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TABLE OF CONTENTS AYSÉN, AN UNDISCOVERED PATAGONIA 06

Escape the routine to explore a Patagonia still undiscovered in Aysén

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A brief explanation of the Undiscovered Patagonia project

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The team behind “AYSÉN, an Undiscovered Patagonia”

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INTRODUCTION

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How to use this guide

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A Patagonia to discover: five chapters, five cultural areas and more than 100 experiences

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How to get to the region of Aysén

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Now that you’ve arrived, how do you get around?

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A key decision - where to stay?

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Discover the flavors of the Patagonia

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Tips for a Safe Journey

41 PALENA - QUEULAT CULTURAL AREA 42 44

Map of the Palena - Queulat - Cultural Area, Aysén Región

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Count on great encounters in La Junta

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Meet the Women of the Agricultural Club of the Valleys

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Wind through the unexplored valleys of La Junta

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Paddle the Palena River along the former route of the “Chatas”

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Travel Rosselot’s historic route from the valleys to the sea

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Prepare A Patagonian Cazuela that combines the flavors of the valleys and the sea

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Discover a hidden treasure: Raúl Marín Balmaceda

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Follow the Chucao Trail to the sea in Raúl Marín

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Head to Lago Verde for great fishing and lots more!

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Summer in Patagonia is synonymous with Asado al Palo

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Experience gaucho style hospitality at the El Silencio Ranch

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Sip the flavor of Patagonia during the ritual of drinking mate

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Pedal between curanto and küchen in Puyuhuapi

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In Puyuhuapi, Coffee’s best friend is Küchen

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Soothing thermal waters + Patagonia landscapes = Magic!

Travels through the Palena - Queulat Area

102 Kayak the Puyuhuapi Channel 104 Explore Queulat National Park hiking its many trails 109 From the forests of Villa Amengual to the pampas of Alto Río Cisnes


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The trout of your dreams is waiting for you in Las Torres Lake

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Have you tried tortas fritas with pebre yet?

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Biodiversity present in the Palena - Queulat Area

121 FJORDS & CHANNELS CULTURAL AREA 122

Map of the Fjords & Channels Cultural Area, Aysén Region

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Travels through the Fjords and Channels Area

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Navigate the Fjords and Channels of Aysén following the Cordillera Route

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Discover “bird watching” along the coasts of Aysén

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Explore the myths and legends of Ñancúpel the Pirate

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Meet some of the cultural ambassadors of the Guaitecas

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In search of the elusive giant of the seas

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Paddling the fjords of Aysén

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Puerto Gala offers fascinating nature, mystery and fortitude

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Find the pearl of the littoral in Puerto Cisnes

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Bring an appetite when you visit the capital of Merluza Austral!

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Spend a few days with the fishermen of Puerto Gaviota

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Amongst the lush rain forests and unpredictable waters of Huichas

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A delicious recipe for great times between Biodiversidad en la zona del Fiordos y Canales

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Biodiversity present in the Fjords & Channels Area

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183 AYSÉN - SIMPSON CULTURAL AREA 184

Map of the Aysén - Simpson Cultural Area, Aysén Region

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Travels through the Aysén - Simpson Area

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The heart of Coyhaique beats all summer long, in the Plaza

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Puerto Aysén, from bridge to bridge

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Explore the back roads and nature of Puerto Aysén

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Get to know mañihualina style hospitality; it’s a real lifesaver!

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In search of the contrasting landscapes of the Mañihuales sector

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Time travel through the streets of Coyhaique

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Discover local flavors in the “picadas” of the capital

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Coyhaique National Reserve, 100% nature, just paces from town

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Enjoy these craft beers prepared with the purest waters of Chile

Walk the shores of the Simpson River, surrounded by history and nature


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Indulge in the grand empanada tour

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Prepare your own empanadas with Aysén style

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Unleash your creativity at Mi Taller Che, in Villa Ortega

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Wake up with the Andean condor in Coyhaique Alto

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Explore the arts in Coyhaique, inspired by the beauty of Patagonia

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Time for a little Bohemia Coyhaiquina?

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Pedaling through the Simpson Valley

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Visit Cerro Huemules, home OF the world’s most southern deer

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Bring ancient ice fields back to life during this weekend escape

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Bottle the essence of Patagonia at beautiful Frio Lake

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Balmaceda is sure to (almost) blow you away!

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Biodiversity present in the Aysén – Simpson Area

“Gaucho up” in the talabarterías (saddleries) of the Capital

267 CHELENKO CULTURAL AREA 268

Map of the Chelenko Cultural Area, Aysén Region

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Travels through the Chelenko Cultural Area

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Backpack your way toward Cerro Castillo’s towers and ice

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Reach the towers of Cerro Castillo in gaucho style

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A tremendous legacy awaits you in Villa Cerro Castillo

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Celebrate springtime in Patagonia with a stalk or two of Nalca

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Explore the undiscovered landscapes of the Ardillas Route

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Señora Tati’s secret remedy: Farm-raised chicken and polenta cazuela

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In El Maitenal, there’s enough rock for everyone!

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Play in the mud with the Artisans of Puerto Ibáñez! Cowboy up with gaucho-style rodeo in Puerto Ibáñez Search the shores of Chelenko for delicious picnic treasure A walk through time in Chile Chico, the city of sun In Jeinimeni you can walk in the footsteps of ancient nomads

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Clear your memory card for the drive through Paso de las Llaves

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Horse trek amongst the vibrant fall colors in Mallín Grande

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In the wake of a giant between Cerro Castillo and Murta

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Explore the scenic, simple and sincere lands of Bahía Murta

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Homemade meatballs, Patagonian style!

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Savor SuizAike’s Cheesy Risotto with Wild Morel Mushrooms

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Craving adventure? Explore the route to Puerto Sánchez


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Navigate Chelenko’s colorful marble Caverns, Chapels and Cathedral

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Feel the ice of the Exploradores Glacier under your feet

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In Explorer Mode to Laguna San Rafael

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Biodiversity present in the Chelenko Area

359 BAKER - O’HIGGINS CULTURAL AREA 360

Map of the Baker - O’higgins Cultural Area, Aysén Region

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Travels through the Baker – O’Higgins Cultural Area

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Explore the gauchos’ route to the Nef Glacier

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Raft the incredible Baker River in Puerto Bertrand

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Cross the Baker to follow the “road less traveled”

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Connect with the Baker’s force and beauty at the Confluence

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Hike the trails of the Chacabuco Valley

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Adventure and traditional gaucho cultures converge in Cochrane

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Get your camera ready! You’re in the land of the huemules

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Pay tribute to the huemul with this two-day hike and festival

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Explore the majestic Mount San Lorenzo massif

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To the ancient ice of the Calluqueo Glacier, thanks to Frank Hornby

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History, adventure, and country living in the Ñadis Sector

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Prepare your own Homemade Bread with Patagonia style

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Float the Baker’s turquoise waters in this historic descent

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“Orienteer” your way along the boardwalks of charming, Caleta Tortel

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Summit Cerro la Bandera in a snap!

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Remember those who were forgotten at the Isle of the Dead

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Enter the icy world of the Patagonian Ice Fields

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Caiquenes Lagoons are a wonderful place to “stop, look and listen”

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Explore the tremendous legacy of Father Antonio Ronchi

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Catch a Tiger by the tail

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Welcome to Villa O’Higgins, the heart of Patagonia

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Calling all bird lovers - grab your binoculars!

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Hiking to the Mosco River Glacier

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Join the elite few who have cycled the Carretera Austral

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Cruise through the waters of Patagonia’s Giants

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Cross the Patagonian Andes toward iconic Mount Fitz Roy

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Biodiversity present in the Baker – O’Higgins Area


ESCAPE THE ROUTINE

to explore a Patagonia still undiscovered in Aysén Do you think of yourself as a traveler rather than a tourist? Do you like to explore rather than rush, to get off the beaten path and travel on your own, seeking out the unique and memorable details that form the essence of a place? If this is your style, then Aysén, an Undiscovered Patagonia, is for you. Inside, we share the itineraries and traveling experiences of bloggers who have journeyed the region; one for each of the five cultural areas: Palena – Queulat; Fjords & Channels; Aysén – Simpson; Chelenko; and Baker – O’Higgins. We provide details on 100+ unforgettable tours: trekking, boating, rock and ice climbing, fly-fishing, biking, scenic drives, and tours of the towns and villages of Aysén that provide access to music, arts, culture, gastronomy and nightlife.

It is not easy to define or describe Patagonia. INTRODUCTION 8

Immense primeval forests with winding rivers and never-ending valleys that have yet to be mapped. Mysterious fjords and channels, woven within a tangled geography interlaced with thousands of islands. Jagged mountain peaks with giant sweeping glaciers, ready to be conquered by fearless climbers in search of tremendous challenge and beauty spread between the imposing multi-millenarian glaciers of the Patagonia Ice Fields. Crystal clear waters in every imaginable hue of blue and green, flowing from the ice fields into high Andean lagoons and streams that pour over millions of cascades and waterfalls along their

route to join the powerful rivers and enormous lakes that flow into the wild waters of the Pacific. These elements form the natural setting that envelopes you in Patagonia, surrounding you with an immense energy and intense light that beats from all sides until you begin to feel the timeless influences of ancient peoples like the Tehuelches and Chonos; nomads who traveled and moved amongst these lands more than 10,000 years ago. The sensation is unique and unforgettable and those who have shared it find it much more possible to understand the dreams and challenges faced by the strong and independent settlers who have rooted themselves in Patagonia over the past century. Coming from Chiloe, the central zone of Chile, and different parts of the world to settle within the incredible natural setting of Patagonian Aysén, these pioneers have forged a connection between land and people that has not been without error or struggle. The lessons they’ve learned and the identity they have developed provides a mixture of customs, histories and traditions that warm hearts, challenge ideas and enrich lives. Over the past several years, we’ve talked with backpackers, bloggers, couchsurfers and bucket-listers; thousands of travelers who shared a common dream of exploring the legends and realities of Patagonia. Many of them shared frustrations over the feeling that everything was right in front of them, literally at their fingertips, but they just couldn’t


find the roads and trails and facilitators to lead them inside. Others (the lucky ones), told us of travels that awakened their spirit; of incredible days and weeks immersed in the amazing nature and interesting realities of the people of Patagonia; of lives and perspectives changed; of new friends and treasured memories that they would keep for the rest of their lives. With their stories as the inspiration, we got to work building the tools that will help you to explore Patagonia and especially, the undiscovered corners of

Aysén. We addressed hundreds of doubts and questions; challenges that come along with trying to understand “the who’s, the where’s and the why’s” of this unique place. Consider Undiscovered Patagonia your key to open the doors of the Aysén Region, especially written for travelers like you, who are not just looking to visit a destination, but to discover it and be immersed amongst its nature, its culture and its people.

A brief explanation of the

UNDISCOVERED PATAGONIA PROJECT One of the reasons to come to Patagonia and Aysén is to leave behind the stress and frenetic pace of the modern world. But, that shouldn’t mean travelling uninformed; on the contrary, access to good information, when and how you want it, can make all the difference on a trip, right? And nowadays, despite the pace of the journey, modern tools like tablets and smartphones can really complement your travels, especially if there is good information available about the places you are going. Integrating your adventures with the networking technologies and platforms that you trust provides you with options to learn more, find more and share more within the destinations you travel and with the people waiting for you back home. Sustainable Tourism studies, located in the city of Coyhaique.

INTRODUCTION

That is the premise for this guide and the larger project it was developed through: “Transference of TICs (Information and Communication Technology) for the promotion of Aysén within The Independent Tourism Segment” ID. 30128662-0, financed by the Regional Government of Aysén Fund for Innovation and Competitiveness. The project has been implemented through several stages, led by Dr. Trace Gale, of the Center for Patagonia Ecosystem Investigation (CIEP), and specifically, its Department of

First we sought to understand what communities within the Region of Aysén wanted from tourism development, through a series of workshops and meetings in which we developed the guiding concept for the project: a focus on the endogenous and the development of forms of tourism that enrich the character of Aysén and the welfare of its inhabitants. Next, we talked with 1,000s of travelers like you: Why do you travel? What are you looking for when you set out to explore? What do you want and need in terms of information? How do you get around? How long do you want to stay? Finally, we traveled, hiked, paddled, horse-trekked, climbed, ate, camped and conversed our way through every corner and town of the Region to confirm details and tracks for the 100+ options presented in this guide and in our on-line, tablet and

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unique milestones; aspects of Aysén that we hope you will soon come to value and protect.

smartphone friendly tools. We’ve spent literally years understanding how best to meet your dreams; while staying true to our own referent, and now, we are proud to offer you Undiscovered Patagonia, our proposal for endogenous travel through the Aysén region of Patagonia, filled with opportunities for you to know and experience the region from the inside - out. Within this guide, these experiences and our on-line tools, we’ll share all the information you need to plan your trip before and during your visit - the authentic nature and culture of our Patagonia, our trails and our waterways, our traditions and customs, our history, challenges and our

The success of the project depends on our ability to understand and integrate the wishes and needs of independent travelers, with the authentic aspects of our region. Therefore, we are grateful to the thousands of travelers, bloggers, couchsurfers, backpackers, families, professionals, and explorers, who shared their perspectives with us. We also appreciate the contributions of expert consultants, like the team from the Institute of Heritage Tourism (IPT) of the Universidad Central de Chile; travel journalist and photographer, Evelyn Pfeiffer; regional guides and consultants; and our Technical Committee, consisting of over 50 regional organizations and companies. This great team supported us with vital information and actively participated in the nomination, review and prioritization of stories, attractions and tours. We appreciate all the opinions, concerns and suggestions that contributed to the implementation of this project and we hope everyone will see their contributions within this guide, the site www. UndiscoveredPatagonia.com and in other platforms and information technologies.

The team behind

“AYSÉN, an UNDISCOVERED PATAGONIA”

INTRODUCTION 10

This project was financed by the Regional Government of Aysén, through the Innovation Fund for Competitiveness, id 30128662-0, and developed by the Center for Patagonia Ecosystem Investigation (CIEP). We think it’s important to take a moment to introduce and formally thank the collaborators in each of the project’s four phases, for their hard work and contributions. We started with the nomination, characterization and Geo-referencing of thousands of interesting places and people that form the tourism heritage of the Aysén region of Patagonia; i.e. the places, events, customs, tours, knowledge and flavors that we want to share with our visitors. The work of Veronica Gallardo (CIEP), and the team from the Central University, Institute of Heritage Tourism (IPT)

were essential in this process. Their tremendous survey of more than 1,000 natural and cultural aspects of the region could not have been accomplished without the contributions of the Technical Committee of the project, which consisted of the following companies and organizations: Regional Government of Aysén (GORE), Planning and Development Division (Diplade), Regional Council of Aysén


(CORE), Regional Division of the National Tourism Service (Sernatur), Territorial Integration Program of Corfo ( PTI-Corfo), National Forestry Corporation (Conaf Aysén), the Illustrious Municipalities of Cochrane, Tortel, O’Higgins, Chile Chico, Río Ibáñez, Coyhaique, Cisnes, Lago Verde, Puerto Aysén and Las Guaitecas, Guides’ School of Patagonia, Association of the House of Rural Tourism, Rural Tourism Program of the Institute of Agricultural Development (INDAP), Technical Cooperation Service of the Aysén Region, (Sercotec), National Council for Culture and the Arts - Aysén Region (CNCA), Ñirre Negro Editions, Regional Library of Aysén (DIBAM), Agricultural and Livestock Service of the Aysén Region (SAG), Society of History and Geography of Aysén, Father Ronchi Foundation, Hostel Aonikenk, Traeger Rent a Car, Espacio y Tiempo Hotel de Montaña, Cyber Ruta Austral & Yagan Expediciones, Foundation for the Defeat of Poverty and its Service to Country Program, Chamber of Tourism and Trade in La Junta, Chamber of Commerce and Tourism of Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda, Association of Tourism, Nomads of the South - Melinka Repollal, Chamber of Tourism of the Huichas Islands, Chamber of Commerce and Tourism of Puerto Cisnes, Chamber of Tourism of Puyuhuapi, Chamber of Tourism of Puerto Aysén, Chamber of Tourism of Coyhaique, Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Services and Tourism of Coyhaique, Servitur Patagonia, Association of Fishing Operators, Association for Tourism and Culture of Cerro Castillo, Association of Tourism and Cultural

The second stage focused on the development of an in-depth understanding of the needs and desires of our current and potential visitors and we relied heavily on the previous knowledge and research of Dr. Trace Gale, resident researcher of the Department of Sustainable Tourism of CIEP (tracegale@ ciep.cl). Her work, carried out between the years 2000 to 2014, formed the basis for fur-

ther research provided by the IPT. The third phase of the project linked the experiences and desires of travelers with the tourism heritage of the region, through the characterization of five cultural areas, the creation and validation of excursions and routes and the audio-visual documentation of experiences. We appreciate all of the work and efforts made during this phase

INTRODUCTION

Service Providers, The Tehuelches of Puerto Ibáñez, Association of Tourism and Culture of Chile Chico, Chamber of Commerce and Tourism of Puerto Tranquilo, Association of Trade, Tourism and Culture of Puerto Guadal, Committee for Tourism Development in Puerto Bertrand, grouping of Southern Patagonia Tortel, Chamber of Commerce and Tourism of Tortel, Association of Small

Tourism Businesses of Cochrane, Chamber of Tourism and Services of Villa O’Higgins, Architecture Department of the Ministry of Public Works (MOP), Social Development Corporation for the Rural Sector (Codesser), Corporation for the Promotion of Productivity (Corfo) of the Aysén Region and its project for the creation of a Marine Tourism Group, and, finally, the BID - FOMIN Project: Patagonian Archipelagos, International Destination for Scientific Tourism.

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and recognize: Verónica Gallardo, Christian Medina, Jimmy Valdés, Cristian Solis, Javiera Errázuriz, Evelyn Pfeiffer, Catalina Correa, Mary Brys, Javier Muñoz, Anabel Reis, Francisco Quezada, Francisco Croxatto, Claudio Magallanes, Pablo Navarro, Miguel Garcia and Trace Gale. Additionally, we would like to acknowledge their artistic contributions and acknowledge their photographic and audio-visual contributions to this guide and website. The final stage of the project was the creation of this guide and the contents of the web site, www.UndiscoveredPatagonia. com. The authors were: Dr. Trace Gale, Resident Researcher of the Department of Sustainable Tourism of CIEP, Evelyn Pfeiffer, a journalist and freelance photographer specializing in tourism (www.evelynpfeiffer. com), and Javiera Errazuriz, an associate of the IPT of the Universidad Central de Chile. Their work was supported by Veronica Gallardo (CIEP) and the following journalists and contributors: Daniela Jeanette Ruz Hernández, Gonzalo Fernando Argandoña Mac-Mahon, Kurt Alexander Castro Faltin y Cristian Solis Solis. The final editing was realized by CIEP and SurDigital of Coyhaique, Chile. Reproduction of this work is not permitted, by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise, without prior written agreement of their publishers.

INTRODUCTION 12


INTRODUCTION


HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE Within this guide and on our web site, www.UndiscoveredPatagonia.com, you’ll find information and resources to help you design a unique journey through Patagonia, exploring amazing wilderness areas and quaint small villages in the region of Aysén. We’ll introduce you to a region full of life and biodiversity, incredible scenery, rich flavors, music and dance, fascinating people and things to do! Get your cameras ready to capture the unique light and landscapes within the pristine Patagonian wilderness you’ll visit and prepare your hearts for a local culture filled with men and women who embrace the very definition of self-reliance, independence and rural tradition. We’ll share secrets that will help you to explore every corner of Aysén, preparing you to immerse yourself in the authentic and unique, unlike any other guide you’ll encounter.

INTRODUCTION 14

In the first section, we’ll help you prepare for coming to Patagonia with practical tips for planning a successful trip; one that’s tailored to your preferences for adventure, safety and relaxation. You’ll be presented with options for traveling to, from, and all around the region, tips to help you choose where and when to visit, and explanations of the differences in each of the five cultural areas that make up the Region of Aysén.

Why are there five different areas? Look at the territory of Aysén on a map. It’s huge! And the landscape is completely different from the rest of Chile. Begin toward the west, with the area of the Fjords and Channels. For Chileans part of learning geography in school involved drawing the map of South America, and the worst

nightmare was when you were chosen as the student to draw the southern cone, because you could spend hours and hours sketching the hundreds of small, seemingly endless islands and islets of Patagonian Aysén. Can you imagine? These archipelagos extend from the mountains along the coast, but, here, as a result of tectonic movements and the numerous glaciations that have impacted the area, the mountains have been fractured into thousands of intricate parts, like a giant jigsaw picture. It may be a nightmare to draw, but it is a tremendous privilege to navigate within this tangled web of islands, sailing amongst shorelines filled with impenetrable evergreen forests that slip down into the sea. Look again at the map of Aysén, this time toward the middle and compare it to the map of Chile’s entirety. You’ll notice that most of Chile is dominated by a well-formed central valley nestled between the two mountain ranges that run north to south, In Aysén, this valley does not exist! Instead, you’ll find the Moraleda Channel, the main route of maritime navigation for the region. The cordillera of the Andes begins almost immediately upon reaching the mainland, jetting up from sea-level with abrupt changes in altitude and the still-present ice of the last glacial advances. Between these mountain ranges and the fragmented coastline, there are huge watersheds of freshwater rivers and lakes; liquid giants of mythical Patagonian proportions! A few of the most legendary examples include the mighty Baker, the most powerful


river of Chile, and the General Carrera Lake, the second largest in South America. Need we say more about the unique physical characteristics of Aysén? Well yes, it is definitely worth mentioning that this region is home to the Northern and Southern Patagonia Ice Fields, which are the third largest extension of continental ice in the world, after Antarctica and Greenland. Wondering where the villages fit in with all this enormous nature? Without doubt, the amazing diversity of landscapes and ecosystems that exist in the region have profoundly influenced the development of Aysén, dictating where, how and why people chose to settle in a particular place. Most of the populated areas are located in the relatively small valleys between the mountains, often dispersed in relatively great distances from each other, sprinkled from La Junta in the north to Villa O’Higgins in the south and from the islands in the west to the pampas of the eastern side of the Patagonian Andes, near the border with Argentina. Until relatively recently (50 years ago, give or take), there were no roads connecting these villages and contact between the small settlements was extremely difficult. People traveled for days and weeks via horse, or challenged the waters and the wind, sailing through the fjords, lakes or rivers in small boats, to reach the ports where they could access medical services, schools and commerce. Many times the weather conditions of the zone meant

months of complete isolation, waiting for passable breaks that would allow for safe travel. Geographic factors influenced not only the location of settlements; but also, the formation of different cultural identities within the region. For example, the culture of the fjords is very different to that of the communities around General Carrera Lake (also known as Chelenko). As you travel through Aysén, you will have the opportunity to explore five distinct areas, each with its own cultural identity, forged in connection with its particular history, geography and biodiversity: Palena - Queulat, Fjords and Channels, Aysén Simpson, Chelenko, and Baker - O’Higgins. To experience them all in their entirety you’d need years and perhaps lifetimes! We know you have limited time and resources so we have divided each zone into interesting itineraries that will allow you to experience the landscapes, nature and people for yourself, without spending all your time on buses, vehicles and ferries.

A chapter for each zone The guide consists of 5 main chapters, which provide all the tools to plan your own unique adventure, tailored to your tastes, needs and time. Each chapter represents one of the five cultural areas, starting with a cultural map that summarizes the geography and lays out the location of towns, activities and natural areas. Then, we present a traveler’s blog and

INTRODUCTION 15


itinerary for the zone, which will help you get a feel for timing, logistics and the experiences of other travelers. The rest of each chapter focuses on in-depth descriptions of the experiences and adventures of our blogger and of other travelers, with detailed information that makes it possible for you to do them yourself. Each is presented as a short feature, which provides you with context, descriptions of the routes, fun details, contacts, and technical information. At the end of each chapter you have a list of some of the species that make up the complex biodiversity present in the area. It’s definitely not a complete list (we’d have to write another book to provide you with that), but it does give those seeking a little more scientific information a good start. What happens if you do not find what you are looking for in the articles? ¡Easy! Visit our web site, (www.UndiscoveredPatagonia.com), where you can access and download lots of additional information including contacts, photos, videos, and GPS routes in Google Earth for each tour.

Aysén is a destination in constant evolution. Each year there are new trails, paths, roads, guides, restaurants, hotels and events. Our commitment is to keep the tools of our website updated in the most complete way possible, so you’ll always have a reliable source to help you plan your trip. But, because we live in a region that’s in constant change, we depend on our community of independent travelers to support the success of our never ending work. When you finish your trip, we want and need you to pass along your impressions, data, photos, videos, links and blogs; your input will help us to improve our information and recommendations, and complement the content with a true expert traveler’s opinion about what you liked and what you want to improve.

