and helmets. The four of us pulled on our wetsuits to our waist and hike up the trail about 30 minutes to the top of a series of waterfalls fed by natural springs.
Jeff and I... before.
After taking a minute to pull the rest of our wetsuits on and make sure our helmets were sized properly, our guide stepped out to the edge of a small cliff and said in somewhat broken English, “Okay, this is our first jump. Do not hesitate; do not land on the rock below, jump to the deep part.” He pointed down towards the water. I peaked over the cliff and was surprised that it didn’t seem like they were easing us into this… or at least I hoped they weren’t. Tristan volunteered to go first and stand on the rock we were going to need to avoid and one by one, each of us jumped off the cliff into the frigid water.
The next section contained different small waterfalls and slides over the rocks made smooth by the constantly rushing water. One was called the washing machine, because once you dropped off the waterfall into the pool below the water flowed in such a way you would shoot out and then circle around slowly before getting shot off again. Another they called the toilet bowl, because I would imagine, it’s exactly what being flushed down a toilet would feel like. You go head first, with your arms out in front of you, get sucked under at the bottom and then shot out into the waiting pool.
Occasionally, there was a jump with options for different heights. I usually took the lowest or the second to the lowest. Our tour guide, Tristan and the photographer who was on the tour, Jeff would jump off the highest cliffs with the guide, who would usually do a back flip or some other ridiculous trick on the way down. One trick I tried was running up onto the wall beside the pool, which gets steeper and steeper until you are running parallel to the ground until you fall into the pool. How fun!
The final “jump” was really not a jump at all, but repelling down a 100 foot rock face next to a waterfall. I thought it was a little scary getting roped up as I was clipped into a safely rope attached to the wall and asked to put my foot on a tiny little stone coming out of the top of this wall of rock beside the waterfall. My wetsuit and tennis shoes made it difficult to feel the notch, compounded by the fact that my feet, at that point, felt like blocks of ice. Nevertheless, the guide clipped me in and lowered me down to a small cliff overlooking the pool at the bottom of the waterfall where my companions were waiting for me.
The guide lowered himself down last where I naively asked him, “How do we get down from here?” He informed me that I was free to stay on the cliff, or jump to the pool, my choice. This was my highest jump of the day, 9 meters, where I should land just to the left of the waterfall, signaling that I am okay and swimming to the side of the pool to crawl out. No problem.
I thought it was hilarious that this whole experience happened and no one ever asked me if I could swim, or if I would sign a waiver.
Jeff, Lisa, me, and Tristan... after. We survived! (I had some doubts)
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