As an avid traveler, and a team rider for Hala Gear, the offer of a team trip to Patagonia was an absolute no-brainer for me. The lure of the southern part of South America had me saying yes without hesitation. For me, international travel is one of the finest pleasures in life. Taking what is unknown, and creating experiences that are seared into memories. It’s what pushes me through the monotony of the daily grind. This trip was sure to provide adventure, but what I didn’t know was the level of education it would instill.
Cami Swan, Joey Saputo, and I are primarily whitewater paddlers. The objective of the trip was to run new rivers and get a little bit of surfing in. This led to the decision to bring an Atcha 9’6” for the rivers and a Playa for the ocean. As exciting as paddling in foreign locales seems (and is), it also demands a new level of planning, and/or ability to wing it when traveling with gear.
Travel in Chile is tricky due to the shape of the country. It’s nearly 3000 miles long and no wider than 180. Roads are prevalent in the north, but become fewer and fewer the further south one goes. At a certain point, staying in Chile requires either car ferries or one must cross into Argentina. Let me be clear, border crossings between these two countries is a very involved process. Hours, at a bare minimum, or up to an entire travel day.
Another consideration to keep in mind is the number of people you’re traveling with. Having three people on a trip can create an issue. With all our gear a car isn’t an option. A truck or van is needed. This then ups the cost. Two people can deal with a car, four makes the bigger vehicle cost-effective. We were on a budget so that forced the bus travel. The main thru fairs are fine with high-quality buses. However, direct river access relying solely on buses is tricky.
Just get there
Once on Patagonian rivers, expect some of the most scenic whitewater you’ll ever run. The water itself is amazing, to begin with. Toss in beautiful countryside with volcanoes as the backdrop and you have a SUP paddling trip to rival any other. For the paddler on a budget, like us, just keep the lessons we learned in the front of your mind. Tweaking our trip slightly would have resulted in more river time and less transit time. All said and done, I’ll take hard-learned lessons in other countries over work, any day.
Andy O'Brien is a team rider for Hala Gear.