A Farewell to some Great Chiliean Rivers.
After 3 days in the Rio Claro area and starting to feel a little rested after our long travel to South America, Jeff, Leland, and I decided to go into a town to do a resupply and get some internet to check water levels on other Chilean whitewater.
We decided that the Rio Ancoa looked like a good choice and headed farther south on Ruta 5 toward that drainage for some big water class IV. We got there late at night since we got lost for a while and drove up into the mountains and fell exhausted into a campsite on the side of the road. Before passing out, a ranger walked by in the night (we thought that was a bit strange). He was super nice and stopped to talk for awhile. He was telling us about dam projects in the area and he mentioned the Ancoa and the Achibueno. We didn't understand a whole lot, but he did say that the region was growing and needed to provide more irrigation to big farming operations for fruits and vegetables mainly for Chile's huge wine production.
We woke up in the morning and started to drive around and try to figure out where we would run and how we would do shuttle since there was noone around minus some cows and cowboys.
We ventured up to the top end of the road at the furtherst upstream point on the river we could go and were taken aback by the site that we found. There was a tunnel through a mountain through which another river, the Rio Melado, with big, brown water was gushing into the Ancoa's riverbed. The real Ancoa sat adjacent to it with clear blue-green tranquil waters and a very nice looking river bed. We wished we could paddle on the real Ancoa at that moment, and there was a weird feeling about Rio Melado's waters in the Ancoa riverbed--it felt like the Ancoa had been raped of her natural features. A little disappointed, we decided it would be fun to paddle it anyway and headed downstream to figure out a shuttle. We found an eco-hotel and stopped by to see if anyone there could run our shuttle for the river. Our Spanish was still pretty rusty and this guy was trying to tell us something, but we couldn't really figure out what. He kept saying "peligroso," which we knew was "dangerous," and we figured he was telling us the river is dangerous. We drove off downstream and as we rounded a corner, our jaws dropped open in amazement.
We saw one good rapid after the put-in bridge, and after that the riverbed had been excavated and leveled and there was heavy equipment in the river. The surrounding mountainsides had been completely ravaged because this entire valley was about to be made into a lake. There was heavy machinery everwhere blowing dust, and men in worksuits and hardhats worked busily, and we felt like we had just placed ourselves into a scene in the Lorax. There was also a strange tunnel just like the one where the water from the Rio Melado comes into the Ancoa's riverbed that was being prepared on the south side as if another river was going to be diverted in as well.
We hung around in disbelief and watched this scene unfold. One of the strangest and saddest things was that the locals were still moving their livestock around through this mess. One way of life was desperately hanging on while another was taking over.
Saddened by our experience, we headed out to the next drainage south to meet back up with the Germans and do some kayaking on the famed Rio Achibueno for some class IV big water creeking.