Saturday, December 20, 2008

And on the 8th day we reached the road.

Peggy felt better in the morning.

The skies were overcast and gray with a low ceiling. Little wind and no rain made for a cool but otherwise comfortable morning. We had neither food nor time to visit the Valle France, arguably the most scenic, what with views of granite needles as well as icy walls. But the weather was bad and we'd have no view anyhow.

We made good time despite muddy trails and literal boat-loads of people coming the other way. A catamaran brings tourist several times daily from the road to Refugio Pehoe, a lodge really, across Lago Pehoe. There were over 40 people milling about Campamento Italiano, at the base of the Valle France.

We'd completed our circumnavigation of the Paine Massif at Lago Pehoe, and from there we were retracing our route back to the Administration Center. It rained most of the way to the Rio Grey, a big river with bergy-bits and a strong current but little drop.

"This is a Peggy-kind of river!" It was much like the big, fast flowing Noatak River we'd packrafted last June in NW Alaska.

But this time she dressed in her drysuit, and, warm and toasty, felt comfortable.

The river was fast and easy. When we pulled over to put some air in the leaky boat, we found huemul tracks on the beach. These little deer, stocky with simple antlers, are on the national symbol of Chile, yet rare and endangered. We had seen none on our Circuit, so seeing their tracks here was exciting.

We relaxed as best we could with the boat deflating rather quickly. Peggy grew annoyed that we pulled over every ten minutes to put more air in the boat and threatened to walk. I calmed her by just paddling harder and encouraging her to do likewise.

We reached the bridge over the Rio Grey at about 7 PM, just as the wind picked up. Ahh, that good old Patagonian wind. Old man wind just had to come out and say goodbye in his manic way.

We walked a couple miles of gravel road to the Administration Center, checked into the Rio Serrano Posada, and ordered up the local specialty for dinner: rare steak, onions, eggs, and french fries. We celebrated with a half bottle of wine and a shower before sinking into soft bunks.

It had been a good trip on a world-class trekking circuit, with wildlife and whitewater, and friendships made en route. Our packs had been a bit heavy, but we couldn't really complain about the weather. Only the first and last days had rained. The backside of the Massif had been mostly ours and the Rio Paine and Rio Grey completely ours.

In short, it had been what we came to South America to do: a classic, international packrafting trip.


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