We spend a stormy and cold night in our tent. In the morning we still hear the waves crashing violently on the shore. Later, still in the tent, I prepare a mate on gas and make some bread with cheese for breakfast.
Around midday we inspect our surroundings. We are stranded in a bay on a wide beach. Where the sand ends, small bushes start. Our tent is somewhat protected from the strong winds. In front is a typical Fuegian forest of deformed trees covered in old man’s beard. It’s one of the spookiest I have seen. Tierra del Fuego’s wild nature at its best.
We relocate the kayak to make space for a fire close to the tent. Walter invents a line on two wooden poles to dry our wet clothes. Apparently water entered the kayak during our splashing yesterday. We watch the waves coming to shore and relate to yesterday’s arrival once again. We look at the rocky edge that we passed by so close when the huge wave came up behind us. The waves that took us a few hundred meters from there to the beach in no-time.
Walter cleans the kayak, tightens the rudder, fixes a light at the bow and creates a board for my feet to improve my position while kayaking. Meanwhile I prepare our late lunch of steak, onion and garlic cooked over the fire and served with homemade bread and red wine. Apparently I cooked the sole of my boot too, noticing from the stones stuck in melted rubber. Seated next to the fire, we overlook our refuge and take a bite of our tasteful meal. ‘Que mala vida.’ What a bad life. I feel like there’s no world outside of where I am now. Every moment is simply magical, including being imprisoned on this beach.
After lunch I clean the dishes in the current and we retreat to our modest home for some mates and a siesta by the sound of Fagnano’s waves. We still hope we can leave today to cross Bahia Grande and get close to the border. But so far there’s no way to safely get back to the water.
Later that afternoon, when all hope proofs idle, Walter teaches me some emergency practises in case the kayak gets overturned. I understand our dry suits buy us some, but still little time once we hit the cold, 5 degrees C waters of Lago Fagnano. Lessons taken.
Late at night we make some fried potatoes and chorizos-on-a-twig over the fire. Walter is excited as he found an old wooden paddle in the forest. We fantasize over its origin. It appears Yamana, but those occupied the Beagle Channel. The Ona indians that were living near Fagnano, didn’t have canoes. We decide to take the paddle for research.
In the early morning we wake up. ‘ Listen!’, I say. The lake finally has calmed down in the late hours. We make a fire, have breakfast and pack the tent and belongings into the kayak. Just after 8 a.m., with the first light, we’re taking off after an involuntary stay of 36 hours on this beautiful, isolated wild beach. We’re looking forward to a long day of kayaking.
We make good progress this morning, heading for Bahia Grande when the sun is just rising behind the mountains. It’s another blue sky, sunny day. The weather is incredibly kind with us. We’re now in the restricted area of the national park Tierra del Fuego. That doesn’t hold us back to take a pause at on a small beach with green and orange trees. We relax and eat some bread with salami, cheese and boiled eggs. I predict we can make it to the border around midday.
Walter is fairly moved when we have our first sight of Hito 23, a steel structure indicating the border between Argentina and Chile. It’s just after 12.30 p.m. when we reach the shore. We pull the kayak on the beach and head for the sign, bottle of wine in hand where bubbles would have been appropriate to celebrate this milestone. Even though we know we can’t accomplish our initial plan, that doesn’t affect our feelings of triumph and happiness. We take pictures with the Argentine flag and Walter records some moments to thank people who supported him in making his dream come true.
Leaving the border to head back again, winds increase tremendously. Our improvised sail catches the wind, now in our favour. We film some great waves that lift us up and take us forward. We’re mutually enjoying the sun and the fun, relying on chocolate bars to keep us going.
We pass by the island where we caught the huge wave and commemorate the moment. At 5 p.m. we find a small beach to take a rest, eat and recuperate from a long day and many kilometers of kayaking. We make a small fire to cook some pastas with a sauce of cherry tomatoes and salami and finish the wine of our celebration. When the sun is leaving our beach, we know it’s time to go. We want to make it past Bahia Torito for our last night.
The last hour and a half I keep paddling persistently, but on half power. I can tell from Walter’s face that he’s tired too. Drifting calmly he catches our last sunset on the lake on film. A low warm yellow sun in our back lights the mountains in front of us in warm reddish colours. We feel truly gifted, here and now. ‘Un sueño’, as Walter states. A dream. That, plus another chocolate bar, empowers us on our last stretch.
We find our last resort on a beautiful small pebble beach. With our last strength we pull the kayak a meter up the beach and fix the tent. Once inside the tent comfortably with some mates, the fatigue gets to us. We paddled about 50 kilometers on a long, beautiful and exciting day. We’ve deserved a good nights’ sleep.
For the last stretch of our kayak expedition, keep reading: