Packrafting on Rio Serrano: February 2007
Translated by PROMT-Online-Translator
||Torres del Paine NP
||Puerto Natales, Torres del Paine NP, Rio Serrano, Lago
Geike, Rio Geike, Rio Serrano, Torres del Paine NP
||wind, trees under water
Extreme climate even sometimes in summer, waterfall, strong winds
Great adventure amongst glaciers and icebergs
| Where are the boats? (Chile): We had read
in the guide that one can also make a very nice kayak tour in the
Torres del Paine park. Unfortunately, the organizers ask about 500,
- $US to 800,- US$ per person for a 2-day tour what is even not possible
with our budget for 2 months. Precisely at the moment I found in the
Internet the site of a company from Alaska who produces really light
Raftboate (alpackaraft.com). Thus we have sent at the beginning of
the year an email to the company in which we told about our trip and
asked whether they could not make any special offer to us. And then
they made this to us! 2 demonstration boats for less than half the
price and of course we accepted immediately. Thus we have now 2 Packrafts,
2 split paddles, repair material and 2 watertight bags for about 900,
- $US; this is less than a 2-day tour!
| Armada de Chile (Chile): Back from Punta
Arenas we pack gear for our small paddle expedition and cycle with
our bikes on a side street to Torres del Paine Nationalpark. In Puerto
Natales we had found out, that to paddle on Rio Serrano one needs
a licence from the armada de Chile (Chilean navy) which also prescribes
a minimum of security equipment. The necessary security equipment
(wetsuit, life jacket, water pump, lifeline, life jackets and trill
whistle) we had already got ourselves and now we needed merely the
signature of the responsible marine in the national park (thus at
least the information). When we ask the park management after the
armada de Chile they send us to the Cabaña del the armada which
turns out, to be a holiday cotdaye. We ask at a neighbouring hotel
for the naval base and get send to the base of the company for the
Zodiaktrips (Zodiak's are big engine-pursued rubber dinghies). From
there we are directed to a company that runs kayak tours and, finally,
we land in the house of Luis Segundo who has a shuttle service in
the park and should know know the park like his vest pocket. But also
to Luis and his wife the base of the armada de Chile is unknown and
he radios the park management, also unsuccessfully. Finally, Luis
means about us: "Do have her your equipment?", "If
so then do not get fooled from the armada de Chile and simply go without
licence. Nobody checks here anyhow!" We do not want to cycle
again back to Puerto Natales and thus we decide to go without licence.
We leave behind our bicycles in the shed of Luis and thus nothing
more stands to our boat tour now really in the way.
| Inflating the boats (Chile): Our
boats weigh about 2.5 kg and have the same measure like a small 2-people
tent. Accordingly the air pump should not be also gigantic of course.
A little bit doubtfully we are already as the pump turned out to be
a big bag with a valve. The principle is very simple: Screw the valve
into the boat and afterwards open the bag on top and let air get inside.
Close bag on top and press air simply into the boat. Then with a smaller
valve one can blow a little bit more air in the boat until it is absolutely
filled. Hardly to believe but the boat is inflated after 3 minutes.
| The trip starts(Chile): The whole morning
it was very windy and, actually, we did not think that we could padde
today, however, in the afternoon the wind calms down all at once,
and thus we go on Rio Serrano. The current is strumg and thus we can
enjoy in complete silence the magnificent view of the Cuernos.
| Refreshment? (Chile): The weather
and in particular the wind is absolutely unpredictable in Patagonia
and thus we had to fight all at once with strong headwind and side
hoists. Like all inflatable boats alos our packrafts offer a very
big surface to the wind, what is naturally also the weak spot of our
boats down here. The equipment packed on top on the boats still increases
the wind attack region. Suddenly comes one of the famous Patagonian
blasts of wind and so Nadine capsized and Nadine swims all at once
in the icy floods. While Nadine swims to the shore I try to catch
the boats which gets blown away from the wind. When I have it finally
I hang exactly between the current and an eddy and because the wind
still blows stormily and as I´m holding Nadines boat with one
hand I have big trouble (to paddle with a hand is impossible with
the wind). Finally, I tying successfully Nadines boat to mine and
thus I paddle to the shore. OK. the wind was really quite violent,
however, the cause for Nadines excursion into the water was supposed
once again "the small prince", who like we know already
loves the water. "The small prince" was in Nadine jacket
pockets and presumably had again a desire for a refreshing bath. Unfortunately,
the both with her bath excursion have lost Nadines cap which has already
protected her since Syria against the sun.
