The Palena
Following our trip to Chiloe, we returned to Puerto Varas where we met our guides and our fellow
travelers. There were six participants, a Chilean guide, an American guide and his girl friend. For the
first five days of our trip, there was also Roberto who paddled a raft with supplies.

From Puerto Varas we flew to Chietan, a forty minute flight south. We were now in a totally different
world. There is only one road that continues south from Chietan. This dirt road only functions in the
summer and there are numerous breaks where a traveler using this highway must take
ferries--sometimes because glaciers come all the way to the water. From Chietan we took a van to
the town of Palena which is about six miles from the border with Argentina.

In the picture below you can see Roberto paddling our supplies.
The web site for our American tour operator said that we would be paddling inflatable canoes for the
first part of the trip. Naturally, we were disappointed when we were placed in rafts for that portion of
the trip. However, I did get to paddle the raft some on two of the days. Our American guide and
girlfriend paddled a tandem sea kayak and one of the participants, a frenchman, paddled a solo
kayak. Half of one day we paddled the tandem sea kayak down the river through rapids which was a
very weird experience. Everywhere we went on this river there were waterfalls such as the one in this
picture.
One of the nicest things about the trip was our numerous encounters with the Chilean people. From
the river one only occasionally caught glimpses of farms. These farms were more like one would
have encountered in the early 1900's. Most had no electricity or any kind of automobile. On one
evening we stopped at Roberto's farm where we camped. The farm was nestled in a valley that
looked much like Yosemite with snow and big waterfalls. Everything on the farm moved by ox cart or
horse. In the picture below you can see an ox cart loaded with hay being stored in the barn.
Our Chilean hosts were wonderful. For four nights we stayed at farms and pitched our tents. They let
us use their facilities which did include on three nights flush toilets and cold running water. The
meals were outstanding. The salads had included red ripe tomatoes and were spectacular. Twice we
had osada--beef and lamp barbecued on a spit and turned by hand over an open fire.

At Roberto's farm, he got horses and we spent a day riding up and back the valley. At one point we
had to cross the river over a swinging bridge. We got off our horses at this point and walked them
across the river. It was a somewhat intimidating experience as the bridge looked old and in several
places was missing railings.
For more on the Palena click here.
While we did not see much warm blooded wildlife, we did see lots of birds including penguins fishing
at the mouth of the river.