Lago General Carrera.
“Shared with Argentina (where it’s called Lago Buenos Aires), this massive 224,000-hectare lake is a wind-stirred green-blue sea in the middle of sculpted Patagonian steppe. The rough and twisty roads dwarf the traveler making you feel like you’re crawling through the landscape.” Excerpt from Lonely Planet South America.
I’m so very glad that I persevered with my original plan and made it here, not many travellers have this region on their radar but it really is an amazing part of Chile.
The first leg of my adventure began at 10:00 am on Sunday morning as I boarded the minibus along with two other passengers. The road ahead would follow the lake along its southern shore, from Chile Chico on the east, to Puerto Tranquil on the west.
It’s a gravel road all the way so progress was made at a relatively steady speed. Hugging the edge of the lake then suddenly climbing high above it felt like a slow motion roller coaster ride. Each twist and turn providing breath taking views across the lake and the surrounding snow covered mountains.
We arrived at our destination – Puerto Tranquil – at around 2.30 pm. My first task was to find some accommodation. Using the well honed phrase: “Tiene una habitacion?” I tried numerous Hospedaje’s (B&B’s) but without success. For the time being, I abandoned this task.
Las Cavernas de Marmol (the caves of marble) were created by the clear waters of Rio Tranquilo that dug into the giant limestone cliffs and created an impressive labyrinth of caves. The peninsula is known as the Marble Cathedral and can be reached by boat, during a guided tour.
I joined a group of 7 and boarded the relatively small but ‘functional’ tour boat. To my great surprise we were given life jackets. It took over 20-minutes to reach the caves and during that time the lake turned from mill pond to raging sea. Credit where credit is due, our ’16-year’ old ‘captain’ managed the conditions admirably.
It was a magical experience to see the caves and quite like nothing I have ever seen before. However, it would be the boat trip that became forever etched in my brain rather than the caves.
On our way back to the launch ‘the captain’ decided to have a race with another tour boat. As we sped along, crashing into each and every oncoming wave, it wasn’t long before there was a loud crack as the boat hit a rock. Unperturbed ‘the captain’ just kept racing on. I tried desperately to point out the water that was now entering the boat through the half metre long gash, that had appeared just inches away from me, but ‘the captain’ just kept on going. The younger members of our group were now whooping and screaming with joy as we bounced up and down with such a ferocious force. Sat at the front of the boat, with my teeth clenched and my knuckles white, all I could do was hold on for dear life and focus on absorbing the relentless pounding as my arce hit the hard wooden bench beneath me.
It was only when we reached dry land that ‘the captain’ finally began to realise the severity of the situation. Thankfully everybody managed to get off the boat before it slowly began to sink.
I quickly walked away from the situation muttering a little prayer.
Next stage: Puerto Tranquil – bucking broncos and the largest BBQ I have ever been to.