10-Jan-2012 -- This is the 6th out of ten confluences that we visited during our trip to Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. The story begins at 35°S 59°W. The previous confluence visit is 52°S 72°W.
Our second confluence visit wasn’t scheduled on our drive from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas. While studying the map during the drive, I saw that there is a ferry crossing to Riesco Island. So we left the main road and deviated on a dirt road to the village Rio Verde where we indeed found a car ferry. Riesco Island is a huge island (5000 km²), but hardly populated by any people. Only the easternmost part has a couple of settlements with a few houses. So I was astonished that there exists a car ferry to the island. Later we found out why: last year they have started immense coal mining activity on Riesco Island.
After waiting for one hour, we got on the ferry at 1:30 PM. The ferryman advised us that the very last ferry crossing was at 8:00 PM. At this moment I still thought that we would get an earlier return ferry subsequent to our confluence visit.
But once we stepped on Riesco Island, we got aware of the road conditions which were everything else but excellent. The further we drove the worse became the road – which consists actually only of a sandy track. Nevertheless, there was an immense traffic of dump trucks due to the mine activity. Since it was a single lane track, difficult maneuvers were necessary to get passed these dump trucks. It took us 2 hours of driving until we reached the end of the track, which always follows the coastline. The end of the track came suddenly: a bridge with a closed gate did not allow for any further motor-travel. The beeline distance to the confluence point was still 8.4 km, quite a distance for a walk. Therefore, we tried to follow another track in order to find a way around the fenced area by car, but soon we realized that this track was only doable with 4x4. So we returned to the bridge and thought about our options. It was already 5 PM – quite late for walking 2 times 8.4 km cross-country, but we had already invested too much effort to quit now.
So I put on my running shoes, snatched GPS and camera and started running towards the confluence while Elionora was staying with the car. The first 2 km were easy – I followed the coast line. But then the coast line turned to the south which was unfavorable for getting closer to the goal. So I made the wrong decision to leave the coastal track and just followed the beeline when I was still 6.5 km away. At the beginning progress was fast – the terrain was flat and the vegetation consisted of meadows. But soon, I had to cross canyons, rivers, swamps, thorny bushes, and forests. I got bloody scratches and wet feet, but tried to keep running in order to return before darkness. The closer I got the confluence, the slower was the progress I made. A dense jungle with undergrowth made it impossible to run. I had to climb over fallen trees, wade through water and find a way through a labyrinth of thorny scrubs.
At about 3 km from the confluence, I was about to give up. But then I decided to go a bit further and found some more confidence again. At some point I was aware that if something happened to me, nobody would be able to find me here in the jungle. Nevertheless – or may be because of that – I enjoyed this adventure. When I was 350 m from the confluence point, I encountered a former track – so I was confident that the way back was going to be easier. At 7 PM I reached the confluence point after a two-hour run.
100 m from the confluence, there was a good
view into the valley lying ahead. From there it was a deep drop down to the exact location in the dense deciduous forest. I only spend a minute on the spot and returned immediately since I was running out of time.
The return way was indeed easier: I could follow the track. The first 2 km this track had not been used for a while and was hardly visible. But then I reached pastures with horses and progress was much quicker. The track deviated a lot to the south and joined the coast after a while. Although it was about 5 km longer, I covered the distance back to the car much quicker. At the coast, at 5.8 km from the confluence, there is the Estancia “Los Turbales” (Lote No.6A, Plano No.30, Secundino Fernandez Gomez). At 8:40 PM I was back to the car where Elionoria was already quite worried about my late return. At 10:30 PM we were back to the ferry, expecting to stay overnight next to the ferry crossing point. However, due to the mining, there was an unscheduled crossing right at the moment we arrived. This way we reached Punta Arenas on the same day at midnight.
CP Visit Details:
- Distance to an asphalt road: 60 km (Ruta 9)
- Distance to a road: 9 km
- Distance to a track: 350 m
- Distance of parking: 8.4 km
- Distance to houses: 5 km (Estancia Los Turbales)
- Time starting the visit: 4:53 PM
- Time at the CP: 7:00 PM
- Measured height: 288 m
- Minimal distance according to GPS: 1 m
- Position accuracy at the CP: 17 m
- Topography: hilly, location on a steep incline.
- Vegetation: dense deciduous forest, wilderness with fallen trees, lichens, moss, ground covered with little bushes, blueberries.
- Weather: sunny, 22° C (felt temperature)
- Description of the CP: In southern Chile, on Riesco Island near the Parque Rio Leon, 5 km from the southern cost.
- Given Name: The Wilderness Hike Confluence
Story continues at 53°S 71°W.