Paddling · Self-Actualization · Wellness

Chile Part 3: Glaciers and Parques and Plunges Oh My!!

So we’re in Chile (at least we were this winter). We’d already had a “trip of a lifetime” having hiked the incredible Cerro Castillo, paddled a 4-day river trip on the Rio Baker and kayaked to, in and around the Marble Caves. There was still so much more to go! The trip on the Rio Baker left us in Coletta Tortel, an incredible little town nestled on the side of the fjords and we’d said our good-byes to the “Baker” crew. Our intention was to make our way to Patagonia Nacional Parque with some stops along the way, however we last-minute secured a trip to the San Lorenzo Glacier and extended our time in Tortel to accommodate. Because our Spanish isn’t perfecto we “more or less understood” that the trip would be a very full day, beginning at 8am and returning between 8-9pm (based on a two hour ride through the fjords on a skiff followed by approximately two hours of hiking to the glacier. We would then do the reverse, but stop on an island to eat asado dinner). This tour, in its entirety, was an experience that still leaves me somewhat perplexed but grateful for the cultural experience.

We did leave early in the morning, tossing our gear down to the raft and jumping from the dock to the boat where we greeted a “captain” who motored us out to the skiff to join the rest of the crew. It was a beautiful ride to the beach where we unloaded and began a very soggy hike toward the San Lorenzo glacier. Sidenote, this was one of the only days we got rained on and the hike was still very picturesque and enjoyable. We eventually arrived to the glacier, but it left us wanting some sort of paddle-craft because we could only view it from shore. I was, however, still blown away by the sight. Our small group eventually gathered for what was advertised as “lunch” which turned out to be a crap-ton of candy bars, one bag of potato chips and a triple shot of whiskey (on “ice” gathered from the icebergs–this is a hot marketing piece, I noticed, with several of the outfitters in the region). As someone who doesn’t drink much these days (or eat much candy or chips because I’m annoyingly healthier as I age) it was a laughable moment because I also prescribe to the “when in Rome” mindset when traveling. It was a buzzy walk back and I’m not sure if it was the whiskey or the enormous amounts of candy I’d eaten… probably a little bit of both! Arriving back at the skiff it was incredibly foggy and we were grateful for the skill of our captain who clearly knew the area well. He guided us, essentially blind, to the island where we joined a gaucho (farmer) who hosted our asado. The little enclosure we gathered had a woodstove where we all undressed almost to undies, to hang and practically roast our soggy socks, shoes and layers. What got weird is that it took a really long time to prep the food. And then a really long time to eat the food. And then? We were there for hours after, and at one point I saw the captain and the gaucho engaged in a lively negotiation over an old chainsaw which might or might not have needed fixed and/or was for sale? I have spent a LOT of time in the hospitality and tour industry and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Not complaining…it was interesting and those gauchos live SO remotely that they might go weeks without seeing anyone except those who lives with them. But I’m sure we’d have been back in Tortel by 6pm had we been more, say, efficient. Additionally, the boat ride back was a little exciting. What had been calm water turned into pretty sizeable waves so we went reeeeeally slowly. Relieved to finally be back, we jumped from the deck of the skiff back onto our dock–flinging our gear up and climbing the ladder. Ahhhh. Another adventure under our belts.

A random dynamic on this trip I haven’t mentioned, was that we were doing (almost daily, twice a day) cold-water plunges. I mean COLD water plunges, as in glacial lakes and run-off-into-rivers-cold. It’s an “acquired taste” for sure but I’m quite addicted. I have a process that’s kind of bullet-proof and I definitely don’t just plunge in all at once. By the time I left however, I could stay in up to my neck for 20-30 seconds at a time. It leaves your body feeling tingly and alive. I highly recommend!!

Next stop was Cochrane, where we met Roberto, a Chilean teacher-turned-kayak instructor who had created a kayak-school simply from his passion for getting kids and adults on the water, and very few other resources. Our Rio Baker guide had put us in contact with Roberto, as someone we should meet. Roberto also didn’t speak a word of English. Sam got to know Roberto by paddling with him up the Cochrane river while I took the opportunity to go for a solo walkabout into the park. We reconvened and went to a fun but language-challenged dinner. I’m sure we learned a lot of incorrect things about him and he about us (due to not understanding entirely the Spanish either was speaking). Next day we woke early to hike a 3-hour loop in Patagonia Parque Nacional before heading out toward the next leg of the trip, “Jeinemeni”. A long drive, but worthwhile….

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