Friday, May 17, 2013

White Water Rafting in Wisconsin on the Peshtigo....... and finding uses for a winch beyond the apocalypse

In a season confused last chance at winter trip we headed up north during April.   Greg's appeal was to shoot guns and put the Jeep's winch to use on the wooded trails; The prospect of my first white water rafting trip during the highest and most dangerous part of the season sealed the deal for me.  Of course I approached it applying the same motto as my latest ski endeavors, "I freaking better not fall. It's way too cold for that crap!!!"  Upon arrival at the river, the rafting guides' warnings of possible hypothermia coupled with their guarantee that 15 of our total group of seventy would fall Into the water, heightened the excitement, adrenaline, and pressure to not fall.  I really do realize that I'm a little crazy.... All I can say is that I'm lucky that I've found good friends who'll sit right next to me in the raft and on any adventure in life.
On Friday after work we headed up north to spend the weekend at the cabin of our friend up in Silver Cliff, WI. It was a new experience for me because it had no electricity or running water, just a nice fireplace that kept burning 24-7.  It reminded me of "The Little House on the Prairie" with the addition of two small bunk rooms that fit four comfortably in each.

After a hearty Saturday morning breakfast and shooting an array of weapons, we headed out on the rafting expedition with Kosirs Rapid Rafts. I definately recommend them for rafting in northern wisconsin.  For only something like $40-50 we each rented all the equipment including wet suits and rain jackets. 

From the homebase and the bar, they shuttle everyone upriver to the rafting starting point where they give you a brief lesson about what to expect and set everyone into the water in rafts of two or three persons or these dangerous little things called "fun yaks," which honestly looked far from fun and incredibly dangerous.  While we were all fighting for our lives, the "funyakers" as they were called, flighted and flipped around, falling or nearly falling out of their rafts at every rushing wave.  Anyways, the entire group, in our case nearly 70 people, rafts downstream and ends at the homebase and bar.  The length of the trip depends upon the water flow.  April, when the snow is melting, is considered peak season. The normally 3-4 hour trip down the river took us only 1.5 hours.   At the end of the trip everyone heads into the bar where they show pictures and videos from the adventure. 

This is our group heading into a big drop
This is us ALMOST falling, but not quite....
... because this is after our miraculous recovery!

This is a favorite of my friend Corrin as she is about to jump overboard
Of course, the two men styled through it like it was nothing.

The last portion of the trip was a sort of "apocalypse survival skill course" (an alternate name could be "putting to use of expensive purchases that may otherwise only come in handy during the apocalypse"). We set out to go off-roading in the snow.  My take was that there  was an unspoken understanding that we would drive two jeeps out into the snow to trails that we knew would be unsurpassable.  There we would get stuck and then the guys would have fun getting them out.  

It was quite fun.  Eventually it got dark and the work became tedious and we headed back to the warm, cozy cabin.

After a weekend of adventure we headed back to the city and our normal lives where we hoped to finally see some signs of spring after the long, dark, cold winter. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Other things near Pichilemu

Aside from learning to surf, there were plenty of other things to keep us busy in Pichilemu and the surrounding area.
Upon arriving we used the bikes from the hostel to visit the town and surrounding area.  It was mainly a beach town, but a lot was empty since it was off-season.  Things in town seemed to slow down during the afternoon so we adopted a siesta  schedule, meaning we ended up taking a nap or resting nearly every afternoon.
 We decided that there could be an entire National Geographic episode about "The dogs of the streets of Pichilemu."  When we first arrived, and were greeted by gangs of wandering dogs, we were a bit wary and timid, but we soon realized that they were a special part of the town.  The street dogs were pretty amazing; They were everywhere.  Lots of them. and they were beautiful.  They appeared groomed, shiny, and well fed.  The dogs wandered wherever they wanted, including inside many of the stores and their manners were fairly tame.  When you had food they might approach, but they didn't beg.  If they proved bothersome you could shoo them away and they would actually yield to your command.  They almost seemed better trained than many domesticated pet dogs.  This is a picture of Shea with her favorite street dog.   

We also went to Santa Cruz, Chile to go to a wine tour.  The winery that we toured was called Viu Manent.  It is a family owned winery that was established in 1935.   We toured the winery's 627 acres in a horse drawn carriage and were able to taste one wine during the tour as well as five others after the tour.  It was a wonderful first wine tour visit.

