Thursday, November 5, 2009

Chilling out in Chile - and how!

Marie and I have come up with 'bleak, desolate, cheerless, unkempt and windswept' for Puerto Natales. What's even more we didn't care for our first hostal very much, and moved ourselves + stuff to 'Erratic Rock' when we came back from kayaking! The three Serrano River days were wonderful and varied. We had another colourful guide, a native born Chilean Patagonian, called Angelo. With dreadlocks tied on top of his head, our mischievous mate drinking kayak guide supremo, you didn't want to underemphasize his professionalism on the water. We were well cared for. The first day we quickly reached a waterfall area where we had a 70m portage, somewhat challenging with the kayaks still loaded (single for A. and a double for us), but it was manageable with a fair amount of huffing and puffing up and over a small hillock. Lots of ducks (I'll bet some are related to the NZ Paradise shelduck) and other birds – including 4 condors - all fairly challenging to photograph from a moving boat. Quite good sitting in the bow position though, as it meant I could just stop paddling and take pics - and let Marie keep paddling! Very cool (blimin freezing actually) I thought. We had a seriously windy corner to manoeuvre around as we came in sight of the Tyndall Glacier, and needing to keep our wits about us we kept paddling across from ridge end to ridge end, against the wild wind that kept battering our starboard bow quarter. Not nice, but the immense relief after getting around it safely and then landing at our campsite was worth it. We had a great view of the Tyndall glacier, so decided we'd go and explore it the next morning, instead of heading straight back to Pt.Natales. After dragging our boats part way up a side river (after a rather exciting + scarey ferry-type crossing) we set out on a long plod across the shingle (with a bit of quicksand thrown in), only to find our way to the forest edging the glacier lake was blocked by an impassable river with too much current. Just as well we didn't go any further though as we reached the next campsite at Monte Balmaceda just before a heavy storm hit; the one that had us in the blizzard the next morning. No paddle over to the foot of the Serrano glacier next morning for us either, as the whiteout was too intense for us to paddle safely (ok Angelo! - by the time we stopped taking pics). We did paddle across the fjord about midday though, in order to catch the ship back to Pt.Natales. We loved every minute of these three days!

Marie here: Really I think the Serrano River kayaking has been the best adventure so far. Very scary in places and at times we were all yelling at each other. Waking up with a snow covered tent was wonderful plus the fact that we were miles and miles from anywhere – and no-one knew where we were, except for Angelo, and we weren't even too sure where he was! Heaps and heaps of snow. I actually enjoyed the fjord paddle best probably because of being used to the sea, but it wasn't long enough though. I enjoyed the boat ride back to Pt Natales too.

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