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A Trip of a Lifetime – Patagonia by Packraft

Ashley Perry Packrafting Patagonia

Patagonia by Packraft – Story & Photos by Ashley Perry

Ashley Perry Packrafting Patagonia
We planned to boat through the heart of Patagonia through July. But, for the first leg of our trip we traveled in northern Argentina just searching for water. We found nothing, and we soon found out why.
Ashley Perry Packrafting Patagonia
As we drove higher and higher into the Andes, the lush rainforest of Salta disappeared. As we crested ridges in our rental car, we found ourselves in the highest and driest alpine desert I’d ever experienced. The 18,000-foot peaks dominated the horizon, but were not blanketed with the snow I had imagined. Stream and river beds merely trickled or stood bone dry. We discovered finding water would be harder than expected.
Ashley Perry Packrafting Patagonia
We finally got to take the boats out for a trip on the Mendoza River, a beautiful eight-mile ribbon of class II and III. We sought out beta at a local guide company, and they kindly drove us up to the put in and offered for us follow their lines down the bigger sections. Even halfway across the world with a struggling language barrier, the boating community always looks out for each other.
Ashley Perry Packrafting Patagonia
And then we reached Buenos Aires. Who knew you could packraft in the heart of the city? After a two-hour flight across the country, we took a train out to Tigre, a community built on the canals of Rio Sarmiento and Rio Lujah. The only way to get to the houses and restaurants off the canals is by boat. What a perfect opportunity for us. We brought our packrafts along and paddled amongst other kayaks, water taxis, and a plethora of crew boats. While the outing was mellow, it proved to be a great day “in the city.”
Ashley Perry Packrafting Patagonia
Though according to a calendar our trip was halfway over, to us it seemed it had just begun. My boyfriend, Corey, and I planned to packraft (along with backpack) from the village of Cerro Castillo, Chile to the small town of El Chalten, Argentina. The route looked to be roughly 400 miles, and we aimed to do it in just under a month.
Ashley Perry Packrafting Patagonia
We did some research beforehand, but relied mostly on a blog from Forrest McCarthy. This made me really appreciate all the beta we have on rivers back in the States. I did, however, feel like we were even more so on an expedition as our skills were being put to a true test.
Ashley Perry Packrafting Patagonia
The landscape and the distance we could travel into Patagonia blew me away, especially while floating on the rivers. I have never felt so remote. During each of our river sections, the only encounters we had were with gaucho’s rooming the wild lands. We explored five different rivers along our journey, each one so unique from the other. There were tight gorges, playful boogie water, holes and lines that made my heart beat, and wave trains that made us hoot and holler.
Ashley Perry Packrafting Patagonia
The rivers had it all, and no day was the same. They kept us on our toes. Our longest section was four-days on the Baker River, where we floated all the way into the Fiords of Tortel in the Pacific Ocean. Patagonia and the rivers, peaks, glaciers, and that wicked wind truly inspired us. Exploring for a month, we found out, was not nearly enough time to get lost in this vast landscape. It is such a huge playground and with a packraft that gives you the ability to explore these remote rivers.