This post outlines a 1 day excursion starting at Lake Grey with Kayak en Patagonia out of Puerto Natales on February 12, 2018.
We woke to a windy morning, the lovers flying against the current. We thought it might put a damper on our trip but we were ready for a day on the water.
Our 7:30 pick-up was on time. It would be just us two this morning with our Scottish guide Will. It took about 2 hours by van to reach the west end of the park with great views of los Cuernos. We had to pay the $34USD or 21,000CP/person park entrance fee.
When we reached the beach where we would launch the kayaks we were given gear – jumper wet suit, water proof jacket, skirt that attaches to the kayak, a buoyancy vest, wet suit socks and booties, wet suit cap and helmet. Underneath your gear you wear just underwear and a warmish long sleeve shirt and wool socks if your feet tend to get cold. Bring an extra pair of underwear and socks in case they get wet.
You’re told to bring a water bottle which we did but we actually drank little as it is not convenient to pee other than at the lunch break.
While you are given a dry bag to put on the kayak and a another dry bag that attaches to the buoyancy vest for a small camera, it is better to have a waterproof camera so you don’t have to worry about moving it in and out of the dry bag.
After you are geared up, Will gives a thorough explanation of safety instructions, how to operate the kayak and the program for the day. This trip is relatively easy for beginners, with little that is too technical and fine for those with little kayaking experience. The person in back steers the kayak with foot controls as well as the paddle, so generally the person with the most experience is put in the back.
On the Water
The first part of the trip was at the lake and hopefully to an area with icebergs. Since the conditions were quite windy we kayaked along a beach area to an island and then we headed around the island to see what icebergs were there. It’s luck as to what you find. There was a big blue iceberg. The sun was coming in and out and it was definitely more blue when the sun was hidden behind the clouds.
Walk on an Island
Unfortunately the wind was too strong to cross the open water closer to the iceberg, so we went back to the beach to walk around the island. From the little island Grey glacier can be seen far in the distance.
Will is knowledgeable about berries. The pinkish ones that look like tiny apples, called chaura, are sweet and good. The smaller red ones are bitter. Calafate berries are the purple ones on a spiny shrub.
It was very windy walking around the island. So windy it was difficult to hold the camera still unless I positioned myself behind a shelter or braced myself against a tree trunk or boulder.
Back on the Water
Back in the kayak we started down the river. The wind, which was mostly at our back, generally pushed us along but sometimes made steering challenging. Los Cuernos came in and out of view behind us.
After the 2011/2012 fire destroyed a large part of the forest in this area, the river bank with scraggy beech trees ravaged by the wind is not the most scenic.
After a short while we stopped for a leisurely lunch at a great spot out of the wind with views of Los Cuernos. Will put out a nice spread including cookies, chocolate, fresh fruit, generous sandwiches and a choice of hot beverage – chocolate, tea or coffee.
After lunch we tackled the longest part of the paddle. The wind had not died down as had been forecasted. While paddling against the wind was challenging at times, I thought the wind made the river more fun, sometimes carrying us down the river by using your body and paddle as a sail.
At one point we had the choice of going down a small rapid or not. We took on the challenge. It turned out to be fun and not too difficult.
About an hour from the end you have the choice of stopping at a bridge or continuing on through a windy section with periods of strong head winds. With the wind generally pushing us down the river we felt strong and continued on.
The first section of head winds was hard but not impossible. Just when we thought we had no more to give the river turned, letting us rest before the next section of head winds. We lucked out and the next two sections were much milder.
At the pickup spot we changed clothes and ended our trip with a beer and chips. We stayed dry and didn’t need the change of underwear or socks. The gear kept us warm and comfortable.
Will was professional, knowledgeable and friendly. While this is a fun trip down a river with some spectacular views of los Cuernos, this tour really doesn’t get you close to the glacier and icebergs as the Kayak en Patagonia website suggests. In fact, as icebergs are unpredictable and can turn or calve without warning, they don’t let you get too close to them for safety reasons.
For links to all the posts in this series see the Hiking in Patagonia page.