In Patagonia: Benja and Jackie hike along Magellan Strait, to the southernmost lighthouse on the American continent!

LDSCN0055What a great hike with my old buddy Benjamín! Benja and I met nearly 11 years ago, when he was just 14. I was photographing the week-long Patagonia Expedition race, which finished at the San Isidro lighthouse, and Benja’s family runs the hostería there. In spite of our huge age difference, he and I became great friends, and that friendship – both with him and his family – has endured and grown over the years. So, when I was returning to Punta Arenas (southern Patagonia, Chile) for this very short trip, I wrote to him to ask if he wanted to spend a day hiking into the lighthouse. He immediately responded YES!

LDSCN0050Benja’s parents, Pato and Angela, kindly lent us their Subaru. The trailhead is about 60 km south of Punta Arenas. You start on a tow-lane highway, and the road gradually deteriorates to one lane, then unpaved, then a lumpy 4WD track, and finally just driving along the gravel beach. It’s the end of winter here in Patagonia, and there’s been a lot of rain lately, so there were several very muddy sections and wash-outs. Good thing for the Subaru – a 2WD car would never have made it down there.

LDSCN0052We drove as far as we could, and parked at the shoreline. The sign there said that the lighthouse was 4 km away, but Benja says that it is more like 7 km. The hiking is not too challenging – it’s not hilly because you are on the shoreline the whole time. It’s mostly on loose gravelly beaches and bare outcrops. This time of year, though. the creeks are a bit challenging to cross – but I was very happy to make it the whole way there and back without getting my feet wet!

It’s a lovely hike. We saw lots of dolphins. They swim up and down the kelp beds, hunting, very close to shore. We were both so happy to make it to the lighthouse. I love that place – and I think that, to Benja, it is just the most important place in the world. Benja recently finished his degree in marine biology, and he has so many ideas, for a natural history museum and for research foundations and for educational courses that could be run out there. And he’s already making some of those happen!

This is as far as we can drive. Reasy to start walking!

This is as far as we can drive. Ready to start walking!

More like 7 km to the lighthouse. An from there you can continue on to Cape Froward, the southernmost point om the American continent. It's a tough but beautiful and very wild hike - requires swimming some of the rivers, so you'd only want to do it in summer, not this time of year.

More like 7 km to the lighthouse. And from there you can continue on to Cape Froward, the southernmost point on the American continent. It’s a tough but beautiful and very wild hike – requires swimming some of the rivers, so you’d only want to do it in summer, not this time of year.

It wasn't windy the day we were out - but the windswept vegetation along the shoreline attests to how windy it normally is here in southern Patagonia.

It wasn’t windy the day we were out – but the windswept vegetation along the shoreline attests to how windy it normally is here in southern Patagonia.

Searching for a way to get across this stream.

Searching for a way to get across this stream.

Aha, here's a way across where we can keep our feet dry.

Aha, here’s a way across where we can keep our feet dry.

Winter storms have broken up lots of kelp and washed them up to the shoreline. Here's Benja with a huge sheet of cochayuyo.

Winter storms have broken up lots of kelp and washed them up to the shoreline. Here’s Benja with a huge sheet of cochayuyo.

Rain on the islands to the south.

Rain on the islands to the south.

Almost at the lighthouse... and there is THE tree, windswept symbol of this place!

Almost at the lighthouse… and there is THE tree, windswept symbol of this place!

There it is, the lighthouse! (Above the hosteria and the trees).

There it is, the lighthouse! (Sticking up above the hosteria and the trees).

And here we are! It's been four years since we were here together!

And here we are! It’s been four years since we were here together!

View back from the lighthouse - to the spit of land that connects it to the mainland, and of the two "sister" bays.

View back from the lighthouse – to the spit of land that connects it to the mainland, and of the two “sister” bays.

And a peaceful spot to eat our lunch - we're both starving!

And a peaceful spot overlooking Magellan Strait to eat our lunch – we’re both starving!

Benjamín! I think he enjoyed his sandwich.

Benjamín! I think he enjoyed his sandwich.

Last moments at the lighthouse...

Last moments at the lighthouse…

...and final views from up high. Time to head back. We were around 5 hrs hiking in and out, including our lunch stop (and photos and geology and marine biology lessons for one another).

…and final views from up high. Time to head back. We were around 5 hrs hiking in and out, including our lunch stop (and photos and geology and marine biology lessons from one another).

It was a great day, and we were very lucky with the weather. It seemed there were always rain showers ahead, on the islands to the south, but it never rained on us. It wasn’t even windy! This trip to Patagonia is so short… but I am so glad for this day, it really made me feel like I indeed was back here! Thanks Benja!

Advertisements
  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: