06/04/2015 I left Tierra del Fuego and Argentina towards Punta Arenas in Chile and was once again blessed with a great Couchsurfing host, taking me out for a spontaneous horse ride on her farm just after my arrival. On the next day, I started the four day trek to Capo Froward, which requires an exact timing for the tides because you might be stranded otherwise. Some blogger wrote that you should be a “hardcore trekking, camping, outdoorsy person (or German)” to do this hike. Meeting all requirements, it was a perfect match for me!
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Punta Arenas is not really a nice town and the only thing I enjoyed was walking along the the old ship wrecks at the beach. Most people come here to see Penguins at Isla Magdalena, but I was too late for that and had seen plenty in Antarctica anyway. I did have a great Couchsurfing host though and was taken out for a short trip to the farm to ride some horses! It was just the third time on a horse and I did my best not to fall off, surely not looking very graceful in the process. Back at the house, I started to do my research in detail. Hiking to Capo Froward requires a proper planning as you have to schedule the hike with the tides. I planned to stay three nights in the tent and have a late start to cross the first out of three major rivers just before sunset. Walking a bit more than the recommended 4-5 days, I was confident to make it and only a bit worried about all the rainfall from the last weeks in the area…
It was raining a lot again the next morning and I started to doubt if I should really do this trek. After some consideration and waiting for the rain to end, I decided to give it a try late in the afternoon. My host was so nice to even give me a ride down to Rio San Pedro, the starting point of the trek, about 65km south of Punta Arenas. There are only two buses a day to San Juan, about 10km before the Rio San Pedro, so I was very happy that she could give me a ride. We stopped at the police station to let them know about my plans and provided my Passport number, so they would come looking for me should I not report back in time. We reached the end of the road and my host dropped me off about 3km before Rio San Pedro when we reached a usually small stream that now built up to a rapid river. Waves came crushing in from the Strait of Magellan to my left and nearly reached the road and I was pretty sure that this would become quiet the adventure…
I was reading a lot of reports regarding the hike before and knew that there would be three major river crossings. The first one after around five hours of walking usually just features knee deep water in normal conditions while the other two were described as impassable with more than waist deep water. However, this is only valid for a normal day and the situation changes once you had a lot of rainfall coming down like in my case. I had to cross a lot of rivers that were usually just tiny streams and not marked in any map. While the first few ones were fine and I only had to make sure not to slip on the wet tree trunks to cross, I was actually facing a pretty big problem just about an hour into the hike. The river was swollen up so much, it actually looked quiet scary! Being delayed so much already with the usually tiny streams, I knew that I would not make it for a lower tide around 20:30 to cross the first major river.
Just after sunset (not that I could actually see any sun anyway), it got really dark really fast. It was high tide and waiting about 3-4 hours for a lower tide was not an option, so I tried to find a way to cross the river safely, which was about 6-8 meters wide just before joining the open sea with very fast flowing at least knee-deep water. I did not want to cross it there, so I walked inland through the bushes to find another spot. I could actually find a big tree that spanned across the raging river, but decided it was too dangerous to use it because everything was too wet and all the moss made it really slippery. Walking back to the ocean, I took some time to evaluate the situation and decide to either return after just one hour or take the risk to cross it. Not ready to give up that quickly and because of the fact that I the river joined into the ocean, I decided to give it a dry, placed my pants in the backpack, switched from hiking boots to my neoprene shoes and started walking. The water was freezing cold and really strong, but I was able to keep balance while slowing crossing the river. Just about one meter away from the other side, I realised that I sank in deeper and was now nearly waist deep in the water. There was no way I would go back now, so I moved forward and the raging river eventually overcame me, pulling me down. I was so close to the shore that I could quickly throw my boots on land while I was falling and then grab on to something to get myself out. Water entered my backpack and everything was soaking wet now, there was no way to start a fire in the rain and I had no choice but to set up tent and somehow get myself warm…
By the time I set up my tent in the rain and shuffled out the water from the inside, it was already completely dark and all of my clothes as well as my sleeping bag were completely soaking wet. I ended up in this situation after just about an hour of walking and was already way behind schedule, forcing me to cancel the trip because I did not want to risk getting a serious cold just a few days before heading to Torres del Paine. At least I was lucky with the weather the next day and the sun finally came up, giving me a good reason to walk another two hours until I reached the Lighthouse. Walking along the rocky beach was pretty slow and I was glad to have left my tent and backpack behind. I enjoyed the moments of sunshine after all the rain in the past days and could get some cool shots from fishing boats appearing in the mist, leaving the area again as a happy person rather than a disappointed one. Sometimes you just have to accept defeat against mother nature!
Walking back, the Strait of Magellan was now on my right side and I could even spot some dolphins in the improved weather conditions, making me even happier. Knowing that some construction workers might be around, I was hoping that some of them could give me a ride back to Punta Arenas. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky and had to walk back way past San Juan for about three hours with no public transportation during the weekend. Finally, a car came towards me and stopped, letting me know that they could pick me up on their way back again in half an hour. So I sat down at the river, enjoyed my lunch and reflected on this short, but pretty intense trek. Maybe sometime I will come back and actually make it all the way to Cabo Froward in better weather conditions 🙂
Update: The video is ready now as well!
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