Week of December 14-21, 1995
Southern Patagonia for sea kayaking
Q: I've recently noticed on the map of South America that there are a mess of small islands off the coast of central and southern Chile. I am interested in kayaking there. How is the climate and what is the best way to travel?
Niels R. Wolter
A: From just south of Puerto Montt all the way down to Cape Horn, Chile's coast is dotted with small islands and cut with steep, rugged fjords. Most of the country--in fact the whole continent--is renowned for its pelting rains and howling winds that mariners called the "roaring 40s." And the farther south you go along the exposed Pacific coast, the wilder the weather. With this in mind, then, the best kayaking is found inland--away from the wind-battered open seas--within the maze of fjords, glaciers, and protected waterways of southern Patagonia.
Even though you'll escape much of the west coast's extreme weather by picking an inland route, it's still a good idea to sign on with an experienced outfitter, as fierce storms can roll in quickly, and without warning. Consider reserving a space on Mountain Travel-Sobek's new 15-day sea-kayaking odyssey through the islets and beech forests of central Patagonia. The trip starts and ends about 600 miles south of Puerto Montt near the small city of Coihaique, at Puyuhuapi, a luxury hot springs eco-lodge that's accessible only by boat. You'll camp each night on densely forested islands with white-sand beaches and plenty of opportunities for hiking and exploring. The wildlife in this little-traveled part of the world is spectacular--eagles, whales, dolphins, and an abundant fish population that makes this region a classic fly-fishing destination. The 15-day trek will run you $2,850 per person, not including airfare to Santiago. Call 800-227-2384 for more information.
Go even farther afield on Whitney & Smith's 16-day kayaking expedition down the Rio Serrano along the foot of the Patagonia ice cap, and into the remote fjordland of Ultima Esperanza, where tidewater glaciers edge evergreen forests. The trip begins with a four-day hike amid the granite spires, Andean condors, and guanaco herds of Torres del Paine National Park, before you paddle south to Puerto Natales. They offer two departure dates annually, one in November and the other in December. Because this is springtime in Chile, you should be prepared for a wide range of temperatures--anywhere from 40 degrees to 80 degrees during the day--and wet weather. Expect to pay $2,750 per person; round-trip airfare to Punta Arenas is extra (403-678-3052). For more information on paddling in the deep, deep South, check out "Welcome to the Bottom of the World" in our winter Travel Guide.