Packrafting Trip Puerto Natales, Patagonia!
by: Waldo Andrés Aguayo Riquelme
This time I will share with you the experience of my last trip in Patagonia. Technically speaking I'm still on the trip haha now I'm writing the article on the ferry that takes about 42 hrs to sail from Puerto Natales to Puerto Yungay, from there I have a day driving to get to Puerto Rio Tranquilo, Aysen Region.
This trip started with the desire to learn about packraft from Hector Diaz, local guide and founder of Patagonian Fjords, among other things. He contacted me and talking with me we came to the idea of doing a packrafting course, work that I am starting with my project "Scouting Rios". The original plan was to go to the mountain fjord, but the weather was terrible (welcome to Patagonia baby) so we adapted and paddled around Natales.
This area was the scene of the first packrafting course.
You can make a great route connecting Lake Porteño, Maravilla and El Toro. Even with a whitewater option, at the outlet/outfall of the Porteño to the Toro. Depending on the water level it could be Class IV or III.
The wind is strong on the lake, as in most places in the area haha which generates waves and fascinating stretches. For these open, windy crossings, it is highly recommended to go with packraft and paddle secured/moored.
On the way to the Obstruction sinus, we arrived by vehicle to the Hollemberg river bridge, with the packraft and equipment in our backpacks we started the hike along the river. After a while we arrive at the source of the river, at Lake Balmaceda, so we inflate our boats and let the packrafting begin.
The Hollemberg is not such a big river, it has some narrow stretches, with lots of low branches of trees and some logs in the water, depending on the water level you can find some entertaining currents, where you can practice the entry and exit of soft eddys and a short section of small wave train and an easy to avoid backwash.
As the hike goes along the river you can identify the water level and currents right there. The majority of the walk is calm and the currents and waves do not exceed class II. A very entertaining and practical outing. I think this is one of the shortest rivers I have paddled haha.
"Sofía" is about 20 minutes by car from Natales, it is the closest sector to the town where we paddled.
We did an initial course there for the day and also paddled for fun on other days. As in other lakes, the wind accompanies us with its waves, working mind and body. You can also mix it up with hiking and other activities.
On this outing the snow, with its express passage, changed the landscape in the area. It was "Whitewater" day and among the options of whitewater and weather conditions we chose the Rincon River.
Starting the approach to the river, we walked through a forest and some bush with fresh snow.
After about an hour, we reached the rapid where the game begins! It was quite icy, we stood still for a while and it started to get cold, so we moved. Paddling with snow all around was beautiful, the section to the bridge was not very long to be honest, but it was good, waves to surf, stronger eddys, small drops, made the descent the reward of the winter day. A category II+ river.
Las Chinas River
The Las Chinas river was the last packraft descent of the trip. A paddle without technical sections or rapids, rather an ideal route to contemplate the scenery. From the water you can see the Paine Massif in the background, highlighting the Torres del Paine and the Cuernos. Also standing out in the background is the Sierra Baguales.
One of the outings where I laughed the most and went crazy with the wind. Near the starting point, the powerful wind of the area began. At the point of portage, the wind picked up the packraft and whipped it against the ground.
This is one of my favorite scenes of the trip, feeling all the power of Patagonia in a few seconds.
The Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica Region has an incredible potential for packrafting, a tool that helps turn bodies of water into part of the different routes to explore.
In honor of the ancient canoeists of the area, the Kawésqar. You can live the experience of paddling untamed, inhospitable and simply beautiful places.
Completely grateful to packrafting for taking me to places like this. Grateful to Hector for welcoming me into his home. Thankful to my family and friends for always being there.
Thanks to Level Six, Coffee Jam and Packraft.cl for the support during all this time.
I invite you to follow my project "Scouting Rios Packrafting School" on Instagram @scoutingrios.