Previous – Section 27P: Alto Río Palena

Río Palena continues to steadily grow as it makes its way towards the ocean. This section has noticeably fewer rapids, and mostly consists of calm, slow moving water. Camping is abundant and easy to find. There are many rocky beaches that lead to flat grassy or sandy land.  Within 20 km or so from the ocean, tidal effects on the river current are noticeable. Check a tidal schedule before embarking to get an idea of good times to paddle. If the wind or tides makes paddling impracticable, it is possible to reach Ruta X-12, a dirt road which follows the river and leads to Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda.

Cerro Melimoyu dominating the background.
The river widens considerably and slows down, two signs that you’re getting close.

Travel to Puerto Chacabuco (Beginning of GPT29P)

There are two options for transportation to Puerto Chacabuco:

1. By Land

A series of busses and taxis can get you from Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda to Puerto Chacabuco. This is the cheaper, less scenic, and more time-consuming option. The series of shuttles are as follows:

  1. There is a van that runs from Puerto R.M. Balmaceda to La Junta twice a day which leaves from the ferry port (trip time ~3 hours). The tourist information station in Puerto R.M. Balmaceda can give you times and ticket details.
  2. From La Junta, there’s a bus to Coyhaique that usually runs once per day (trip time ~5 hours). Tickets may be bought before at the local depot (ask the tourist information center for directions). One company that offers transportation by bus from La Junta to Coyhaique is Aguilas Patagónicas. See their website here: http://www.aguilaspatagonicas.cl.
  3. From Coyhaique, catch one of the many buses traveling to Puerto Aysen.
  4. The final step is to hire a taxi (about 500 CLP) to Puerto Chacabuco. There is a pickup/dropoff location along highway 240 just outside of the Unimart.   

2. By Sea

Even if you’re lucky, ferry tickets can be hard to get. Book your tickets on the ferry from Puerto R.M. Balmaceda to Puerto Chacabuco in advance here: http://www.navieraustral.cl/itinerarios-y-tarifas. The ferry is a popular travel option and only runs a couple days during the week. It is also possible to purchase tickets at the local grocery store, but be prepared to wait for several days as the ferry sells out well in advance during peak season.

Town: Puerto Raúl Marín (R.M.) Balmaceda

Puerto R.M. Balmaceda has a few lodging options and lots of open ground for camping. There are a couple of expensive markets that could meet resupply needs, but Coyhaique or Puerto Aysen definitely have better options.

Next – Section 31P: Lagos de Aysen