When we first decided on Chile as our meet-up destination, I had only a vague knowledge about the country. With a gun to my head I would have remembered old maps from elementary school…where it was geographically, and that it was “long and skinny”. Patagonia was there, but I knew more about the outdoor apparel company than I actually knew about the region. Nothing could have prepared me, however, for the incredible beauty this area has to offer, and the fact that there are a ton of trails to hike and rivers to paddle made it even better. Side note, if you’re planning a trip, I highly recommend you talk to someone who has been there, in addition to reading the blogs and travel guides.
We spent our time in Central Patagonia which is remote, and somewhat challenging to get to, but well worth the effort. The “highway” that connects the towns throughout this area, as I-5 would on the west coast of the US, is gravel, winding and frequently rutted–a road appropriate for 4-wheel drive vehicles. In a strange way, this adds to the allure, as it definitely deters a lot of people from visiting and slows you down (for better and worse). The drive truly is the journey as much as the destination in Patagonia. Around every corner is a mind-blowing view with jagged mountain peaks, mostly snow or glacier-covered. Lakes and rivers are everywhere, with the craziest colors you can imagine…blues, greens, opaques from glacial silt. Just WOW.
Our adventure started with one of the more “stout” hikes in the area–Cerro Castillo (from Villa Cerro Castillo). It’s straight up and then straight down, about three hours each way, which we did as a day-hike, although Sam fervently believes it should only be done as a multi-day camping experience. For our purposes, and just getting acclimated, I was fine with the day-hike because full overnight packs our first day out, would have been really challenging. By the end of the trip…basically three weeks of daily “cross-fit”…sure, no prob! All that said, we got to the glacier where we enjoyed a lunch, water and incredible views before heading back down, entirely aware of “well-used” knees, back, etc.
Next destination (after some backtracking to Coyhaique to stock up on supplies for three weeks of remote camping) was Puerto Sanchez. I had set my sights on the Marble Caves having seen photos of gorgeous rock formations you can boat to. All the websites/blogs told me we would need to launch from Rio Tranquillo or Puerto Murta to visit these caves, but we received a tip from a local, to go via Puerto Sanchez, approaching from the other side of the island. Great tip! We hired two guides to escort us, and a tandem kayak. The paddle to the caves was quick–about 10 minutes (truthfully, we tried to just rent the kayak and paddle ourselves). But “Nacho” and Ignacio were awesome and shared a bunch of insider info about the caves, lake General Carrera and other local knowledge. Beautiful sights are nice, but understanding them–how they were formed, the geology, and the relevance locally, makes it so much better! A few fun facts about the “Marble” caves…they’re not marble but limestone. They were under water just 30 years ago but the glaciers all around Patagonia are receding very quickly due to climate change (ok, that isn’t a super “fun” fact). You can actually hike in some of them…we did…and we found a few pieces of petrified wood. The rock itself isn’t colorful, but reflects the color of the water and sky creating some breathtaking views.
We spent the night camping, for the first of many, under the southern hemisphere sky–the Milky Way SO vivid. Waking with our first tailgate breakfast, complete with instant coffee and dehydrated milk, (a pleasure for this coffee addict) we slowly made our way toward Cochrane…and “Part Two” later to come…
2 thoughts on “A Trip to Chile- Part One”
Quite the adventure y’all – sounds amazing – way to go after it!
See ya soon!
Quite! Looking forward to catching up…