Our night in Puerto Puyuhuapi, a quaint little German fishing village on the deepest inland reach of a fjord, turned out to be much more eventful than we anticipated. We arrived late on a Sunday evening to a nearly completely shut-down town. Unless you're in a big city, that's how it is in South America on Sundays; stores have their roll-down doors closed, restaurants aren't serving food, the streets are empty and all is quiet. We saw a woman playing with her kids in their front yard, so we pulled up and asked if she knew of a place to pitch a tent for the night. There were several hospedajes (small hotels) and campgrounds in town, but we're always searching for free places and after a minute of thought she recommended the beach. She proceeded to ramble off a whole story, of which all I caught was something along the lines of don't camp right next to the water because the tide comes in. Oh of course, that's common sense when you sleep on a beach. This turned out to be one of those situations where I really wished one of us was fluent in Spanish.
We hauled our bikes down to the beach and walked along a grassy little path on the bluffs until we found the perfect spot. There was a nice flat area for the tent, a bench, a bridge that crossed over a bunch of rocks that clearly turned into a stream leading to a nearby pond when the tide came in. We set up camp right on the walking path. The water's edge was a good 50 meters away, we were at least 8 feet higher than sea level, we were clearly located in a spot which typically wasn't under water and there was no doubt in our minds that we'd stay dry there.
It was a drizzly night so we cooked our dinner and ate in the tent. Afterward, I got out to brush my teeth and though it was pitch black outside, I could see the water had covered the entire beach, was splashing up against the cliffs we were camped on and was rapidly gushing under the bridge into the pond. But still we had no worries; we were at least another 3 feet above the water. We confidently crawled into bed and listened for a few minutes to the soothing gurgle of the ocean around us. I love sleeping by water, it's so relaxing. Then suddenly the splashing against the cliffs and the rushing river stopped. There was silence. We commented about how maybe that meant it was officially high tide, the moment the water stopped rising and began heading back out to the sea.
Good night. Sweet dreams. Mike was sawing logs within minutes, as usual and just as I was drifting off to sleep I heard a noise outside the tent. It sounded like one of our water bottles fell over, but there were 4 of them sitting on uneven grass, so it wouldn't be unusual for one of them to topple over. I thought nothing of it and a few minutes later I heard the clanking sound again. I grabbed my headlamp and as I sat up I put my hand down on the tent floor between us. “Holy shit! Mike! There's water under our tent! It feels like we're sleeping in a waterbed!” I unzipped my door to find our water bottles and my flip flops floating in 3 inches of water.
I immediately grabbed my sleeping bag and a handful of stuff, jumped out of the tent, sloshed through the water to the nearby bench and piled our things on top. I returned for another batch of stuff, at least our sleeping bags and down jackets were safely on the bench, but before I could get to the tent for my third load, Mike was frantically hucking things out the door. The water had just crested the 5-inch high water proof barrier of the tent floor and was pouring through the mesh sidewalls. We suddenly found ourselves at 11:30 pm with all of our belonging piled on a 3-foot by 5-foot piece of dry ground, our tent full of knee-deep water and a tide that was still rising at an unbelievable rate. We stood there and laughed because there was nothing else we could do. The whole situation was simply unfathomable.
An eventful night.
We didn't have long to laugh, though, because it was clear that we wouldn't be safe from the water for more than a few minutes. We hurriedly stuffed everything into panniers to make it easier to carry, started running loads along the narrow piece of land that remained above water and stacked everything into yet another pile where we knew it would be safe long enough for us to disassemble our tent and figure out where to go next.
We found another spot along the walking path that was sill several feet above water. There was nowhere else to go without pitching our tent on one of the town's streets and the water had already risen at least 10 feet; it positively couldn't rise another three. To our luck, the rain ceased for a while, long enough for us to drape all of our soaking wet belongings over a fence, wipe them down with our towels and let them dry a little in the wind. In the meantime, we counted our losses (Mike's iPod and our portable speakers were toast as they both were completely submerged for some time) and then returned to scope out the damage at our former campsite. We were in awe to see that the entire area was under water, including the bench and the bridge. This had to have been one of those freakishly high tides; there's no way this happens everyday.
After several hours of craziness and a hefty swig of wine, we finally got settled back into bed hoping for no more excitement that night. Fortunately there was none and we awoke in the morning to a huge beach separating us from the sea and aside from the line of debris washed up on to the grass by the tide, everything looked just as it had the night before.