| Pordaye (Chile): The next day it is rainy
and stormy and thus we insert first of all a rest day. Though in the
next day it is rainy furthermore and is not quite warm with 6°C,
however, the wind has lain down something and thus we come along again
on the way. Faster than expected we do not come to the waterfalls
of Rio Serrano and as we are nor very experiennced white-water paddlers
we carry our boats simply around the waterfalls. With our folding
Canadian it would have becomeone sudorific 2-hour action , nevertheless,
now we simply take the boats with luggage onto our shouldeer and walk
to the other side :-)
| Small hike (Chile): An excursion to the
Lago Tyndall was impossible because of strong winds, but we still
want to see the Lago Geike. Thus we desinflate our boats at an Estancia,
pack everything into our backpacks and hike 10 km to the glacier lake
with the most icebergs in Patagonia.
| Icebergs (Chile): Just the sight of the
gigantic icebergs is already a spectacle of nature for itself, however,
the small ice lumps are getting moved from the wind permanently and
hit each other, so that they ring like thousands of Christmas little
| Mucky weather (Chile): The next morning
after a quiet night we have cold and rainy weather again. Because
our tent is packed already we search protection under our boats and
hope for a weather improvement.
| To paddles with icebergs (Chile):
After just 1 hour the showers thin out and the sun comes out a
bit. We use the favour of the hour and proceed on the water around
the amusing world from ice and water from our boats to explore.
| Rio Geike: (Chile): We paddle between
the icebergs for 1 hour before we start to make our way back to Rio
Serrano. But this time instead of on foot by boat over Rio Geike.
We pack our equipment on the boats and try to paddle through the labyrinth
of ice at the river mouth. The complete way is often obstructed and
while Martin pushes the ice lumps apart and squeezes trough them.
Nadine chooses the walk over the land (she fears that the ice could
cut open the boats). Finally, we reach the beginning of Rio Geike
which is exiting for Nadine because of his strong current and some
rapids . The water, however, was a little bit too cold "for the
small prince" with his last bath excursion, and so he stays with
Nadine in the boat.
| Martin's birthday (Chile): To
see as in the picture I receive for my birthday an Argentine Mate
teacup. The tea powder of the strong herbal tea comes into the cup
which is a hollow fruit, and then hot water is poured into it. The
brew is drunk by a special straw with a sieve at the bottom, so that
one does not drink the herbs. The tea is bitter and very strong to
drink, however, we like it.
| Rio Serrano (Chile): The last sdaye on
Rio Serrano is according to the map the longest, however, the current
is so strong that we arrive at quite fast at the place where the river
flows, finally, into the "Fjord of the last hope".
| Glaciar Serrano (Chile): Due to strong
west wind the fjord has properly whipped up. Around the wind susceptibility
of our boats knowingly we rather decide to take no risk, cancel the
trip over the fjord to the glacier and instead, admire him and the
rainbow from a safe spot.
| Way home (Chile): To go back to our bicycles
now a 2-day walk approaches us. We stow away our whole equipment with
the boats in our backpacks and make us on the march the Pueblito Serrano.
Differently than the footpaths in the national park Torres del Paine
this footpath is nearly not used and thus the path ends now and again
in some marshes which we may cross. In the late afternoon of the second
day we are again back and while Martin cycles back to Puerto Natales
the next day to pick up Birte, a friend to us who comes to visit us,
Nadine remains in the national park.
| Packrafting (Chile): Apart from the problem
with very strong winds, which is so annoying only here in Patagonia,
we are absolutely happy with our Packrafts. Not only the fact that
one can see with the boats places which are very remote (e.g., Lago
Geike), but also the slightly stack measure and weight and as well
the good paddle qualities could persuade us completely. In particular
if one packs his luggage in the front on the boat, the boats have
an astonishingly good straight outlet. Unexpectedly we also found
that the boats are relatively quick, and not so slow like many other
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