Escape is proud to offer you a unique vacation home for adventure, culture and relaxation in Puesco, Chile. We are off the beaten path, but with the Puesco river flowing through the front lawn, the Peinetas mountain range towering above, the Villarrica National Park within walking distance and the rich culture of the Trankurra Valley in every direction, Escape‘s Puesco Mountain House makes a perfect home base in the south of Chile.
Camp Puesco (October 1st – December 31st)
Going into our 3rd season, <ESCAPE> will continue to offer rafting and SUP tours, however our focus is gravitating towards whitewater kayak clinics and guided kayak trips. We began the Camp Puesco program in November of 2013 in order to provide a full-service, all-inclusive kayak vacation for those looking to get off of the beaten path, while improving skills and challenging themselves on harder whitewater with the safety and knowledge of an experienced guide staff.
What makes the program unique in Chile (and the world) is our location. Rather than hanging out with a bunch of other gringos and tourists, we are able to share the cultural experience of immersing ourselves into the Chilean Patagonian lifestyle with the Quintun family, staying in their hand-built riverside cabins, and we have the opportunity to share with the surrounding community of native, Mapuche people who are friendly enough to welcome us into their mountain paradise. Guests not only kayak on world class whitewater, but they experience real, rural South American culture. We put a lot of energy into providing the most fun on and off of the water, with healthy and abundant meals, all while keeping a friendly, down-to-earth vibe that fits well with the environment and with the local people.
The cabin resort in Puesco is located just 12 miles upriver from the town of Curarrehue, but it is a real mountain escape which offers all guests the opportunity to truly unplug from the “system” and the hustle of their daily lives while they plug-in to the power of the natural surroundings. The cabins are known in the local and international backpacker community for their position at the base of the craggy granite spires of the Cerro de Las Peinetas, one of the sacred mountains of the region, and for their proximity to the trails of the alpine wilderness of the Villarrica National Park. The cabins are known in the kayak community for their convenient position at the take-out of the challenging Class V section of the Upper Río Puesco, featured in the Whitewater Grand Prix, and at the put-in of the Class IV-V Lower Río Puesco.
Guests are not limited to paddling such demanding whitewater. We can lap the Class III rapids next to the cabins, we utilize the riverside swimming pool for roll practice, we do boof practice on a perfect Class III-IV creek training run on the Lower Lower Puesco just minutes downstream, and we are the closest outfitter to the magical canyon of the Río Maichin, which has several sections of fun Class II and arguably the most beautiful stretch of Class IV whitewater in Chile. For those looking to push their game, we have the Puesco by our side, we are just 25 minutes from the world famous Palguin, 25 minutes from the put-in of the mighty Upper Trancura and 45 minutes from the granite slides of the Río Nevado. There are dozens of other runs from Class II-V that are all within a an hour or two from Puesco.
Camp Fuy (January 2nd – March 31st)
One might ask, “Puesco sounds too good to be true! Why would you ever leave?” Well, unfortunately the rivers around Puesco and Curarrehue tend to dry up in the Chilean summer months (January-March). If there was good water all summer, I wouldn’t move for anything, but the lower levels make kayak vacations less exciting with less variety, so why not follow the water? The Río Fuy has long been on “the map” in the kayaking world as one of the best kayak destinations in Chile, but surprisingly there is currently no infrastructure tailored to the traveling kayaker’s needs, and <ESCAPE> is about to change all of that in January of 2015. We plan to be the first kayak school and guide service on the Río Fuy.
We are going to take the Camp Puesco model to the Fuy valley, where we will offer full-service guided trips and clinics, as well as a la carte lodging, boat rentals and shuttles for more independent travelers. The Fuy is really the ultimate winter getaway for whitewater enthusiasts from the northern hemisphere because it is fed by two large lakes which keep the river pumping at a healthy flow all summer long. The lake-fed river runs warmer than most with its transparent, calypso-colored waters plunging through the Huilo-Huilo Reserve at the base of the glaciated Volcan Choshuenco.
In the spring months while we are at Puesco, the Fuy runs big, and the high volume limits paddlers to the powerful waves of the Class III-IV section of the Lower Fuy. However, as it drops into summer flow, the Fuy’s Upper section with its marquee 25’ waterfall turns into a playground for skilled river runners, and the Fuy’s Middle section challenges even the world’s best kayakers with its committing canyon full of complex, multi-stage rapids and a must-run 40 foot falls. The Lower Fuy provides a safe but exciting training ground for intermediate paddlers looking to get more comfortable with higher volume river running, and the Lower Lower Fuy is an excellent classroom for the novice paddler. Boaters of all skill levels will be challenged and entertained by the variety of whitewater the Río Fuy has to offer.
The nearby Río San Pedro is known as the “Mini Futaleufu,” and this classic run is a short drive from our base. Just 2.5 hours from Curarrehue and 3 hours from Puerto Montt, the Fuy is also a great jumping off point for the rivers of Pucon, those of the Lago Ranco region as well as those to the south into the Lakes District of Patagonia.
