Bio Bio Expeditions

Two Californians create a sybaritic multi-sport paradise in South America.
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May 25, 2014 | By Fredric Hamber

Marc Goddard and Laurence Alvarez-Roos have built a thirty-year friendship and a twenty-year business on a shared love of outdoor adventure. Their company Bio Bio Expeditions guides eager explorers on mountains and waters in far flung destinations: Nepal, New Zealand, Kilimanjaro and the Galapagos to name a few. But each year they're drawn back to the claim they've staked in a remote river valley in southern Chile. 

Situated on the Futaleufu River (the "Fu") which boasts up to Class V whitewater near the confluence of the Rio Azul, their Patagonian camp is a base for rafting, horseback, hiking and kayaking. Trek mountain bikes are at the ready. A couple of rafts have been specially fitted for fly fishermen with swivel seats and casting platforms. These guys are serious, recently garnering a spot on Outside Magazine's Travel Awards list for their nine-day itinerary.

Accommodations are tented bungalows overlooking the river. There are two hot tubs: you can choose between the social hot tub and the quiet meditation tub, each with river water heated by a wood burning contraption. Rafting days begin early (you'll be awakened by a camp staffer bringing hot coffee to your tent) and there’s yoga inside or out to stretch your muscles. 

Marc and Laurence met at age thirteen and attended high school together. Marc was drawn to river life during a family trip on the Colorado. During vacations from college in Boulder he became a guide, leading trips down the Zambezi in Zimbabwe. He tried his hand at a job in San Francisco's Financial District but "almost had a nervous breakdown," he tells Huckberry. He followed in the footsteps of his sister who had been a river guide, then he took things further. A lot further actually: he has led Bio Bio Expeditions to the Katun River in Siberia and recently guided the first commercial descent of the Drangme Chhu River in Bhutan.

Laurence served as captain of USA Men's Whitewater Rafting Team after college. With another friend, he and Marc started guiding trips on the Bio Bio River in Chile which gave their company its name. "We fell in love with Chile," Marc says, "the people, the culture, the environment." When the Bio Bio was damned, they headed further south to the Futaleufu, a sparsely settled area where horses roam wild. 

For a few years Laurence guided treks up Mount Aconcagua, South America's highest peak. It was a three-week hike fraught with altitude headaches and sleeplessness. "The ideal length for an adventure trip is ten to twelve days," he advises. Longer than that, guys start to get on each other’s nerves.

The Bio Bio boys are candid about the occasional challenges of being in business with a close friend but say division of labor keeps things cool: Laurence oversees details of the camp in Chile while Marc guides most other international trips and keeps the office running smoothly. "He's the opposite of a procrastinator," Laurence says of Marc's habit of responding quickly to messages from customers. Both men became fathers about the same time and are raising families in Truckee. They understand that a key factor in their business success is that their trust in each other is rock solid. 

Also rock solid is the brick pizza oven at their Patagonia property for make-your-own-pizza nights. "Almost anything you stick in there comes out with that smoky wood flavor," Laurence says. It gets better: they've begun brewing beer for their guests ("Fu brew" they call it). From his first day in the area years ago Laurence saved his beer bottles with a long term dream. He planted hops outside the sauna. A brew-making friend from Truckee took time off from work to come help get things started. Laurence's goal is someday to have all of the ingredients locally sourced. "They do grow beautiful grain in the Futaleufu River valley," he says.

Images ©: Alex Nicks.