To Chile! Puerto Rio Tranquilo and the Marble Caves

Our time in El Chalten, Argentina had come to a close. The seasons were changing in Patagonia. Bus services were stopping service at the end of the week. It was leave or get stranded. We caught the last bus heading North.

The bus lumbered overnight on bone-rattling dirt roads. It was cold. Sometime early in the darkness of morning we were, unceremoniously, at a border bus station. After about 15 minutes of shivering and confusion someone came and unlocked a door to let us into a makeshift lobby. None of us had a clear idea of how to proceed into Chile. Valerie and I spoke the best Spanish so I set about organizing a taxi and collecting the crew of travelers needed to fill it. We met Emily and Cliff from Iowa, Nick and Jimmi, from California and back East, Mira and Ivo from Germany. All of them were on long journeys so we fell into friendship easily.

After some crazy transfers and beautiful scenery on the drive we finally made it to Puerto Rio Tranquilo, Chile home of the famed Cuevas Marmoles (Marble Caves). An innkeeper was waiting for our shuttle and her brother was a boat driver for the caves. Done. She lead us into a small cabin like apartment with a couple of different sleeping quarters for our new found group to enjoy.

Our first order of business was to see the caves. It quickly occurred to me that we knew everyone in our group so it was definitely best to bring a case of beer with us! The caves were much more impressive with a few cold ones in. Despite the nice weather the huge lake was rough. It became clear how quickly this environment could become deadly in raging winds. In fact, this is where North Face Co-founder Douglas Tompkins was overtaken by bad weather during a kayaking trip and never returned to shore.

The caves were beautiful and we all felt great. Having a small cabin meant we could have a fire and cook our own dinner. I ended up making everyone sweet potato, onion, bacon, and egg hash while we enjoyed many boxes of wine. At one point Nick and I went on an odyssey through the neighborhood to find more booze, since our group of eight had already drank the town store dry. Good times!

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Scott Dusek is a writer and photography originally from Seattle, Washingon.

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