Chile - Patagonia - Jorge Montt Glacier - 2008/02/04 - 6 miles

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Leaving Cochrane we continue down the Carreterre Austral to Caleta Tortel and our put in. Leaving in mid afternoon we battle a strong head wind to our first camp.

Day 5 Monday

The next morning we were up with the roosters, literally. The creaky floor of the bed & breakfast had caused no problems. Whether this was because no one had stirred or I didn't hear it I did not find out. But the noise those little feathered sirens made that morning sure got my attention. If I had felt any remorse for eating one of their kind the night before, this morning's symphony wiped it clean.

After a quick breakfast of juice biscuits and jam we were on the road again. Alejandro had wiped down the interior of the van from the previous day's layer of grey dust, so we started off clean and pristine, a quixotic gesture given the nature of the road we were traveling. It was not long before it was all dusty again.

Once again we had a lovely bright cloudless sky over the last remnants of last winter's snow. It was late summer, yet there were still caps of snow gleaming in the morning light on the mountain tops.

There was no wind this morning. The small lake we passed was mirror flat, perfectly reflecting the mountains in a kaleidoscope of sky and lake in hues of blue.
We had seen some traffic that morning but we were about to get an eyeful. Coming up the road sideways was a small truck, fishtailing across the road and then getting caught in the soft stones on the edge of the road. A final fishtail brought him to a sudden halt headed into the steep bank on the left side of the road. We stopped abruptly and pulled up to the driver peering out of a swirl of grey dust. We asked if he was alright or needed any help. In a show of embarrassed bravado, he assured us that everything was alright and that he would have no trouble getting back on the road. We drove on, later finding out that the whole thing started when he drove too fast past our kayak trailer that takes up a full half of the road and lost control when the wheels got into the soft material on the road edge eventually ending in the event we saw.

We continued to bump down the road listening to pieces of a Whitney Houston CD. The player was broken and wouldn't give Whitney up. An occasional jolt would start Whitney to singing only to be rudely silenced by another somewhere down the road.

This was the last stretch of the Rio Baker. It widened into a large grey green multichannel river. The environment was much more maritime now, the air was palpably more humid, the vegetation had become heavier and had an almost tropical look. Chunks of bamboo dotted the river bank. Swirled and tufted tress, Dr. Seuss trees I liked to call them, had taken over from the pines of the interior. We were close to our launch site at the delta.

We went to the end of the road next to the river. The small dirt strip "airport" was there. We looked at several potential launch spots but none looked all that good, having steep banks over a deep channel. We retraced up the road to a spot I had seen on the way down where we found what looked to be an actual launch ramp. As the first trip to go out from here, we were apparently scouting new ground so to speak.

Graham had to go into town to get the permits from the port captain. They had not arrived prior to our departure as they should have, typical of arrangements in remote areas. After unloading the kayaks from the trailer and removing their travel condoms, we set about dividing and packing the 10 days worth of provisions and gear into the three kayaks. As usual it didn't look as if it would all fit in. But it did - with some inventive arrangements and a little shoving.
We were on a little side channel of the river, little more than an eddy. The river was quite shallow and the first couple strokes were just to get the boats off of the gravel. Making out to the slightly deeper water we were finally released to head down the river. Kate wore her Chinese hat - an unusual but quite practical piece of gear. It was perfect for the rain. It had good coverage against the sun. The only drawback was it caught a lot of wind. Under strong wind conditions she would just put it onto the deck under the bungies where it happily rode out the weather. Distinctive, cheap, practical what is to not like about it?

We paddled down the river with snow capped mountains over our shoulders. Along the banks, horses stood in a tight group looking perplexed at the strange sight they were seeing - us. A broken sky was becoming more overcast and the wind continued to pick up as we paddled past the islands and multiple channels of the Rio Baker delta.

The water color in the river was a silky grey of glacier granite flour. As we came out into the fiord it took on a slightly green tint. The wind had picked up to 20 to 25 knots - headwind of course. A line of small waves greeted us at the river mouth letting us know that we were now officially on our trip. Paddling into the strong wind, hugging the shore of Isla Theresa, we made our way along the hard shoreline looking for the camp site designated on our charts.

After about three miles and nearly two hours, we came upon a small stone beach with a narrow strip that looked to stay above the high tide line. There was not much room for our tents between the steep bank thick with trees and bushes and the prior high tide. The asymmetric tides of the late summer here were highest during the night for the entire period of our trip. One could see from the lines on the beach that the early morning "high" tide had not come all the way up the beach as far as the previous night's tide had gone. So we leveled out two small places for our tents. A bigger group would have had difficulty getting enough space at this tiny beach. But it was the only thing we had seen and the last decent beach mentioned by the NOLS group for this area. Kate set up the tarp, which she was quite good at, having had plenty of practice in the rainy British Columbia where she guides. A light drizzle continued to fall as clouds scraped the tops of the nearby mountains.

With rain drizzling down in varying amounts and an occasional short burst of sun from under the clouds, we sat under the tarp as Kate prepared the supper and looked out over the beach. With eleven days of food stuffed into every little spare space in the hatches of our boats, the meals for this trip would be far from gourmet. We didn't come for the food. It was certainly nutritious and filling if not exciting. Kate did well with the recipes and supplies she had to work with. If you come do not expect the lavish spread that often is provided on guided trips. Its more like a week long backpacking trip that you do yourself. As there are no places to get supplies and no opportunity to add fresh foods from fishing, shellfish or local plants and berries, only dehydrated and dry supplies will be available.
Another set of clouds rolled in and the rain started in earnest. It seemed a good time to head for the tents. We took the tarp down, a nightly prudent ritual in a stormy place. The rain got serious once we were safely in the tents. It beat down hard on the double shelled nylon. We stayed warm and dry in these quality tents this night and for every night on the trip. The tents provided were first class tents, part of the mountaineering gear from the other side of the company. Sturdy, strong, quiet in the wind, completely water proof and with a large and convenient vestibule for getting into and out of our wet gear each night, we could not have had better equipment in this regard.

On to Day 6...............

Back to the start of the trip...................




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