 The wines that we tasted were a white, a Syrrah, a Carmenere, a Cabernet, and a Malbec.  It was a first tasting for both of us, so I can not share any written notes about the exact tastes of the wines because I lack the vocabulary.
 The weather during the trip to Pichilemu was not what we originally expected.  It was a cool and cold when the wind picked up.   We had lots of coffee, tea, and mate to keep us warm.

 Staying at the hostel worked very well.  We met lots of people and the owner was able to help us set up and coordinate everything that we wanted to do.  The hostel had a wood burning hot tub, which led to a fun and relaxing evening.
 This is the owner of Sunset Hostel, Eduardo.  He is a Chilean from Santiago.  He relocated to Pichilemu because its an awesome and relaxing place to be.
In Pichilemu we found even more seafood than in Santiago..... 

 I don't have many pictures, but one of the most fun parts of the trip for me was horseback riding.  While I had previously done tours when I was younger, this tour was unique in that they trusted you a little more with the horses.  We took a tour throughout the town and some country areas and at the end we went to a beach.  Although the horses knew some of the route, we were not traveling "head to tail" the whole time.  We were allowed to go as fast or slow as we wanted and were responsible for moving out of the way for cars or any other obstacles.  When we were on the beach, we had free reign to trot, cantor or galloped as we pleased.  I galloped on a horse for the first time and ran through a couple of puddles.  My horse was named Cholita, or "blackie," obviously she had a beautiful dark coat.

 This was from our last and semi-rushed meal before leaving Pichilemu.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Surfing for Beginners in Chile

There is a lot to write about from our trip to Pichilemu, Chile so I am going to start with the motive for the trip:  Learning to surf.

 I think I have had a vague dream to learn to surf in the back of my mind since I was very young.  The movie Blue Crush came out in 2002 and I think it really brought this dream to the front of most girls' minds.  Living in Wisconsin, I never thought it would become a reality until one day I was thinking:  People always go on ski trips during the winter to Vail or other destinations and it seems really great, but I love the sun and the beach and the water.  Why can't I go on surfing trips instead?

Shea and I decided to go on our first surfing trip to Pichilemu, Chile and we couldn't be more pleased with the results.  I don't know if I will continue the theme of surf trips, but we were happy to try it out and succeed.  Since we have returned, we have dabbled with the idea of jointing the surfers on Lake Michigan, but still think it is a little absurd.

Back to the story at hand, we stayed at a hostel called the Sunset Hostel (that was a shout out to Eduardo the hostel owner) and as you would expect, the hostel keeper helping the owner also happened to be a surfer and was able to give us our own private lessons.  The lessons were a blast.  Our instructor's name was Phil and he was from Australia.  I think he was a phy-ed teacher by nature, but decided to spend a few months in Phichilemu to surf during winter.  With a true blue, real life Australian surf instructor at our side we were ready to go ride the waves. 

Here is a picture of us combing and waxing the board before we go to surf.  You have to comb it to get the old wax off and wax it to make it grippy for your feet. 

If you can't tell by our clothes, summer was winding down in the Southern Hemisphere and winter was creeping in.  It was very sunny, but the water was cold and the evening temperatures dropped drastically.  When the wind was blowing, I had to wear two jackets.

We surfed in wet suits and booties the whole time.  It was surprising how warm they kept us. I am in the blue and Shea is in black and gray.

 Below we are warming up a little before we "get our hair wet." (That is a surfer expression, i think).

Although there is no actual photo-evidence that we surfed, we did.  These pictures were all taken from the second day when the water was a little bit rougher and we were able to stand up on the board less.  Shea, however, was able to stand up and surf on her very first try.  I followed and caught on quickly as well.
Here we are out in the water with Phil, getting ready to hang ten, whatever that means.
In the picture below we are hanging out in the water with all the other rookies, waiting for the waves to come in.  I think that this was one of my favorite parts.  It felt really good to stop and enjoy the moment, just hanging out on our boards under the sun and rocking in the mild waves of the ocean. 

 As luck had it, there happened to be a big surf competition on the Thursday that we were in town.  I think it was a Chilean competition to qualify for nationals and it took place at a world famous surf spot called "Punta de Lobos."

The two rocks you can see are the classic view of Punta de Lobos.
If you look very closely in the lower right corner of the above picture you can see a surfer in green.  In order to make it out to the waves they had to cross the channel and get onto the land behind the big rocks.  It was almost as exciting to watch as the competition.  Below you can see one surfer sitting on the rocks watching the others who are surfing behind the rocks.

I felt really bad even asking this guy for a picture.  He was toast after coming in from competing.

And one last important detail for anyone who has seen Blue Crush, yes they did have someone on a jet ski who went around to help the surfers.