Alzar School | 07.11.12

Bienvenidos a Chile!! What an incredible adventure it has been so far.

Upon stepping off the plane 2 weeks ago we were greeted by the sunny spring weather of Santiago before a roadtrip in our new rental van down to Los Quenes, a small village east of Curico. From Los Quenes we were able to paddle both the Rio Teno, a river whose murky water is the result of upstream intensive mining, and the Rio Claro, whose water is a clear as the Teno’s is murky. While staying at this campsite we mastered Chilean commonalities such as greeting the campsite owner Matias with a kiss on the cheek, remembering not to flush paper down the toilet, and learning not to pet stray dogs even if they look adorable.

The leader of the day position took on new responsibility with the initiation of two-day plans during which student pairs work together to plan an entire two-days consulting maps and guidebooks for potential adventures and accommodating study hall, classes or service when necessary. Alec and Wesley led the charge and planned a kayaking trip for the entire group on the Rio Claro as well as a hiking trip to a volcano along the border of Chile and Argentina. They were forced to adapt their initial plan when the road to the volcano hike had been entirely washed away. Demonstrating resiliency and 360° thinking, Alec and Wesley instead coordinated an afternoon run down the Teno. Our advanced paddle team of Katherine, Wesley, Alec and Grady tried a harder up river section, while the paddle raft team of Karley, Charlotte and Aaron as well as kayakers Crosby, Liam and Lexi conquered ‘Everest,’ the huge wave train of the down river section.

Student leaders Karley and Charlotte were up the next weekend. Together they crafted an inspiring plan not just for our group of Alzar School students, but also for nine sixth grade students from Orchard College. Our visitors arrived on Friday and camped with us for one night in the mountains of Los Quenes. Charlotte, with the help of Lexi’s Spanish expertise, taught the students the game “Whaaa!!,” a ninja-action game that became an instant hit. Afternoon activities included an adventure hike along the mountain ridge looking out over Los Quenes. Aaron helped to lead the hike, reeling in our rambunctious group of 11-year-olds. Back at the campsite, Katherine designed an “Intro to Paddling” kayaking pool session involving boating games and basic strokes. Later that night we had a huge campfire complete with smores and songs including the Chilean and American national anthems.

Finally, student leaders Liam and Crosby carried us down the ‘Siete Tazas’ and to the coast these past two days. The ‘Siete Tazas’ are a famous section of the Rio Claro involving six different waterfalls. Students spent the morning learning anchor systems (Girth vs. Two wrap) and numerous knots (Figure 8 vs. Bowline) through instructor Dan and Evan’s Swiftwater Rescue Seminar. In the afternoon we put these skills to use setting up a pulley system to lower boats down to the first waterfall. Crosby said that this first drop was his favorite and he remembers carefully planting a solid boof stroke before a soft landing 15ft below. Instructors Sam and Sean were carefully positioned at the bottom of each waterfall as safety. Grady loved the final waterfall, a 20ft pencil dive into the beautifully clear Claro water. While Alec, Katherine, Lexi, Crosby, Wesley, Liam and Grady successfully ran all six drops, Aaron, Karley and Charlotte went on a short hike with Evan to see the incredible, much larger 160ft waterfall further down the river.

After many days camping, practicing Spanish, paddling and developing leadership skills we have arrived at the coast in the town of Cobquecura. Beach house classes followed by afternoon surfing are on the agenda for the next few days. More updates to come!

SJ Byce
Teaching Fellow