Share your experiences and become part of our Undiscovered Patagonia!

A PATAGONIA TO DISCOVER: FIVE CHAPTERS, FIVE CULTURAL AREAS AND MORE THAN 100 EXPERIENCES We’ve already described the diversity of landscapes, ecosystems and geography in Aysén and explained how the resulting isolation has influenced the formation of different cultural identities: five different areas within the same region of Patagonia, each with unique characteristics and traditions that connect the communities with their ecosystems and biodiversity. In this article we explain a bit more about each of these areas: Palena – Queulat, Fjords and Channels, Aysén - Simpson, Chelenko, and Baker - O’Higgins.

INTRODUCTION 16

It won’t be easy to decide what to visit or where to begin your adventure in Aysén; but, before you begin setting goals, let us share a bit of gaucho wisdom. One of the most popular sayings in this part of Patagonia goes: “el que se apura pierde el tiempo”, (those

that hurry lose time), and it’s SO true! Patagonia moves at its own pace and trying to force your normal velocity is like dancing salsa to bluegrass. Here, you’ll need to change your rhythm; the only way to discover the richness, the secrets, the distinctions, and


the beauty of Aysén is to leave behind the hectic pace of modern life. Said simply: the magic of Patagonia lies in discovering the contrasts between its enormous, sweeping landscapes and the infinite, minuscule details of its nature and culture. There’s so much to discover! Like why the coastline is dismembered with so many islands and why the mountains are so challenging even though their altitudes don’t seem daunting. Where are the best places to see huemules, condors, tiny frogs and giant whales? Why does the entire world drink mate here? How you can be included in this special ritual that guarantees interesting conversation and the occasion for sharing stories and legends with gauchos. Who were the mysterious indigenous peoples who roamed these lands long before the settlers who arrived much more recently? Who was Father Antonio Ronchi? What are troperos, chilotes and gauchos? How has the culture and traditions of Aysén evolved with modernity, technology and other outside influences? You’ll discover why the food here tastes so good, local myths and legends, (like the practice of eating calafate to guarantee you’ll return to these lands), and local customs like drinking wine from a bota. Taking your time opens up the opportunity to get to know incredible people like Senora “Tati”, Werner Bleicher, Luis Soto, Maria Griselda Nahuel and many others; sons and daughters of pioneers and more recent immigrants who came as travelers, like you, and who loved Aysén so much they decided to stay forever. All these small details and special treasures await if you remember the gaucho advice of slowing down and relaxing as you make your way through the cultural areas of Aysén.

Before these roads, movement within the

The expansion of roads, with the Carretera Austral as the central axis, changed everything. Today you can travel the region of Aysén from tip to tip in a little over a day, and laterally, from east to west in a little over 4 hours. People can access services more easily and the speed with which modernity has arrived has been amazing and a little overwhelming Today the majority of Ayséninos enjoy their wifi, their cellular, their cable, and their connectivity as much as anyone else. Nevertheless, while the pioneers of Aysén are no longer so isolated, they remain proud of their roots and traditions, they work tirelessly for their rights and the possibility to continue to grow without losing the natural paradise in which they live. This is a unique place and the people who call it home know how special it is; that’s one of the reasons for

INTRODUCTION

One of the things you’ll likely observe as you begin to travel through the region and talk to its people, is the “before and after” distinctions that are associated with the roads: in particular, the Carretera Austral or Southern Highway (Route 7) that runs north to south and various lateral roads that cross the region, east to west. And we are not talking about an “after” that began centuries ago; the “after” in Aysén began in earnest, just three or four decades ago. In many areas, the roads are literally brand new; in fact, there are many roads that are still under construction as we write.

Region was extremely difficult and slow. If a person needed to move their animals to market, go to the doctor or school, or even just go to the capital to handle some sort of paperwork with the regional government, they often ended up traveling for weeks! Getting to and from the ports and cities usually meant some combination of walking hours and days along rustic trails, horseback riding for weeks, taking a boat (always subject to weather conditions), crossing over to Argentina to access their roads, or taking a plane (if you had the resources). And of course, there was no formal food and lodging infrastructure for travelers; thus, out of necessity, a special and unique form of hospitality emerged in the Region of Aysén; an informal system based on the concept of mutual need and respect. Settlers throughout the region welcomed travelers into their houses and farms, always ready with a yerba mate, a bowl of soup and a place to sleep. And travelers didn’t arrive empty-handed. They were accustomed to bringing along additional cargo, special packages, long-awaited equipment, medicine, correspondence and news from the outside; all of the things that isolated families couldn’t wait to receive! The system strangely combined traveler services with rural mail delivery and it worked for the better part of 100 years. The heritage of this system is this reason that “hospitality” in Aysén is SO much more than an industry, it is tradition, part of our values, an important aspect of the concept of being “gaucho”. It is something that runs in our veins and a special part of our history and identity.

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the growing interest in the development of forms of tourism that enable Ayséninos to share their special places and people with you in a way that allows them to maintain their traditions and identity. Each year there are more professionals from the region obtaining training, certifications and skills so that they can assist you with your travels through the distinct areas and experiences we’ll describe in this guide.

Let’s start with the area of Palena Queulat, in the northern part of the Region, Here, you can hike the famous trails

of Queulat National Park, kayak down the Palena River, fly-fish in the Rosselot River and relax in the fabulous hot-springs near Puyuhuapi. All this, and much more awaits you in Palena - Queulat, an area of the region that is characterized by an incredibly diverse geography, which reaches from the fjords along the coast to the pampas to the east, and includes giant mountain peaks, rich fertile valleys, nearly impenetrable forests, volcanoes, glaciers and more water than you can ever imagine! This area was populated from the coastal areas toward the interior; settlers rowed up the Palena River in makeshift boats, loaded down with themselves, their animals, basic supplies and a lot of courage. They brought traditions and practices from their points of origin, Chiloe, Germany, Argentina and of course, from the central zone of Chile. When you visit you will enjoy the unique blend of these influences in their customs and stories and especially in their gastronomy: Asados al Palo (roasted lamb), cazuelas (stews), fish and seafood, pastas, artisan-crafted beers and cheeses and pastries, like küchen. Palena – Queulat offers visitors a great sample of the diversity of Aysén!

INTRODUCTION 18

uuPopulation

centers: La Junta, Raúl Marín Balmaceda, Lago Verde, Puyuhuapi, Villa Amengual, La Tapera

uuHighlights:

Includes a wide variety of ecosystems and geographies, with coastal areas, valleys and steppe. You can visit Queulat National Park, kayak rivers like the Palena or the fjord of Puyuhuapi, relax in hot springs, fish rivers and lakes such as Rosselot and Lago las Torres, walk along sandy beaches in Raúl Marín Balmaceda or learn about

gaucho traditions in the grasslands and steppe of Lago Verde, La Tapera and Alto Río Cisnes.

uuGeopolitical

Associations: The Palena – Queulat area includes parts of the comunas of Lago Verde and Cisnes.

The second area, Fjords and Channels, lies to the west of the region, extending from the archipelago of the Guaitecas to the north, to the archipelago of the Chonos to the south. This area differs

from the rest of the region, consisting of a tangled geography of islands, fjords and channels, and cultural traditions deeply rooted in the sea. Many of the islands of the fjords and channels of Aysén were first visited by nomadic canoe peoples, now extinct, who came in search of food and shelter. Modern-day villages have formed in a fairly haphazard fashion, with the arrival of semi-nomadic workers who came from Chiloe and other areas of Chile, in search of fish, timber and seafood, and eventually decided to settle. The archipelago of the Chonos was the last to be populated when workers arrived to exploit the existence of a type of mussels, called locos. They rapidly assembled makeshift buildings covered with nylon to protect themselves from the rain and cold and soon there were precarious plastic villages where families lived until they could finally stop their work long enough to erect proper communities with names, solidly constructed infrastructure and basic services. These last communities of the Fjords and Channels area were founded as recently as 1999!


(50,000+ persons), and Puerto Aysén (30,000+). Together, these two cities

Infrastructure in many of the islands is still very basic, and life is simple; people don’t depend on the internet or similar technologies, both energy and water are rationed, and stores carry the basics. Local culture remains strongly associated with the resources of the fjords, but little by little, communities are also beginning to think about tourism. The Fjords and Channels are ideal for sailing, seeing marine fauna, look for the treasures of long-gone pirates, and getting to know hundreds of fascinating local characters; fishermen, boat-builders and luche collectors (a local seaweed). Visitors are also sure to enjoy the rich gastronomy of the area, based on products from the sea.

uuPopulation

centers: Melinka, Repollal, Puerto Gala, Puerto Gaviota, Puerto Cisnes, Puerto Aguirre.

uuHighlights:

uuGeopolitical

Dimension: The Fjords and Channels area includes parts of the comunas of Las Guaitecas, Aysén and Cisnes.

Moving south through the region, the next cultural area is Aysén Simpson, home of the largest cities in the region: the capital, Coyhaique

The Aysén – Simpson area offers incredible nature; you can find National Reserves and immense estancias just a couple of kilometers outside the cities. Within their borders, you can trek amongst dense forests, fish in world-class rivers, see how sheep are sheered or come face to face with the Andean Condor.

uuPopulated Centers: Coyhaique, Puerto

Aysén, Villa Mañihuales, Puerto Chacabuco, Ñirehuao, Valle Simpson, Villa Frei, El Blanco, Balmaceda, Villa Ortega, El Gato, Villa de los Torreones, Coyhaique Alto.

uuHighlights:

The area reaches from the fjords in Puerto Chacabuco to the steppe of Coyhaique Alto, Balmaceda and Ñirehuao. Various areas have been heavily impacted by the fires of the

INTRODUCTION

The area is sprinkled with an infinite number of islands and islets; most covered with lush vegetation. You can navigate the waters to view marine wildlife such as birds, sea lions, dolphins and whales, visit trails that wind through evergreen forests, see archaeological sites and learn more about the lives and livelihoods of local artisans and small-scale fishermen.

represent more than 80% of the Region’s population and, while both are still relatively small, as cities go, they provide visitors with a more cosmopolitan experience where you can feel the pace of the city and its traffic, dine in gourmet restaurants, explore the nightlife, and find supermarkets, shopping, banking, public services and all kinds of modern technology. The Aysén – Simpson area offers an interesting balance of modern cosmopolitan culture and small-town, peace and quiet. The Patagonian culture is very much present; people share yerba mate in their homes and offices, you see berets, called boinas, as you walk down the street and many of the restaurants base their menus on local flavors and techniques.

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twentieth century; however, incredible nature still dominates. You can experience urban culture, fish world-class rivers like the Simpson or Paloma, kayak in Elizalde or Los Palos lakes, visit condoreras in Coyhaique Alto, enjoy the arts in Coyhaique, or pedal through valleys brimming with rivers and lagoons.

uuGeopolitical

Dimension: The Aysén – Simpson area includes parts of the comunas of Aysén and Coyhaique.

its dozens of glaciers (Northern Patagonia Ice Fields), the Cerro Castillo and Jeinimeni National Reserves and their amazing hiking trails, or the fertile micro-climates of Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez and Chile Chico, where fruit orchards, farms and greenhouses yield excellent produce, year round.

uuPopulation Centers: Villa Cerro Castil-

lo, Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez, Bahía Murta, Puerto Sánchez, Puerto Tranquilo, Chile Chico, Puerto Guadal.

Chelenko is a diverse geoContinuing south, the next cultural area uuHighlights: graphic area, dominated by the General is Chelenko, located around the shores Carrera Lake, the Northern Patagonia Ice Fields and the big mountains of the of the enormous General Carrera Cerro Castillo and Jeinimeni National Lake. This lake was formerly referred to as Reserves. The vegetation of the area Chelenko, which meant “turbulent waters” for the Tehuelche hunter – gatherers who once roamed these valleys and plains. In fact, this area is home to the greatest concentration of archaeological sites in the region, with cave paintings dating back more than eight thousand years. The area extends west to the Laguna San Rafael National Park and the islands nearby. Different economic activities have dominated this area during its history, including current activities like sheep and cattle ranching; mining, which boomed during the 1950s and 60s, when Aysén was the leading producer of lead and zinc in Chile; navigation, which was associated with both livestock and mining, especially before the construction of roads; and more recently, tourism, as the Chelenko area is home to many of the most visited sites in the region, including General Carrera Lake and its Marble Cathedrals, the San Rafael Lagoon National Park with

INTRODUCTION 20

changes from evergreen forests on the coast, to deciduous forests in the central area and steppe in the east. You can navigate to the marble formations near Puertos Bertrand and Sánchez, trek in Cerro Castillo, Jeinimeni and the San Rafael Lagoon, and visit dozens of glaciers, archaeological sites. In addition, enjoy artisans who celebrate these ancient cultures, horseback ride, or take part in one of the Heritage Festivals that celebrate the traditions of the gauchos.

uuGeopolitical Dimension: The Chelenko

area includes parts of the comunas of Río Ibáñez and Chile Chico.

The final cultural area, Baker O’Higgins, incorporates the southern reaches of the territory, starting with the Baker River to the north, extending west to the southern fjords and reaching south to giant O’Higgins Lake, the gateway for the Southern Patagonia Ice Fields. This area has a longstanding heritage of livestock ranching, with several large ranches, or estancias, in and around the Chacabuco Valley, Cochrane and Villa O’Higgins. Other sectors developed around forest resources, specifically the prized timber of the Guaitecas Cypress, exported from the ports of Caleta Tortel. Villa O’Higgins is the southernmost town of the Region, the end of the Carretera Austral and the gateway to the Southern Patagonia Ice Fields.


the Baker – O’Higgins area. Here, you can get up close and personal with the Patagonian Ice Fields, navigate the powerful Baker River and O’Higgins Lake, trek, or even summit, Mount San Lorenzo, walk across glaciers, or discover the details of an ambitious conservation project in Chacabuco Valley.

uuGeopolitical

Dimension: The Baker – O’Higgins area includes parts of the Chile Chico Comuna and the entire Capitan Prat Province.

This is our invitation: Roads arrived little more than a decade ago in most of this area, opening access to the stunning natural and cultural beauty of this area for visitors and changing the lives of residents in profound ways. You can visit the unique cypress architecture of Caleta Tortel, with its walkways and stairs, observe huemules within the Tamango National Reserve, navigate to the giant O’Higgins Glacier, trek in pristine wilderness like the area of Mount San Lorenzo, or take a “selfie” beside the sign marking the southern end of the mythical Carretera Austral.

uuPopulation Centers: Cochrane, Puerto

Bertrand, Villa O’Higgins, Caleta Tortel and the small hamlet of Puerto Yungay.

Five chapters, five cultural areas and more than a hundred experiences, which allow you to immerse yourself in the culture and nature of Patagonia in Aysén, traveling at a relaxed pace without spending all your time on buses, vehicles and ferries. You can explore a little bit of each of these areas, touring the Carretera Austral, or focus on a single cultural zone and have the opportunity to explore its many contrasts, hidden corners and details. In fact, you are invited to come and explore each of the five cultural zones of Aysén in depth; returning as many times that you want. But we have to warn you now; repeat visits have often converted travelers into new neighbors!

uuHighlights: Forests, crystalline turquoise

lakes, glaciers, rivers and grasslands, make up the complex geography of

INTRODUCTION 21


HOW TO GET TO THE REGION OF AYSÉN

Visitors often think it will be complicated to get to the Aysén Region, but it is actually quite simple. It’s important that you are clear about how much time you have available and where you want to go, since there are distinct ways to reach the different areas of the region and some are faster than others.

Quick and direct? Travel by plane. There are daily flights from Santiago and Puerto Montt to the Balmaceda Airport, located 57 km southeast of Coyhaique, more or less in the center of the region. You can reserve on-line at www.lan.com or www. skyairline.cl. Balmaceda’s airport is small but has all the important services including an ATM, rental car services (www.traeger.cl), a cafeteria, souvenirs and transfers to Coyhaique and Puerto Aysén. It takes approximately 50 minutes to travel from Balmaceda to Coyhaique via transfer (companies: www.transfervalencia.cl, www.tranytur. cl, Transfer Velasquez (067) 2250413) There are also regular daily flights via Aerocord (www.aerocord.cl), from the La Paloma airfield in Puerto Montt, to Melinka, and charter flights to La Junta, Raúl Marín Balmaceda, Puerto Aguirre and Chile Chico. The company uses Twin Otters (19 passengers) and Cessnas (5 to 9 passengers) within their fleet.

Do you want to bring your own vehicle or rent one here? No problem! Option 1: Over land, from Argentina

INTRODUCTION 22

One of the most popular overland options for getting to Aysén is through Argentina. Border crossings are open year round and operate from 08:00 to 20:00 during the winter months and from 08:00 to 22:00 hours in summer. You can inform yourself about policies and regulations on the following sites: www.pasosfronterizos.gov.cl, and www. difrol.cl. Here are the basics: Personal Background Reports (Salvocondutos): All Chileans and permanent residents who want to exit Chile and enter Argentina via one of the smaller border crossings where there are no PDI police presence must obtain a Personal Background Report, (salvoconducto), issued from the PDI offices

in Coyhaique within 48 hours of the crossing. Others only need to present their passports and Chilean tourist visas. International Insurance and Notarized Authorization: You must obtain mandatory international auto insurance that covers damage to third parties. You can do so by internet (Google “auto liability insurance Mercosur” for a number of alternatives). If you are using a rented car, each company has its own policy about taking cars outside the country. Be sure to check in advance! Normally, they will complete and process the paperwork, arrange for the insurance and apply a surcharge to your bill. Remember that your car must have its title up to date with the Chilean Registry of Motor Vehicles and if the vehicle is not yours (including rentals), you must have a notarized authorization providing permission for you to drive it and take it out of the country. Traveling with minors: If you are going to cross into Argentina with a minor, you’ll need notarized authorization from both parents. If the child is traveling with one parent, you will need notarized authorization from the other parent. It is a good idea to carry more than one original copy of this authorization, in the event that at the border, they retain one for their records.


Duty Control (Pasavante): If the vehicle you are driving originated in the Aysén or Magallanes Regions or from the Province of Palena and it was purchased under the Duty Free Program offered in these areas, you must have a duty control document (pasavante) to be able to remove the car from the area and drive it in the rest of the country or abroad. These documents can be arranged in the Customs office of the originating region; i.e. in Coyhaique for vehicles purchased in the region of Aysén. Border crossings include:

uuFutaleufú:

Located 10 km from Futaleufú, in the Lakes Region, 144 km from La Junta, and 56 km from Trevelin, Argentina. Gravel roads.

uuLas

Pampas - Lago Verde: Located in the town of Lago Verde, 76 km from La Junta, Aysén Region, and 30 kilometers from the town of Río Pico, Argentina. Gravel roads, river crossings.

uuRío

uuPampa Alta (Puesto Viejo): Located 35 km from Villa Ñirehuao, Aysén Region, and 60 km from Río Senguer, Argentina. Gravel roads.

uuCoyhaique

Alto: Located 50 kilometers from Coyhaique, Aysén Region, and 140 km from Río Mayo, Argentina. Paved and gravel roads.

uuTriana:

Located 37 kilometers from Coyhaique and 153 km of Río Mayo,

uuHuemules:

Located 10 km from Balmaceda, Aysén Region, and 150 km from Río Mayo, Argentina. Paved roads.

uuIngeniero

Ibáñez - Pallavicini: Located 20 km from Puerto Ibáñez, Aysén Region, and 100 km from Perito Moreno, Argentina. Gravel roads.

uuRío Jeinimeni: Located 3 km from Chile Chico, Aysén Region, and 63 kilometers from Perito Moreno, Argentina. Gravel roads.

uuRoballos:

Located 85 km from Cochrane, Aysén Region, and 90 km from Bajo Caracoles, Argentina. Gravel roads.

TRAVELERS’ TIPS If you want to drive the entirety of the Carretera Austral north to south, you should travel the overland bimodal route. Begin in the Lakes Region (Region de los Lagos), where you will travel overland, with 3 short ferry sections (Caleta La Arena to Caleta Puelche, Hornopiren to Leptepu Fjord and Largo Fjord to Caleta Gonzalo). You’ll access Aysén from the north, arriving from Futaleufú to La Junta, which is 266 km from Coyhaique. More information at: www. recorreAysén.cl/rutabimodal/.

INTRODUCTION

Frías - Appeleg: Located 50 km from La Tapera, Aysén Region, and 28 km from Village Apeleg Argentina. Gravel roads.

Argentina. Gravel road.

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uuRío

Mayer, North Shore: Located 20 km from Villa O’Higgins and 90 km from Tucu-Tucu , Argentina. Gravel roads.

uuRío

Mosco: Located 10 km from Villa O’Higgins and 100 kilometers from the Federica Estancia in Argentina. Back country trails and gravel roads.

uuLagos O’Higgins - San Martin: Located

50 km from Villa O’Higgins and 45 km from El Chalten, Argentina, this crossing is maritime and not apt for vehicles.

uuDos

Lagunas - Candelario Mansilla: Located 60 km from Villa O’Higgins and 35 km from El Chalten, Argentina. This crossing is accessed via ferry, crossing O’Higgins Lake, and habilitated for foot traffic. Bikes can be accommodated however, in some sections, it may be necessary to remove pedals and/or portage.

Option 2: Water Access There are several different options for maritime arrival to the Region of Aysén. Ferries leave from Puerto Montt (www.navimag. cl) and Chiloe (www.navieraustral.cl), with a final destination of Puerto Chacabuco, the main port of the Aysén Region. The route from Puerto Montt caters more to tourists, in contrast to the route from Chiloe which transports both cargo and passengers, thus, the boats are less tourist oriented. Trips require between 24 and 30 hours, and can vary, depending on the weather and water conditions.

INTRODUCTION 24

The Naviera Austral route also offers connections with intermediate points. They have boats that run from Puerto Montt and Chiloé to different ports within the Lakes Region, or the Region of Los Lagos (Castro, Quellón, Ayacara, Chaiten). From Chaiten

you can begin land travel along the Carretera Austral. They also offer the Ruta Cordillera (Mountain Route), with a duration of approximately 30 hours, traveling within the fjords of Aysén and stopping at different villages within the islands and along the coast. The route leaves from the Quellón Port, in Chiloe, and stops in ports in Melinka, Raúl Marín Balmaceda, Santo Domingo, Melimoyu, Puerto Gala, Puerto Cisnes, Puerto Gaviota (Caleta Amparo), Puerto Aguirre and Puerto Chacabuco. You can only offload cars in Quellón, Melinka, Chacabuco and Puerto Cisnes, where there are ramps enabled. Check for itineraries, prices, dates and availability at www.navieraustral.cl.


NOW THAT YOU’VE ARRIVED, HOW DO YOU GET AROUND?

Think of the roads of Aysén as a sort of skeleton and Route 7, the Carretera Austral, as the backbone for your travels. The Carretera Austral begins in the Lakes region in the city of Puerto Montt, and ends 1,240 km further south, in the Aysén Region, at the Bahamondes docks for O’Higgins Lake. It’s no surprise that the Carretera Austral has been featured in so many articles and documentaries, attracting explorers from all over the globe; this route is considered the most beautiful scenic route in Patagonia and among the top in the world. To explore it you’ll need to combine sections of pavement with others of gravel and even short ferry sections to cross some fjords and lakes. Along the route you’ll encounter small towns and villages, incredible natural areas and lots of interesting people. We are not exaggerating when we tell you that every meter of your journey along the Carretera Austral you will find something new and different to photograph, see, taste, smell and feel. On sunny days the light is brilliant and on rainy days, it seeps through the clouds producing amazing rainbows and a spectrum of colors. Forests, teeming with mosses and lichens, which fill the air with their smell of sweet, fresh earth. Lakes that seem to have no end, and astonish with their spectrum of turquoises, greens and blues. And tiny details like an Andean condor floating along the air currents, the fresh butter melting on your home-baked rolls at breakfast, or the friendly smile of a settler welcoming you.

Transverse and Scenic Routes:

Palena – Queulat Area: Heritage Route between La Junta and Raúl Marín Balmaceda: (X-12) - 73 Km, 100% gravel with a short ferry section. Highlights include: Palena River, Natural Hot Springs, Raúl Marín Balmaceda, Melimoyu Volcano. Take into account the hours for ferry crossings (from 8.30 to 12.00 and from 14.00 to

INTRODUCTION

It is all of these experiences that make the adventure of traveling the Carretera Austral the trip of a lifetime. And it IS an adventure; there are several stretches of road that are narrow, steep curves abound, and there is little signage. Between improvements and repairs, the Carretera Austral is permanently under construction, and at times, you will probably encounter delays. When you do, be patient and proceed with caution; remember the gaucho saying, “He who hurries, loses time”.

If the Carretera Austral is the backbone that runs north to south through Aysén, you can imagine the transverse and tourist routes running east to west as the veins and the arteries that join the pampas in the east, the mountains and valleys of the central zones and the fjords and channels of the Pacific in the west. The majority of these roads are unpaved, with complex curves and stretches; however, they are brimming with views, trails, rivers and homesteads, all waiting for you to explore.

