San Rafael Glacier

San Rafael Glacier
San Rafael Glacier

The people carrier collected us from our cabaƱa at 07:00 for the 77km ride along a recently constructed gravel road through the temperate rain forest, at the end of which we crossed a river by dinghy to board a second vehicle for a twenty minute ride to the boat. Accompanying us were a Chilean family of three, an Italian couple and a young couple from England and Northern Ireland, Marcus and Rachel. Unusually, all but the Chileans were vegetarian.

We weren’t expecting food so had taken sandwiches but soon after the craft had left, our guide Pancho distributed breakfast rolls. And he made great coffee in a cafetiere, the best I’d had so far in South America, in a boat! After a slow cruise through the shallows, we picked up speed and raced out to the glacier, which took a couple of hours. The San Rafael Glacier is the most accessible of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field which gives some idea of the remoteness of the area. It is receding rapidly, at which rate it will have melted by 2030.

Our boat ventured close to the wall of ice and we saw a few chunks splinter away. It was raining now after the early sun, not surprising as this location is drenched by five metres of precipitation annually. The waves were bigger for the return so it was a hard ride back, the rain torrential. Marcus and Rachel were staying at Bellavista campsite, which offered a weekend minibus service to Coyhaique. They were taking it the next day, Sunday, so we enquired on our return. They had space and could take us to Villa Cerro Castillo at 14:00 for 30,000 pesos.

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