Staying true to our mission to support the local community, and with our commitment to provide a real Chilean immersion experience for our guests, we will be basing out of a large house on a Mapuche family farm, conveniently located halfway down the Lower Fuy and walking distance from the lakeside village of Choshuenco. Here we will offer guest-house style shared bedrooms and camping and private cabins for lodging options. There is even a ski resort open during the summer on the glaciers of the nearby volcano for those who want to shred a few corn turns before or after a river trip.
Contact Us for more information or to make a reservation. ESCAPE 🙂
A gentle haze lifts off of the flat, valley floor as the morning sun brings light and heat after a cold night. I can even see the steam swirling up and out my mate. The typical birdsongs of the campo en la manana break the stillness. It’s still too early for the wind. Dark shadows on the mountainsides to the east and fluorescent shades of green to the west, more sunlight pours into the kitchen as I stare off to the south at the balding north face of Volcan Lanin. Hot water in the kettle on the woodstove keeps the hierba warm and my belly warmer. Buenos dias Curarrehue!
March, like September in the northern hemisphere, means a time of transition for families and thus for tourism as well. As kids go back to school, it is generally said that “summer is over.” Seasonally, as far as the earth is concerned, the days are a little shorter and the nights a little cooler. There might be a chance of rain over the weekend. However, summer isn’t really over yet and the weather is typically amazing this time of year. So, the locals in a tourist town rejoice as there is less traffic and chaos, and the world around them literally quiets down.
As I sit here and sip on my mate, I can’t help but to smile and be grateful to live in an area here in Chile where the tourism is not necessarily defined by summer vacation or by weather. Sure, it is more likely that I will have a family rafting trip in the middle of summer than any other time of year, but Curarrehue is not the kind of place that triples in population for two months of the year. Those in search of this year-round calm and peace do seek it out as a destination. The daily tourism here flows with the rhythm of the people who pass through on their way to and from Argentina and Pucon. Most come here for the culture and for the organic, flavorful Mapuche cuisine. [For those who don’t know, Curarrehue is a place where the people celebrate their indigenous roots and generously share their traditions with outsiders in a very respectful and responsible manner.]
I do my best with <ESCAPE> to provide recreational opportunities for these visitors with the same respect, so that, in addition to sharing the culture with local families and trekking through the mountains, people can also experience the landscape from the perspective of a living, flowing river. In this sense, the river is a liquid trail, a natural trail with a natural force of motion, its ancient path formed by lava and floods, and the raft or SUP or kayak are like magic carpets, facilitating the ride through native forest and past towering peaks. Kingfisher and Ibis fly closely above, ducks float upon and trout and salmon swim below the crystalline waters fed by the glaciers of the volcanos.
As a result of its natural, untamed flow, this also means there is a natural cycle of water volume. As a river outfitter, the amount of water is just as important as the amount of people around to ride it. The mighty Rio Trankurra is born here in Curarrehue. It is a powerful place with powerful gradient for kayakers to ride in the winter and spring. This also means we are higher up in the watershed, and when the rain stops and the snowmelt is over, the river levels drop here quickly. If we don’t have a wet and snowy winter, we don’t have much water in the summer months. For this reason, I only offered the guided kayak trips with <ESCAPE> Camp Puesco in November and December of 2013, because I wanted to offer the highest quality experience with the best flows. Speaking for all of those who were involved, including the guests, it was awesome. We paddled an incredible diversity of rivers, shared with the local community and enjoyed the true disconnection and escape of Don Lorenzo Quintun’s cabin resort on the banks of the Rio Puesco. Without a doubt, <ESCAPE> Camp Puesco will continue for the 2014 season in November and December.
The big news – <ESCAPE> will now be offering a mobile guide service in order to follow the water. Rather than sit around and wait for rain here, we will keep the boats floating down different streams. In addition to Camp Puesco in November and December, destinations for the 2015 summer season (January and February, March??) will be the Rio Gol Gol and the Rio Fuy. What does this mean? We will be offering a Camp Puesco-style service, complete with local community integration, cabin lodging, food, transportation, boat rental and professional guides with a base in two more of Chile’s best paddling destinations. These are two of my favorite rivers, and they both offer a steady summertime flow and a unique experience for traveling kayakers. Neither currently have any services for kayakers, so the idea is to provide more access for boaters while supporting the local economies. Dates and details to come. I just took another two-day trip to the Fuy, and I am already daydreaming about crashing down its turquoise water!
My thermos is empty, the sun beats down from overhead and the morning haze has lifted. The stillness of the countryside penetrates these walls, and I feel the need to get outside. When the rains come I’ll take my kayak and ride its flow, but for now I want to run to the little creek across the dirt road and jump in its cold waters and swim beneath the falls. I can’t wait to share more of these liquid trails.
