This is our last day on the water. It is a short one. All we have to do is pack up and paddle about two miles up the river to the airport/saw mill where we will be picked up in the van. But still all the usual stuff has to happen. Get into the dry suits cause it could still/probably will rain. Pack up the boats with the gear, launch into the water and paddle to the destination. All that is the same. Only the the amount of time spent paddling will be different.
The weather is somber and so as we as we confront the end of our journey. Even the horse looks sad. Perhaps it was because he didn;t get to be involved in the mating dance that took place around our boats and tents at dawn that morning.
It is raining on the mountains, but there are a few patches of sun and we get another rainbow even before we leave camp.
We paddle against the two knot current. Kate is ahead eager to make the rendesvouz. We hang in the back, reluctant to finish the last of the trip. Julio spends some time hunting birds and Kate and I can't imagine what is taking him so long. I finally go back to look for him. He's back in the kayak and we are all paddling upstream again.
We join the main channel of the river. The current is stronger here and we are hugging the banks to keep out of the strongest of it. The float down at the start seemed so much shorter.
Sadly we are soon at our final destination - the little ramp used to pull the logs up off the boats into the saw mill. The strong smell of decaying sawdust permeates the entire area. Large puddles of soupy mud and sawdust are everywhere. We pull out the boats and beging to sort out the gear. What belongs to Extremely Patagonia goes in one pile, what belongs to me goes in another. Borrowed and shared equipment is returned to the owning party. This is just about sorted out when the van and the trailer arrive at the agreed upon hour. Soon the kayaks are on the racks, tied down to the satisfaction of graham, and we are loaded up into the Mitsubishi van and we are off on the Carreterra Austral for the long two day ride back to Coyhaique. We had tired and ready for a few comforts of civilization. It will be nice to be dry for longer than a few hours.
A local fishing boat chugs up river, headed for the sawmill or the ranchos up near our take out spot. They wave. We paddle.
We head back into Torel for some lunch. this turns out to be a time consuming idea as the restauratn is run on a very ad hoc basis. By the time they get it open and we have our meal we have spent two hours. Juilio says the congrio was quite good. I had salmon.
A rough and long drive lies ahead, but for now even the bumps and sliding turns of a one and a half lane dirt road at 110 kph can't keep me awake. I miss a good bit of the drive back to Cochrane, where we stay again in the bed & breakfast. A glorious shower, a good dinner of grass fed beef in a local restaurant and a early night to a warm, soft dry bed make the roosters seem so much less anoying the next morning 6:30 wakeup. Another simple breakfast and we off on the final 350 km of bad road. Julio givves mate another try before deciding that it just can be considered consumable.
Lago General Carrera is just as beautiful as it was on the way down. It seems a little bit more moody with the clouds and rain hanging over portions of the huge lake. Bikers struggle along the soft sides of the road is we sqeeze by them at high speeds. It scares me to be in the car. I can't imagine what it must be like on the bikes.
This lake seems to be a worthy destination itself. It certainly is picturesque with a view all the way into Argentina.
We picked up a young man that had driven a nail through his foot. We were flaggeg down along the highway by three campesinos on horse back. They were stringing barbed wire when the accident happened. We will take the young man to Coyhaique where we will drop him off at the hospital. He is resting comfortably after we cleaned and dressed the wound.
Finally we reach the paved road once again. Now the adventure really seems over. Soon we are on the final down stretch into Coyhaique. Back at the hostel, Las Salamandras, we only have a short morning of walking around town before catching the shuttle back down the highway to Balmeceda airport and the long slog home.
Final thoughts from Julio's journal---
Cag worked well, but puffs up in wind.
Teva shoes work well with dry suit shoes/rubber booties.
Lesson of the day: In a rain forest, it rains. Get over it and paddle.
Bugs–Black flies, no see um –“hate em”– they love me. Yes. There are lots of little flies in Patagonia.
An issue I feel a need to mention is “black flies.” Yes, they are here and remind me much of the Brazilian borrachudo. A small black fly that injects a complex protein to assist flow of blood. The substance is, however, so irritating that within a short time swelling occurs, flow stops and the little beast just moves over a few steps (1mm) and drills you again. Can cause intense itching. Anyway, these little guys are larger but just as irritating and have the same habit of multiple bites in a small area. Well, they broke us in gently. By day three, we had seen several and had a few bites. Daily, their numbers increased so that by day 8, after dinner, we adjourned to our tent to find the inside of the vestibule peppered with little black dots awaiting their dinner. We obliged with donations of wrists, ankles, necks, foreheads, faces and even scalp. The little bastards would find their way into your hat and explore ‘til they hit pay dirt. Lemon and Eucalyptus were like adding flavor to their meal. By day 9-10 we dressed in dry suits or rain gear to prevent their attacks. My favorite get-up was rain pants, cag, balaclava and gloves.
A very pleasant surprise on this trip is how quickly gear and clothing dry within a couple of hours outside in wind or sun. During the trip, I was able to fully dry a drytop, neoprene booties and mittens and several articles of clothing. The impressive part is that this happened in the midst of 7 days of rain.
Let me also note something about weather.
Rain–7 days straight
Wind–3 days >20, 3 days 15-20, 3 days gusts 25-30
Cold–this is the good news–as soon as we got away from the glacier, it warmed up to comfortable though occasionally rainy nights.
The fallacious rules of weather in Patagonia include:
If winds kick up by 9am, they will build and be windy all day up to 3-4 days(never happened)
Winds are typically NW (only 2 days for us)
Tides and currents are predictable in the channels (except when they are not). The fact is that we rarely found currents >1 knt. Predicted tides were usually > 2 hours off.
Wind will arrive from anywhere at a whim, build or not, but can persist in your face even during a circumnavigation. Winds can scream all day or night.
Big surprise–the lack of wildlife.
Most amazing moment–witnessing the size of the glacier and the greens of the water and blues of the bergs.
Sputniks are .5 inch globes with protruding points that have small, tiny hooks on their ends. They detach easily from the main seed head and attach themselves to clothing very easily, sometimes by the hundreds. They’re frequently found in grassy or wooded areas and they fell in love with my fleece. On our return from Caleta Tortel, I spent 1.5 hours removing the little buggers from my pants.
Coicopihue (philesia magellenda)
Chilco (Fuschia Magallenes)
Sundew (Atrapanesca–Prosese unifloray)
Kate’s favorite joke:
There are two goldfish in a tank. One says to the other, “How do we drive this thing?”
Back to the start of the trip...................