25


17.30, Monday to Sunday). Fuel up in La Junta because there are no services along the route. Rivers and Pampas Route between La Junta and The Pampas - Lago Verde Border Crossing: (X-13) - 76 Km, 100% gravel. Highlights include: Río Palena, Lago Rosselot, Lago Verde (the town and the lake). Fuel up in La Junta because there are no services along the route. Scenic Road through the Mirta, Cuarto y Quinto Valleys: (X-11) - 30 Km, 100% gravel. Highlights include: the Mirta, Cuarto y Quinto Valleys, Aillapán Trail, and Lago Claro Solar. The route has a very narrow suspension bridge crossing over the Quinto River. Route to La Tapera and Alto Río Cisnes: (X-25) - 107 Km, 100% gravel. Highlights include: Río Cisnes, Villa La Tapera, Alto Río Cisnes, Río Frías – Appeleg Border Crossing. Fuel up in Puyuhuapi or Villa Mañihuales because there are no services along the route. Road to Puerto Cisnes: (X-24) - 34 Km, mixture of asphalt and gravel. Highlights include: Río Cisnes, Puerto Cisnes. You can refuel in Puerto Cisnes.

Aysén – Simpson Area: Road between Puerto Chacabuco and Balmaceda: (X-240, R-7, X-245) - 135 Km, 100% asphalt. Highlights include the Simpson River National Reserve, Puerto Aysén, Balmaceda Airport, and the Huemul Border Crossing.

INTRODUCTION 26

TRAVELERS’ TIPS When you travel in Aysén you need to carry plenty of Chilean pesos with you, because in most towns, vendors only accept cash. Foreign currencies and credit cards are only accepted in larger towns. There are ATM machines in Puerto Cisnes, Villa Mañihuales, Coyhaique, Balmaceda, Puerto Aysén, Cochrane, Chile Chico and northward in Futaleufu, Palena, and Chaitén. You can exchange currencies in Coyhaique. Road between Coyhaique and Coyhaique Alto: (X-243) - 49 Km, mixture of asphalt and gravel. Highlights include: the buildings of the SIA (Historical Monument), Dos Lagoons (Natural Monument), Coyhaique Alto Border Crossing. Roads to the lakes and inner sectors: There are several routes that can be explored, both physically and in a virtual way using Google Maps, which allows you to estimate the kilometers, get an idea of the terrain, and find out the names of the roads. Almost all of these roads are unpaved, curvy and steep, so drive with caution. They’re worth it! The landscapes, rivers and lakes are beautiful.

Chelenko Area:


Side route to the Ingeniero Ibáñez - Pallavicini Border Crossing: (X-65) - 49 Km, mixture of asphalt and gravel. Highlights include: General Carrera Lake, Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez, the ferry between Ibáñez and Chile Chico, and the Ingeniero Ibáñez - Pallavicini Border Crossing. The scenic route through Las Ardillas Sector: (X-723) - 39 Km, 100% gravel. Highlights include: Tamango Lake and Lagoon, Laparent Lake, Redonda Lagoon, Claro River, the Levican Peninsula, the Ibáñez Falls, Ibáñez River, and General Carrera Lake. Fuel up in Villa Cerro Castillo or Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez, because there are no services along the route. There are no gas stations in these towns; however, there are providers authorized to sell fuel from barrels. Look for signs in front of their establishments advertising sale of “combustibles”.

Scenic Route between Puerto Río Tranquilo and Bahía Exploradores: (X-728) - 74 Km, 100% gravel. Highlights include: the Exploradores Valley, River, Glacier and Bay, Deshielo River, La Nutria Waterfall, Bayo and Tranquilo Lakes. Fuel up in Puerto Río Tranquilo, because there are no services along the route.

Baker - O’Higgins Area:

INTRODUCTION

Side route to Bahía Murta & Puerto Sánchez: (X-731) - 57 Km, 100% gravel. Highlights include: General Carrera Lake, Bahía Murta, the Panichini Islands, and Puerto Sánchez. Fuel up in Bahía Murta because there are no services along the route. There are no gas stations in town; however, there are providers authorized to sell fuel from barrels. Take note that the first kilometers of this route, once you leave the town of Bahía Murta in route to Puerto Sánchez are for the adventurous only; it’s gravel, narrow, steep and windy, especially in the sector “the Candonga”, where you’ll find an intense S-Curve, with the lake far below on one side and a huge stone cliff wall towering above you on the other.

Road between Chile Chico and Puerto Guadal: (X-265) - 115 Km, 100% gravel. Highlights include: Puerto Guadal, Mallín Grande, General Carrera Lake, the Keys Pass, Bahia Jara Sector, and Chile Chico. Fuel up in Puerto Guadal or Chile Chico, because there are no services along the route. Drive with extreme caution in the sector of the Keys Pass (Paso las Llaves), where there are 90° curves and enormous precipices.

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Branch of the Carretera Austral that leads to the town of Caleta Tortel: (X-904) - 23 Km, 100% gravel. Highlights include: Baker River Delta and Caleta Tortel. Fuel up in Cochrane, because there are no services along the route. Scenic Route through the Chacabuco Valley to the Roballos Border Crossing: (X83) - 74 Km, 100% gravel. Highlights include: Valle Chacabuco, typical fauna like condors, guanacos, foxes and hares, the Entrada Baker Sector and the Roballos Border Crossing. Options for hiking and camping. Fuel up in Cochrane, because there are no services along the route. Route to the San Lorenzo Area and the Calluqueo Glacier: (X-900, X-903) - 40 Km, 100% gravel. Highlights include: San Lorenzo Cordillera and the Calluqueo Glacier. Options for hiking and camping. Fuel up in Cochrane, because there are no services along the route. Route toward the Jorge Montt Glacier area (under construction): (X-906) - 18 Km, 100% gravel. Highlights include: Cypress of the Guaitecas, lakes and rivers. Fuel up in Cochrane or Villa O’Higgins, because there are no services along the route. Route to the north shore of the Mayer River and its back-country Border Crossing (X-905) - 20 Km, 100% gravel. Highlights include: Mayer River, Estancia Las Margaritas, Father Ronchi’s community chapel, Christie Lake, Claro Lake and River, Pérez River, Mayer River Border Crossing. Fuel up in Cochrane or Villa O’Higgins, because there are no services along the route.

Added bonus! Ferries INTRODUCTION 28

As you travel through Patagonia and Aysén, you will find several areas where you will need to take ferries:

uuPalena

– Queulat Area: Road X-11, Crossing of the Palena River to get to the island of Raúl Marín Balmaceda, at Km 63 of the route between La Junta and Raúl Marín Balmaceda. Take into account the hours of the ferry crossing (from 8.30 to 12.00 and from 14.00 to 17.30 from Monday to Sunday). Free service.

uuChelenko

Area: Crossing of General

Carrera Lake between Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez and Chile Chico, aboard the Tehuelche. Optional Route with Cost. Information and schedules are available at: www.sotramin.cl.

uuBaker - O’Higgins Area: Mitchell Fjord

crossing between Puerto Yungay and Port Bravo aboard the Father Antonio Ronchi. Information and schedules are available at: www.barcazas.cl. Free service.

These crossings are all relatively short and allow you to experience the lakes and the fjords and take in a little fresh air. The crossing of General Carrera Lake is the longest trip (2 hours), but it is a good opportunity to rest and enjoy the scenery. There are lounges on board, where you can have a snack.

When it comes to driving.. As a general recommendation, always drive on the defensive and plan your route so that you have sufficient time to avoid unnecessary rushing. Why hurry if you are on vacation? Take into account that you are going to stop several times to take pictures or to admire the scenery and that the average speed on the roads is between 45 - 70 km/h, because they are curvy, gravel and narrow. Gravel becomes slick and unstable at high speeds, rain can form large puddles and it is impossible to gauge depth by simply looking, and washboards, created by erosion and traffic and cause vibrations that can lead to loss of vehicle control. Expect low levels of visibility in curved areas and that frequently, you will encounter animals in the route. To minimize risks, always travel with your vehicle’s lights lit and maintain proper distance from vehi-


cles in front of you, in order to avoid loose stones that can jump up and break windshields or mirrors.

Fuel and repairs A few considerations before you head out on the roads of Patagonia. Your car’s fuel performance will be less than normal along the Carretera Austral and given the road conditions, it is not unlikely to experience flat tires. The distances between gas stations and mechanics are extensive so it’s important to fuel up every time you have opportunity and consider carrying an extra fuel container if you can do so safely (containers should be metal and comply with all security measures). If you run out of gas you can try to buy enough to get to the next town from other travelers, in nearby farms or from the construction teams that are always on the roads. You should carry a hose with you for siphoning, if needed. In case of tire punctures, you should only attempt repairs in places where you and your vehicle will be visible to other vehicles. Turn off the engine, turn on the emergency flashers, and engage the emergency brake. Before traveling, verify that your vehicle has all the necessary elements for repairs, including a jack, lug wrench, spare tire, reflective triangles, a flashlight and a fire extinguisher. We suggest a practice session before leaving to make sure you know the proper steps. People in Patagonia are helpful but, not accustomed to running into others who are NOT used to these situations. Therefore, they don’t usually stop if you don’t wave them down. In the case of more serious mechanical situations, you will probably have to work with a mechanic in one of the larger towns, like La Junta, Coyhaique, Puerto Aysén, Chile Chico or Cochrane.

It’s the most economical alternative for touring the region and helps to reduce your carbon footprint; it’s also a good way to meet local people and forget the hassles of driving. Hypothetically, your biggest worry during the journey is to enjoy the landscapes. In reality, there’s a bit more worry to the process; spaces and frequencies are limited, so often, you end up spending a lot of time waiting around and since the first objective of public transport is to transport passengers and not

To move between the larger towns of the region, like La Junta, Cochrane, Puerto Cisnes, Coyhaique and Puerto Aysén buses can work well, as they run daily and there are several operators. Smaller towns can be a bit complicated because there are fewer options and you need to coordinate things well to get from one point to another. Definitely buy your tickets as soon as you arrive in the region, because trips fill up fast and you can end up waiting for days.

Biking the roads of Patagonia The Carretera Austral is a legendary route for bike-touring and the transversal routes provide interesting day routes and connectivity with Route 40 in Argentina. Between December and March it is common to see dozens of adventurers pedaling mountain bikes, tandems (for two people), recum-

INTRODUCTION

Public Transport

to provide options for sightseeing, you zoom past some of the best places so it is not the ideal choice if you want to concentrate on photography.

29


bents, and everything in between. Last year one young woman rode the entire length of the Carretera Austral by unicycle!!! Imagine. The first thing you need to know is that here there are no special lanes for cyclists and the sides of the road can be narrow or non-existent, so you’ll need quite a bit of dexterity to navigate the challenges of the roads: loose gravel, oncoming traffic, steep slopes and dust. Take all the necessary steps to increase your visibility using reflective clothing, flags, headlights, and taillights, among others. In most towns you can find basic supplies, but it’s not likely that you’ll find spare bike parts or people who know how to do repairs; always carry spare parts, tools and enough food for 1 or 2 days, because in isolated areas supplies are limited. Count on

the fact that the travel times are longer than expected and can vary greatly depending on the weather (wind and rain are important factors to consider), the conditions of the route, your physical condition and mechanical problems; basically your itinerary should be flexible and you should be prepared to be self-sufficient along the way. If possible, we recommend that you disassemble and reassemble your bike before the journey, so that you can familiarize yourself with all of the parts and their repair; thus, preparing for possible problems in the route

USEFUL INFORMATION »»Airlines with offices in Coyhaique: »»Bus Terminals in Coyhaique: • LAN Chile: General Parra 402 • Buses Águilas Patagónicas: (067) 2231188, www.lan.cl Sky Airline: Arturo Prat 203, (067) 2240827, www.skyairline. cl • Aerocord: General Parra 21, (067) 2246300; www.aerocord. cl »»Maritime Navigation:

INTRODUCTION 30

Naviera Austral: contacto@navieraustral.cl, www.navieraustral.cl. Offices: ·· Quellón - Pedro Montt 457; (065) 2682207 - 2682505 2682506; ·· Puerto Montt - Angelmó 1673; (065) 2270430 - 2270431 2270432; ·· Melinka - Waterfront Avenue s/n; (067) 2431510; ·· Puerto Cisnes - Arturo Prat 07; (09) 84482837; ·· Puerto Aguirre - Balmaceda No. 350; (067) 2361357; ·· Puerto Chacabuco - Ferry Terminal s/n; (067) 2351493; ·· Coyhaique - Paseo Horn 40 Of. 101; (067) 2210727.

• • • • •

Routes along the Carretera Austral; Office: Lautaro, corner with Magellan; (067) 2211288; www. aguilaspatagonicas.cl, contacto@aguilaspatagonicas.cl Buses Suray: Routes between Coyhaique, Puerto Aysén and Puerto Chacabuco; Office: Arturo Prat 265; (067) 2238387 Buses Don Carlos: Routes along the Carretera Austral; Office: Subteniente Cruz 63; (067) 2231981; info@doncarlos.cl Buses Ali: Routes between Coyhaique, Puerto Aysén and Puerto Chacabuco; Office: Dussen 283; (067) 2232350 Municipal Bus Terminal: Regional, National and Argentinean Routes; Office: Lautaro, corner with Magallanes; (09) 88291421 Buses Becker: Routes along the Carretera Austral; Office: General Parra 335 – Inside; (067) 2232167 - (09) 84652959; www. busesbecker.com; contacto@ busesbecker.com


A KEY DECISION - WHERE TO STAY?

Understanding the range of accommodations that exist in Patagonia can be a challenge, as there are options galore and sometimes the styles are quite difficult to pigeonhole. In general, you will find three types.

Let’s start off with the traditional This grouping includes a wide range of styles and services, such as hotels, boutique hotels, lodges, guest houses (often the same house of the owner), hostels, small inns, cottages and farm stays in establishments of agrotourism. Obviously, your choice will depend on your budget and your requirements in terms of services.

Next are cabins, a.k.a. cabañas, which are abundant in Aysén and very com-

Finally, there are campsites, hostels and sleeping shelters, which are almost

always located in or near natural areas and are a perfect alternative for people seeking to connect with nature in Patagonia. There are a great variety in the region, both in protected areas, and private sites; some are very basic and others offer excellent amenities and facilities. If you choose to camp you should carry the appropriate equipment for

this climate, including a wind-resistant, waterproof tent and a sleeping bag suitable for cold weather.

Book in advance! Each year there are more and more visitors coming to the Aysén region so we recommend you book in advance, especially if you’re traveling during the high season (December - April). In addition to the suggestions that we provide in this guide, you can check the following sites and resources for listings of services and providers. The following on-line resources provide information and tools for making advance reservations in Aysén: www.tripadvisor.cl, www.recorreAysén.cl, www.chileestuyo.cl, www. booking.com, www.campingchile.cl, www.cabanaschile.cl, www.interpatagonia.com, www.onchile.com, www.casadelturismorural.cl, and www.conaf.cl.

INTRODUCTION

fortable for the independent traveler as they are like staying in a small house, with one or more bedrooms, a space for cooking, bathroom(s) and a living area. They are designed for people who don’t want a lot of personal attention and who prefer to prepare their own meals, although some offer breakfast service. Cabins, or cabañas, as they are referred to in the region, are great money-savers, especially if one is traveling with a group.

TRAVELERS’ TIPS: The National Tourism Service (Sernatur) maintains a registry of accommodations, which you can find on their site, www.recorreAysén.cl.

Additionally, you can visit these sites and the tourist information offices of Sernatur:

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Palena – Queulat Area:

to Gala Isla Toto; Puerto Gaviota XI Región; Turismo Marinero Comuna de Cisnes.

On-line Resources: www.camaralajunta. cl, www.puertopuyuhuapi.cl, www.lagoverdeAysén.cl and on Facebook: Huella de los Troperos (Lago Verde); Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda.; Fomento Productivo La Junta.

SERNATUR TOURIST INFORMATION OFFICES:

SERNATUR TOURIST INFORMATION OFFICES:

Cisnes - on one side of the Main Plaza, near the library; December - March. Contact: (09) 88828752; informacionturistica.cisnes@gmail. com

uuLa Junta - on one side of the Main Pla-

za; December - March. Contact: (09) 73779231; informacionturistica.lajunta@gmail.com

uuLago Verde - on one side of the Main

Plaza; December - March. Contact: (09) 81537538; informacionturistica.puyuhuapi@gmail.com

uuRaúl

Marín Balmaceda - on one side of the Main Plaza; December - March. Contact: (09) 79636241; informacionturistica.raulmarin@gmail.com

Fjords & Channels Area: On-line Resources: www.turismocisnespatagonia.cl, www.municipalidadcisnes. cl, www.muniguaitecas.cl, www.islashuichas.cl and on Facebook: Cámara de Comercio y Turismo de Puerto Cisnes; Puer-

INTRODUCTION 32

uuMelinka - Airfield; December - March. Contact: (09) 57221639; informacionturistica.melinka@gmail.com

uuPuerto

Aysén – Simpson Area: On-line Resources: www.puertoAysén.cl, www.coyhaique.cl/portalturismo/; www. Aysénpatagonia.cl, www.camaracoyhaique.cl; www.serviturpatagonia.cl and on Facebook: Cámara De Turismo Coyhaique AG; camaracoyhaique; Casa Del Turismo Rural Aysén; Reserva Nacional Coyhaique. OFICINAS DE INFORMACIÓN TURÍSTICA DE SERNATUR:

uuBalmaceda - Baggage claim area; all year

round. Contact: (09) 75297144; informacionturistica.balmaceda@gmail. com

uuCoyhaique

- on one side of the Main


Plaza, across from the Artisan area; all year round. Contact: (09) 98101595; infoturistica.coyhaique@gmail.com

uuCoyhaique – Corner of Freire and Prat;

all year round. Contact: (09) 84549793; informacionturistica.coyhaique@ gmail.com

uuCoyhaique

- Bulnes Street No. 35; all year round. Contact: (067) 2240290 - 2240298; infoAysén@sernatur.cl; ffigueroa@sernatur.cl

uuMañihuales

– Offices of the Municipal Delegation; December - March. Contact: (09) 89779530; informacionturistica.manihuales@gmail.com

uuPuerto

Aysén - Municipal Office of Tourism, Cerro Mirador; December March. Contact: (09) 99945551; informacionturistica.Aysén@gmail.com

uuPuerto

Río Tranquilo – Waterfront parking lot, December - March. Contact: (09) 91539021; informacion.tranquilo@gmail.com

uuVilla

Cerro Castillo – In the entry to town, beside the Radio Station; December - March. Contact: (09) 56053272; informacionturistic a .cc a stillo @ gmail.com

Baker - O’Higgins Area: On-line Resources: www.cochranepatagonia.cl, www.municipalidadohiggins.cl, www.visitetortel.cl, www.cochranepatagonia.cl; www.conservacionpatagonica. org and on Facebook: Provincia de los Glaciares; Reserva Nacional Tamango; Conservación Patagónica. SERNATUR TOURIST INFORMATION OFFICES:

Chelenko Area:

uuCaleta

On-line Resources: www.rioIbáñez.cl, www.chilechico.cl; www.puerto-guadal. com; www.turismobertrand.cl and on Facebook: Reserva Nacional Jeinimeni.

uuCochrane

uuChile

Chico – Sernatur offices, opposite the Plaza de Arms; all year round. Contact: (067) 2411303; informacion-turistica.chilechico@gmail.com

uuPuerto Ingeniero Ibáñez - Waterfront,

Shopping Center; December - March. Contact: (09) 99567722; informacionturistica.ibáñez@gmail.com

- on one side of the Main Plaza; December - March. Contact: (09) 76498385; informacionturistica.cochrane@gmail.com

uuVilla

O’Higgins - on one side of the Main Plaza; December - March. Contact: (09) 66217026; informacionturistica.ohiggins@gmail.com

INTRODUCTION

SERNATUR TOURIST INFORMATION OFFICES:

Tortel – Parking Lot; December - March. Contact: (09) 93026696; informacionturistica.tortel@gmail. com

33


DISCOVER THE FLAVORS OF THE PATAGONIA

As you travel through the Aysén Region you will have many opportunities to explore the gastronomic traditions and innovations of Patagonia.

What to eat? You will find restaurants with gourmet and international cuisine, especially in the lodges and large hotels across the region. Many of them have incorporated local elements into their preparations, such as lamb, trout, salmon, calafate, nalca and rhubarb. Look for must-try’s like lamb ravioli with a wine sauce or a brownie served with calafate ice cream!

INTRODUCTION 34

You’ll also have the chance to eat in local “picadas”, the Chilean word for restaurants where the food is plentiful, the prices are more affordable and, in general, homemade and traditional fare is served. These are the places to enjoy traditional dishes like cazuela (homemade stews), fried fish, milanesa, giant sandwiches, or a steak “a lo pobre” (beef topped with french fries, sautéed onions, and fried egg), among hundreds of other elections. You can find great picadas throughout the region and should also look for great house specialties in the inns of the region; delicacies like cazuela of chicken and polenta or lamb with luche, or also, homemade meatballs. In fact, within this guide we’ll

share several of these traditional recipes so you can prepare them yourself when you’re staying in cabins or after you return home. Beef and lamb are some of the most frequently consumed foods in Patagonia, especially in rural areas. Don’t miss the experience of attending a Patagonia Asado al Palo, which involves lamb, beef or in some cases, fish, slow-roasted on the stake, in the coals of a campfire or barbecue pit. This is the typical dish for parties, family get-togethers and heritage festivals; it’s even on the menu at some restaurants; but, you’ll want to arrive in advance to be around during the fun of the barbecue process. An asado al palo is much more than a meal, it is an occasion and a great feast. The lamb is never served solo, it’s accompanied by tortas fritas (fried breads), pebre sauce, potatoes, a variety of salads and red wine. You’ll encounter delicious, regional beef throughout almost the entire region, but many say that the best is in Bahía Murta, a village along the Shore of General Carrera Lake, where you’ll find the perfect cut for


your grill. And for fresh fish like merluza (hake), sea bass (congrio) or even sierra, head to the communities along the coast. If you time your travels just right, you can join in with the community of Puerto Cisnes as they celebrate their annual “Fiesta del pesca’o frito” (Fried fish festival), where the main dish is, you guessed it, fried merluza. You can also opt for a myriad of fantastic dishes prepared with shellfish, like mussels, clams, crab claws and locos, but we suggest you only partake in these plates in well-established restaurants; red tide (marea roja) is a problem in the area and you want to be sure not to eat bad shellfish.

If meat is not your “thing” and you’re looking for fruits, vegetables, or fresh dairy, check out the region’s farmer’s markets, greenhouses, and local farms, especially in La Junta (Palena – Queulat Area), Coyhaique (Aysén – Simpson Area) Puerto Ibáñez, and Chile Chico (Chelenko Area), and Cochrane (Baker – O’Higgins Area). All summer, you’ll be amazed by the selection of fresh and delicious vegetables, fruits, farm eggs and cheeses of the region; all at great prices. Don’t miss the cherries from Chile Chico; so renowned they are exported to gourmet shops in Europe and Asia.

INTRODUCTION 35


What to drink? Well, first let’s start with yerba mate, the traditional brew of Patagonia, which gives you energy and a great excuse to sit down and converse for a while. You’ll find folks drinking rounds of yerba mate all over the region, and it’s a pretty safe bet that at some point they’ll invite you to join in. If you become a fan, you’ll want to look for a kilo of yerba mate, a traditional gourd and a bombilla, to carry with you and take home as a souvenir.

INTRODUCTION 36

Also, don’t forget to try the growing number of artisan beers being brewed throughout the region, all exquisite and made with 100% pure water of Patagonia. That’s their secret and well, actually, the key to almost all the regional gastronomy, freshness, purity, high levels of organic growing and low levels of pollution; it’s the perfect combination for delivering unique tastes, special ingredients and great meals. Check it out for yourself!


TIPS FOR A SAFE JOURNEY

Patagonia is beautiful, there’s no other place like it in the world. Nevertheless, such pure, raw nature can be really challenging! Some people consider these challenges as problems and others welcome the unique opportunity to depend on their own preparation and skills. The trick is “self-sufficiency” and to begin, here are some useful tips.

The first tip to remember, is that all travel in remote areas requires a positive attitude toward the unexpected and a great capacity for adaptation and improvisation. We don’t want to scare

you, but we also don’t want to minimize the dangers, risks and accidents that you can be exposed to in the Patagonia. There are

always dangers that are inherent in nature, like strong gusts of wind, or ice on the road. Whether those dangers are converted into risks or accidents depends on you, your knowledge and your actions. And to prepare, you should inform yourself well and have a plan for the prevention and management of risk. That is to say ...The success of your trip will be the result of your preparations at home! Having an understanding of the terrain, distances, and weather conditions, among other things, will allow you to choose the appropriate tents to carry, what type of vehicle to use, what your backpack and your safety kit contain, how to dress for activities, and what food to carry with you. In addition to informing yourself, we suggest you develop a protocol for obtaining professional assistance in the event of serious accidents, including having insurance and arranging communication mechanisms, knowing first-aid, planning in case you need an evacuation, repatriation and/or medical care. Remember to share your travel plans with friends and authorities, detailing your date of entry and exit and the places you plan to visit.

