Hanno's experience in Cabo Froward
Trekking to the southernmost point of South America For almost a decade, a trekking tour to the southernmost point of the American continent appealed to me. Now, after my trip through Chile with DIAMIR, that ended in Punta Arenas, I found another reason to stay in the south of Chile.
The Cabo Froward Trek This trekking route is still largely unknown - especially in German-speaking countries. In contrast to the Torres del Paine National Park you hardly meet other hikers here; You are almost alone or with a guide. The trek is a real challenge. In addition to stony beaches, there are three rivers (4-5 degrees Celcius) to cross on the way there; always observe the tides. Cape Froward (Spanish Cabo Froward) is the southernmost point of the mainland of America. It got its name in English in January 1587 from Thomas Cavendish, who named it after the weather conditions with heavy rainfall and winds. The Cape is located in Chilean territory on the Brunswick Peninsula in the Region of Magallanes and Antártica Chilena (Magallanes, Punta Arenas Municipality), 90 km south of Punta Arenas.
To „the cross of the seas"
A special is the Cruz de los Mares ("Cross of the Seas"): In 1987, built in honor of Pope John Paul II, a 24 -meter-high cross made of metal. On the hill at 365 meters above the cape, the first cross of this kind was already in 1913, which, however, no longer exists due to the weather.
The starting point of my journey to "the end of the world (Fin del Mundo)" was a hostel in Punta Arenas, which is run by Marisol (Hospedaje Magallanes). On the night of the tour, I meet with our guide Ruth Gombert and Clive, another participant, to discuss the tour. The food and equipment as well as the camping utensils are divided among us three. These are to be stored together with our personal belongings (clothes, sleeping bag, camping mat, first aid kit, trekking poles) in a backpack (80 liters). On the morning of the following day, I am picked up at the hostel at about 7 o'clock and we drive together with the Ruth’s pickup truck, as far as possible, until we reach the end of the road. From here it is about 32 km to the "Cross of the Seas".
Packed with 20 kg to the lighthouse Along the beach it goes for about 2.5 hours with about 20 kg of luggage on the back aiming for the lighthouse. In between, we take short breaks, where we can watch sea lions on rocks in the sea and dolphins. Passing by the stony beaches and all kind of extremely slippery rocks, which are due to the alternation of low tide and high tide and algae, etc.
After a short visit to the lighthouse and the local lighthouse owner and his family we reach after another 2.5 hours our first campsite. There we set up the tents and collect firewood for the campfire. Each participant helps to set up and prepare the dinner. We are now camping right next to the first river to be crossed. We also use this river to replenish our drinking water supplies. From the yellowish / brownish looking water we are not deterred: It is well tolerated and also tastes very good. A decoction is not required. The rest of the afternoon is spent playing cards. In the evening, after a delicious dinner, we enjoy the sunset and the campfire.
Hanging our backpacks in the trees Our camp is located by an old estate, which was inhabited until 1998 by a family whose children on Monday took the hard route to the distant school and only returned on Fridays back here.
In the evening our guide will check the tides of the second river we want to cross the next day. After that, the time of our breakfast, which Ruth has already prepared when we get up, is also determined. After breakfast, the tents are taken apart and packed in the backpack with the remaining provisions and other stuff. Part of the food is packed in a daypack and hung in the trees for our way back. This is necessary because there are local foxes, which would otherwise eat all our food.
First river crossing over tree trunks The first river to be crossed is covered with tree trunks due to the rough nature - combined with strong winds / storms and high water levels and the rain - so we can use them to cross the river without getting our feet wet.
After crossing the river, we continue on the beach as well as through the forest. Increasing in dificulty, we now have to cross very, very smooth and slippery rocks and cliffs. Here we stand several times with our feet in the seawater and have to cross some of the thick tree trunks or get lost among them; the big backpack is another challenge.
Swimming through 4 degrees cold water After about 3 hours we reach the second river. The crossing is not so easy as the last one, the contrary to the first river crossing. Due to the depth (mind Low Tide) we undress till the underwear, pack the backpack in a plasticbag and cross, partly floating the river. The water comes from the upper glacier and is accordingly about 4-5 degrees cold. Another true adventure. Astonishingly, one does not feel any cold afterwards. This is also due to the fact that you continue to hike immediately after the river crossing.
Keep the goal in mind The upcoming hike through the dense forest is characterized by the overcoming of fallen trees and sinking in the swamps. We go here over peetmoss and other plants, whereby we often sink in. It partly has the impression, as if you are walking over a "waterbed".
Sunsets like in your dreams After a total of 8 hours we reach the place where we build our next camp; this time for two nights. This camp serves as a base camp before reaching the "Cross of the Seas". Also this evening offers us a fantastic sunset. A variety of native bird species can be seen here.
South without visibility The next day, we pack only the bare necessities in our backpacks (rain gear, downjacket, etc.). Ruth also carries the provisions for lunch incl. lastnights dinner (Chili con Carne), which we will take with us to the "Cross". The remainder (clothes, provisions) is hung in the trees.
The hike to the "Cross of the Seas" (7 km), however, presents itself as a real challenge. About slippery boulders it goes in increasingly bad weather, combined with strong wind, rain and hail further south. Right away we have to cross the third river (slightly above the ankle, but still very,very cold).
An adventure: on the rope over the slope The weather is improving when we first see the cross at a height of 365 meters in the distance. A highlight in the course of the day is passed in the forest on a several meters high slope, which we had to climb by using a hanging rope. When was the last time you had such an adventure ?!
After another march along the Magellanstreet we reach the mountain, which is now to be climbed. After passing through swamps and mud we reach our destination. The sight of the "Cross of the Seas" is then ours and represents the highlight of the tour.
After a stay of about 1 hour, it is time to say goodbye. We begin our return journey. After a total of about 10.5 hours we arrive back in our camp.
Culinary adventure: raw sea urchin The next morning we go back to the place where we pitched our first camp 3 days ago and left provisions. We pick up the food and take another piece back to pitch our camp in a bay for the last time. Here, too, offers a beautiful sunset. In addition, we are fortunate enough to meet two local fishermen who have previously caught sea urchins from a depth of 20 meters. We enjoy this seafood freshly opened and raw. It is similar to the taste of oysters. An unforgettable experience. The fishermen anchored their boat in the immediate vicinity of our camp that evening and come to visit us around the campfire in the evening.
The next day we will go on a short hike of about 3 hours past the lighthouse back to our vehicle.
After a one-hour stopover at a restaurant (hot dog and a big beer), we take a shower in Marisol's Hostel.
An unforgettable adventure comes to an end - at the southernmost point of America.