Adrenaline Activities in the Andes

San Rafael wasn’t on our list of places to visit but when we were asked to work on a farm with llamas we couldn’t resist! Here’s a little of what we got up to away from the farm . . . 

Los Reyunos

About 30 minutes up river along the Rio Diamanté is the Los Reyunos Dam – a massive wall of water designed to irrigate the (relatively) small region of local crops. The massive body of water twinkles a beautiful blue amongst the reddish bouldery rocks of the hillside and makes you wonder what secrets lurk below from a time before the valley was flooded.

El Kaike is perfectly positioned for persuading folk in to a quick adrenalin rush and we were soon signed up for a zip wire flight across to the distant shore. Wondering how a quiet country drive had turned in to an activity afternoon we got quite nervous as we stepped in to harnesses and posed for unflattering photos.


Warren headed across first – it made my tummy tumble when his feet left the ground but I couldn’t hear screams echoing off the hillside, so figured all was going well! When my turn came the guy clipping on seemed chilled and relaxed, so I followed suit and was soon gliding hundreds of feet above the twinkly blue waters in my un-superman posture! If anything, it just didn’t last long enough – just as I noticed how quiet it was and how amazing it would be to have a condor glide past, the guys on the the far bank were calling to me to make a ball shape with my body and I whizzed in to their grip on the landing stage.

Our adventuring spirit was only just ignited at that point so we hopped into the canoes next and paddled out around the nearest headland with the view changing each time we rounded a bend. The rock formations were amazing and again we were stunned by the tranquil silence, out of sight to any other humans with just the occasional duck for company. Our only worry was hoping we’d find our way back to the ragaton beat at the club before the plug was taken out!


Nicole, our host, quickly got the impression we liked a little adventure so a few days later, and after a quick call to her friends, we found ourselves at the local equivalent of Go Ape (for free!). After a quick safety brief we found ourselves leading the way through the treetop adventures, ahead of about 40 school kids!

We thought we were whizzing around climbing, zip wiring, trying not to look scared on the swinging stepping stones – but when we looked behind there was always a bored looking teenager thinking ‘can you hurry up please?’. With the afternoon running away with us we decided to graduate to the most difficult course, Level Four. There were no students behind us this time – they had been told it was too technical, so we had the course to ourselves and it was challenging!

With our arms and legs starting to get tired and new muscles saying ‘you haven’t used me before!’ we were wondering if we could make it all the way round. Lizzie had to pull out on the rope loops because the technique hadn’t been explained, but once Warren and I saw how it was done (the guide who rescued Lizzie showed us!) we were able to struggle across (no points for style and we both had to stop half way to re-charge our muscles). The next part was cool – a snow board suspended 40 feet up on a zip wire. It was great to cruise from one tree to the next, looking chilled, especially when it was so much easier than the last challenge!

Cañon del Atuel

Warren had a day off as driver to visit Cañon Atuel as it’s winding 40km of ripio (unmade road) is really only suitable for 4×4. We had no idea what the day would hold but it started with a visit to the ruined fort (where San Rafael was originally based), crossing the Sierras (where we were introduced to the scented herbs of the desert) and on to another dam/lake along the Rio Atuel – the first of three hydroelectric dams in the canyon which produce power for the local area.

This mini Grand Canyon starts as small creek and quickly opens out into a steep valley through the rocky landscape. Standing on a precipice looking to the canyon bottom made my tummy turn again and posing for photos by the edge was not fun – especially as Warren decided we should go beyond the safety barriers (surely they are there for a reason?!).

Soon we were on the windy track down to the riverside at the base of the ravine, a much better place to admire the view as the sheer cliff faces led straight up to the blue, blue sky.

As if this wide canyon was not impressive enough, we stopped at Cañon Negro for lunch – a narrow gorge with walls at least 100 foot high with veins of different rocks and minerals worn away by thousands of years of flowing water. It was cool in the shade, like being in a narrow street between looming tower blocks, with no sign of the sunny bright day outside. Then the track climbed back up to ground level and weaved its way to the final dam, an impressive wall with the bluest of lakes behind it. I’ll let the picture below speak for itself as it’s such a beautiful view . . .


Rio Atuel

Our final sunny day in San Rafael was spent rafting the afternoon away on Rio Atuel. It’s a grade 1-2, so nothing too challenging, but some great bumpy rapids and an amazing way to see the lower end of the canyon. The rock formations continued to impress us with layers, steep drops and rich shades of red against a perfect blue sky. Again we were among a school group, up from Buenos Aires for three days of activities, which was great fun – we were in the teachers raft and at every opportunity we splashed the students as we paddled past, of course we were soaked every time the kids raced past us!!

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