Get ready for the climate of Patagonia

INTRODUCTION

In Aysén, you’ll encounter many places where nature remains pure and there are little man-made structures to alter your experience. Here, you can learn how to face the daily challenges of living in an extreme landscape, full of enormous mountains, waters and weather. You’re going to be confronted with a complex climate, constantly and suddenly changing; here, you can experience all 4 seasons of the year in a single day! Outside the main cities, the level of development and infrastructure are basic; both on the roads and in the smaller towns and villages. You’ll want to prepare to be in a place where the roads can be in poor condition, where gas stations are few and far between, where medical centers are scarce and communications (telephone and internet) are only available in the villages and not on the roads between them.

37


One of the most intense aspects of spending time in Patagonia is its climate, which is always changing and unpredictable. You can visit the same place 10 or 20 times and on each occasion, we assure you that the weather will always will be different; producing contrasts that nature photographer’s dream of - the constant movement of clouds projects distinct intensities of light, and the skies can vary

roam, the infrastructure and services will be basic. Always carry water and enough food for you and your group, because you won’t find restaurants or stores open 24 hours a day, like in the larger cities. Also, you need to have a basic knowledge of mechanics for the vehicle that you are going to use, including knowing of how to change a tire, jump a battery with another vehicle, or be able to change the chain on your bicycle. between intense blues filled with sun, to dark brooding greys or a mixture of everything, with incredibly vivid rainbows. Wind, rain or shine; sometimes, all at once!

INTRODUCTION

Although experiencing all four seasons is exciting and adds a constantly changing and undeniable beauty to the landscapes, you must be prepared to be able to enjoy it. For trekking and other adventure sports, you should dress with layers of technical clothing that you can remove or add with ease, according to the climatic conditions. Specialists recommend three layers: a first layer that is quick-drying and can wick away moisture, a second fleece layer to add warmth, and a third impervious layer that protects from humidity, wind and rain. These three layers must keep your body dry, including from sweat, so you should use fabrics that are fast-drying and breathable. No cotton or plastic. You’ll also need a hat for the cold and the sun, gloves, sunglasses and sunscreen.

Self-sufficiency should be your guiding philosophy 38

To ensure a fun experience and a comfortable and safe journey through Aysén and Patagonia, you need to adopt a philosophy of self-sufficiency, assuming that wherever you

If you are going to tour in more remote areas within the region and you do not plan to travel with a professional guide (recommended), it is important that at least one member of the group is trained and prepared to help with:

uuBasic survival (find or make a safe hav-

en, to make a fire, find water, directed, etc.)

uuFirst aid (Recognition and treatment of

conditions that can be life-threatening like hemorrhages, hypothermia, heat stroke, choking, anaphylaxis, etc.) and


an activity, when weather conditions do not allow for its realization. Always plan your trip and share your route and plans with protected area or local authorities and a family member or friend at home, especially if you’re staying in the back-country for several days without an opportunity to make contact. Carry equipment appropriate for the activity and area, including topographic maps, a GPS, personal equipment, food and emergency kits.

the ability to deal with minor injuries and inconveniences during the trip, such as cuts, stings from mosquitoes, blisters and sunburn, among others.

Safe Adventures Experts frequently say that 99% of the accidents that occur in nature are a result of humans and not the environment. As you would expect, there are always dangers, so it’s up to you to prevent them from becoming accidents and if they do, to manage them so they are less severe. Here are some tips:

When you are hiking The trekking season extends year round in most areas of Patagonia, although safe hiking depends on weather conditions, wind and the amount of snow fall. We recommend that you review trail conditions, river courses and camp areas, with the rangers before you begin each trek. In Patagonia, you must be willing to modify itineraries or suspend

The number of daylight-hours vary significantly in these latitudes and should be an important planning consideration. In winter you can have 8 hours of light and in the middle of summer, approximately 18 hours. If you are going to be hiking with children:

uuIf you’re with children between 2 and 4

years old, you need to rest every 10 or 15 minutes and not hike for more than 3 km.

uuIf you’re with children between 5 and 7 years old, you should hike for no more than 5 to 7 km, and rest every 30 to 45 minutes.

uuWith children between 8 and 10 years old, don’t hike for more than 13 km per day and rest at least every hour.

uuChildren

should put on their warm layer (second layer) before adults because they lose their body heat faster. A woolen cap is essential for children because 20% of body heat is lost through the head.

uuFinally,

remember that if children are going to carry a backpack, the weight must not exceed 20% of their total body weight.

Aysén is synonymous with water: rivers, streams, lakes, lagoons, waterfalls, ice fields and fjords. This incredible combination offers the unique setting for unforgettable experiences. However, with all water-based activities, there are dangers that could negatively affect your trip. It’s important to study, plan and be prepared.

INTRODUCTION

Water-based Activities

SOME RECOMMENDATIONS:

uuAlways

carries the appropriate technical and safety equipment for the activ-

39


pectations for the tour. Before starting you should discuss these aspects of the group as well as the route, the order of the horses and riders and the speed of the group.

uuThe distance between riders is an im-

portant variable when horseback riding in a group. The general rule is to maintain a distance of at least one horse length between riders, and, two or three horses when riding in steep areas.

uuIt is not unusual to find obstacles in the ity, the place, the waters and the changing climate of Patagonia, including dry clothes in sealed bags.

uuAlways

have the supplies and knowledge for basic survival and first-aid, on hand.

uuWhen

you cross rivers and streams, either on foot, on horse or with your bike, never do it alone. Use walking sticks or hiking poles to assist you while you’re crossing and, preferably, cross with your group in single file, holding the person in front of you by their backpack or back. Remove socks and the insoles of boots or shoes, but do not cross barefoot. Loosen the straps and belts of your backpack, so that if you slip, it can be easily removed.

uuNever swim, fish or kayak alone. When

kayaking, identify places where you could take-out if needed, stay close to the shore, and always paddle accompanied by an experienced paddler.

Horseback Riding INTRODUCTION

Including a horseback ride on your trip through Aysén is a MUST and will definitely help you imagine the life of the true gauchos and explorers who first mapped these territories. We suggest you ride with experienced guides and outfitters, companies with good knowledge of horses, leading riders and the routes you’ll be taking. SOME RECOMMENDATIONS:

uuWhen riding in a group you should be 40

aware that riders will have a range of levels of experience and different ex-

trail; low or fallen branches, rocky crags and outcroppings or narrow openings. Logically, your horse is not considering the added height of having you on his back, and does not measure his steps with you in mind; therefore, you will need to always be aware and able to guide your horse, including being able to stop the horse if necessary.

uuWear a helmet, even if your guide does not.

uuBridges can present a danger, especial-

ly older wooden bridges. After a rain shower they tend to be slippery, so you should cross with caution and follow the instructions of your guide.

uuWhen riding along roads, be aware of

the likelihood of encountering vehicles, animals and/or people. Only pass or change the order of the horses in wide, straightaways, where you are sure that there is no possible obstacle.

uuIf

you must cross a river, the guide should take charge of the group, indicating the place to cross and the order


of the horses. When crossing, loosen the reins slightly. Never ride a horse in water where it cannot maintain contact with the bottom and needs to swim.

your coordinates. Record the maximum amount of information possible so that support services can find you with ease.

the gravel roads of AysĂŠn, generally, you can flag down the first vehicle that passes to ask for help. It is important to know your distance in relation to the closest town or farm; is more efficient to keep going or retrace your route? Make sure that the position of the vehicle does not represent a danger to yourself or other travelers. In case of tire punctures, you should only attempt repairs in places where you and your vehicle will be visible to other vehicles. Turn off the engine, turn on the emergency flashers, engage the emergency brake and secure the other tires with rocks or branches. Make sure that the jack is firm. If you run out of gas you can try to buy enough to get to the next town from other travelers, in nearby farms or from the construction teams that are always on the roads. You should carry a hose with you for siphoning, if needed. In the case of more serious mechanical situations, you will probably have to work with a mechanic and/or the police in one of the larger towns, like La Junta, Coyhaique, Puerto AysĂŠn, Chile Chico or Cochrane. You must evaluate the options and decide whether it is better to stay with the vehicle, or leave it and walk in search of help. This will depend on the seriousness of the situation, the climatic conditions, the mood of the group and the distance/time to reach the assistance. In the event of an accident with other vehicles or people it is essential that you file an official report with the police (carabineros). This is a requirement for all insurance policies.

will differ from group to group, according to your specific plans and means of transport.

Proper equipment and tools are imWhat do you do in case of mechanical portant when a problem arises. We problems or minor accidents? recommend that you prepare kits to When you have mechanical problems along assist your problem solving. Kit contents

Make sure you have a plan and protocol for the management of severe accidents, before traveling. If there is no other option, you can get professional help via UHF radio, many of the rural farmhouses have this equipment and can help you. It is important to know the precise location of your vehicle, therefore, looking for kilometer markers or bridge names nearby and if you have a GPS, record

uuBiosecurity

& Personal Protection Supplies: Disposable gloves, plastic bags, lighter or matches, note pad and pencil, flashlight and batteries, wet hand-wipes, first-aid manual, rounded scissors or Swiss army knife.

uuCleaning

Supplies: Clean water (preferably sterile and distilled), liquid soap, sterile sponges, and gauze bandages. It also may come in handy to have tweezers to remove stones or superficial thorns from injuries.

uuTreatment

Supplies: Povidone iodine (liquid or foam), silver sulfadine cream and furazolidone, sterile gauze bandages, compresses, (2 to 3 cm wide) and micropore, adhesive bandages, cotton applicator.

uuProtection

and Immobilization Supplies: Elastic, rigid and triangular bandages to immobilize specific areas, such as the neck or an arm. Immobilizing materials can also be improvised, utilizing sleeping pads, pencils, tools, paper

INTRODUCTION

What do you do in case of serious accidents?

EXAMPLES OF THE CONTENTS FOR A FIRST-AID KIT:

41


rolls, etc.

uuOther:

Any prescription medications taken by travelers in your group, common medicines for head-aches, fever, colds, flu and diarrhea, after-sun lotion for sun burns, re hydration salts or ionized water for dehydration, moleskin for blisters, note paper and a pen, and duct tape.

EXAMPLES OF THE CONTENTS FOR A SPARE PARTS KIT:

uuFor

motorized vehicles: a Jack for changing tires, lug wrench, spare tire, fire extinguisher, air pump, 20 L spare fuel tank, jumper cables, spark-plugs, fuses, and tools to change them, motor oil, set of warning triangles, regular and slip-joint pliers, flat and Phillips-head screwdrivers, flashlight and batteries, socket-wrench set, sizes 9 - 24, water container, duct tape and thin wire.

uuFor bicycles: 2 inner tubes for each bike

and wheel size, a spare tire for each bike and wheel size, patch kit and glue, spare chain, full set of ball bearings, full set of cables, spokes, chain rivets, wrench set according to sizes, chain breaker, regular pliers and slip-joint pliers, adjustable spanner and Allen key set, straps to secure the luggage, bolt, screw-bolt and screws, oil and WD-40, duct tape and thin wire, pump, flashlight and batteries, and brake pads.

EXAMPLES OF THE CONTENTS FOR A SURVIVAL KIT: A plastic tarp, spare sleeping bag, container for collecting water, spare sleeping pad, lighter and matches, spare tent, flashlight and batteries, spare portable stove, 15 m (50’) cord, spare pot, white gas, food supply for a complete day for the group, pocket-knife, duct tape, and large plastic trash bags.

Communications in the region Almost all towns have cell phone coverage and internet, but in between villages and in remote areas there is no signal. FOR MAKING CALLS, REMEMBER:

uuChile’s Country Code: +56. uuCalling from a cell phone to a land line: 0 + area code (67) + telephone number (7 digits)

uuCalling from a land line to a cellular: 09 + phone number (8 digits)

uuCalling

from one land line to another land line telephone: Just dial the telephone number.

WHO DO YOU CALL IN THE EVENT OF AN EMERGENCY?:

uu133 Emergency police (Carabineros) uu131 Ambulance uu132 Firefighters uu134 Police Investigations (PDI) uuONEMI (National Emergency Service): (067) 2215665 or (02) 24018675

uuFarm INTRODUCTION 42

houses, road construction and repair teams, border posts, emergency services and the municipalities all communicate through UHF and VHF radios. The best emergency service to call via radio in case of emergency in Chile is ONEMI, whose call sign is called “echo eleven”. They are staffed 24 hours a day.


PALENA - QUEULAT CULTURAL AREA


Travels through the Palena - Queulat Area - Aysén Region, Chile EXPENSES PER PERSON

18 DAYS 17 NIGHTS

5 TRAVELERS

(MYSELF AND 4 FRIENDS)

$3,206 USD

Details of my expenses: Transportation = $2,065 (Flights, Ferries, Vehicles); Accommodations and Food = $935 ($55/per day), Excursions and Souvenirs = $316

Ever since I saw a television program on the Carretera Austral, in the south of Chile, the idea of exploring it became almost an obsession. There was no question, I had to go! I started practicing up on my Spanish, saved money for a few years, sold my old car, and essentially became a travel agent to convince my friends to accompany me to Aysén, one of the lesser known areas of Patagonia. And here we are! We’ve traveled halfway around the world with our backpacks, cameras and bicycles, and now we’re ready to travel and explore.

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There are several options for getting into and out of the Palena - Queulat area and the northern part of the Aysén region. While it all seemed a little overwhelming at first, it was really quite easy: 1) Fly to Puerto Montt, rent a car, ferry to Chaitén by boat (www.navieraustral. cl), and continue south along the Carretera Austral. It’s simple, but you definitely need to make reservations for the ferry in advance. 2) Rent a car in Santiago (or Puerto Montt) and drive down; you can drive through Chile and then take a ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Cisnes or cross into Argentina and travel south along Route 40 and cross back into Chile in Futaleufu. You could also choose to go a bit further south and take one of two other small border crossings (Lago Verde y Río Frías). They are both 100% adventure if you like 4-wheeling and off-road, but it’s not always possible to cross in these sections because it depends on the road conditions and the river levels. If you do choose to go through Argentina, make sure you have international permits and insurance coverage for your vehicle. 3) The third option is to fly to Coyhaique, rent a car and travel back north to the Palena - Queulat area, returning your car to Balmaceda when you fly out.


Days 1 – 2: The long journey to the start of the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway) Taking into account our finances, personal preferences and time constraints, we decided to rent a 4x4 truck in the Puerto Montt airport and take the boat to Chaitén so we could start in La Junta. At the end of our trip we would return to Puerto Montt through Argentina. We rented a Toyota Hilux with unlimited kilometers for $2,820.00 and spent $470.00 on ferries, $100.00 on international insurance and $1,000.00 in gas and repairs (flat tire). Divided among 5, it was only $865.00 dollars p/p + flights to Puerto Montt, which we found for $1,200.00 p/p from Miami. One important tip: to receive a reasonable price for your rental, the drivers need to be at least 28 years old; otherwise, the price will double! The ferry left at midnight and arrived a little after 08:00 in the morning. We didn’t sleep much, but woke ourselves up with a great breakfast in Chaitén. Normally, it should only take around five and a half hours to get to Chaitén, but we stopped so many times to take photos that it took us a little more than seven hours. The route was just so beautiful! We meandered through landscapes filled with lakes and rivers and surrounded by incredible ancient forests. We stopped in Futaleufu for a sandwich, dying to go rafting in its marvelous river, but decided to leave it for the next trip and continue. When we arrived in La Junta, we opted to stay in a cabin (Cabanas Mi Ruca – they’re on Facebook) to have the opportunity to cook for ourselves and leave all of our equipment in a safe place while we explored the area for a few days. Of course, having said we wanted to cook, we were all really tired after planes and boats and the Carretera Austral and no one had much energy. I was personally so tired, that I crawled into bed and didn’t even wake up for the ready-made soup Caroline prepared. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Day 3: Our first day in Aysén - La Junta

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We awoke early to warm temperatures and a soft rain, exquisite for hiking. After a simple conversation with the owner of the cabins that involved a strange mix of Spanglish and hand gestures, we were able to understand her recommendation that we hike the Sendero de Montaña trail, located directly in front of town and leading to an overlook. The ascent wasn’t difficult and it was absolutely worth it! The sun came out just as we arrived at the top, giving us a clear view of the horizon. We could see the Palena and Rosselot Rivers, the Barros Arana mountain range, the Melimoyu Volcano and of course, the town of La Junta, which we explored the rest of the day. It’s small and quaint with lots of quirky little stores to kept us interested. We discovered the Greenhouses of Don Fito, where you can buy all kinds of fresh veggies and fruits – awesome! We practiced more Spanish with him and were rewarded in the afternoon when we found another wonder, the terrace at the Espacio y Tiempo Hotel (www.espacioytiempo.cl). How to describe it – the patio is beautiful with big tables

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crafted of native woods, comfy chairs and a clear roof that protects you from the rain but lets you feel immersed in the surroundings; the plants of the Patagonian rain forest; ferns and nalca and lots of trees. We sat down to relax and listen to the sound of the Patagonian forest, while we enjoyed an artisan beer called Kawiñ, made nearby. The brewer was actually in the hotel that night and after a few of his brews, we were able to understand his explanation that Kawiñ means a “festive gathering” in the language of the Mapuches; that’s precisely what we had: a fantastic happy hour complemented by remarkable stories from our new friends, the owners of the hotel, Alan Vásquez and Connie Palacios.

Days 4 – 5: Adventure in the Mirta, Cuarto and Quinto Valleys

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We awoke to a beautiful sunny day, so we decided now was the time to bring out the bikes and start our adventures on “two wheels” through the Mirta, Cuarto and Quinto valleys. Before leaving, we bought supplies downtown, at the weekly Fair of the Women’s Agricultural Club of the Valleys. Speaking with some of the woman who bring their fresh vegetables to the fair, (they were very patient with us and our basic Spanish), we learned that they live and farm in the valleys we were planning to visit and we promised to try and visit during our exploration. The expedition was impressive! Nature surrounded us with rivers and forests everywhere, and we had incredible views of the Barros Arana range. We stopped to eat lunch at the Aillapán farm and decided to stay and camp there to have time to hike the trail to Aillapán Glacier. The trek was long, and a little bit hard to do with only the afternoon, but we all agreed it was an excellent decision. After four intense hours of hiking we arrived at the base of a towering hanging glacier, and best of all, we could enter an ice cave. The colors and formations of the ice were awesome! Upon returning to camp, we slid into our sleeping bags and slept like babies! In the morning we sipped mate with Señora Yohana at the farm and before parting ways with her, we bought fresh-baked bread and marmalade. Then, we continued along our way. We had a picnic along the shores of Claro Solar Lake and returned to La Junta in the afternoon. It was a great experience that I recommend to everyone. One of the things we left pending and that I would have liked to have done, was to take the side road to the Cuarto and Quinto valleys, but maybe I will return in the future and attend the Festival of the Valleys that they hold each year on the first weekend of February.

Days 6 – 7: Route X-12 to the West, and the beaches of Raúl Marín Balmaceda The landscapes of the Palena River are so beautiful we decided to take extra time exploring the area between La Junta and Raúl Marín Balmaceda. Seeing a sign in town provided us with the inspiration to begin the trip kayaking the Palena! Well, at least a part of the river, from La Junta to the rural inn, Mirador del Río (www.miradordelrio.cl), owned by


Señora Francisca Solis. We arranged rental in town, from a company called Yagan Expeditions (in Facebook). In the afternoon, after thoroughly enjoying Señora Francisca’s specialty, “Cazuela de Cordero con Luche”, (a stew made of lamb and vegetables and a special seaweed that they find in the fjords here), the folks from Yagan showed up with our truck and our stuff and recovered their kayaks. Then, Francisca’s son, Ruben Gallardo, the owner of Entre Aguas (also on Facebook) took us to the river yet again for an excellent afternoon of fly-fishing. I didn’t catch a thing, but my Spanish was slowly improving and my friend, Caroline, had much better luck, catching two different trout, at least 3 kilos each. Ruben surprised us all when he brought in a salmon almost weighing 15 kilos. No lie!!! The following day we continued toward Raul Marin along the road, but we detoured to visit the thermal baths of El Sauce (after all, there’s always time for a little pampering, right?). Ruben told us about them and they are incredible; super rustic and natural, set in the middle of the forest. And, they are so, so, so relaxing, that for a minute I thought it would be impossible to leave. But we harnessed our will power because we wanted to spend the night in Raúl Marín. We arrived at the ramp just in time to catch the last ferry that crosses River Palena before lunch. In just 5 minutes and 2 km we were in Raúl Marín, a tiny beach town with sand-covered roads and a small collection of homes and businesses. We stayed in the Hostería Valle Del Palena that’s on the road named Las Hermanas (find them at Turismo Valle del Palena in Facebook). It was great, clean and warm and near the beach.

Day 8: What a find! Raúl Marín Balmaceda

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First of all, I need to say that luck was with us. We awoke to rays of sunshine peeking through the window, begging us to get out and explore! And in Raul Marin, it’s so small that everything is at your fingertips. We quickly arrived at the beach to find our first surprise, a group of 3 dolphins playing around right in front of us. They left and returned, definitely looking for fish. We walked along the road to the trail-head for the Chucao hike, and entered a magical forest, bursting with ferns, vines, giant trees, mosses and flowers. We became lost in a green world! After a half hour, we saw a ray of sun entering our magical forest, and as we came closer, it grew stronger, calling us toward some form of doorway or portal. We stepped out of the forest into a completely different world, an untouched and wild beach, covered in wild strawberries and yellow flowers. I can’t say for sure that my camera captured all of the incredible contrasting colors, but I’m pretty pleased with the results, just the same. We returned to town walking amongst the dunes and ate delicious seafood, prepared by the restaurant in our hostería (inn), called Isla del Palena. After lunch, we made our way back to La Junta, enjoying views of the river, the Melimoyu Volcano and the farms along this route. We arrived just in time to have what they call, “onces”, the Chilean form of afternoon tea, at Mi Casita de Té (yep, also in Facebook), located just across from the Sendero de Montaña trail. We ate küchen

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and some amazing cakes, while we did our best to talk with the owner, Señora Eliana Cortes – we’re still not sure that she really understood us but, it wasn’t important; she’s truly a sweetheart and when people are that nice, language isn’t a barrier!

Day 9: Route X-13 East, from La Junta to Lago Verde, also known as “El Profe Patagón” (the Patagonian Professor) Today we explored the 77 km of Route X-13, which is the lateral road in the other direction; La Junta to Lago Verde. The road is a true work of art, winding through valleys and canyons along the Figueroa River. The road is an excellent “professor”; during our adventure we learned various lessons about Patagonia. For example, what is a tropero? From an information panel along the route, we read “A tropero is a person that rides horseback, herding their livestock (or livestock of another person), from one place to another.” Before Route X-13 existed, it seems that this route was the trail used by “troperos” to get from Lago Verde to La Junta and the livestock markets. It took up to 15 days to cross the mountains, rivers and lakes! I remember thinking to myself, “well isn’t that a fascinating bit of history”. Ha! We hadn’t gotten back on the road for more than 5 minutes when we found ourselves amongst more than 50 cows, herded by 2 gauchos (I guess I should say, Troperos), and their dogs. We stopped and waited as they passed all around us, for what seemed to me, an eternity! Lesson 1 = Troperos are not a thing of the past. Lesson 2 = now I understand the saying they always told us there: “el que se apura pierde el tiempo”, (he that hurries loses time). So much for getting an early start on the day. Hahaha, well, the result is I have more than 100 great photos of an authentic Patagonian tropa.

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Lago Verde is truly “criollo” (think Montana, Wyoming or other points west in the USA). It’s full of horses and gauchos; in fact, I’m sure it’s the yerba mate that gives the lake its turquoise color; not the glacier sediments, as they suggest. So we figured, what better then to partake in some local gaucho traditions? We arranged for a mouthwatering asado Patagón in the El Maitenal farm, owned by Don Lucho Soto, (09) 91566856. It was a celebration full of the things one cherishes most: love, family and friends, jokes and stories, music, wine and dance. And of course, a TON of food. It finished late, after hours of fun-filled cultural exchange (haha), so we decided to stay in town in the El Mirador Hospedaje, owned by Señora Ida Vásquez, (09) 84769191. It definitely lived up to its recommendation of being a “BBB” (This is a Chilean saying, which stands for “bueno, bonito y barato”; translation? GPC, good, pretty and cheap). The hospitality and breakfast were impeccable.

