The next day saw another brilliant blue sky and an opportunity to do a little hiking – up to a lake a little further up the valley. This hike had to be timed to coincide with low tide, and we had to get there and back before the tide rose too much, otherwise we would never be able to cross the river.
As it turned out, yesterday’s storm and the large amount of rain the area had received over the past few weeks had already swollen the river so much that we were thwarted in our endeavour. Instead we bush-bashed back to the Don Miguel through the vegetation, pulled out the kayaks and started our paddle for today.
I’ll be honest, this was the worst day of paddling of the lot! Heading back up the Cahuelmó Fjord towards the sea lion colony was against the current and against the wind, and if you stopped paddling, you very quickly started going backwards! About 2/3 the way along I motioned that I needed to stop for a rest and suggested we pull in near the waterfall. Colyn, however, was adamant that we had to keep going a little further, as the waterfall was not sheltered enough and he wanted to get out of the Cahuelmó Fjord before the full force of the wind came down upon us and made it even more difficult to paddle.
We eventually made it to the sea lion colony and the entrance to the fjord, but it turned out we weren’t done yet. Colyn kept assuring me that the beach we were aiming for was “just around the corner”, to “keep paddling”, and that I was doing really well, but he had a sense of urgency about him that none of us had seen before.
Finally, about 5 corners and 1/2 hour of paddling later, we spied a brilliant white patch of land to the left, and beached ourselves with absolute relief.
The beach was surprisingly well sheltered, but soon after we settled in for lunch, our arch-nemeses for the entire trip – the Colihuachos (big bitey horse flies) – found us. So we left our paddling jackets on (the only way to thwart them) and slowly baked in the sun.
After about an hour, Colyn went out in his kayak to see whether he could spy the Don Miguel. The mothership had to wait for high tide before it could pick us up and transport us further down the fjord, and we were all wondering why it hadn’t yet appeared. After about 20 minutes, Colyn came speeding back into the beach, hurrying us up to get in the kayaks for launch. Apparently the Don Miguel couldn’t pick us up from the beach and we had to paddle further to a more sheltered pickup point.
By this time the wind had picked up enormously and the waves were getting pretty large! Colyn was clearly worried about the conditions (particularly given he had a complete novice in his charge), but there was nothing for it. We sat in our kayaks facing up the beach and he launched us backwards, one by one, into the waves. The idea was to paddle backwards as powerfully as possible for a bit, then turn as quickly as possible before being capsized. Uh … okay…
Fortunately I’m a super-coordinated person 🙂 so executed a textbook maneuver, and set off down the fjord with arms, shoulders and back burning – but at least I was still upright.
Finally found the Don Miguel about an hour and a half later at a very sheltered little dock, and thankfully pulled the kayaks up onto the back deck. I think Colyn was the most relieved of all of us – that we’d all managed to make it without upending. Apparently the conditions were the worst Koreen and Huw had ever paddled in, and it goes to show that sometimes ignorance is bliss … I wasn’t scared or worried at all … I was just exhausted!
The rest of the afternoon was spent cruising down the Comau Fjord admiring the scenery and soaking up the amazing weather.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to visit the Research Station along the way, and it turned out that the campsite we were aiming for was no longer accepting campers! Apparently they had become tired of cleaning up the trash after campers had departed, so decided they wouldn’t be offering campsites anymore. This meant finding a different place to stay, and we ended up around the corner and up a big hill. Can’t complain about the view though!