Planning a solo SA trip eh? Fantastic! You go girl! Traveling solo can be a very rewarding experience, and you will find that the locals open up to you much more than if you were traveling with a group of friends.
Having traveled & kayaked extensively in Ecuador, Chile & Argentina, and done a quick trip to Costa Rica, here are my suggestions:
Chile & Argentina (Patagonia):
- Definitely my favorite boating in South/Central America. Tons of great runs of all types- Class III play, big water Class IV, 300+ feet per mile creek runs, fantastic play spots, waterfalls, hair raising 20k cfs class V, etc. You name it. I wouldnt be surprised if there is more kayaking in Chile & Argentina than in all of N. America.
- These two countries are much more 1st World in terms of municipal infrastructure and transportation. In nearly 6 months of traveling during two trips, I only got sick once from food. I drank tap water constantly and had no problems- almost all of the city water supplies are chlorinated, and the river water is cleaner than many rivers in the US. Both countries have good internal airline flights and bus transportation.
- The people are fantastic! Chileans are a bit more reserved at first, but open up once you get to know them, whereas Argentines are open and gregarious from the moment you meet them. Many people in both countries are well educated and speak english, particularly those involved in tourism. In the big cities petty crimes can be a concern- on our second trip we had some boating gear stolen from a line outside of a hostel in Bariloche, AR, and on my first trip I had a pickpocket nab my wallet in a bus station in Santiago, Chile. Be vigilant in big cities and crowded areas. I have good friends in both Chile and Argentina from my trips down there.
- Pucon, Chile is a great place to hang out and meet boaters. It is the Glenwood Springs of Chile, with hot springs, Lago Villarica, and a volcano above town. There are tons of outdoors activities, and the main street is lined with outfitters plying their trips, with at least 4 companies that rent kayaks and run river trips. All you have to do to find other boaters is hang out on one of the restaurant patios on the main street and look for folks who look like gringo boaters- it wont take long to find them!
- Costs in Argentina are much less than Chile- when I was down there a year and a half ago, accommodations in Chile ranged from $10-$25 per night for hospedaje accommodations in Pucon (a room in a house), whereas Argentina was $3-$10 per night for hostel accommodations.
- The down side to Chile/Argentina is that other than around Pucon, you often have to drive from one river to another, so vehicle and shuttle arrangements can some times be difficult if you dont have a rental vehicle. However, there are plenty of boaters down there and it might well be that you can hook up with others that have transportation. For some of the runs around Pucon you can utilize the transportation services of taxis and outfitters.
- Time to go down there: December thru March is summer down there- much sunnier and drier- similar to Pacific NW in the summer.
- links for more info:
Click on Kayaking in the left menu
Click on Patagonia in the top menu- not a lot about boating, but good travel info, and more SA links in the links section.
- Again plenty of great boating for all levels. Tena Ecuador, on the Amazon side of the Andes, is a great place to hang out. Plenty of gringo boaters there and many of the taxi drivers know directions to the put-ins and take-outs of the various runs which surround the town.
- Less expensive than Chile, similar to or less than Argentina- in the $3-$10 per night range for hotels in Tena (as of 3 years ago).
- Definitely 3rd world. Dont drink the tap water- bottled water only, and check the seal. Dont eat raw vegetables that have been washed in water. No ice in your drinks. The bus transportation is relatively regular, although the vehicles are not as well maintained.
- Again the people are very nice, but not as many speak english. Knowing some spanish comes in handy, particularly when buying bus tickets and arranging transportation. Be wary when in crowded situations such as bus stations, markets, etc.
- Time to go there: I have been to Tena in November & January, both were good times.
- For a bit more info, check out my web site:
- Also, if you decide you want to go the packaged trip route, Small World Adventures runs great trips in Ecuador:
- I havent been there in eight years. It was my first intro to traveling outside of the states, and got me hooked on traveling and boating in Central/South America. From what I remember the prices were more expensive than Ecuador, but less than Chile. Turrialba is the best boater hangout town, with 5 or 6 good runs near by- I remember the Turrialtico was a fun place to stay and there were other boaters there. We got around by renting a car and hiring a driver to run shuttle for us, although others were using taxis. We were there in October.
Drop me an e-mail for more info, and I can get you some contact info for local boating friends, and perhaps find others that are headed down there-