Day 10: Traveling South towards the El Silencio Ranch 50

Today, we returned from Lago Verde, stopping briefly in La Junta for gas and a few last photos before continuing south


along the Carretera Austral in search of a person we heard about in Lago Verde. His name? Don Santo Altamirano, better known as Don Tito, (Facebook: Santos Tito Altamirano Monje), who lives near the confluence of the Risopatrón & Esperanza Rivers. (Lest I forget: Lesson #3: “Don” is a surname, like “mister”, but it’s more respectful and only used for important or honorable people.) A visit to Don Tito is something YOU CANNOT MISS! We arrived at noon thinking it might be bad timing since it was almost lunchtime (1:00 pm in this part of Chile); but, despite the hour and the language barriers, Don Tito immediately invited us to his fogón (a type of refuge where parties and asados are shared) for mate and another lesson in Spanish, practicing our skills at understanding the many stories he shared of his life and adventures. We explored his farm via the El Silencio Trail, constructed by Don Tito using his talents as an explorer and bridge builder (ask him!). It’s a beautiful trail set amongst native forest of arrayán, coigüe, tepa, ciprés de las Guaitecas and mañíos (I had no idea of these names but there were small signs marking each, thanks to Don Tito). The trail was bordered by the Risopatrón River, which I understand is a fly-fishing paradise. It was a tough choice whether to stay longer but, when Don Tito told us about his dream to connect his trail with the Laguna Los Pumas trail in Queulat National Park (which borders his land), we decided we needed to see the Los Pumas Lagoon for ourselves. We kept going a few more kilometers to the Conaf camping area, near the trailhead, in the Angostura sector of the park. The camping is directly across from the trail and it’s one of the only remaining documented habitats of Darwin’s famous and endangered frog. These little ones love the sun and while we enjoyed the sunset at our site, they accompanied us with a beautiful serenade.

Day 1 1: Trekking to the Los Pumas Lagoon, Queulat National Park

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Definitely, I’m in love! The places we visited in Aysén are A-W-E-S-O-M-E. In fact, several times, both joking and seriously, we mentioned the desire to return the next year. Today we hiked a very difficult, but beautiful, trail. It took us five hours in total, most of it along a staircase etched into the mountain that we deemed “the everlasting thigh burner”. In spite of our pain, the route was gorgeous, with giant, dense evergreen rain forest, the smell of damp soil and the songs of native birds, like the hued-hued y chucao. Have to say, I was (and am) pretty proud that I not only was able to improve my Spanish during this trip, I was also able to distinguish different bird songs! When the stairs finally ended, the trail became more flat until we arrived at the Los Pumas Lagoon, which, in my opinion, is no lagoon. It’s pretty big – like 25 hectares; that’s a lake, no? We sipped mate on the beach and did a little bird watching (there were tons of migratory birds like quetru, avutarda y caiquen), before heading back. When we arrived back at the trail-head we were starved, so we headed the rest of the way to Puyuhuapi (1/2 hour), arriving just in time for lunch specials at Restaurante El Muelle (Facebook: Café –

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Restaurante “El Muelle” Puyuhuapi). The highlight for me was the side dish, “papas alemanas” (German potatoes), which were an awesome version of mashed potatoes made with onions, bacon and chili-powder = amazing!). We couldn’t resist having a second round of the local beer, Hopperdietzel; the first was extra delicious after our exercise from the morning. In the afternoon we visited the Termas del Ventisquero (another awesome hot spring) to rest our bodies and spirits in the rejuvenating waters. In the evening we returned to town to talk to Adonis, at Experiencia Austral (www. experienciaustral.com), about the possibility of kayaking in the Puyuhuapi fjord the next day. Thankfully, Adonis spoke a little English so with everything planned, we walked around town a little, following a historic map that explains the town’s German heritage (in English – thanks for the break!). Imagine arriving here, just you and your 3 friends to build a new life in a place that didn’t have more than sea and impenetrable forests. How brave! We decided to investigate the German influence with our senses, enjoying a delicious Küchen in the cafe Los Mañíos del Queulat – tip: the coffee and nut strudel were also excellent. We stayed in a cabin at Hostal Augusto Grosse (www.hostalaugustogrosse.cl), that was super cute and artisan. The owner, Fernando Salas, is a true master in carpentry and woodwork and his cabins reflect his passion and creativity.

Day 12: Exploration of the Puyuhuapi Fjords We all agreed that the kayak trip in the Puyuhuapi fjords was a good choice. Adonis surprised us with a natural hot spring along the shores of the fjord, where we could leave our kayaks and enjoy the hot waters. The fjords are the best - you’re surrounded by forests along the shoreline and once you get away from the towns, you can see dolphins, hundreds of birds and even, sea lions. We came upon a group of sea lions sun bathing on the rocks that didn’t even flinch when we passed close by. I was pretty jealous of the awesome bedroom they had. I think I have a good clue where I want to explore on my next trip to Aysén. Who’s going to come with me to explore the fjords and channels?

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For our last night in Puyuhuapi we decided to stay somewhere else. Our cabin was excellent, but we had heard about Señora Luisa Ludwig and wanted the chance to meet her, as she is the daughter of Don Ernest Ludwig, one of the four original colonists of Puyuhuapi. She maintains the original family home as Casa Ludwig Bed and Breakfast (www.casaludwig.cl), giving guests the opportunity to sleep in a historic building that completely embodies the essence of this town. Luisa could speak with us fluently in English and we had a blast talking with her and hearing her stories about her father, how the village has changed and her childhood, growing up in the middle of nowhere at the end of the world. The Bed & Breakfast is an impressive place, a huge wooden house built almost entirely by hand, with really comfy and artsy decor and little bits of history in every corner.


Day 13: In search of the City of Césares, Queulat National Park

Day 14: A little fly-fishing and a well-deserved rest, thanks to Lago Las Torres After waking up late and sharing a few mates along the shoreline, we thought we would make homemade tortas fritas (fried breads kind of like donuts, but not sweet). We had eaten them during our asado and in restaurants several times during our trip and finally, Caroline had asked one of the waitresses to give us the recipe. Even though we were following a recipe scribbled in Spanish, they turned out great.

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Señora Luisa told us how wonderful it is to live surrounded by Queulat National Park, about the trails and everything we could see. She was so convincing that we wanted to see everything and woke up early in order to get in the fullest day of trekking possible. We were hoping to have time to walk along trails of the Ventisquero Colgante (Hanging Glacier) sector, the waterfall of (Salto de) Padre García and the trail to the Bosque Encantado (Enchanted Forest). At 10 am we were already at the Ventisquero Colgante area, where we decided to hike a short trail (600 m) to the Témpanos Lagoon, crossing Ventisqueros River, on a suspended bridge. The views of the glacier from the lake was the first gift of many that day. We had to leave the Sendero Sobre la Morrena (Moraine Trail) for the next trip because it takes 3 - 4 hours. Everyone told us it is wonderful, but we wanted to see the Bosque Encantado, so we kept going. We did make a brief pit stop at the Sendero de Padre García, located along the road just before you make the winding climb up the Queulat pass. The trail is super short, a descent of about 150 m that takes you to a beautiful waterfall, approximately 30 m, which is named for Padre García, because it is one of the places he “discovered” during his 1776 explorations of the area, when he was following the Queulat River, looking for the City of the Césares, a mythical city of gold. In the end, neither of us found the city, but I believe that the value of this nature is worth far more than any treasure. Continuing along the Carretera Austral south, we climbed a series of intense, cutback curves, leading to the saddle of the mountain pass. Just before descending, on the right hand side of the road, we found the trail-head for the Bosque Encantado hike. We arrived around 1 pm and the hike took us around 3 - 4 hours. This was my favorite trail of them all! It takes you through a dense forest for the first 2 km until reaching the Cascadas River. Then, you climb along the trail to the Gnomes Lagoon, which is a glacial lagoon with an incredible turquoise color. The lagoon is filled with icebergs and surrounded by rocky walls, above which hangs an impressive glacier. We continued south to Villa Amengual, to stop for groceries and a visit to their great Artisan Center; yes - several of us purchased sweaters, scarves and hats. I found a beautiful mate, which of course I couldn’t resist. We finished this epic day in the camping area of the Lago Las Torres National Reserve.

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Easy and delicious! A tasty way to start off the day. After this delectable activity, I looked for two strong trees to hang my hammock and take a nap, (how wonderful it was not to be in the car). Everyone else headed off to look for Señora Mirta, the camping manager, to coordinate some fishing. The lake-gods were in a good mood, and everybody caught fish; they released most of them in keeping with the spirit of “catch and release”; however, no one could resist keeping a few trout for lunch (keeping within the legal limits, of course). In the afternoon I escaped to ride my bike south a bit on the Carretera Austral (a pleasure in this area, because it’s freshly paved). I wanted a little me time to reflect on all of my experiences and events from the trip. During these two weeks, I met so many exciting people, hiked so many different trails, rivers, lakes, fjords, mountains and of course, glaciers! I learned from others’ perspectives, realities and traditions. I tried new flavors and local products made from hand. What a different reality from my own, living in a city of almost 5.5 million habitants!

Day 15: One last adventure – Río Cisnes Estancia and an off-road border crossing We awoke relatively early to begin our trip along the lateral road, X-25, that follows the course of the Cisnes River to the town of La Tapera, and beyond, all the way to Argentina. It’s impressive how the landscapes change along this drive. We started through an area full of humid and green rain forests and soon the scene started to evolve, as we entered more open forests, with lots of trees called notros, blooming an intense red. Then, within another hour, we began to see fewer and fewer trees and, after passing the tiny town of Villa La Tapera, we crossed into the endless plains of the Patagonia pampas. It fascinated me! It was like an endless sea, but made of grasses called coiron (think tumbleweeds, but living – not tumbling). The wind was so strong, it crossed the prairies in waves. We saw thou-

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sands of sheep that day and we also came across several new animals, including a fox and an armadillo; it was an environment completely different than the rest of our trip. We drove across the pampas for around 2 hours before we arrived at the installations of the Río Cisnes Estancia. Historically, this estancia was the third most important ranch in the region; now it’s probably the most important remaining estancia. The whole time we had driven across the pampa, we were crossing their lands! We registered at the office and then visited some of the historic buildings, like the Cuero Bayo Shearing Barn. Every December and January, for four weeks, they shear more than 60,000 sheep in this barn. I could hardly imagine it – things were so quiet and peaceful the day we were there. It was time to cross into Argentina and begin our trip home. The plan: Follow Route 40 to Bariloche and return to Puerto Montt via the Cardenal Samoré border crossing in Osorno, for our long flights home. We left the Estancia in route for the microscopic Río Frías – Apeleg border crossing and a pile of bureaucratic forms, inspections and paperwork – headed into Argentina, following estancia roads that were at best, rustic, and at worst, pure pampa, until we finally reached Route 40 and pavement. Definitely made for an exciting last adventure. But before we left, right before the border in fact, I glanced up and saw an enormous condor, solo, magnificent, floating through the air no more than 15 m from our car. We stopped immediately to check him out and fill up any last memory that existed on our camera cards. Little by little he began to rise, higher and higher, until we lost him from sight. How generous Aysén; not only did Patagonia provide us incredible days, it sent us off with the perfect parting gift. I’m made a silent promise to return, soon!

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COUNT ON GREAT ENCOUNTERS IN LA JUNTA

In this article we will introduce you to La Junta, the main town of the Palena – Queulat Area and the center of operations for exploring dozens of lakes, rivers and hiking trails. Surprises abound in this town built on friendship and hospitality. As you make your way south down the Carretera Austral, the first town you reach in Aysén, is La Junta. With 1,300+ residents, La Junta is the biggest town of the Palena – Queulat Area; one of the larger in the Region. It’s known as “the meeting place”, for its proximity to the confluence of the Rosselot and Palena rivers and also because it was THE meeting place for early settlers. Today, La Junta continues to offer visitors great encounters, friendships, hospitality, and stories, as you’ll soon discover. Colonization of the zone began in the final years of the 1930s, when settlers began venturing following the Palena upriver, from the coast. They encountered the space they’d been seeking to develop productive farmlands and began to establish homesteads within the surrounding valleys. It was a slow process, but today, the La Junta community is known for its productive farms and a community that continues to grow and evolve.

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The town was established around 1963, in the same area where families had gathered for years for social activities, sporting events and public meetings. It was the natural place to meet, a big pampa at the confluence of the rivers, but since everyone lived in their farms in the surrounding valleys, it didn’t really become a population center until settlers developed the dream of establishing a local school for their children, ending the need to travel to Puyuhuapi or Puerto Marin Balmaceda. Thanks to the determination of these settlers and the commitment of a professor, who was attracted to the area for ranching, agreed to stay and teach. The school was established in 1970, with 15 students. It was the turning point for La Junta; settlers soon began building homes nearby and a sense of community quickly evolved. The school marked the beginning of decades of cooperation and community development in La Junta, during which the town built an


TRAVELERS’ TIPS Looking for good food? Don’t leave without trying the cheeses of Quesos La Junta, the handcrafted beers of Kawiñ and the delicious dishes of Mi Casita de Te and Hotel de Montaña Espacio y Tiempo. aerodrome, the first stores, the Catholic Church, electrical infrastructure and even local television and radio. The community worked hard to obtain scarce public resources and services, constructing a rich heritage of friendship and cooperation; the foundations of why it’s a great place to start your visit to the Palena – Queulat Area. Today La Junta offers a great base for your adventures, welcoming you home each evening after long days of hiking around and touring in the area. From here you can refuel both your vehicles and your spirits, before heading off each day to explore nearby Lago Verde, the Mirta, Cuarto and Quinto Valleys, Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda, Risopatrón Lake, Rosselot Lake, Mount Barros Arana, Melimoyu Volcano, and of course, the fantastic Palena River.

A short hike on the Sendero de Montaña Trail located alongside the Carretera Austral, in front of the town, offers a great way to orient yourself and have a good look around. After climbing 600 meters through native Patagonian evergreen forest vegetation like quilas, tepúes, coigües y chilcos, you’ll reach a lookout point with a great view of the whole area. On a clear day you can observe the Palena and Rosselot rivers, the Barros Arana mountain range, the Melimoyu Volcano and, of course, the town of La Junta. Perfect place for getting your bearings, right? Afterwards, choose from a variety of activities and excursions, many of which are detailed in the rest of this chapter. La Junta offers a wide range of accommodations, from simple camping to hotels with all the amenities and gourmet meals. You’ll have plenty of choices, but definitely, book in advance, because in the middle of the summer you’re likely to find everything occupied. And La Junta is full of surprises that make it much more than a base for accommodations and refueling! Here, you can find great organic, homegrown and local products including some of the most delicious fruits, vegetables and cheeses in the Region, all produced nearby, on local farms. Stock up on delicious goodies to cook in your cabin or take with you for picnics – we recommend the Farm-

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er’s Market for the Women Farmers of the Valleys (Monday and Friday, 10.00 - 12.00), and also the Greenhouses of Don Fito, open every day and located alongside the Carretera Austral at the entrance of town.

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A great way to wind up a day in La Junta is on the terrace of Hotel de Montaña Espacio y Tiempo. You’ll feel like you’re living a dream! No matter what the weather, you can comfortably relax outside enjoying the birds singing from the forest, the warmth of the afternoon sun or the gentle rhythms of the rain falling on the transparent roof. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a great pisco sour or a local artisan brew, like Kawiñ, brewed right in town. Don’t miss the chance to dine on one of their gourmet specialties, which feature many local products of the zone. The gastronomy is only rivaled by the remarkable stories of La Junta and its history shared by owners, Alan Vásquez and Connie Palacios.

OVERVIEW »»Type of activity: A day in La Junta,

with a bit of hiking, visits to local shops, markets and restaurants to try out the fresh local products of the zone.

»»Start:

Sendero de Montaña Trail located alongside the Carretera Austral, in front of the town

»»End: The terrace of Hotel de Montaña, Espacio y Tiempo

»»Distance: 2 – 5 km, depending on your preferences.

»»Duration: We suggest a minimum stay of 2 - 5 days.

»»Seasonality: Year round. »»Considerations: La Junta is the base

for everything: excursions and activities, local products, lodging, and fuel, but take note, there is no ATM!

»»Reservations: There is a range of

lodging available in La Junta, but we suggest you book early.


MEET THE WOMEN OF THE AGRICULTURAL CLUB OF THE VALLEYS

In La Junta you’ll have the unforgettable opportunity to visit with the awesome ladies of the Women’s Agricultural Club of the Valleys! Every Friday, year round, and Mondays during the summer, in the community center of La Junta, a group of the most powerful, talented and funny women of Patagonia, gathers to hold their own farmer’s market. Things go fast! Don’t miss the chance to enjoy their farm-fresh vegetables, marmalades, chili sauce, eggs and other delights. Colonization traditionally meant that the man of the family left home for months, or even years, in search for new lands. Once he established his claim, he brought his wife and children. Without doubt, settling these claims meant years of hard work, isolation and learning to live in a place where there were no services, no supplies and very little contact with neighbors! The men held the role as provider and head of the family, but, the women were in charge of tasks that were equally challenging: adjusting their families to this new and formidable world.

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Women settlers were left in charge of turning the temporary structures of land claims into the farmhouses, gardens and orchards that sprinkle the area of Palena – Queulat today. The winters were hard and the summers were short; thus, the challenge was enormous. Nevertheless, it was the woman’s job to establish gardens and orchards, essential for obtaining the necessary food for daily meals. To make food stores last longer and go further, women made jams, conserves and sauces. They recycled their seeds from year to year and eventually, they developed a tradition of meeting and swapping seeds and techniques with their neighbors. Over time, their gardens produced more and more, and a few years ago, a group of 15 of these women who live in the valleys near La Junta, decided to take a BIG step forward and convert their home gardening and canning work into a source of additional income for their families. They created the Women’s Agricultural Club of the Valleys, and you have the opportunity to meet them, learn their stories

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and shop for their delicious goodies at the Farmer’s Market they’ve created in La Junta. The club has a lot of triumphs to celebrate; they have earned grants and special support from Rural Assistance Programs, they officially established their Farmer’s Market with the Municipal Government, their greenhouses and gardens have continued to grow and to prosper. Nevertheless, when you ask club members, they’ll tell you that the most important outcome of their efforts has been the contributions they have been able to make to their families. With the extra income the Market has provided, they have been able to realize important goals like better education for their children, improve-

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ments for their homes, or the purchase of a vehicle. Their husbands have shown a lot of pride and respect for their efforts and now, it’s common to see these guys taking time away from their own work to help with their wives activities, gardens and greenhouses. If you’re curious about the gauchos and gauchas of Patagonia, take advantage of the opportunity to visit the Market in La Junta and talk with these fearless women farmers.

You’ll definitely leave with a sack of delicious goodies. What’s more, you’ll learn more about the ingenuity, strength, wit and determination of the people of this area, and you’ll also learn lots of secrets of sustainable agriculture. And many of these women will welcome a visit to their farms to tour their gardens if you want to learn more. The members of the Women’s Agricultural Club of the Valleys live in La Junta and the

valleys in the surrounding areas. In La Junta, members include Nélida Rogel, an expert on homemade jams, and also the Señoras Mirta Barría, María Altamirano and Miriam Gallardo. Señora Brenda Vivar lives very close to La Junta, on the Carretera Austral north, beside the Arrieros del Sur Livestock Fair. Several members live along Route X-12, the Heritage Route between La Junta and Raúl Marín Balmaceda. Señora Francisca Solis is the President of the group and also the owner of the Rural Inn, Mirador del Río, which is located at kilometer 6 of Route X-12. In addition to selling in the Farmer’s Market, Francisca offers her vegetables in the Panadería de Rubén, in La Junta, which is owned by her son. Señora Mercedes Cardenas lives in few kilometers further west, at km 10, where she has several greenhouses, including a new one she and her husband have recently built. Señoras Sandra Cárdenas and Soledad Villegas, have their farms on the other side of the Palena River, about halfway between La Junta and Raul Marin. Each week, they go to the Market and back, crossing the river by boat! Heading in the other direction from La Junta, along Route X-13, you can tour the Cuarto, Quinto y Mirta valleys and visit Señoras Rosa Sánchez and Mireya Rosas, who are neighbors and have their greenhouses and


gardens in the sector of the Cuarto Valley and River. In the Mirta Valley nearby, you’ll find the farms of Señoras Gladys Casanova and Yohana Aillapán and can hike the Aillapán Trail built by her family, which leads to a beautiful glacier. In the same sector, in the vicinity of Claro Solar Lake, you’ll find the farms of señoras Perta Bashma, María Rivera and Julia San Martín.

»»Type

OVERVIEW

of Activity: Visit to a local Farmer’s Market

»»Start: La Junta »»End: La Junta »»Distance: The Market is located in

the Community Center on Antonio Varas Street, a few steps from the Plaza of La Junta

»»Duration: The Market is open Fri-

day’s year round and Mondays, during the summer months, from 10.00 until 12.00.

»»Seasonality: Year round »»Considerations: Arrive

early for the best selection and don’t be surprised if you receive an invitation to visit them of the member’s farms during your days in the area.

»»Reservations:

Not required, however, if you want more information about the Market or the Club, you can contact the President, Francisca Solis, in her rural Inn, Mirador del Río, Route X-12, Km 6, cell: (9) 61776894, email: contacto@miradordelrio.cl.

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WIND THROUGH THE UNEXPLORED VALLEYS OF LA JUNTA

Be among the few who have traveled this photogenic route winding through the unknown Mirta, Cuarto and Quinto valleys. The valleys are home to one of the most authentic traditional festivals of the area and several of the ingenious women farmers of the Women’s Agricultural Club of the Valleys. There are also great opportunities for trekking, fishing and horseback riding. The valleys of the Cuarto, Quinto and Mirta rivers are secrets of La Junta that deserve to be revealed. First for their beautiful and unspoiled landscapes, and second for the large amount of outdoor activities you can do. These valleys are ideal for hiking, horseback riding, fly fishing, kayaking, cycling or simply, for unleashing the photographer inside you that’s dying to get out. To begin this tour, head 12 km north of La Junta on the Carretera Austral and veer to the right where the wooden sign indicates the entrance to the Mirta Valley (Route X-11). You’ll soon catch your first glimpses of the star for the rest of the route: the spectacular and always snowy mountainous range, Barros Arana, which you will have the pleasure of viewing from a number of different angles.

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At kilometer 22 you’ll find yourself in front of the “El Tramitado” farm, owned by the Aillapán family, one of the many settlers who inhabit these stunning and hidden valleys. Here, there is a great 8 km hiking trail that crosses their land. It was built by the family with the support of Conaf, the National Forest Service. Sendero Aillapán travels through vast Patagonian forest following along the shores of a crystal clear river that pours from a large waterfall. After 4 kilometers of hiking, the trail reaches a glacial lagoon and the foot of an imposing hanging glacier. Depending on ice conditions at the time, it may be possible to enter the ice caverns, for close-up views of the different forms and colors of the ice, which range the spectrum from transparent to white, turquoise and blue. Be sure to bring your camera because there is little doubt that you will want to try and capture their beauty. And if you don’t, not to wor-


TRAVELERS’ TIPS »»The

first weekend of February every year, in the Cuarto y Quinto valleys, settlers celebrate traditional customs and heritage in the Festival of the Valleys. There are typical foods and drinks, rodeo events, traditional games and regional music. Plan your visit to coincide if you want to join the festivities.

»»If you are interested in a horseback ry, you will never forget the experience. The trekking is pretty intense, so we suggest you camp in the Aillapán farm before or after, to be able to have time and energy for the other sectors of these amazing valleys. Along the route, you’ll have excellent views of the Claro Solar Lake, where there is great fishing and small boat rental or charter. Several of the farmers offer access to the lake, such as Doña Julia San Martin, a member of the Women’s Agricultural Club of the Valleys, who can facilitate access to the lake shore, fresh vegetables for a picnic lunch and boat rides in the sector. Around 31.5 kilometers, you will see an intersection. Turning right leads you to Route X-13, which joins La Junta with Lago Verde; turning left takes you into the Cuarto and Quinto valleys. If you have time, we recommend you take the latter, and spend a bit more time exploring these superb valleys. At the end of this road you will reach the Cuarto River, and, at least for now, it will

ride through the valleys, contact: Duberlis Rosas, Turismo Rural Los Valles, Valle Cuarto S/N, Sector Río Cuarto; (067) 2314367; sppalenaqueulat@gmail.com.

