Rio Palena, Chile
a premiere packrafting experience
Rio Palena, Chile is an epic 100 mile river running from Palena to Raul Marin Balmaceda, which is a small fishing town on the Pacific Ocean. We paddled 70 miles of the river over four days, running 30 class II rapids, and going almost four full days without seeing another soul - a true, undeniable backcountry experience.
Travel Tip: Bring a two liter box of wine with you out on this river ... spending all day in the packraft is both exhausting and relaxing, and settling in with a gulp of Clos at the end of the night is worth the weight. Also, wash your feet well. I had a terrible foot fungus after this week.
Tyler humping his way across Rio Palena, our final few kilometers before landing in the sleepy seaside village Raul Marine Balmaceda, where Tyler spent 24 hours vomiting from overexposure. I had taken my lumps the previous week in Futaleufu, but still, you feel for the guy. Reese Wells.
Our Hilleberg Atkos looking really good in this banger of a sunrise. Dewy morning though, and we woke up slicked with phantom wet. Our tents prevailed though, and we dried out quickly. Reese Wells.
Had the privilege of getting up early enough to catch this incredible morning light. Grateful for the river that took us here, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. Reese Wells.
Our cute little Explorer 42 chilling out in a bit of shade on Rio Palena. Fun fact? This beach marked the line where the river became brackish - aka Pacific Ocean water began mixing with fresh glacial melt. Reese Wells.
Ever heard of toe jam? Yup! This is it, in the - on the? - flesh. Smelled like fermenting apples with a hint of rot. My feet have never fully recovered. Reese Wells.
One of my favorite campsites of Patagonia Soul, this photo taken as deep in the backcountry as we could get, miles and miles from roads or power lines. Check out the Alpackaraft in the bottom left corner of this photo! Reese Wells.
Oh, man. What a brutal time we were having. Paddling downriver is less fun in 30 mph headwinds. This photo taken during our final break of the day, after eight hours in the raft. Ready for camp and boxed wine. Reese Wells.
How we do things on Patagonia Soul. Set up the Hillebergs, string up an Eno tarp, let the Alpackaraft Explorer 42 air out, and get ready to start making grub. Reese Wells.
After 40 km on Rio Palena, we were soaked, sore, and ready to set up camp for the night. Tyler's face is a good indicator of how we were feeling, tired but thrilled after navigating a number of Class II rapids. Reese Wells.
Tried taking a neat little shortcut to squirt us into Raul Marine Balmaceda on our last day on Rio Palena ... but alas, got caught. But hey! The water color was AMAZING. Reese Wells.
Shameless selfie while we're taking a much-deserved float break on the Rio Palena. Navigating over 30 rapids in four days and feeling burnt. Reese Wells.
With 95 lb packs, we decided to stick out our thumbs rather than hoof it down the Carretera Austral ... yup. Picture says it all. We did have to wait a while. Photo by Tyler Nachand. Reese Wells.
There's moss growing on a horse's jawbone here at camp, and I wonder it came to stay here, if it died here, rotted into the earth, and this is what remains?
Or if a fox, maybe the same one prowling around our camp, howling, shrieking and waiting to steal our food, was the graveyard thief that brought the bone here and gnawed on it until he grew bored?
Or was it the river, rising up and sweeping the body downstream in a mighty surge, depositing the bone here on the swell? I think about these things because my focus, it seems, is on death.
It's fascinating, isn't it?
But what I realize is truly more amazing than considering how the bone got here is perhaps how the moss found its way onto the bone, how life found life in death, how the bone has offered itself as legacy, regardless of how it came to rest.