All weather conditions are proper to practice kayaking. Each of them features a special kind of charm and a different challenge. However, it is essential to have the appropriate gear and not to get wet or feel cold.
We had enjoyed Lake Nahuel Huapi from the top of a hill and from a plane. We still needed to slide on its surface. Therefore, we contacted a local kayak instructor. As we got to the meeting point at the Bahía Mansa (Quiet Bay) pier, in Villa La Angostura, we saw Pablo Beheran, who was getting the yellow kayaks ready with everything we needed for the ride. As the sunshine was making the day warmer, the group had a previous chat in order to make sure all the basic guidelines of this activity were clear. Holding our paddles, we became familiar with the movements we would be doing once in the water. Our group was made up by beginners. In consequence, an instructor came along with us. We would sit in the front cockpit: a privileged balcony onto the lake.
The luggage was placed in the kayaks’ storage compartments, as set forth by regulations in force. Of course this would make our ride more comfortable. We got dressed for the occasion: waterproof jacket, life-vest and the spraydeck. We looked like Martians, but Pablo explained that everything except the life vest was negotiable. We heard the sound of the kayaks dragging their bellies on the sand towards the water. And so we embarked. The lake was slightly choppy, which made us feel thrilled. All necessary precautions had been taken.
Bring Me that Horizon
We advanced slowly following the Angostura Arm as we broke the water surface with our paddle to one side and then to the other. We practiced during the first stretches. We felt that part of our body was under the water and that made our arm movements easier. The paddles were not supposed to sink. We just had to submerge the paddle halfway. The spraydeck or “skirt” made sure no water entered the kayak. As soon as we managed to set the rhythm with the paddles, we let our sight get lost on the horizon. We were impressed by the large mountain ranges surrounding Lake Nahuel Huapi. We became aware of our insignificance. We took a deep breath and continued looking through that immense endless window. A grebe passed by the watercraft so obliviously before us that we could have touched it. This bird usually dives in search for food, just like the steamer-duck or the fresh water cormorant, both in the winter and in the summer. We visited three hidden beaches. Timid stilts welcomed us at each of them. They did not trust our intentions. Once on solid ground, we had a snack, a rest, a chat and we shared experiences and feelings about this adventure. We asked Pablo for his observations about our attitude and posture. We also wanted to learn more about the speed reached on kayaks. Pablo answered all the questions. After that, we knew a little bit more about sailing, the lake mysteries, as well as the plant and animal species. Pablo told us: “I prepare the route the day before the ride according to the suggestions made by the group and I give my final approval pursuant to navigation conditions. When permitted by the temperature, we dive at some quiet spot in the lake and practice snorkeling with neoprene suits, masks and snorkels I carry in the kayak. We watched the different hues in the water: sea green in the areas featuring logs at the bottom; deep blue where the waters were more profound. An optic effect showed the logs close to us but they were not.
Far Away, So Close
The feeling of vastness, of serenity in this place makes it difficult to measure distance. The nearby mountains were very well outlined and the farther ones appeared to be lying behind a light mist on the surface of the water. Silence let us talk with our partner in a pleasant tone without any disturbing noise during the entire voyage. Trust and quietness accompanied us. We just perceived a slight swell to our sides. Mate
, faithful friend of sportsmen, joined the group. In addition to creating a friendly atmosphere, it made our bodies warm. We learned that when the weather conditions are favorable, a stop is made in the middle of the lake, the kayaks are crossed and paddlers have some mate
and chat on that very spot. We asked Pablo what he felt while he was paddling. “Happiness! I love kayaking with all my heart and I have infected my wife and son with that feeling.” That was his answer. He left his hometown in Entre Ríos to find the immensity of the lakes. He added: “In order to come down South, one has to have inner peace”. We felt the lightness of the water over our kayak and a thousand visual and inner feelings were unified to make us feel free.
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