»»If you love to fish, there are various

guides who offer excursions in the zone, like Rubén Gallardo, Entre Aguas Excursiones, Route X-12 to Raúl Marín Balmaceda, Km 6; (09) 97863826 - 84388285; entreaguaspatagonia@gmail. com; rupagaso@gmail.com.

be time to park your car or bike, and start to walk. Approximately a hundred meters to the right you’ll see two giant trunks that cross the river and a wire to help you firm your steps: that is the bridge that you’re going to have to traverse! As crazy as that sounds, the residents of this sector cross this bridge every day, so go ahead and get a firm footing and slowly cross to the other side. There are some rumors that perhaps

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this rustic bridge will soon be replaced by a more modern one that can carry vehicles, so if by the time of your visit, the trunks and the wire have disappeared, well…unfortunately, you have lost a good story to tell back home. Señoras Rosa Sanchez and Mireya Roses, members of the Women’s Agricultural Club of the Valleys, live and work in their greenhouses and gardens, just on the other side of this bridge. Every Monday and Friday they head out across the bridge with their vegetables and fresh eggs and marmalades, on their way to their club’s Farmer’s Market in La Junta. Neither are working in tourism, but if you are interested in your farming and gardening wisdom, you can visit them and their orchards and greenhouses and take home some fresh, organic goodies. Of course, if you’re concerned about how to get back across the bridge with your purchase, ask them to accompany you, because they are experts in crossing and will be happy to help you. Back at the car, return toward the intersection that you crossed a while ago and this time stay straight, following the route toward X-13. You’ll cross over the Quinto River using a very narrow (but new) suspension bridge. Proceed with caution and follow the curvy road to its crossing with Route X -13 that leads between Lago Verde and La Junta. To head back to La Junta you should turn right (west) and proceed another 5 kilometers.

OVERVIEW

»»Activity

Type: Scenic vehicle or bicycle route, with options for trekking, fishing, camping and navigation.

»»Start: La Junta »»End: La Junta »»Distance: 51 Km »»Duration: 3 - 10 hours to multiple days, depending on the mode of transport you choose and the activities you do.

»»Seasonality: Year Round »»Special Considerations: Drive with caution, especially in the curves and slopes, because the road is very narrow. If you are going to do the trekking through the Aillapán Trail, it is recommended that you camp in the valley to have time to enjoy the entire route.

»»Reservations: Not required, but if you are interested in tours or services, you may contact:

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Bruno Díaz of Yagan Expeditions - La Junta: 5 de abril, #350; (09) 84599708, (067) 2314386, (067) 2314380; yagan.expeditions@gmail.com Don José Aillapán - Aillapán Trail, “El Tramitado” Farm, located in Km 22 of the Mirta Valley Route.


PADDLE THE PALENA RIVER ALONG THE FORMER ROUTE OF THE “CHATAS”

The first settlers who arrived in La Junta made their way upriver, in row boats called “chatas”, rowing their way against the current of the Palena River to reach the interior. Retrace their route, but this time traveling down river (we promise that it is much easier and fun!) And if you want to do it with 100+ other fans of the water, join in on the annual event, the Ruta del Palena (Route of the Palena), that takes place in February. Whether you paddle as a small group any time of the year or in the annual festival, the Ruta del Palena, with other travelers, locals, celebrities and reporters, paddling down the mighty Palena River from La Junta, to its outtake in the fjords near Raúl Marín Balmaceda is a once in a lifetime expedition. The landscapes that accompany you on this voyage are both beautiful and awe inspiring. As you paddle down river your biggest challenge will be to maneuver the eddies and currents that rise in your course, but imagine the first brave adventurers who dared to paddle this river like you, but moving upward, against the current, with huge hopes of finding good lands to settle with their families.

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This way of transport was not only important during the settlement of the valleys around La Junta, it remained critical for the connection of settlers with the outside world for the better part of 8 decades! The river substituted as the main road in and out of the central valleys, absolutely critical for movement of supplies like livestock, building materials and food. Navigating the river in chatas was hard, strenuous, dangerous work, and several settlers lost their lives in the waters of the Palena. But, their work and sacrifices were a key factor for communication and development during the first decades of settlement in the region. In fact, river transportation remained quite common until 2009, when the road between the interior of La Junta and the coast of Raúl Marín Balmaceda was finally connected.

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TRAVELERS’ TIPS If you prefer fishing your way down the river, several guides offer excursions, including Rubén Gallardo of Entre Aguas Excursions. Address: Route X-12 to Raúl Marín Balmaceda, Km 6. Contacto: (09) 97863826 84388285; entreaguaspatagonia@ gmail.com.

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Remembering that importance and celebrating that heritage, were the inspirations for the realization of the first Ruta del Palena festival, in 2010, and it’s been growing in popularity ever since. This grand event, which takes place the first weekend in February of each year, includes a two-day, group 80 km descent of the Palena River, from La Junta to Raúl Marín Balmaceda. There is camping mid-way and a big party at the end. The event starts near La Junta at the bridge over the Rosselot River, which joins the Pale-

na in a few kilometers more. Participants can descend in canoe, kayak, raft, cataraft or row boat, or any other option of human propulsion. The river has a tranquil, average flow, with some rapids and quite a few logs in the first 5 kilometers. Puerto Bonito is about the half-way mark of the route. It’s uninhabited, but has some thermal baths that you can access within a 30 minute walk. It is a great place to end the first day. The second day, the river continues at an increasingly slow rhythm, meandering between the thick forests, and yielding a spectacular view of the Melimoyu Volcano and


TRAVELERS’ TIPS If you can’t participate in the annual Ruta del Palena event, you can descend in kayak, raft or boat at any time of the year, through one of the operators in La Junta. There are various options, some for half or full day and others for multiple days. For example from La Junta, Yagan Expeditions, offers a half-day river descent for 2 - 4 people. Address: 5 de Abril, 350, La Junta. (09) 84599708 or you can write to yagan.expeditions@ gmail.com.

On average you’ll paddle about 6 hours per day during the two-day event (did someone say biceps?). In addition to great scenery, great people and great fun, the physical exercise has another reward. The organizers of the Ruta del Palena reason that the best way to recover strength after a few hard days of physical effort is with a giant feast, starring a

»»Activity Type: Navigating the Palena River.

»»Start: La Junta »»End: Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda »»Distance: The complete descent is about 80 km.

»»Duration: 2 days, 1 night. »»Seasonality: You can paddle the riv-

er year round. The annual Ruta del Palena event is the first weekend of February.

»»Special

Considerations: Spaces for the Ruta del Palena event are limited - reserve in advance.

»»Reservations:

You can communicate through the page of the event on Facebook: Descenso Colectivo Ruta del Palena, or write to rutadelpalena@gmail.com.

pair of Aysén gastronomic traditions: Asado al Palo (think Spit-roasted lamb) and Curanto (think Patagonian shellfish bake). Arriving in Raul Marin, it’s time to leave the boats behind and celebrate the heritage of this great river, old and new friends, and in general, being part of an amazing occasion like this.

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its gigantic glacier. The final 10 Km stretch changes in intensity due to the influence of the tides and the sea winds. Finishing up in Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda, is much easier via the Garrao Channel, easily identifiable by a bridge, which detours participants into the peaceful Piti Palena Fjord, where it’s common to run into Austral Dolphins. Punta Palena, to the northwest of Raúl Marín Balmaceda, offers a great place for camping afterwards, with beautiful semi-protected sandy beaches.

OVERVIEW

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TRAVEL ROSSELOT’S HISTORIC ROUTE FROM THE VALLEYS TO THE SEA

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The Heritage Route between La Junta and Raúl Marín Balmaceda offers great views of the Palena River, evergreen forests, streams, waterfalls and historic farmhouses of the pioneers who first settled the area. Meander, take pictures, visit natural hot springs, learn a little history and end this adventure with a barefoot walk in the sand on the beaches of the Island of the Lions. It was the summer of 1894, and the Chilean Government had commissioned two expeditions in the area of Baja Palena. Hans Steffen was in charge of an exploration of the territory with the mission to deliver technical background data to support Chile’s position in the boundary dispute with Argentina that emerged after the treaty of 1881. Elias Rosselot, the State appointed Inspector of Colonization of the Area, was charged with the responsibility of determining the best overland route for future roads between the coast and the interior. He was told to develop this recommendation in collaboration with Steffen, but both had different positions: Steffen intended to make the road along the north shore, as it had fewer tributaries feeding the Palena River (thus less bridges and engineering costs); while, Rosselot defended the idea of routing the road along the south bank of the Palena, because the valley was wider and situated farther from the river; thus there was more space. The debate was put on the back burner for 114 long years, until finally, the road connecting La Junta with Raúl Marín Balmaceda was completed in 2009. And time confirmed the vision of Rosselot; engineers constructed the road following the southern shore of the Palena River. Two years later (2010), the road was declared a Heritage Route, for its potential to highlight the fascinating and difficult history of colonization in this sector, in addition to allow visitors to enjoy its incredible beauty. You can explore this route in vehicle or by bike, and will encounter several great scenic overlooks of the Palena River, waterfalls, historic farmhouses, volcanoes and diverse flora that becomes increasingly lush and dense as the adventure progresses


toward the coast. Highlights of the Heritage Route include:

Km 5.6 Overlook that marks the confluence of the Palena and Rosselot Rivers. From La Junta, take Route X-12 to the west, following the route that Rosselot proposed more than a century ago. You will find several overlooks with spectacular views of the Palena River, a critical resource for the development of this area, since it served as the first means of transport between the coastal zone and the interior valleys, providing a viable option for pioneers to move construction materials, animals and other supplies, during the years

TRAVELERS’ TIPS In kilometer 12 you will encounter the El Sauce Ranch, owned by pioneer Ildefonso Berger Wiehoff, also known as Don Foncho. As a young child, in the summer of 1959, Don Foncho sailed with his father from Puerto Montt to Raúl Marín Balmaceda, to establish this ranch after rowing up river for five days. With an ax in hand they established their claim in these lands; which, today are home to he and his wife, their three sons, their livestock and the El Sauce thermal baths. The hot springs are located 5 km further west of the house. The entrance is along the X-12 Heritage Route and from there, you drive 3 km along a farm road before arriving at the baths, which consist of a bath house with bathrooms, changing rooms, an area for barbecuing and a small path leading into a forested glade where you will find the thermal baths, made more comfortable by cypress decking and a floor of river pebbles. The hot springs are managed by Claudio Berger ((09) 94542711; alejvc@hotmail.com), one of Don Foncho’s sons. During the summer months of January and February, the gate is open from 9:30 to 20:30, Monday to Sunday. During the rest of the year, you can call from La Junta to arrange access.

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Km 0 - La Junta, the “pueblo of encounters” and the beginning of the Heritage Route. We’ve already told you of La Junta’s role as a primary meeting place for area settlers. It’s the largest town of the Palena - Queulat area, with more than 1,300 inhabitants and all the basic services (and not so basic, because it really is possible to find almost everything) that you need for your trip. Long before there were roads, the Palena River was the major transport artery of the sector, complemented by some trails leading toward the villages of the interior, like Lago Verde, Chaiten, Puyuhuapi and some of the more remote valleys. La Junta was known in those years as Palena Medio and was the meeting place of everything: the rivers, trails and of course, the livestock being moved from farms and estancias to regional ports and markets. One of the ports was located in Bajo Palena, now known as Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda.

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of the colonization, from the late 1930s, and forward. We recommend that you park your cars or bikes and walk to get a good view of the confluence. From here, you can imagine settlers trying to paddling upstream in makeshift wooden boats, called chatas. By the time they reached this confluence, they had likely been battling the river for weeks. This sector of the route borders meadows and fields and you’ll likely see livestock grazing; settlers had to work for years, even lifetimes, to prepare these fields for livestock. Almost the whole area was marshlands and forests!

undeniable.

Km 25 – Palena River Valley Overlook. This is a good vantage point to take in the full scale of the river, revealing its width, powerful flow and striking colors. The surrounding

Km 46.2 - Historic River Port. From this overlook, you will have an unbeatable view of the Palena River and one of the ancient ports used by settlers. The ports along this route evolved spontaneously in places with

valley is densely filled with native vegetation.

adequate depth and clear access to the shores, factors critical for safe loading and off-loading.

Km 39.7 - Melimoyu Volcano Overlook. If you are graced with a clear day, this is your place for the best views of the Melimoyu Volcano, an imposing cone covered with snow and glaciers. The literal translation of its mapuche name is “Four udders” (Meli = four, Moyu = udder), because there are four cones rising up inside the crater. It is one of Patagonia’s active volcanoes and the protagonist of several myths and legends. Some attribute special energies, others say it is the doorway to the center of the Earth, and still others have linked it to the elusive, “City of the Caesars”. Whether you subscribe to any (or all) of these myths is your choice; nevertheless, the natural beauty of this place is

Km 40 - Correntoso River. Power, strength and color that merits a stop to really enjoy. There’s a small area for parking near the overlook that you shouldn’t pass by. The flow of this river makes it easy to understand why, during the days of the pioneers, its convergence with the Palena River produced huge nightmares for the vulnerable vessels that were frequently confronted with trees and other obstacles that the Correntoso had dragged along its course.

Km 48.1 - Cascada River. An impressive waterfall, for its strength and color. Winter visitors will be treated to a wonderful roar from its rapids. In the summer the flow decreases markedly, but abundant rain maintain its beautiful presence. Km 51.3 - Mirador of Rincón Bay. This is the best sector to see meandering curves of the Palena River as it makes its way amongst the dense vegetation. Panoramic Photo guaranteed. Km 63 - Palena River Ferry. Here, you’ll cross the Palena River by ferry, so as to ac-


continued, mainly impulsed by chilotes, who migrated from the island of Chiloé. It was not until the 1930’s that the colony was officially founded as the hamlet of Puerto Bajo Palena, a milestone for the sector. Puerto Bajo Palena was used as the base for the exploration and colonization of the interior valley, including the area of La Junta. The village changed names again in 1957 to Raúl Marín Balmaceda, in honor of a Senator who died in Santiago, after a sudden and violent heart attack during a meeting in which he had just spoken of the area.

cess the island of Raúl Marín Balmaceda formerly known as the Island of the Lions. Today, only 5 minutes separate the island from the port on the other side, but historically, the trip required several hours and clearly, did not allow for vehicle movement. The addition of this ferry has changed the lives of local inhabitants forever. Km 73 - Island of the Lions, a.k.a. Puerto Bajo Palena, a.k.a. Raúl Marín Balmaceda. One of the oldest colonies of the Aysén Region, founded on January 4, 1889, with the name of, Island of the Lions. This first colony failed due to the distances that separated the population and the places for grazing (It wasn’t called Island of Lions for nothing!), and due to lack of support from the State. In later years, small scale colonization attempts

OVERVIEW

»»Activity route.

Type: Scenic car or bike

»»Start: La Junta. »»End: Raúl Marín Balmaceda. »»Distance: 73 Km. »»Duration: 3 hours. »»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations: When

planning your trip, take into account the hours of ferry operation (from 8:30 to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 17:30, Monday to Sunday). Refuel in La Junta because there are no services in the route or in Raúl Marín Balmaceda. Drive with caution as the route is narrow and curvy in places.

»»Reservations.

Self-guided activity, does not require reservations.

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PREPARE THIS TRADITIONAL PATAGONIAN CAZUELA THAT COMBINES THE FLAVORS OF THE VALLEYS AND THE SEA

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The essence of a place is often experienced through its traditional flavors and recipes, as is definitely the case with this recipe for Cazuela de Cordero con Luche (Lamb and Seaweed Stew). It’s a favorite in this part of Aysén, where many settlers have the sea in their heritage and ranching as their life’s work. Learn more with this great recipe! Cazuela is a one-dish meal; one of the most traditional dishes of Chilean cuisine. Its name is believed to derive from the large pot in which all the ingredients are cooked. The origin of cazuela is vague; its precise history difficult to pinpoint, although some believe that the dish originated as a result of an improvised lunch offered to Admiral Manuel Blanco Encalada, a Vice-Admiral in the Chilean Navy and Chile’s first President, albeit, provisional. But this dish has a much longer history relating to the Olla Podrida, a Spanish dish which was introduced in Chile by the Spanish conquerors. Each Region has their favorite variations depending on the ingredients predominant in the area, and of course, if you ask any Chilean, they’ll tell you that the version their mom makes is the best, with family secrets they could never reveal! The common element that makes a cazuela is a rich broth, served with whole of meat or chicken, accompanied by large cuts of vegetables such as potatoes, cabbage, pumpkin or carrots, rice, and fresh culinary herbs. Served hot, with fresh baked breads and garden salads, cazuelas are perfect for lunch or dinner and a delicious way to learn more about local flavors and traditions. That said, let us introduce you to the special version of cazuela that Señora Francisca Solis prepares for her family and guests. Francisca, or Pancha, as her friends call her, is the president of the Women’s Agricultural Club of the Valleys and the owner of the rural inn, Mirador del Río (www.miradordelrio.cl), located 6 kilometers from La Junta along the shores of the Palena River. Her Cazuela de Cordero con Luche is both a gastronomic and a cultural treasure! Part of its magic lies in the ingredients: Luche (porphyra columbina), also known as sea lettuce, which is a


TRAVELERS’ TIPS After enjoying this delicious dish, we suggest that you make arrangements with Francisca’s son, Ruben Gallardo, owner of Entre Aguas Excursiones, to organize a tour of the Palena River and an excellent afternoon of fly fishing.

You definitely want to hang out in the kitchen when this recipe is being prepared, especially so you don’t miss out on the glorious moment in which the luche begins to release its aroma and for an instant, the sea seems to sweep up the Palena River and into the very kitchen of Señora Pancha. And of course, you can also prepare your own Cazuela, using the ingredients we suggest here, or those of your own community – the important factor is freshness and an affection for the place and the plate.

»»Activity Type: Gastronomy. Prepa-

ration of a lamb with luche stew (Cazuela) that captures the essence of the Palena – Queulat area.

»»Start:

The rural inn, Mirador del Río, near La Junta, or in your own kitchen.

»»End: That depends on you, but we

recommend you stay a night or two in the inn, under the pretext of a prolonged, post-lunch siesta.

»»Distance:

6 km from La Junta, along Route X-12, to Raúl Marín Balmaceda.

»»Duration:

The preparation takes 1.5 hours, approximately.

»»Special Considerations: If you want

to visit the inn and try this delicious recipe, call at least one day prior, so that Señora Francisca can have the ingredients ready!

»»Reservations: Necessary. Contact:

(09) 97863826 - 84388285; contacto@miradordelrio.cl; www. miradordelrio.cl

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nutritious algae native to the fjords of Aysén and much of the coast of Chile. Luche is one of the star ingredients in Señora Francisca’s recipe, a tribute to her mother, who migrated to Aysén from Chiloe Island, where most gastronomy is based on the generosity of the sea. Another key ingredient is fresh vegetables, harvested directly from Pancha’s greenhouses and gardens. And the meat component of this Cazuela is taken from the spine of a lamb, which, of course, was raised on Pancha’s farm. Why the spine? One of the deepest traditions of Aysén, involves the core values of using every part of an animal that is sacrificed; nothing goes to waste.

OVERVIEW

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RECIPE FOR CAZUELA DE CORDERO CON LUCHE - 6 SERVINGS »»Ingredients • 6 cups of water • 6 vertebrae of lamb • 50 Grams of luche, re-hydrated • 3 cloves of garlic • 1 medium onion • 1/2 teaspoon oregano • 2 Carrots or a 1/4of a pumpkin, PALENA - QUEULAT AREA 74

• • • •

sliced in cubes 6 Potatoes, sliced in cubes 1/2 Cup white rice 1/4 Cup vegetable oil Salt, chopped cilantro, shallots or green onions, to taste (served at the table as garnishes)

»»Preparation

The first thing you need to do is soak the luche overnight to rehydrate. After at least 12 hours in the water, it is time to wash the leaves in running water, to remove sand and little pebbles. Set aside and begin to work with the assembly of your dish in a large stew pot.

Sauté the onion, garlic and carrot in the vegetable oil with a little oregano and salt. Divide the lamb vertebrae, and add to the pot. Cover with 6 cups of water, then, incorporate the luche and salt to taste, and simmer over a low heat. Enjoy the aromas, which will be beginning to release! After 45 minutes, it is time to add the potatoes and carrots, or squash. Wait another 15 minutes and incorporate the rice. Let your Cazuela simmer until the rice is ready, and remove the pot from the heat. We know that you and your friends are probably starving by now, but let your cazuela sit for about 10 minutes, so that the flavors blend to perfection. Serve in big bowls, taking care to put a portion of each ingredient in each. Everyone can garnish their own, with a bit of chopped cilantro, shallots, or green onions, according to taste. Enjoy!


DISCOVER A HIDDEN TREASURE: RAÚL MARÍN BALMACEDA

Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda is a small village, nestled at the mouth of the Palena River which, little by little, is revealing itself to travelers who are enchanted to discover its many charms; lush forests, wide beaches, sand dunes, and abundant marine fauna. Walk around awhile and take in the natural beauty or take a boat tour out into the channels to see dolphins, sea lions and birds. Few know that this small town in reality is an island, surrounded by a mix of salt and sea waters. The Palena River and its delta surrounds the island on one side, the Pitipalena Fjord and Garrao channel on another, and the Corcovado Gulf border the rest. For many years, Raúl Marín was the best kept secret in Patagonia, as you could only access its shores by boat or light aircraft. In 2009, the road connecting Raúl Marín and La Junta was finally completed, and now, you can reach the island via a 90 minute road trip and a 5 minute ferry crossing.

Today, the village of Raúl Marín Balmaceda has approximately 400 inhabitants and all of the basic services, including police, a rural health post, a school and radio, an airstrip, small stores and businesses, lodging and restaurants. There are no gas stations or banking services, so plan accordingly.

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Raúl Marín was the point of entry for colonization of the northern zone of the Palena – Queulat Area of Aysén. The first attempts date back to the last decade of the nineteenth century with the establishment of the Island of the Lions Colony, likely named in honor of the puma who habituated the zone between 1888 and 1889. This first colony failed due to the distances that separated the population and the places for grazing and due to lack of support from the State, but attempts continued. Colonization was slow, mainly impulsed by chilotes, who migrated from the island of Chiloé, seeking territories for timber extraction. It was not until the 1930’s that the colony was officially founded as the hamlet of Puerto Bajo Palena, which served as a gateway for the exploration and colonization of the interior valleys.

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You will notice that the layout of the village is distinct from others you will visit: houses scattered amongst sandy streets that seem to be laid out in no particular order, making it easy to get lost even though the entire town only consists of a few blocks. The houses border the forest and the dunes and the pace of life is relaxed and slow; at times it seems deserted, but if it’s hot, you’re sure to find half of the village on one of the many beaches, because if there is something that abounds here, it’s long coastlines where one can take a dip. Raúl Marín is the ideal place to explore on foot, because everything is nearby: forest, beach, dunes and rivers. Just grab your sneakers, a bottle of water and snacks, and head out to explore the island. The whole center of the island is a forest of lumas, arrayanes (myrtle), canelos, tepas and coigües, among other species, and home to hundreds of varieties of birds. If you decide to venture in, be careful; it is easy to get lost and you can spend a lot of time looking for a way out. We suggest sticking to the established trails. The beach is the backyard of the village. You can walk for hours (remember to watch the tides), accompanied by different birds, including marine species like the lile duck, the duckbill jergon, cormorants, kingfishers

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and hualas, and migratory birds, including bandurrias and queltehues, as well as forest dwellers, like chucao and hued-hued. It is a walk filled with relaxation and silence, and you can spend all the time you want, because it is only a couple of meters away from the village. If you want a closer look at the channels, fjords and rivers surrounding Raúl Marín, you can also explore by boat or kayak. Tide changes and wind are important factors to take into account, so be flexible with your planning and check local conditions and forecasts. We recommend a trip to Las Hermanas Islands which are visible in the distance from the beach. Here several hundreds of sea lions gather, and it’s easy to distinguish the enormous males, who are always surrounded by their harem of females and calves. The coexistence group seems peaceful at first glance, sleeping one against the other amongst the rocks and sea breezes, but every once in a while the peace is temporarily interrupted by a brief explosion of action, especially if another male gets too close to the harem, a cause of fierce fights. During the trip, keep watch seaward, because in this area there is an abundance of


TRAVELERS’ TIPS

»»If you are interested in a guided boat

or kayak tour in the surroundings of Raúl Marín, you can contact Patricio Merino, Kawelyek Expeditions; (09) 75429056; www.kawelyek.cl; contacto@kawelyek.cl.

»»The ecolodge Fundo Los Leones is a

short 3 km outside of town, (www. fundolosleones.cl). Here, Mauro and Mery will welcome you as if you are part of their family. Their beautiful mini cabins are set in an isolated setting, overlooking the Pitipalena Fjord and you can watch incredible sunrises from your bed or explore their own huge and solitary beach.

»»If you want to learn more about the fish and shellfish collected by area fishermen, which is the main point of economic activity of the people, head to the town pier. Most of the population is engaged in fishing, thus it’s quite common to have the opportunity to watch the coming and going of boats and talk to local fishermen about their work.

