Meet at the airport of Balmaceda, close to the city of Coyhaique, and start the route south. Here, the Austral Road (Carretera Austral) is tinged with different shades of green, gray, white, and black, due to the large amount of snow, mountains, deep forests, ice and countless lakes and rivers. It is quite usual (especially in the first section of the road) to see Southern Andean Deer (Hippocamelus Bisulcu), and many kinds of mammals and birds, since the road goes through the National Park of Cerro Castillo. In the second section of the road, we are already in the General Carrera lake, the largest lake in Chile (178.400 hectares) where we can enjoy wonderful views. Then, we will skirt round the lake, which flows into the Bertrand lake. This second lake later becomes the river with the highest flow in Chile: the Baker river. 4 kilometers from Puerto Bertrand (on the banks of the Baker) we will reach our destination for this day: the Green Baker Lodge. Here very comfortable rooms, a welcome cocktail, and dinner at the restaurant will be waiting for us. The trip from Balmaceda to GBL takes approximately 5 hours, including a couple of stops to rest and to take pictures. After dinner, the guide in charge of the activity will explain the whole trip, the route we will take, and the main attractions and risks.
Unfortunately we have to get up very early and we will load the vehicles with our equipment. We will go 9 km south, towards Confluencia, (place where the Baker river and the Nef river meet). Here our local Gaucho guides will be waiting for us and we will cross to the other side of the Baker river on their handmade boats. Once on the opposite bank, we will load the horses and we will ride towards a local family's house. We will talk and interact with them, in order to know their rich culture and to see how life is in the Patagonia. After a delicious breakfast, we will set out towards the Nef river, which we will cross after walking for 1 1/2 hour. We will continue our trek and then again we will cross the river, in order to follow the route along the valley between the mountains whose peaks are covered with the eternal snow. During the morning, we will go by a couple of "Puestos", which are places where the Gauchos, and sometimes their family, live during grazing time. We will continue our trek and in some point we will stop so we can take a rest, as well as the animals. We will enjoy a tasty snack before we continue our trek. We will arrive at Corrales, our destination for this day, around 16:00 hrs. We will put up our camp, the guides will prepare dinner, and conversation with "mate" (typical hot southern drink) around the fire will invite us to go to sleep.
This is the shortest day, in terms of distance and time, but it is the hardest, that is why we have to follow the guides' instructions to the letter. The horse back riding will begin at Corrales towards to a small port, after the breakfast, of course. In order to reach this port, we have to go up a constant and steep slope. For this reason our posture will be uncomfortable, which will make the ride quite demanding, and therefore, we will do it very slowly. We will rest in the highest point, we will have a fast meal and we will continue towards the Cascadas camp. Here, the view is just overwhelming, you will not believe your eyes. We will begin the descent until we reach the camp, where our guides will prepare a light lunch and we will also set our camp up. We will be able to enjoy a bath in natural swimming pool with quite warm water and then again... a fire, and wine will invite us to go to sleep.
We will begin the day with a delicious breakfast and this day, the saddle horses will rest. We will start hiking towards the main destination of this expedition, the beach of Nef Glacier. The "Pilcheros" (packhorses) will carry our belongings. During one of the descents we will have an delicious snack. Once in the Glacier's beach, where the Nef river has its origin, we will have a more filling lunch, as long as the impression of this overwhelming landscape leaves us some appetite. In order to recover from the trip and to take as many pictures as we want, we will spend the whole afternoon here. We will camp close to the beach in an area where we can shelter from the wind. Dinner will be just unforgettable.
For those who want to see one of the most amazing sunrises of their lives, it's worth getting up very early and wait. Imagine something like this: mountains with their frozen summits on both sides of your sight; a beach full of thousand-years-old ice pieces under your feet; the beach bathed by the water of a lake that has its origin in an ice wall of 70m, but due to the immensity of the Nef Glacier, we can not realize how big it is; some occasional cloud framing this image over the Glacier ... ; and the sun rising from northeast, tingeing all this with thousand colors. Yes, it is possible... and it happens every day and you will be in the right place at the right time to tell about it. After recovering from such a spectacle and in order to "wake up", we will have an energy giving breakfast and we will set out towards the Cascadas camp. We will eat something, we will meet our horses and we will begin the ride to the small port again. On the way back to the small port, the route is not as difficult as it was on the opposite way, so it will be less exhausting and much faster. As soon as we arrive in Corrales, we will set the camp up and we will have dinner... fire, "mate", and we will have a good time with our Gaucho guides.
We will begin our last day of horseback riding early in the morning, in order to make the most of this adventure. We will go back by the same route we entered this "pagos" (word used by local Gauchos to name the farms or places where they work occasionally for other people, doing farm jobs). We will have a snack during the route. Then we will cross the Baker river, understanding the importance and the origin of these waters in a different way, since we followed the Nef river from its origin to its "death". We will load the vehicles with our equipment and we will return to GBL. There we will have a deserved shower, an even more deserved dinner in the Patagonian style (of course with a spit roast) and finally, a good rest in a very comfortable bed.
Breakfast at GBL, guides farewell, and transfer to Balmaceda by the same road as we arrived (the transfer from GBL to Balmaceda takes also approximately 5 hours).