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Backpacker Magazine – January 2013

Chile: Private Patagonia - Puerto Toro

Take your pick of adventures from this major ferry stop about three hours from Natales: Beach camp next to a private glacier or paddle to a gem lake.

by: Shannon Davis

PAGE 1 2
Peking Gererro, the country's only glacier owner (by Jorg Badura)
Peking Gererro, the country's only glacier owner (by Jorg Badura)
A zodiac ferries kayakers up the Serrano River. (Jorg Badura)
Photo by JAN13CHILE_JBadura_boat_5989_445x260
A zodiac ferries kayakers up the Serrano River. (Jorg Badura)
Hiking next to Lago Geike (Jorg Badura)
Photo by JAN13CHILE_JBadura_hiker_5885_445x260
Hiking next to Lago Geike (Jorg Badura)
Paddling dreamy Lago Azul (Jorg Badura)
Photo by JAN13CHILE_JBadura_kayak_JB37385_445x260
Paddling dreamy Lago Azul (Jorg Badura)

Backpack Lago Geike

Rancher Peking Gererro doesn’t have two pesos to rub together, but he is a very rich man. He could get millions for his 11,000-acre estancia near Puerto Toro, but has refused all offers. Gererro, 70 and permanently grinning, is the only private landowner in the entire country to possess a chunk of earth abutting a glacier. His ranch lies sandwiched between Chile’s two largest national parks (Torres Del Paine and Bernardo O’Higgins), and from the front yard you can gaze upon the famous, knife-edged Cuernos Del Paine (Horns of Pain) in Torres. The wide and powerful Serrano River, a popular kayaking route, flows within earshot. And the Geike Glacier, with a massive iceberg-studded lake surrounded by black-sand beaches, is just a six-mile hike from his house. 

As of this year, he’s granting access to his private paradise, a few people at a time. Tonight, we’ll camp at an old gaucho shack near the terminal moraine—the first group of outsiders to do so. (Future groups will stay at a new lakeside camp.) 

To cross Gererro’s land, we trace the silty, braided river on cattle paths, tracking through fields of stunted pines and lichens to a dense deciduous forest surrounding the glacier. We arrive at camp at dusk, set up tents, and warm up around a wood-burning stove in the leaning, wood-and-tarp shelter. 

The next day, we hike the final half-mile to the beach and lounge in the sun at one of the most luxe campsites I’ve ever seen: endless wood for fires, fresh glacial melt to drink, spine-cradling sand, an absolute guarantee of solitude (though Gererro may visit), and views of the Geike Glacier and house-size blocks of ice floating on the lake. The only other way you could camp here would be via a multiday epic involving difficult glacier travel. With a yard like this, I’d never sell either.

Guide Antares Patagonia (see Trip Planner for additional info)
Cost $1,200/person, 2 nights (includes food, guide, ferry from Natales, and Zodiac from Toro)


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