We started early, keen to get better photos of Cerro Castillo –but the mist and rain foiled our attempt.
We continued further down Ruta 7, past Volcano Hudson (2500m), a lot of damage to the trees from the last eruption was evident.
Rio Murta was beautiful, Lago General Carrera further on presented itself in a turquoise colour enhanced by the grey clouds and rain.
We crossed at Puerto Murta and ended at Puerto Sanchez – one place from which tours to the marble caves can be done by boat.
However, Pto Sanchez was quiet and deserted, the route scenic, but we drove back to see what tours and camping we could find at Tranquilo, a little village making its living from the marble caves.
For the night we camped at Camping Pudu on Lago Gen.Carrera for P8000 pP and we booked a boat tour for the next morning for P10000 pP and hoped for acceptable weather.
At the campsite there were decent shelters from the incessant winds and intermittent rain as well as good ablutions – we opened the awning and enjoyed a good glass of wine with our camping neighbor –Eric from Utah – the cold evening persuaded us to creep in early.
At 9:00am the next morning we left by boat with guide Daniel and captain Ignatius and two other tourists towards the Catedrales de Marmol and the Cavernas, an hour round trip. It was overcast, not sunny and we knew that photographing on this excursion would be a real challenge.
Lago Carrera nevertheless was a lovely turquoise colour, in sunshine it must be extraordinary. Despite the wind we found the caverns to be quite sheltered and the boat could enter some of them.
Even though the weather was a challenge we found this excursion very worthwhile doing – only afterwards we found out that a 2 hour trip was also possible giving more time to photographers (we also learned that to photograph the caves is better in winter when the lago’s level is lower).
Next stop was the Valle Exploradores with a glacier that used to come right down to the road. By now it has receded a few km inland and we trailed up to the viewpoint to have a look, getting a good idea of the rocks, gravel and grit that a glacier pushes up.
With guided tours it is possible to walk into the glacier. About 8km before Glaciar Exploradores we had lunch at the Hostal Campo Alacaluf established by the German couple Thomas and Katrin with their little daughter Daniela some 20 years ago – this was unexpected in such a remote place.
According to Katrin it is possible to drive further on to the town Bahia Exploradores and to catch a smaller boat from there to visit Glacier San Rafael – these must have been the boats we had seen on our trip to the glaciar a few days before. Booking can only be done 24hrs ahead from Puerto Tranquilo and not at the Bahia (costs do not seem to be that much lower than the expensive catamaran we had taken, but we could not confirm actual rates). We spend the night again at camping Pudu.
Our route took us along Lago Bertrand to Puerto Bertrand, the origin of Rio Baker.
This must be the bluest river in the world.
Flowing out of Lago Bertrand, the Rio Baker carries 900m3/sec of clear, turquoise-blue water until it drops down a small waterfall ( 1km to walk to the mirador) where it joins up with the glaciar-milky Rio Nef, whereafter the colour is no longer that dramatic, but the landscape is.
Along the way we enjoyed the edible Calafate berries that were ripe and sweet this time of the year.
In Cochrane we ended up having a very good lunch at Doña Ada together with Reinhard Schneider and a colleague from the German embassy in Santiago, whom we already had met the previous day. The fillet steak was outstanding and it was one of the rare occasions where we were asked how we would like the steak – normally it is served well-done and that is it in South America.
We turned back northwards to enter Parque Patagonia – another park by the Douglas Tomkins Foundation and this was where their headquarters is.
Again this park is beautifully appointed, everything in top condition and full of trails laid out and well sign-posted. This mountainous region must be one of the most scenic Chile has to offer. We camped on the parking area of the camping site West Winds (for tents only not vehicles), not far from the Admin buildings and hotel. We saw plenty of guanacos, hares, parrots and Magellanic woodpeckers.
Driving further down the Carretera Austral we took a detour to the village Caleta Tortel – a town without vehicles and only wooden walkways.
From here we drove to Puerto Yungay, approx. 100km north of Villa O’Higgins, the end of the Carretera Austral. We arrived in Pto Yungay, a town of around 11 inhabitants, on time to catch the ferry to Puerto Natales that we had booked. The ferry, Crux Australis, was waiting and we left around 20:00 for its 42 hour journey.
We were not too happy since the cost was double for the vehicle compared to what we had been told before – Peso 117000.
Although this ferry trip through the fjords should have been a highlight, it was spoiled by the inclement weather we had – almost continuous rain, sleet, wind and mist – we could see almost no mountains or glaciars along the route. The food left much to be desired and so did the comfort of the seats which reclined for sleeping.
Midday we reached Puerto Eden, a fishing village with mainly indigenous inhabitants of Indian descent, inside the massive 3.525mill ha national park Bernardo O’Higgins. The town has virtually no vehicles or roads, mainly walkways.
To our surprise many people boarded here to go to Puerto Natales. The channels from here were narrow, many islands inbetween, tricky to navigate in such horrible weather conditions.
Whenever the weather gave us a few minutes respite we went on deck, saw dolphins, Skuas, Albatross and even an otter.
Next day around 12:30 we arrived in Puerto Natales, the weather had cleared a little and we proceeded speedily to the park Torres del Paine, as the weather predictions forecast rain for the coming weekend.
Entry was P21000pP for a 3-day period. In the park are some places where overlanding vehicles can park, however without ablutions. We drove through the park to the Laguna Amarga entrance and ranger station, where at least there were some toilets in walking distance. Next to us camped Rudi and Gisa from Austria, who also wanted to attempt to trail up to Base de Torres next morning if the weather would permit. This would be in total a 20km trip with a 1km very steep section to get to the crater lake at the foot of the Torres peaks.
We were expecting some interesting cloud formations in Patagonia, but did not expect such crazy formations so early into our trip down to the south tip.
This post covers 13th to 18th December 2017