Even before Jaap left, Carole and Dominique asked me if I would like to join them on a multi-day hike. I’m in favour for that. Maybe it will be my only change for camping on Isla Navarino, if I don’t want to camp on my own. So a few days after Jaap left we finished all the preparations and are ready for our hike.
Our plan is to hike to Lago Windhond, a big lake on the other side of Isla Navarino. On the way we want to fish for trout. Combined with mashed potatous our couscous it would be a nice dinner. I love to eat fish, but I’m not really a fisherman. But even I took Jaap his fishing gear. Dominique will learn me how to fish!
We leave early in the morning and want to make a long first day of hiking. It is a beautiful day. The sun is shining and the views are beautiful. But we’re not going so fast. Our ‘boatcondition’, well mine for sure, and a lot of luggage on our back make it very different than a normal daytrip. And besides of that we’re walking in the land of beavers. So after a beautiful trip through the woods we arrive at the first open and wet valley. The left side of the valley is full of bare and felled trees. The work of the beavers, who seem to love the bark and gnaw all the trees with their sharp teeth. Besides the clearing of trees, the beavers have built several dams and we see their houses. The beaver dams have created whole lakes and the low lying land next to the lakes has become a true wetland.
And that wetland is exactly our route. In the beginning we try to walk around the wetlands. From grass tussock to grass tussock, hoping our feet stay dry. But halfway through we stop to think so. Dry feet are no longer an option and with six wet feet and shoes we end up in the next piece of forest. And this is how it goes the whole hike. Dry wooded areas alternated by wet valleys where beavers rule.
The beavers were introduced from Canada into this area almost a hundred years ago. And now it is a real plague. The habitat is perfect for them. Little population and no natural enemies. In both Argentina and Chile it is allowed to hunt them. But I wonder if the Chilean government really has a picture of the number of beavers that live here and the damage they have caused. Maybe on Isla Navarino they will have a good picture. But hardly anyone comes further down the canals. And we have seen a lot of beaver dams there too.
On the other hand, it is also wonderful to see how they live, how they build their houses and dams and how they continuously maintain this. The beavers can change the direction of an entire waterway in no time.
After the third beaver area we are done with it. We climb up through the forest one last time and then we come across a beautiful place to camp. It looks pretty dry and there is a fire place. The bushes make sure that we are reasonably protected against the wind and the view is phenomenal. In the distance we see the Beagle Canal, while behind us a waterfall falls down and we can easily get fresh water from the river. Here we set our base camp.
Yes, our basecamp. We already now know that we’re not going to get to Lago Windhound. It is just to far. But from here we can make a nice daytrip to the highest point of this hiking route. After setting up our camp we gather wood for a fire and have dinner. Before eight o’clock we are in bed and we sleep for more then twelve hours. It was a exhausting day.’
The next day we only bring a lunch and our fishing gear. Today’s goal is to fish in the lake at the highest point of the hiking route. What a difference is this compared to yesterday and what a great experience without all the luggage. The trip is beautiful and eventually the fish spot breathtaking. We have a beautiful view of the Dientes. And from the edge of the mountain ridge we also have a beautiful view over the valley to Lago Windhond. It is so clear that we can even see a number of islands in the Pacific. This is a gift and we really enjoy it to the fullest. Travelling over the water is beautiful, but travelling over land sometimes is perhaps just as special.
Fishing in these waters must be great, but we are not so lucky. Not lucky at all. With empty hands we return to base camp. On our way back we are still lucky enough to spot a beaver. With a branch in his mouth he is on his way to his house when he spot us.
With a firm slap of his tail on the water he goes into hiding. He just takes the branch with him under water. His message is clear, he does’nt like visitors. But for us instead it was very nice that we didn’t only walk in the land of beavers but also really saw one.
The third day we hike back to Puerto Williams. The backpacks are less heavy than on the outward journey. Which makes walking easier. It is nice to walk the same route the other way around. I see different things and it is also a different experience walking downhill almost the whole time. Back in the Marina we hear it had blown 60 knots the day before. And that in the shelter of the harbour. The windows of the doghouse are covered with sand and salt. The rigging and the masts are also covered with a layer of salt. Furthermore, the boat is positioned exactly as I left it behind. Cleaning is all that needs to be done. But not today. Manana manana, first enjoying the afterglow of the last few days.