Rachel and I set out from Puerto Natales back to the North of Chile on a cargo, passenger ship called Navimag. We waited until the day of departure to get the best deal on the tickets. We risked not getting a spot, but it’s late in the season and there was plenty. We decided to take the boat because it wasn’t much more than a bus and was definitely more comfortable. We’re honestly sick of the long bus rides.
The Navimag ship cruised through the fjords and islands of Southern Chile to the northern port town of Puerto Montt over the course of four days. The trip was pretty uneventful. The crew fed us well, put on educational programs about the surrounding areas, showed movies at night and on certain days we visited places on the way like an old ghost ship that never sank and a tidal glacier. Then the last night they put on a raging Bingo party. It was actually pretty fun since the MC for the night made everyone who won or even said the word Bingo come up and dance in front of everyone. The trip was nice and allowed us to rest a bit. Once to port we took a 7 hour bus, which ended up being 10 hours due to a bus breaking down and having to get a new one, to Bariloche, Argentina. What is a trip without at least one bus breakdown?
In Bariloche we wanted to do another long, multiday trek. After buying supplies we went to the trailhead, which was in Villa Catedral at the base of a ski slope. There the trail skirted along the bottom of the mountain until it reached the mouth of a river canyon and snaked along its shore. We hiked for a while in the forest until the trail jerked upward and above tree line to our first campsite. There was a nice, small hut that offered dorm rooms and meals, but we had our gear and put up the tent on the edge of the lake and had a great view of Cerro Catedral which made for a grand sunrise as well. The next day the trail was unclearly marked and we took an unintentional detour up a neighboring mountain until we realized the trail was actually across the valley below us. So back down we went and got back on course. The trail went up to a smaller lake and there climbed steeply in to the mountain peaks. At the top I realized this is how I pictured Patagonia in my head before we left. Before us lay a brilliant view of the surrounding area. Snow capped mountains were stacked, one on top of one another, and stretched out in rows to the far distance, differentiated by shades of blue. And in the valleys below were large, deep blue lakes. The trail then tipped completely downward and ran us through a skree field and dumped us out in to a dry river gulley before we reached the valley floor. Then for good measure it went through the valley, back up another mountain side and back down again much like before. It was neat though to look back on top of the second mountain and see where we had come from and had been. The next day we were quite sore and didn’t really want to do another long with our big packs on the strenuous trail. So we decided to stay in camp a day longer and take it easy. We hiked up to a small lake and:
Journal Excerpt: “So here we sit side-by-side on a large limestone rock, protruding out in to our very own private lake, perched high above in the Andes mountains. Sheer rock walls surround it on one side with snow fields up above and one at its edge, which I’ve named Andrew’s Glacier because of its small size and that reminds me of the one in RMNP. The icy-blue waters spill outward to large slabs of rock that pour down the valley with small patches of grass. The water laps at our feet and the sound of a river echoes off the greater center wall. Needing to rest from out last 2 days of hiking we decided to stop and not continue on this day, which is definitely needed. We got a little frustrated following the lack of trail up here, but have made it worth it. We’ve joked around, given each other love and attention and have goofed off. We took a bunch of timed photos of us doing crazy things like hands and feet in the air, me picking up Rach over my shoulder, us mooning the camera and so on. Then we got the idea to skinny-dip. Rach went for it right away and had all her clothes off by the time I could barely fish the towel from the backpack. She was in and I don’t think she breathed again until she was out, but she loved it. Soon, to Rach’s surprise, I too was naked and we both slid in together. I gave her a quick kiss and made way back to our rock. Yes, it was cold. We’ve eaten some carrots and cookies and sit together on my orange towel writing in our journals. We’ve named the place skinny-dip point.”
The next day we hiked out. At the base of the mountain we waited an hour for a bus, but one never came or any traffic for that matter. So we tried to walk to the nearest town of Colonia Suiza that was a few miles away. However we were stopped just short of the town, we could see it across the lake’s edge, by a sign that saying there was danger ahead and that people were working with explosives. We didn’t know what to do and really didn’t want to backtrack. The idea of walking almost 10 kms back and possibly catching a bus sounded awful as the weight of packs were wearing on us. So we asked an old man and he told us we might be able to talk to the construction workers and we could pass by the lake’s edge. So back at the sign I found a trail that led down to the lake. I thought we were in luck! Unfortunately the trail quickly ended and we were soon wading in the water to bypass large bushes and trees. We thought it best to head back up by tearing through the thickets and were now back on the road. For a moment we thought we had gone around it all, but this was not the case. We actually just walked down and around a perfectly good road only to find another sign blocking away. This time we went around it and saw the construction going on. We could hear drilling and tractors and rocks were flying down the mountainside and being flung in to the lake. The road was impassable. So we then figured they have to stop working sometime since it’s late in the day, we’ll just wait it out and cross when they leave. After a while though a couple locals on bikes joined us and tried to get by too, but failed. Luckily for us though, one pointed out to us that a trail went up and around the work zone. It was super steep and difficult with our packs, Rach almost fell off too, but was saved by a cable they had put up for such occasions. But we made it to the small town of Colonia Suiza and decided put up our tent one last time and treated ourselves to a delicious trout dinner at a local restaurant.
Back in Barilcohe we have been touring around a bit and seeing a few sites. Other than that we’ve bought tickets to head back to Vina del Mar, Chile and leave in a couple hours. We’ll have a couple days to see our friends, host family and then catch our flight out of Santiago on the 5th.
We keep reflecting on what a magnificent trip we have had. All the things we have seen and the ups and downs of the travelling life have been all worth it. We have been longing for the familiarities and people of home so it will be nice to return. Hope you have enjoyed the blog and we hope to catch up with all of you in the near future!
Rachel and Andy