First of all, I would like to thank everyone who supported ESCAPE, especially my family and friends who continue to believe in the dream! Of course, I would also like to thank all of the clients who trusted in us to provide a fun, valuable experience. It was a pleasure to share the rivers, hot springs, lakes and trails of the area with you all. Y muchas muchas muchas gracias a toda la gente increible de Curarrehue y Pucon (Rodrigo y Ema y Ian y muchos mas!!) – sin su apoyo no existiria ESCAPE!!
With the help of friends and family and with the much appreciated support of this community, ESCAPE began the 2012-2013 summer with immeasurable amounts of positive energy. After Jackie Selevan (Couldn’t have done it without you, Jackie!!) and I finished renovating the office space and taking care of the necessary paperwork, we began guiding trips on the scenic and powerful Maichin Canyon. A highlight was making our first commercial raft float with friend and local guide, Javier Arias Aliante, owner of Curarrehue’s Turismo Limayco.
December rains made business a little slow, but it gave the rivers a much needed boost in flow, and it gave us an opportunity to get out and kayak! The rains also helped facilitate an impressive race during the White Water Grand Prix on Curarrehue’s premier section of whitewater, the Rio Puesco.
After the fervor of the Grand Prix settled, the arrival of lifelong friend and legend, Max Blackburn, and a visit from another long-time friend and legend, Derek Beitler, helped to motivate us for more whitewater boat riding. In between laps on the area’s better known creeks and rivers, the three of us made a pilgrimage with Jackie to my favorite valley in the world, the Rio Blanco de Caburgua, where we did a lap in the beautiful, waterfall-rich canyon down to the hot springs. We even managed to discover a new waterfall, where we gifted ourselves with a 1st Descent on Christmas Eve.
The new year brought sunny, summer weather, and in between SUP and mellow rafting trips, ESCAPE had the opportunity to provide week-long guided kayak trips for three guests in January (Rachael, Kiren and James – so much fun! Thank you!). Matt and Carrie from California inspired an awesome day trip that included a SUP float, delicious meal at the Cocina Mapuche and a soak in the Termas de Panqui. That is the ultimate day in Curarrehue!
Guest guides/drivers/office help were crucial in makingthese trips happen. Max Blackburn, Isaac Levinson, Fede Medina, Nahuel Epulef and Israel Naranjo were a huge help. Check out a few SUP, kayak and rafting videos on the ESCAPE Youtube channel.
Curarrehue celebrates the summertime every February with their outstanding Feria Walung, which brings together local artisans, musicians and farmers and provides a venue to share their goods with locals and visitors. During this time, ESCAPE joined forces with the World Class Academy and NRSto provide a day of kayak instruction for the youth of Curarrehue.
After paddling, we played ancestral games and had a traditional meal at the fair. I can’t wait to do it again next season! ESCAPE also had the opportunity to provide transportation for the World Class students and staff out to my favorite beach community in the world, Buchupureo, where we enjoyed perfect waves, seafood and sunshine in a timeless rural setting. Thanks to Chilote and to Carlina for hooking us up out there!
Due to a light snow-pack and lots of sunshine, the water really began to drop in February, but we still managed to get out and enjoy the river. We squeezed in a few more guided kayak trips and kayak lessons on both the Maichin and Puesco rivers near town. We also began running our SUP trips on the mystical Rio Liucura, where we had a great time teaming up with Pucon’s Puelche Adventures, providing the SUP experience for their family float trips.
As the summer wound down, more time was spent with friends and family. A couple of trips to the might Middle Fuy with the amigos fulfilled my need to fly off of waterfalls and rage down big rapids. I was fortunate to have an extended visit from the Gibson brothers (Gipper and Travis), and I was especially fortunate to have a visit from my mom, Jackie Groth.
This was her first time traveling in South America, and it was a treat to show her around the area I love so much. We hiked to alpine lakes, floated crystalline waters, foraged for pinones (the fruit of the Araucaria/Monkey Puzzle tree), soaked in hot springs and marveled at the power of the waves of the South Pacific. Although sad to take the life of a little lamb, we also cooked up a traditional “asado de cordero” out at my little piece of rented paradise on the Rio Panqui with friends from the area. Good times!
I am currently working hard here in Washington, serving up great food and beer at Everybody’s and guiding on the White Salmon with All Star, but I am already itching to get back to Chile for another amazing season in Curarrehue.
We have big plans for this year with a music festival in the works and the inauguration of CAMP PUESCO – check it out on the kayaking page. Tell your friends about it!
Curarrehue is a special place. It is a place of magnificent physical beauty and natural diversity with its lakes and rivers and forests and towering mountains, but the people really make Curarrehue special. It is a place where people cherish their heritage and celebrate their culture, where the culture honors family and community values. It is a place full of recreational opportunities, and the community is also special because the people actually take advantage of these opportunities to wander into the wilderness and to know their surroundings.It is a place where I found another family, a community of friendly, open, conscious, active and generous people. I encourage locals from Pucon and elsewhere in Chile and travelers from around the world to get out there and experience Curarrehue. You won’t regret it.
Hope to see you soon!
John “LJ” Groth
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