»»If you are interested in scientific re-

search, you can coordinate a visit to the Añihué private reserve, (www. anihuereserve.com), created with the objective to preserve the unique biodiversity of this complex system of fjords. The Reserve can only be accessed by boat.

austral dolphins, known in this part of Chile as toninas. It is usual to see them eating in groups of three to five, and with a little luck, you’ll be treated to a show featuring their undisputed talents as surfers, playing in the wake of the boat, making great jumps and pirouettes. With a lot more luck, you’ll be treated to the much less common arrival of blue whales in the sector or, at least see their huge sprays of water along the horizon. Always keep your camera ready for action!

OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: Exploration of Raúl Marín Balmaceda.

»»Start: Center of the village. »»End: The beach of your choice. »»Distance: Variable. »»Duration: One to several days. »»Special Considerations: We sug-

gest sticking to the established trails through the forest because it is easy to get lost. Keep in mind that the beaches of Raúl Marín are isolated and primitive, meaning that unlike those of popular resorts, you’re generally on your own. (Awesome!) Be aware of tide changes, winds and weather factors. Carry sunscreen, drinking water, sunglasses and hats, in addition to a snack and your camera.

»»Reservations: Not required.

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FOLLOW THE CHUCAO TRAIL TO THE SEA IN RAÚL MARÍN

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You’ve left the stress of the city far behind and the moment couldn’t be more perfect to breathe in the smell of the forest and walk along the shores of the sea, the sand on your feet, and the wind on your face. The rhythmic noise of the waves accompanies you as you make your way through this beautiful trail, full of surprises and pristine nature. If you are looking for a little quiet time in nature, the Chucao Trail in Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda is the perfect option. You can easily walk this trail solo, but, if you’d like the company of a guide to share information on the flora and history of the area, stop into the office of the Tourism and Commerce Association in the center of town. The trailhead is beside the school, along the road that follows the waterfront. It is marked by signage and used year round by locals, which collectively maintain it in good condition. It’s a simple trail, so grab a day-pack, some water, sunscreen and snacks and head to the forest for a hike that will allow you to feel, hear and think. The first section of the trail crosses dense native forest located at the edge of town. Entering the forest, you’ll soon be enveloped in greens and browns; trees towering above and around, vines and bushes, ferns, tree trunks, and roots. It’s almost overwhelming, surrounding you with millions of hues, scents and textures. You will be surrounded by enormous coigües, with hanging lichens like old man’s beard (usnea barbata), lumas, canelos and hundreds of different types of ferns, among other native flora. The old man’s beard is a lichen of whitish hues that grows from the trees throughout Aysén, an indicator of air purity; the further away you are from the civilization, the more abundant and healthy it grows. If you’re lucky and quiet you may be rewarded with the chance to observe the chucao, a small bird with a vivid orange chest and a beautiful song; the namesake for this trail. After a bit, you’ll reach an opening in the forest which deposits you onto the dunes, and the contrasting panoramic of beaches, sea, and wide-open skies. Wild strawber-


TRAVELERS’ TIPS The village cemetery is one of the oldest in the area, with tombs of the settlers from the period of the first colonization efforts in this area. It is a good place to explore the history of the sector and observe the names and dates. ries grow rampant in this area and nearby there is a rustic overlook where you’ll have a panoramic view of the coast, the Gulf of Corcovado, and in the distance, Las Tres Hermanas, a string of small islands where live sea lions and cormorants abound. Continue along the vague trail to the access road and head left to the beach, which is called La Boca and is the only continental shore of Aysén where you can see the open sea. As you walk along the sand, you’ll feel the sea breezes on your face. There are no lifeguards or bathing areas on this beach, but, if you dare, dip your toes in the water and feel the adrenaline that is sure to hit you – it’s freezing!

»»Activity Type: Hiking through the

forests and beaches of Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda.

»»Start: The trail entrance beside the

trail along the road that borders the waterfront.

»»End: The pier sector. »»Distance: 7.3 Km »»Duration: 2 - 4 hours. »»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations:

An easy hike along established trails, access roads and the beach. The beach is natural and there are no established swimming areas or lifeguards. Carry water and snacks, a map and appropriate clothing.

»»Reservations: Self-guided activity. ing, jumps and leaps, near the shore.

The circuit ends in the sector of the pier, and if you are interested, there is a brief side trail that leads to the historic cemetery for Raúl Marín leading off from the right side of the road. Before returning to town, stop once more to take in your surroundings, breathe deep and feel the satisfaction of being in a place so remote, far away from the large buildings and the bustle of the crowded beaches in other parts of the world. For sure, it will be a hike to remember forever.

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At the southern end of the beach you will find the Vivo (Living) Cliffs, so named for their foliage. You can return to town via the shoreline and a vehicular path located at the edge of the forest. The forest will be to your right and the Pitipalena Fjord to the left. Across the fjord, you’ll spot a lighthouse and in the distance, the mountains with their evergreen forests. The fjord is home to many birds, so it is an ideal place for observation and some good photos. Keep a watchful eye on the sea, because when you least expect, austral dolphins, or toninas, as they are locally known, will delight you with their playful swirl-

OVERVIEW

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HEAD TO LAGO VERDE FOR GREAT FISHING AND LOTS MORE!

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Until a few years ago, the rivers and lakes between La Junta and Lago Verde were known for the huge challenge they presented for settlers in the area, but today, they’ve reached a new fame. Fans of recreational fishing come from all over the world to enjoy the incredible variety of challenges and conditions present in this sector of the Palena – Queulat Area. Until 1992, there were no roads connecting the small town of Lago Verde with the rest of the Region of Aysén; thus, residents of this small border town depended on trails, small aircraft or their proximity to the roads of Argentina, to access regional services and commerce. Connecting the town with La Junta presented significant engineering challenges, in part because of the need to chart a course between so many lakes, rivers and streams. Imagine how complicated the tropeo was (movement of animals) from the estancias and farms of Lago Verde to the livestock markets in La Junta and Puyuhuapi! Ranch hands rode up to 15 days, just to get to La Junta, bordering interconnected systems of lakes, rivers and streams, and finally crossing the headwaters of the Rosselot River on hand-crafted wooden rafts, animals and all! Now things are much easier! You can reach Lago Verde in a little over an hour and a half traveling along beautiful Route X-13, and much of the livestock leaves on truck. Of course, if you are a fisherman, you’re likely to delay several hours or even days within this 70 kilometer stretch; the variety and quality of these waters are sufficient to seduce just about anyone who is a fan of rods, reels and flies. World-renowned Route X-13 is a true corridor of lodges and waters where fanatics of fly-fishing pay millions and millions of pesos to have the privilege of coming for a few days and testing their skills and luck. If you are looking for this type of specialized experience, you can choose between several different styles of service, accommodations and packages, including: Lodge El Ensueño (www.ensuenolodge.cl), Lodge Chucao Rosselot (www.chucaolodge.com), Lodge El Patagón (www.southernchilexp.com), el Martín Pescador Lodge (www.martin-


use of dry flies and nymphs, especially in the muddy areas and shallows. You will also encounter several sections with downed trees and roots; the use of streamers here will attract the fish that await in the pools these obstructions create.

uuQuinto

River: A brief detour from route X-13 takes you to the Quinto River, located in the valley of the same name. Here you can enjoy a great fishing from the shore, using dry flies and nymphs.

uuClaro Solar Lake: Located in the Mirta pescadorfishing.com) and Patagonia Base camp Lodge (www.patagonian-basecamp.com). If you don’t want to invest the resources for a specialized fly-fishing itinerary, or if you just want to spend a day or two fishing, there are many options you can explore on your own or you can hire an area guide who know the secrets of every river and lake and can help you find the hiding spots for wild Brown and Rainbow Trout, ranging in size between 30 and 50 cm and the specific areas and times of year for finding Atlantic and Chinook Salmon.

Here are some tips to start you on your quest: uuPalena River: You can fish from a boat

or from shore in several sections of this river, given the large number of tributaries and changing conditions it presents. There are sections suitable for the

Valley, a few kilometers off route X-13, this lake presents good opportunities for both fly fishing and trolling. In both cases, the use of deep streamers are recommended.

uuRosselot Lake: The inflow areas for the

two tributaries that feed this Lake, the Bordali and Figueroa Rivers, are ideal sectors for fishing from the shore. If you have boat, you can find several areas with downed trees and rock cliffs, ideal places for deep-dwelling trout.

uuRosselot

River: This River is a corridor for trout moving between Rosselot Lake and the Palena River. Look for Brown Trout in pools and trees root systems and Rainbow Trout in the muddy areas and swirls.

uuFigueroa River: Near the town of Lago

Verde you’ll find another trout corridor, this time connecting the Verde and Rosselot Lakes. In the quieter sections,

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like the convergence with Rosselot Lake, there are excellent fishing spots. Dry flies are most commonly used, but you can also try other flies and streamers for deep areas.

uuPico

River: Close to the border with Argentina, this river is perfect for shore-fishing fans and for those who like the challenges of river flows and backwaters. The Maitenal Fishing Camp ((09) 91566856; claudiosotosolis@ hotmail.com), is a great place to base for these waters. You’ll find excellent access, good guiding and if you want, you can finish your day with a fantastic Asado al Palo.

uuLago

Verde: Fishing in the turquoise waters of this lake is an entertaining experience and there are tons of photography opportunities if the fish aren’t biting! Its waters feed the Figueroa River which in turn, feed into Rosselot Lake. It is a great lake for shore fishing and if you have access to a boat, there is excellent deep water fly-fishing and trolling.

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TRAVELERS’ TIPS

»»You need a fishing license to fish

in Chile. It is a simple process, you can do on-line (www.sernapesca.cl). There are also laws that regulate recreational fishing, intended to protect the environment and insure the preservation of natural resources. These include daily limits for the number of fish you can keep as well as minimum sizes. Nevertheless, in the Aysén Region, catch and release is the recommended practice.

»»Help

stop the spread of Didymo! The didymo algae (Didymosperia geminata) is highly invasive and has contaminated rivers throughout the world, including Patagonia and the Region of Aysén. To stop its spread it is important that once you’ve finished fishing each day, or if you change bodies of water, to remove, wash and dry your waders, lines, boots, flies and other equipment. Find out more at www.didymo.cl.


OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: Recreational fishing. »»Start: La Junta »»End: Lago Verde or La Junta »»Duration: 1 - 7 days. »»Seasonality: The fishing season extends from November to May.

Some include equipment rental.

• •

»»Special

Considerations: For fishing these waters you’ll want one or two 3 meter, six weight rods; one with a deep line and the other with floating line. The spool needs to have between 75 - 125 m of backing, 10 - 12 kilos of capacity, and lines with measures 5, 6, 7 and/or 8. Leaders need to be size 5X, and of 3 meters with 5X and 6X tippet. Some recommendations for dry flies include: Dragonfly (blue/olive, sizes 4 and 6 - January until March); Bomber (black, gray and orange, 2 and 4); Chernobyl ants (6); Elk Hair Caddis (coffee and gray, 12 and 14); Midge (18 and 22) and Midge pupa (black and white, 20 and 22). Recommended Nymphs: Hare’s ear (10 and 14); Pheasant tail (10 and 14); Gold bead nymph (10 and 14) and the Stonefly nymph (black, 2 and 6). Sinking flies (streamers) include: Wooly Bugger (black and olive, 2 and 4); Bunny Leech (black and olive, 2 and 4); and Muddler (2 and 4).

»»Reservations: In the sector of La Jun-

ta - Lago Verde there are a variety of operators and lodges that provide navigation and guided fly fishing.

• •

Claudio Soto - Lago Verde, Los Pioneros 294; (09) 91566856; c l audiosot osolis @ hot m ail . com Lago Negro Lodge - Fundo la Meseta, Route X13, km 12, on the way to Lago Verde; (09) 83557157; lagonegrolodge@hotmail.com; Facebook: Lago Negro Lodge Espacio Y Tiempo - Hotel De Montaña - La Junta, Carretera Austral 399; (067) 2314141; info@espacioytiempo.cl; www. espacioytiempo.cl Javier Villegas Excursions - La Junta, Moraleda s/n; (067) 2314162 - (09) 77049853, irenehh_1@ hotmail.com; Facebook: Francisco Javier Villegas Mancilla Entre Aguas Excursions – Route X-12 to Raúl Marín Balmaceda, Km 6; (09) 97863826; entreaguaspatagonia@gmail.com; www.miradordelrio.cl Patagonian Basecamp - La Junta, Carretera Austral, Km 310; (09) 79996873; marcel@patagonian-basecamp.com; www.patagonian-basecamp.com Vientos del Sur - La Junta, Moraleda 12; (09) 87598900; vientosdelsurpatagonia@yahoo.cl Turismo Ruta de los Pioneros - La Junta; (067) 2314308; javierpesca@gmail.com; Facebook: Francisco Javier Villegas Mancilla

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SUMMER IN PATAGONIA IS SYNONYMOUS WITH ASADO AL PALO

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It is almost unthinkable to travel through Patagonia without tasting the delicious traditional way of barbecuing lamb, called asado al palo. Here, we share the secrets of its preparation and its importance in the Aysén culture Don Cristian Solis, son of pioneer Don Eduardo Solis, born and raised in the town of Lago Verde, shares his perspective of the traditions relating to Asado al palo: “When our grandfathers and great-grandfathers came to settle Patagonia, they quickly discovered that working these lands, amongst the mountainous terrain and harsh climate, required a lot of help. The easiest and fastest way to tackle the hard work of settling a farm in Aysén, was to join hands with our family and neighbors, and work as a team. Today, it’s a tradition in the Region; for the big jobs, like branding, shearing, and ear-tagging, we all join in, moving from farm to farm, working together, to get the work done. And on each farm, when we finish our work, we celebrate with a typical Patagonian barbecue, which we call an asado al palo. So, what’s on the menu? I thought you’d never ask! Spit roasted lambs, tortas fritas with fresh pebre, two or three different kinds of salads, boiled potatoes, and of course, red wine! During early spring in Patagonia, in the latter days of September, the first lambs are born. As soon as they reach a weight of 11 Km, everyone in Patagonia begins to long for an opportunity to enjoy a delicious Patagonian asado al palo. During the summer months, the demand for lambs rises 300%, especially in December and January, when families come together to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s. A traditional, Patagonian-style asado al palo, is the essential feast!” Here are just some of don Cristian’s secrets for preparing a typical Patagonian asado al palo of roasted lamb for 13 - 15 people. So, grab your best gaucho boina che, all hands on deck!

First step: Get a lamb and the rest of the ingredients »»1 Patagonian lamb, of between 13-15 Kilos


»»1 corked wine bottle of brine, (salmuera).

Rinse an empty wine bottle and fill it with hot water. Add 1 bulb of chopped garlic, 3 tablespoons of salt, 2 tablespoons of crushed oregano, 1 tablespoon of pepper and 1 tablespoon of Aliño Completo. You can find this spice mix in any supermarket or food shop. Next, carve out four “corners” on your cork so it looks like an “X”, and a tiny bit of liquid can get through when you turn the bottle upside down. You’ll use your salmuera to marinate the lamb as it cooks and as a sauce when serving.

»»5 kg locally grown potatoes and 1 bulb of

garlic. It’s better if you can see the actual field where these were grown from the quincho where you will be eating.

»»A bunch of coriander, cut fresh, from the greenhouse, in back of the kitchen.

»»1/2

kg lemons and 1 Tablespoon Salt (these can come from Santiago or the ECA)

»»Salads: You’ll want at least 2 or 3 options.

»»Tortas fritas and Chilean Pebre (Perfect with Asados – Look for the recipe in this guide!)

»»Chilean

red wine: merlot, cabernet or carmenere. Must be served in a “bota”

»»At least one Accordion and 1 Guitar. Second step (the most difficult): butchering the lamb

It is recommended that you perform this task at least 9 hours before roasting it, so that the meat dries and becomes cold. This will make it much easier to put the lamb on the asador and sear its meat, so that once put over the fire, it keeps a stronger flavor. Slaughtering a lamb is one of the oldest activities in the history of humanity; it has existed since biblical times. If done properly and humanely, no one should suffer! PLEASE, if you do not know how to humanely slaughter an animal, do not pick your Patagonian vacation as the time to experiment! Find a gaucho and let him, or her, show you how it’s done. When it’s time, make sure you have a well-sharpened knife and a flat-bottomed Pyrex glass dish, containing chopped coriander, a tablespoon of salt, and 4 lemon halves. Hold the snout of the lamb with your left hand. Support yourself and the lamb, by placing your right knee on the ground and your left knee pressing slightly against the base of the lamb’s shoulder and ribs. This will help you to maintain a grip on the animal. Hold the knife with your right hand and place it on the curve of the jaw. Insert it firmly and quickly, until it reaches, and cuts, the jugular vein. That’s it. Let the blood empty into the Pyrex dish, making sure not to spill. Once you have collected enough blood, you will

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Begin with something simple, like fresh lettuce from the greenhouse, mixed with lemon, vegetable oil, and salt. Moving on, the options run the culinary spectrum, depending on what’s fresh and ripe, and what you’re in the mood for. In Patagonia we like to eat salads made from grated vegetables, like carrots and beets, and sliced vegetables, like cucumbers and tomatoes.

(a leather canteen). Pick up several liters, and don’t bother with bottles. Instead, fill your bota with our everyday boxed wine; it’s cheaper, and for some reason, the leather from the bota really brings out great flavor from the boxed wine.

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be ready to start preparing lamb “Ñachi”. This is a typical Patagonian dish, or maybe, it’s more of a custom; but, whatever it is, you make it with freshly clotted blood. You prepare Ñachi while the blood is still in its liquid state, mixing it with coriander and salt. To “cook” the preparation, you add lemon juice, which adds acid. Let the dish rest for no longer than 10 minutes. Once the blood has clotted, it forms a gelatin consistency and can be sliced into cubes, put onto a dish and served, to brave souls, while the lamb is being roasted. A side note: Eating Ñachi, especially for novices, has the tendency to make you REALLY sleepy, due to its high Iron content. Don’t sit too near the fire!

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Finish draining the blood from the meat, and then you’ll begin to prepare the lamb for the asador. Remove the skin, beginning with the legs, chest and genitalia. Make a slit to open these areas and remove the skin away from the flesh with both fists. Hang the lamb from its shank, so the flesh does not come in contact with the ground. Once the lamb has been hung, remove the rest of the skin. To make sure the skin does not tear, leaving fat stuck to the flesh, slit the skin a bit with your knife, and pull down to remove it. With your lamb hanging from the shank, it is easy to open its center cavity and remove the guts. Start by making a slit with the knife, from the abdomen down to the genitalia. Remove everything inside, except the kidneys, which are stuck behind the ribs. Cut the head off, slice along the ribs, part way through, so that you can open them wide, and leave the lamb hanging, so that the meat cools.

Third Step: Attach the lamb to the asador Once the meat is cool, put the lamb on a table, with the open ribs facing up. An asador is a tool made of two metal bars. The longer of the two is approximately 170 cm in height, and the shorter, which is equipped with small hooks on the ends, is around 90 cm. The two bars are assembled in the form of a cross. In order to make sure that the lamb will cook evenly, you’ll want to trim the thicker areas of flesh, so that all of the meat is around the same thickness. Both the forequarters and hindquarters should be opened, so that the meat cooks properly, without leaving any raw parts. You should also cut from the third rib, down to the last one. Then, turn the ribs so that they face down and thin the shoulders. Once all your cuts are ready, you should put the lamb on the asador, by placing and plunging one of the


ends of the long bar, between the spine and the skin, so that it comes out again, around the neck. Hook both quarters to the ends of the horizontal bar, so that the lamb stays open. Then, tie the lamb to the asador using a piece of wire to prevent the meat from slipping off, while it is being roasted. Put a horizontal stake across the lamb toward the bottom of the asador, in order to keep the shoulders open and another, to keep the ribs wide. Once all stakes have been placed and the lamb has been put on the asador, you are ready for the fire.

Fourth step: Finally, it’s time to roast the lamb. It is very important to light your fire about 30 minutes in advance, so that it produces the embers that provide the heat you need, to cook the lamb evenly. Avoid roasting the lamb over direct flames; you will burn it and dry it out! Start with the lamb ribs, facing the fire, and plunge the asador into the ground, approximately 70 cm from the fire. Tilt the top of the asador toward the fire, at an angle of around 60° or 70°. Make sure you constantly check on the fire temperature by putting your hand as close as possible to the side of the lamb facing the fire. Hold your hand in that position for 3 seconds, if possible. It should feel hot but not burn you. If that’s the case, the fire is at an adequate temperature. Keep in mind that the rib-side is the thinnest part of the lamb, which means that it is the most delicate and the one that burns most easily. You should keep constant watch on the fire, making sure that the ribs do not turn brown.

Last step: Enjoy your Asado Patagón! Like many other parts of the world, the barbecuing is typically left to the guys, who hang out by the fire and “guy talk”. Meanwhile, the gals share yerba mate or wine, catching up on all the news, and prepare the salads and other accompaniments. But, when the lamb is ready, everybody comes together. In fact, the camaraderie built up among the guests of this feast, during the cooking time, is an essential ingredient for a Patagonian asado al palo. To help set the tone, there are always some gauchos playing accordion and guitar, couples dancing to the sound of chamamé or ranchera Patagona, and the generous sharing of wine, from a “bota”. The side dishes, like potatoes, salads, tortas fritas, and pebre, are usually passed around family-style, or served from a buffet; and, the person in charge of roasting cuts the meat, making sure the portions suffice for everyone.

TRAVELERS’ TIPS

»»What are Quinchos? Well, with the crazy weather of Patagonia, we needed an option for barbecuing inside. So, we invented quinchos. They are sorts of rustic party-shacks, often round, complete with an indoor fire pit!

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Another of the challenges for the person in charge of the roasting, is making certain that both quarters cook evenly, as well as the shoulders. To monitor this, put your hand behind the lamb from time to time: when you feel warmth coming through the meat, the lamb is ready to be turned around. Remove the asador, and rotate it so that the other side is near the fire. Reaffirm it into the ground. When you turn the lamb over, you should start boiling the potatoes, so that both are ready, in unison. The meat cooks faster after the lamb has been turned over, since most of the work has already been done. During the whole cooking process, make sure you stoke the fire regularly, in order to distribute heat homogeneously, with

the embers. The whole cooking process takes 3 to 4 hours, depending on the size of the lamb and the quality of the fire.

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OVERVIEW »»Activity Type: Preparation of a lamb asado al palo, typical gastronomy of the area.

»»Start:

At a nearby farm where you can obtain a lamb.

»»End: Celebrating with great food, ac- • cordions, guitars, and dance.

»»Duration: 3 to 4 hours. »»Seasonality: Mainly in the

summer; however, other types of asados can be prepared in other seasons (Beef, Fish, etc.).

»»Considerations: The most important • thing is to make sure that the meat does not burn or dry out.

»»Reservations: The list of gauchos and gauchas that offer preparations of lamb asado in the Aysén Region is extensive. Here are some of the best:

• •

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Camping Maitenal - Lago Verde: Pioneros s/n; (067) 2573180; claudiosotosolis@hotmail.com Fogón La Esperanza - La Junta: El Silencio Farm. You will find the entrance to this farm 25 km north Puyuhuapi, on the left side of the Carretera Austral, and must enter the narrow gravel entrance and cross over the bridge, so as to approach this great Quincho, called a Fogón. There is only cell signal in a few places in their farm, so to coordinate your visit, send a text message to Señora Maglene’ cell phone (09) 98321365 or visit her daughter Marioli in the Casa Mayorga Grocery Store in Puyuhuapi. Quincho Aquelarre - Puerto Aysén: Sector Pangal Valley s/n; Km 8, Pasarela Sector; (09) 94798741; pangalpatagonia@ gmail.com; www.casaturismorural.cl Quincho La Pancha - Puerto

Aysén: Río De Los Palos Sector; Road to Laguna Los Palos s/n; Km 7; (09) 98878572; contacto@ecoturismolapancha.cl; www.ecoturismolapancha.cl Restaurant Histórico Ricer - Coyhaique: Horn N°48; (067) 2232920; www.historicoricer.wordpress. com Estancia Punta Del Monte – Coyhaique Alto: Coyhaique Offices, Bilbao 398; (067) 2231601; condores@ puntadelmonte.cl; www.puntadelmonte.cl Quincho Don Santiago – Lago Frio: 23 km south of Coyhaique, in the El Fraile and Frio Lake Sector; (09) 87869820; (067) 2524929; contacto@casaturismorural.com; www. casaturismorural.cl Baqueanos de la Patagonia - Carretera Austral Ruta 7, Cerro Castillo s/n; (09) 87352346 – 78988550; baqueanosdelapatagonia@yahoo.es; www.baqueanosdelapatagonia.cl Tourism San Lorenzo - Cochrane: The San Lorenzo Ranch is located 1.5 hours from Cochrane, at the base of Cerro San Lorenzo. Coordinate your reservation with Don Luis before arriving, by HF radio frequencies 3.789 and 4.580; (067) 2522326; (09) 95619963 - 75618719; cerrosanlorenzo@gmail.com Refugio y Camping Río Ñadis - Cochrane: Sector Ñadis River, Carratera Austral, at the bridge over the Barrancoso River, detour (9 km) to the refuge, HF radio frequencies 3.789 and 4.580; (09) 81851625; lillischindele@yahoo.de Entre Patagones - Villa O’Higgins: Carretera Austral; Casa 1, North Access; (067) 2431810; (09) 66215046; info@entrepatagones.cl; www. entrepatagones.cl


EXPERIENCE GAUCHO STYLE HOSPITALITY AT THE EL SILENCIO RANCH

When you cross the bridge over the Risopatrón River and visit the El Silencio Ranch, you will be surrounded by the life work of a true gaucho, Don Santos Altamirano: his hand built rustic Fogón, his music and stories, his delicious Asados and smoked meats and his latest creation, the El Silencio trail, a beautiful hike that winds between ancient forests and the Risopatrón River. It is an ambitious challenge to fully understand the culture and ecosystems of the Region of Aysén. The landscapes change drastically from the seas to the pampas, the climate is a mixture of everything (often at the same time), and there are so many quirky traditions and customs! Thankfully, there are some special places that allow you to experience the essence of the nature, culture and history of the Region; the fogón, which is similar to a quincho, or an indoor barbecue house, at the El Silencio Ranch is one of these amazing places. It has been built by hand, using native woods and materials and is filled with relics and decor that reflect the gaucho style. The person responsible for this amazing atmosphere is the charismatic host Don Santos “Tito” Altamirano. Amongst many other talents, Don Tito is an incredible musician and storyteller who loves to share Patagonian anecdotes and rounds of yerba mate, while sitting around his giant open fireplace, keeping a watchful eye on an Asado al Palo, cooking in the embers.

