It is still night when we wake up for the second day of our expedition. At 6 a.m. we’ve got a fire burning, prepare hot water to drink mate and listen to the sound of the flames and water rippling calmly to the shore of our private beach. I disarm the tent and put everything, soaked with moisture, to dry. Then I cook a nutritious hot breakfast of wheat, chocolate and nuts to give us a good start. On the last day Walter tells me he hated it.
At 7.40hs the day starts breaking in the east, with some orange light in a dark sky. Some 45 minutes later the sky is bursting in orange flames, living up to the name of Tierra del Fuego, Land of Fires. We watch in awe over some more mates.
Just after 9 a.m. we are back on the lake, ready for a full day of kayaking under a blue sky. The lake lies quietly in front of us. We enjoy its extended views of mountains and a mix of red coloured lenga trees and evergreen coihues. In the warm morning light the wild beaches and tree-lined coast definitely have a heavenly appeal. While floating past, we take pictures and film to capture the beauty. This is what paradise at the end of the world looks like, rugged and spectacular.
Walter points to a cave along the shore. He tells me about his meeting with his old friend Vicente, who paddled the lake in canoe in the seventies. It took him 16 days. He got stuck in this cave for a few days because of a terrible storm. Walter tells me that Vicente’s stories made him realize that this whole adventure may be so much more than he ever could have imagined.
Soon the wind becomes stronger. As the winds usually blows from the south or south-east, we knew we would be going straight against it for this whole stretch up till the border with Chile. The waves lift the point of the kayak far out of the water, to drop us back there again at its will. Being at the bow, I have a regular facial cold water refreshment. We take a break from the currents floating into the protected Torito bay. Luckily the bay, people and cabañas here were saved from the huge fire that occurred in 2012. The sight of the surrounding burned woods is awful.
At midday we direct our kayak to a lovely beach. Sitting at the fire I feel – being here – I just couldn’t be more happy. Our steak with onions and bread taste excellent. Walter tries his luck at fishing. He promised me a 3 kilo trout for dinner. I’m still waiting.
Back on the lake, we hit the waves once again. Views can be deceiving. It looked so calm from where we were. Yet still the sky is blue and the sun warms our faces. We have some good fun out there, paddling confronting the winds, our kayak rolling on the waves, at times submerging under the cold water. I enjoy every minute.
At about 4 p.m. we are at Bahia Los Renos. The wind is delaying our progress. We take a refuge from it paddling the calmer waters of the gorgeous, tranquil bay, allowing us time to enjoy the wild coast. The water looks incredibly clear, pure and green. At the rear end of the bay we’re welcomed by an old dog. A young couple comes out of the house and offers us mate. Later she brings homemade bread, warm and delicious.
Meanwhile we keep an eye on the lake. It looks pretty rough, then quiets a bit, only to get worse once again. Together we look at a map that displays the bays and islands on Lago Fagnano. Bahia Grande should be another 10 kilometers away. After that awaits us the border with Chile. We take a picture of the map for reference and say thanks to our friendly hosts for a surprisingly warm welcome when we least expected to see human life.
We have little more than one hour of daylight left. The wind is strong, the lake now looks black and intimidating. We keep paddling and advance slowly but steady. Another day ends in warm orange colours, a moment that we cherish for a while. It also means we have to look for a beach to make our camp. The coast is shattered with rocks, so we have to be careful.
Now we kayak in between a tree-lined cliff and a small island. When I look back to indicate we should get a bit away from the coast, a huge wave comes up on the right behind us. Walter shouts at me: ‘REMA REMA’!! I paddle as ordered. The wave – we estimated it at about 4 meters – lifts us high up and inclining to the left. It is followed by more, but less ferocious waves. I look at Walter, excited. Wow! His face is serious. The waves take us rapidly to the beach. Walter asks, hurriedly: ‘ Sand or rocks?’ My sight is limited as it is quite dark already, but I distinguish a sandy beach. ‘Sand!’, I proclaim. There’s no time to waste. A few more waves drop us right at the beach. We get out as fast as we can and lift the kayak higher up on the beach, safe from the rolling waves. Then we exchange a look. I am still smiling with excitement, Walter combines a nervous smile with a worried expression. ‘That was close’, is all he says.
After a simple diner of soup and bread, protected from the wind in the tent, we talk about the last few moments on the water. We’d seen waves, but nothing like this one. We could have turned over or hit the rocks. I was not frightened. Actually I thought it was great fun. But from the look on Walter’s face I can tell we were lucky.
Tired after a long and exhilarating day we turn in early. The sky again is dotted with diamonds.
Want to know how the adventure continues?