Patagonia: Kayaking the Rio Serrano

I’m finally getting back in the swing of things since getting back from our trip to Patagonia. I plan on writing about all the amazing things we did and saw on our trip and I decided the best way to start would be with what I think was the highlight of our trip: kayaking the Rio Serrano.

I am not a big boat person. I love the water but there is something about sitting in a teetering plastic water craft that makes me a bit nervous.  I blame watching “Jaws” and “The Poseidon Adventure” when I was little.  Despite these irrational fears about boats I really wanted to go on a kayak trip in Patagonia. I feel the best way to overcome fear is to go out and do whatever makes you afraid, also out of all the possible water crafts, kayaks freak me out the least; baby steps. It says a lot about how incredible this experience was when something that I normally find scary was my favorite part of the trip.

This trip was also my first experience with hiring a guide. We used Dittmar Adventures to help plan our trip and they referred us to Tutravesia for our kayak excursion . They provided everything we would need for the trip and it felt like quite the treat to not have to worry about packing gear and food. All we had to do was provide the muscle to get our selves down the river. Jordan Harper served as our incredible guide. Not only was Jordan very knowledgeable about the river, but he also makes a mean mate, a traditonal tea made from the leaves of yerba mate found in South America. I will say its was a little awkward not being responsible for setting up our tent or cooking at the end of the day, but with Jordan taking care of the details we were able to explore the beaches, forests and view the glaciers that feed the Serrano. Another great thing about Tutravesia is the small group size, and by small I mean just me, my husband and our guide.

We started our trip on the Rio Serrano just south of Torres Del Paine National Park by floating over crystal clear water, but soon the  Rio Serrano and Rio Grey converged. The Grey is fed exclusively from the glacier, and sediment in the water turns it  a shade of milky grey and visibility  is limited to less than a foot. Where the rivers meet the waters flow side by side before eventually mingling into one. They contrast one another; one is clear the other turbid, one has depth and dimension the other causes me to ponder its depth and what could be lurking where the light cannot penetrate.

Both rivers are safe to drink, and while kayaking along all we have to do is dip our water bottle in and take a sip. Straight from the glacier, the water is ancient and pure, although I did have some trepidation drinking it as we passed cattle staring at us from the bank. Within the first mile of travel down the river we were able to tick off a couple new species of birds off our list. As we continue further down the river we passed range land where horses peered at us with what I can only imagine were looks of confusion; what exactly is floating down the river in front of them? The trees here are short and gnarled with multi-stemmed trucks forming an elfin forest along the riverbanks.  In the summer the river swells because of a higher rate of melt from the glaciers. Logs and sandbars which were once visible now sit below our kayaks waiting for the cold of winter to reemerge. As we paddle we are surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Now breathtaking is often an overused term but not in Patagonia. Imagine looking up from a milky white river surrounded by emerald green forest to a proud standing mountain. The mountain is topped with a glacier which reflects all the colors of the sky. As the glacier slowly melts in the sun its waters run down the rock and stone of the mountain forming  half a dozen perfect waterfalls which stream down into the surrounding forest before meeting the river. That is Patagonia. Breathtaking does not even begin to describe it.

Patagonia is windy. I don’t think that can be understated, luckily for us the weather was perfect for our trip. There was one short section of the river where the topography causes a bit of a wind tunnel though. We were very lucky the wind was not stronger, nevertheless it was a bit unnerving to literally see the wind coming towards you over the the water. The distortion to the surface of the water gets closer and closer eventually hitting your face and spraying a fine mist of the river over the bow of your boat. the wind comes in sporadic gusts which I found out after paddling though the first one and telling Jordan “well that was fun”. He did not have the heart to tell me it was not over yet. After pushing through a few more rounds of wind gusts we made it around a bend and out of the wind. While on the river the only other people we saw were a few zodiac tours. Other than the sounds of the rare zodiac the only sign of human habitation we saw were a few sections of old fence line and a couple traditional Chilean ranches.

After stopping for lunch on our own private beach  we continued on our trip till the Serrano met the ocean. Ocean is a relative term. The coast of Patagonia is riddled with long fjords, spits of land, and jagged rimed coastline. Technically we met the sea but it just looked like the river got wider. Our final destination was Barnardo O’Higgins National Park. The only way to get to this area is by boat and we had the whole camping area to ourselves. We spent the rest of the evening exploring the beach and surrounding forest. In the morning we took the kayaks into the lagoon Serrano where we weaved around icebergs and got to see the glacier up close.

Kayaking in Patagonia was an amazing experience. River travel allowed us to reach places that most people never get to see. The landscape was beautiful and there is nowhere better to see it than from the seat of a kayak.

A special thanks is in order for our Awesome guide Jordan Harper, you can follow his kayaking adventures on instagram @jordanjackharps.




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