Sunday, December 29, 2013

Our Honeymoon - Day 11 - Leaving Paine Grande and start of Serrano River Kayaking

Today we started our amazing kayaking trip from Torres Del Paine National Park to the sea via the Serrano River.  Our guide Rob was super cool and the views from the river were amazing.  The wind was calm enough that we were even able to make it up the Tyndall River and get close to the very remote Tyndall Glacier.  Experiencing the remote regions of Patagonia far from others was a lifelong goal for me and we were able to experience that on this trip.   Click to the title to read on....

Today Emily and I slept in a little before packing up our tent and gear to leave Paine Grande.  We ate the last of our freeze dried meals in a cool backpackers hut out in the field of tents that had stoves and running water.  Emily took a very cold "shower" of her hair before we headed down to the docks to meet the 10am catamaran to Pudeto.  We found ourselves in a huge line of Indian tourists from California and were worried we might not get a spot on the boat until we actually saw it... easily capable of handling nearly 100 passengers.  The group was even nice enough to hand us an extra bag lunch they had prepared.  

The boat ride across Lago Peho was great as the rain held off and the clouds parted enough for us to see quite a bit of the French Valley we had skipped the day before as well as the entirety of Paine Grande and the multi-layed Cuernos of Torres del Paine.  We stood on the upper deck of the vessel for photos for the whole 25 minute trip across the lake.  

I was a little worried that our kayaking guides wouldn't be waiting for us at the boat ramp but thankfully they were.  Our guide, Rob Shackell, was there with the van driver Pablo who drove us the 45 minutes to the put in on the Serrano River next to a cool hostel looking place where two dogs came out to greet us.  One was an old looking golden mix who adored the attention from me, the other a small skiddish mix that wouldn't come close.   It turns out the place wasn't a hostel but was a group meal location for local lamb roasts.... pretty cool.  After about 45 minutes of organizing gear and sending what we didn't need off in the car with Pablo we were given a quick river and gear instruction by Rob and then hit the river in our kokotat dry suits.

Emily and I were in a two person sea kayak and I was in the rear with rudder control for steering.  It took only a few minutes for me to get the feel for the steering and we were off down the river towards the Tyndall Glacier, our first camping spot on the trip.  At first the river was calm and somewhat narrow but as other rivers entered it became faster and bigger.  The colors of each tributary were different based on whether they were glacially fed or not making for a very colorful trip.  

Our first obstacle of the day came in the form of a boat swallowing class V rapid on the river that there was no way we would get through safely so we had to portage our heavy boats of gear across a bridge, then up and a round a hillside to the river below on the other side of the falls.  Rob said it was the quickest portage he had all year.  We left the boats on the side of the river and Rob gave us our first lunch of sandwiches, juice and cookies which we quickly gobbled up.

Back on the river we had pretty easily paddling for a while checking out the various birds we encountered along the way including many cormorants, several magellinic geese, and a lot ducks.  We soon came to the entrance to the Tyndall river, which was very clear looking compared to the milky glacial green of the Serrano we were on.  We had to paddle up the river but the current was strong and it was pretty shallow so hopped out and began pulling our boats along the riverbank for the next hour or so.  When the wind died down a bit and it looked like the current was slow enough we jumped back in the boats and paddled upstream against the current as far as we could.  Again, we jumped out and pulled our boats the remaining quarter mile to the edge of Tyndall Lake.  

After splitting the remainder of the sandwiches and snacks for the day and drinking some water we headed out across a bay at the end of the lake and then out and around a point of land that led us directly into the full force of the Patagonian winds blowing off the Tyndall glacier at the other end of the lake.  We were paddling with all our strength and yet it felt like we were hardly moving against the strong wind.  Finally, after about 40 minutes of hard paddling we came to our campsite besides some large rock outcroppings that protected us from the wind.  

While we got out of our dry suits, unpacked and set up our tent, Rob kept busy setting up a tarp shelter for us out of the rain and preparing happy hour for us which consisted of mixed nuts, grapes, fresh green olives for Emily and a bottle of amazing local red wine.  The wine might be the best I have ever tasted and came from a local grape that only grows in Chile because it died out in Europe where they also tried to grow to it.  

For dinner we had a hot potato, onion, carrot salad mix and steak Milanase (breaded steaks).  Rob cooked everything for us on an old school MSR Whisperlite International stove like I had as a teenager in the Adirondacks.  For desert he also gave us chocolate donut cookies and mint chocolate biscotti sticks.  Although our bodies were exhausted and sore from paddling the delicious meal served to us without us lifting a finger made a perfect end to a long day.  Hopefully, in the morning the wind will be calm for us to paddle closer to the Tyndall glacier!

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