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Don Tito has plenty of stories to liven up an entire evening. He’ll tell you of gauchos and troperos, working in the Palena – Queulat area before there were roads to move livestock to the Puyuhuapi ports. During this time, he was around fourteen, and worked as a boat operator, moving men and livestock across Risopatrón Lake. During those years he developed a taste for exploring; one which served him well later on when he accompanied Senator Antonio Horvath and his crew in the development of the route of the Carretera Austral. Don Tito continues to open up routes, but now for travelers to explore hiking.

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OVERVIEW

»»Activity life.

Type: Trekking and rural

»»Start: The Silencio Ranch. »»End: The Silencio Ranch. »»Distance: You will find the entrance

How to work off the extra weight you’ll gain eating the delicious food at the Silencio Ranch? First thing, after you eat, ask Don Tito to get the music going! He’s likely to appear in full gaucho array, with goatskin chaps, a poncho and large brimmed hat, ready to begin the fun. Don Tito is an accomplished composer and guitarist, with a repertoire of songs that tell of his life and adventures in Patagonia. Perhaps his most famous song is that which tells the story of how he designed and engineered the bridge crossing the Risopatrón River to his house; a feat which earned him recognition from many, including the President of Chile! Don Tito’s music will quickly have you dancing and working away all the calories you’ve eaten during your asado.

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Don Tito’s latest engineering work is the new 5 kilometer hiking trail, Sendero El Silencio, through a corner of his enormous farm. This trail winds through forests of arrayanes, coigües, tepas, ciprés de las guaitecas y mañíos. It borders the west side of the Risopatrón River (excellent fly-fishing waters) and is equipped with bridges, walkways and signage of excellent quality. Everything

to this farm 25 km north Puyuhuapi, on the left side of the Carretera Austral, and must enter the narrow gravel entrance and cross over the bridge, so as to approach this great Quincho, called a Fogón.

»»Duration: 1 – 2 days. »»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations:

The telephone signal is not very good in the ranch and many times don Tito and his wife, Señora Maglene are working at their many chores, somewhere on their farm. You can try your luck and show up without prior notice or you can contact their daughter Marioli who works in the Casa Mayorga Grocery Store in Puyuhuapi and she will help you to communicate.

»»Reservations: There is only cell sig-

nal in a few places in their farm, so to coordinate your visit, send a text message to Señora Maglene’ cell phone (09) 98321365 or visit her daughter Marioli in the Casa Mayorga Grocery Store in Puyuhuapi.

has been hand-crafted using rustic tools, and the talents of Don Tito, his team of ranch hands, and students of the John Paul II high school, in Coyhaique.


SIP THE FLAVOR OF PATAGONIA DURING THE RITUAL OF DRINKING MATE

More than a hot drink for a cold day or a pick-me-up in the morning, yerba mate is a tradition in Patagonia; a facilitator for socializing and getting to know one another. Drinking yerba mate is big in this part of the world and it’s pretty likely that you will be invited to join in at some point in your travels. Prepare yourself and learn a little more of this symbol of the culture of Patagonia. Drinking yerba mate is a huge part of local culture in Patagonia; so much so that during your travels you will encounter entire monuments dedicated to the drink. If you explore Cochrane or Coyhaique, you may find yourself in front of a giant hand holding a yerba mate. Maybe you’ll even make your way to the strange house built in the design of what we have to assume is the owner’s favorite drink!

Yerba mate is the national drink of Argentina, where, during the latter part of the 1800s, it quickly made its way down from Buenos Aires to Patagonian estancias, becoming a popular warm beverage for farmers working long days in the fields. It provided energy and helped hold off their appetites as they worked. Yerba mate made its way to the Aysén Region of Chile with the migration of early settlers; many of whom spent years in

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Yerba mate is an infusion made from dried leaves of a cousin of the holly tree, the liex paraguariensis. Yerba mate has been used for thousands of years amongst the indigenous groups of the Southern Cone. The modern tradition dates back to the 1650s, when Jesuit priests first arrived in Paraguay. They noticed indigenous groups harvesting the plants on a small scale, from wild stands. Seeing the potential, they quickly established yerba mate (liex paraguariensis) tree plantations, with intentions of commercializing the drink as a source of stable income. Their efforts spread yerba mate throughout the Andean regions and beyond. Today, yerba mate is grown in southern Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay and sold throughout South America, the Middle East, and many other regions of the world.

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Argentina as they worked their way south. Over the years, drinking mate in Aysén has taken on its own social and cultural patterns, and today is an icon of tradition. Almost all Patagonians in Aysén start their day with yerba mate and typically, this means sharing the drink between family and houseguests and talking about how people slept and the day ahead. In fact, while Yerba mate provides energy and is an appetite suppressant, its most important benefit is its ability to bring people together. A simple invitation to sit down next to a wood stove and drink mate together can foster great discussion, build trust and strengthen friendships. The custom involves people sharing rounds of yerba mate, served hot in a small gourd with a metal or bamboo straw. Don’t be surprised if you are invited to join in, as offering yerba mate when guests arrive is a common tradition in Patagonia and a great way to break the ice or set the stage for conversation. Yerba mate is rarely sold in restaurants; rather, it is usually served in people’s homes, campsites, farms, and even along the road or trail. In Aysén, mate is almost always consumed “bitter”, which means in its natural form, without added sugar; however, sometimes people sweeten the brew with sugar or honey and some even add milk. It takes a while to get used to the bitter flavor of yerba mate, but be forewarned, if you are one of the many to acquire the taste, you may find it hard to put down!

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TRAVELERS’ TIPS When drinking yerba mate with others, the person who has the gourd will take several quick sips to finish all of the water within, and promptly pass it back to the server so that others who are waiting can also have a turn. (Our way of saying – don’t hog the gourd!) When a person is finished drinking mate, but the group is still passing it around, it is customary to say “thank you” to the server as you return it, indicating that you are done. Once you say thank you, the host will not offer you another round of yerba mate. Nevertheless you are welcome to remain for more conversation!


How do you prepare mate? It all begins with the water. You’ll need to heat your water to between 70 - 80˚C, or for those without a thermometer handy, the point just BEFORE boiling. Never use water that has boiled! Use the freshest water available, preferably without a lot of added chlorine. Fill your thermos and set it to the side. Next, fill your mate cup or calabaza 3/4 full with yerba mate. Fill the cup with the water and place the bombilla into the yerba mate so that it extends to the bottom and rests against one edge. From this point on, the bombilla will remain stationary.

OVERVIEW

»»Activity

Type: Regional tradition. Learn to prepare a typical beverage of Patagonia.

»»Start: Almost any home, campsite or rural inn in Aysén.

»»End: When you say thank you. »»Duration: Could be 20 minutes or could be 2 hours – all depends on the host’s preferences

»»Seasonality: Year Round »»Special Considerations:

You can find yerba mate in any store in the region. For calabazas, bombillas and other mate accessories, we suggest La Casa del Mate, located in Errazuriz 268, in Coyhaique. You can find them on Facebook: lacasadelmate.coyhaique, or by email: ventas@lacasadelmate.cl.

The person who is the server has an important job, which begins with drinking the first cup or two, often called the mate del zonzo (mate of the fool). The goal of drinking these first cups is to test the water temperature and flavor before refilling and passing the hot beverage on to the first person on their right. Each person drinks the entire serving of water before passing the cup back to the server to refill for the next person. This process goes around and around until the yerba begins to lose its flavor (usually around ten fills, depending on the age of the yerba). At this point the yerba is said to be washed out, and the server should dispose of it and refill the mate cup with a new round of yerba.

»»Reservations: Not required. Soon-

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er or later, you’ll be offered the opportunity to join in.

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PEDAL BETWEEN CURANTO AND KÜCHEN IN PUYUHUAPI

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In addition to panoramic views of the Puyuhuapi Fjord and Queulat National Park, Puyuhuapi is full of unique heritage that mixes the traditions of Germany and Chiloe. It’s the perfect place to explore on two wheels. “Entre Curanto y Kuchen” (Between curanto and küchen), is the name of the book written by Senora Luisa Ludwig, sociologist and daughter of one of the founders of Puyuhuapi. Its most recent edition is available in both Spanish and English and for sale in regional bookstores. The book’s name sums up the culture and history of this town well. “Curanto” is a Chilean dish, from the island of Chiloé. I it is prepared throughout Aysén, owing to the influence this culture has had on the area. Throughout the colonization, immigrants arrived from Chiloe, a big part of the workforce for the building of settlements like Puyuhuapi. They brought their knowledge and traditions, like techniques for the wooden shingles, called tejuelas, used on many of the buildings in Puyuhuapi. They also brought a unique gastronomy with influences of the sea and special recipes like curanto. This dish is traditionally prepared for gatherings and parties, in a large hole in the ground where stones are piled and heated by a huge bonfire. The contents? Delicious seafood (clams, mussels, etc) mixed with sausage, chicken, potatoes and spices and a top layer of giant leaves of the native plant, Nalca. Everything pressure cooks for approximately an hour before it is removed and shared. Küchen is the German word for cake and in Chile, recognized as any sweet, breadlike cake – the perfect accompaniment to a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate. How did these two dishes come together in Puyuhuapi? It’s a story with three main protagonists; a handful of German visionaries looking for a new start in life at the end of the world, a tireless explorer known as the “intellectual author of the Carretera Austral” and a group of dedicated Chilotes who were skilled with their axes and creativity. The history of Puyuhuapi begins in the 1930s, when citizens of some of the provinces of Germany began to seek options and alter-


natives before the imminent arrival of war. The Chilean government offered free land to those who were willing to work and Patagonia sounded like an area with interesting opportunities. Karl Ludwig, Otto Uebel and Augusto Grosse each came to explore the area, looking for a place to settle. Destiny crossed their paths and they joined efforts, resulting in their discovery of a protected bay with unmatched beauty and immense forest resources. They decided this was the place to bring German families and form a colony, but the task wasn’t going to be easy. Not only must their plans and petitions be approved by the Chilean government, afterwards they would have to return to their bay via trails or boats and begin to coexist with the sea and the immense forests. Amidst an indomitable natural backdrop, they would need to build a suitable place for families to live, develop

gardens and livestock to ensure there would be food, obtain access to services like education and healthcare, and develop economic activity that would keep everything going over time. And so it was that in the midst of heavy rains they assembled the first base of operations with two tents that served as their refuge, and shortly thereafter founded Puyuhuapi (1935), giving their settlement the same name as the fjord. Grosse made a trip to Germany to invite more people to come and participate in the colony, but the war was at the point of breaking out and this prevented him from grabbing the attention of a large numbers. But some of them came, like Walter Hopperdietzel, Ernst Ludwig (the younger brother of Karl) and the first woman, Helen Behn, among others.

Little by little, more settlers and workers arrived, bringing along more women and children to live in this tiny community. By 1950 the colony of Puyuhuapi was a veritable beehive of work. It was organized as a cooperative: Otto Uebel was a chemical en-

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In parallel, settlers began to hire workers from Chiloe to assist with the construction of buildings. Several worked on a short-term basis but many others came with their families to make Puyuhuapi their home. Among many talents, these workers hand crafted wooden shingles, or tejuelas, using only an ax – and in a bit, we’ll let you know where you can go to see some examples of their work, testaments to the blend of German and Chilota cultures.

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gineer, but based on his love and knowledge of farming, they asked him to take charge of the livestock. Walter Hopperdietzel was a textile engineer and founded the carpet factory, still in operation today. Ernst Ludwig was in charge of the lumber yard, sawmill, workshops and home construction. Helmut Hopperdietzel was in charge of the communication with the outside world, first as a telegrapher and postmaster, and later, in charge of the coordination of the construction of roads. Meanwhile, Augusto Grosse was hired by the Chilean Ministry of Public Works as an explorer for the colonization of Aysén. His mission was to search for viable routes to unite the localities emerging in disparate points of the region. He toured and documented the entirety of Aysén, providing the base of knowledge that served planners and engineers in the design and construction of the Carretera Austral. Can anyone doubt that he was a visionary? In 1971 Puerto Puyuhuapi was officially rec-

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ognized by the Chilean State. This picturesque village offers visitors a unique heritage and mix of cultures, as noted in the architecture and gastronomy, which mixes German influences like küchen, strudels and sauerkraut, with that of Chiloe, like fish, curanto, milcao or chapalele.

Bike Tour of Town The Chamber of Tourism in Puyuhuapi has created a tour so that visitors can learn about the history of the town through its special sites and buildings. We suggest you make it a bike tour; you can rent bikes in town from Austral Experience, which has maps of the Chamber Tour Route and can even accompany you, if you prefer a guided tour. Some of the sites that you need to know:

uuGerman

Colonial Cemetery: Today, this site is a small park where there is a monolith with the names of the first German settlers. The chilote cemetery, which had to be moved for the construction of the Carretera Austral, was located one kilometer south, on the


the designation of “historical monument”, by the National Monuments Council. Built between 1953 and 1960, by settler Ernst Ludwig, the four-story house is made using the German technique of fachwerk construction, based on diagonal cubes and modified for the materials of the area.

uuWooden

Hydraulic Waterwheel: This waterwheel served to power the machines for the furniture workshop, generate electricity and provide water for the houses.

uuPuyuhuapi shores of the sea.

uuColonial Trail: An old trail that crosses

streams, meadows, and the site of an ancient rock slide before finally fading away as it enters the deep forest.

Carpet Factory: Walter Hopperdietzel and his father founded the factory in the mid 40’s. For three generations, it has given employment to women in the area, many of whom arrived from Chiloé, talented in loom work. It is possible to visit and tour.

uuCatholic

Church: Built in 1966 in the style of the churches of Chiloé; its first priest was Fr. Antonio Ronchi, the “missionary of Patagonia” who is remembered throughout this Region for his many public works.

uuWorkers’

Houses: These cottages, built in the sixties, with their tejuelas and barn style roofs, are icons of the construction of Puyuhuapi that were typically occupied by Chilote workers who lived in the village.

uuCasa

Ludwig: Casa Ludwig is the first private building in the region to achieve

OVERVIEW

»»Activity

Type: Tour of Puyuhuapi on foot or by bicycle.

»»Start:

Austral Experience, Otto Uebel 36.

»»End:

Austral Experience, Otto Uebel 36.

»»Distance: You can design your own circuit.

»»Duration: 1 - 3 hours »»Seasonality: Year Round. »»Special Considerations:

»»Reservations: You can do the tour

on your own or with a guide. If you want to rent bicycles, contact Adonis Acuna, the owner of Austral Experience (www.experienciaustral.com), located in Otto Uebel 36, Puyuhuapi: (09) 87448755; adonisgam_7@hotmail.com; contacto@experienciaustral.com.

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Hungry? We recommend a German-Patagonian küchen, which you can find in almost all the cafes in town.

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IN PUYUHUAPI, COFFEE’S BEST FRIEND IS KÜCHEN

Here’s a delicious (and foolproof) recipe for sweets fans that will bring back great memories of your trip through Patagonia. And for those who aren’t big fans of the kitchen, there’s always the option of going to enjoy küchen at one of the small cafes in Puyuhuapi. Eating well is not something that settlers sacrificed when they came to Patagonia. On the contrary, within a few years the pioneers of the Region of Aysén were reinventing their typical recipes with the incorporation of local flavors. In Puyuhuapi they celebrate this fusion of gastronomic traditions once a year, usually in February, when the Folkloric Festival, Entre Curanto y Kuchen, is held, celebrating the fusion of cuisines that occurred in the area through the blending of German and Chilote culture. But there is no need to synchronize your trip with the festival. If you want to try a delicious küchen in the area you can visit Señora Adriana Baier year round, in her café, Los Mañíos del Queulat. A couple of years ago, Adriana and her husband decided to follow their dream and convert their home into a quaint cafe with capacity for 12 persons. Here Adriana is putting her pastry arts studies in practice preparing delicacies typical of the area, in addition to excellent coffees and espressos. The place is open year round and is also a restaurant, so it is the ideal place to stop for lunch or dinner.

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Adriana’s recipe for küchen is very much influenced by the local history. Patagonian pastry in inspired by German traditions, and recipes that have been passed on from generation to generation by the settlers who arrived to populate the area. Of course, they’ve been adapted to include fruits that can be found in Patagonian, like apples, rhubarb, cherries and even nalca, creating unique combinations and new traditions. So, roll up your sleeves and try your luck with Adriana’s secrets for great küchen!


RECIPE FOR ADRIANA’S KÜCHEN (10 SERVINGS)

»»Ingredients For the dough:

• • • • • • •

2 cups of sifted flour 1 teaspoon of baking powder 80 to 100 grams of granulated sugar 1 pinch of lemon zest 125 grams of butter 1 egg yolk 3 Tablespoons of water

For the filling:

• • • • • •

125 grams of butter 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder 125 grams of sugar 200 Grams of flour 4 green apples 1 Tablespoon of water

»»Instructions

We’ll begin with the crust. Start by creaming the butter with the sugar, then

add the egg yolks, flour, baking powder and water, and mix until it forms a creamy dough. In the meantime, preheat the oven for 30 minutes to between 150° 180° C. Grease a detachable mold and fill with the dough, pressing against the sides with a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes. If you are using a gas oven and have the option, direct the flames toward the outside. Next comes the filling. Grate the apples and sauté with 8 tablespoons of sugar and a tablespoon of water for 15 minutes. In a food processor, mix 200 grams of flour, 125 g of sugar, 1 T cinnamon, and 125 grams of butter, until the mixture reaches a uniform crumb consistency. Once the dough is ready, remove from the oven and fill with the baked apples, and then cover with the sugary breadcrumbs. Place back to the oven for about 20 minutes until the crumbs are golden on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.

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OVERVIEW

»»Activity

Type: Gastronomy. Preparation of a Puyuhuapi style küchen.

»»Start: Your kitchen. »»End: With the perfect dessert for a great meal.

»»Duration: In an hour and a half the küchen should be cooling down in the window sill.

»»Seasonality: Year Round. »»Special Considerations: Although

the recipe is easy you need some specific implements, like a cake pan with a detachable base and a food processor, so that the küchen comes out perfect and is as easy as possible.

»»Reservations:

If you want to try Adriana’s küchen for yourself, visit Los Mañíos del Queulat cafe, located in the bypass for Puyuhuapi, cellular: (09) 76649866, Facebook: losmanios.delqueula, web site: www.losmaniosdelqueulat.cl

PALENA - QUEULAT AREA 100


SOOTHING THERMAL WATERS

+ PATAGONIA

LANDSCAPES

=

MAGIC!

After long days of hiking, sailing, biking, kayaking or horse riding, it is good to take a break and pamper yourself so you are ready to continue the fun. In the Palena – Queulat area you’ll have lots of different options for relaxing in Patagonian hot springs, each with a completely different style. There are natural termas (thermal waters or hot springs) within the Aysén Region, but the Palena - Queulat area offers easy access and great concentration. These hot springs are framed with amazing backdrops; evergreen forests, ferns, flowers and other elements of the fjords and channels generated by glacial erosion of the earth’s crust during the last glaciation and the collapse of the central valley due to tectonic activity. The thermal waters of the Palena – Queulat area are related to the volcanic activity in the area, especially the Melimoyu volcano, which remains active even though its last eruption was estimated to have occurred between 8 thousand and 11 thousand years ago. Here are three of the many options for relaxing in the thermal baths of the area, each with a different style and price. Your choice, or visit all three, and enjoy the variety!

Puyuhuapi Lodge & Spa is another great option, located on the other side of the Puyuhuapi Fjord. To access the spa, you’ll travel 14 km south from Puyuhuapi, to their park-

PALENA - QUEULAT AREA

The Termas del Ventisquero Puyuhuapi, are located 6 km south of Puyuhuapi, alongside the Carretera Austral. When you leave the parking lot and step down the stairs leading to the baths, you will find yourself immersed in beautiful native gardens that later open up to provide a backdrop for the panoramic views of the fjord, which you will enjoy as you relax in the warming waters. The pools vary in temperature between 35 °C and 44 °C and most have roofs overhead, so regardless of the weather, inside the waters you’ll be toasty warm. During the summer months the baths are open until 23:00, allowing you the chance to relax under the stars. In addition, there are changing rooms with lockers and towels, showers, and a coffee shop with great pastries, coffees and snacks.

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ing area and pier. You should coordinate your visit in advance so that they will have the boat waiting to transport you to the other side of the fjord. The Lodge, Spa and Baths are all located on a private peninsula called Dorita Bay where you,ll find the perfect combination of sea waters, fresh waters, and thermal waters. There are 3 outdoor baths overlooking the fjord that can be used both day and night. In addition, there is an indoor swimming pool and a full treatment spa with massage and other services based on the properties of the thermal water and muds of the area. And if one day is not enough, simply reserve a stay in their luxury accommodations for a few more days of total comfort. Keep in mind, during the high season the facilities are for the exclusive use of the guests of the lodge. Reserve ahead. Further north, in kilometer 17 of Route X-12, from La Junta to Port Marin Balmaceda, you’ll find the El Sauce Rustic Hot Springs, owned by the Berger’s, one of the original families to settle in these valleys. The Bergers provide access to the thermal waters on their lands, with facilities that are rustic, unique and wonderful! First, there’s the adventure of getting to the springs. You enter their farm through a gate located at Route X-12 and drive approximately 3 km before reaching the springs. Here, in the middle of a rustic and natural setting, you find changing rooms, bathrooms, areas for barbecuing and wooden walkways leading into the nearby forest where the baths are located and are improved only by the addition of

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cypress decking and river pebbles. It’s magical. During January and February, the front gate is open from 9:30 to 20:30, Monday to Sunday. In other months you should contact them beforehand to arrange your visit.


OVERVIEW »»Type of activity: Visit to thermal baths. »»Start: Palena – Queulat Area »»End: Palena – Queulat Area »»Distance: Depends on the thermal

available for guests with reservations in advance and you’ll want to confirm the boat crossing schedule.

baths you elect. See location information in the section on reservations.

»»Duration: Depends on you. You can

take a one-hour break in the El Sauce Hot Springs, or stay for coffee and pastries at Termas del Ventisquero Puyuhuapi, or you can disappear into the relaxing waters for several days at the Puyuhuapi Lodge & Spa.

Considerations: Contact the baths directly for timetables, prices and availability.

»»Reservations: During the tourist sea-

son, you can visit the Termas del Ventisquero Puyuhuapi and the El Sauce Termas without reservations. The Puyuhuapi Lodge & Spa baths are only

PALENA - QUEULAT AREA

»»Special

Termas del Ventisquero Puyuhuapi, Carretera Austral s/n; 6 Km south of Puyuhuapi; (09) 76666862 – 76776967; (067) 2314683; termasventisquero@ gmail.com; www.termasventisqueropuyuhuapi.cl Puyuhuapi Lodge & Spa, Dorita Bay s/n; Austral Docks, 14 Km south of Puyuhuapi; (02) 2256489; info@patagonia-connection. com; www.patagonia-connection.com El Sauce Springs, Km 17, Route X-12 between La Junta and Raúl Marín Balmaceda; Claudio Berger; (09) 94542711; alejvc@hotmail. com

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KAYAK THE PUYUHUAPI CHANNEL

This photogenic channel provides a liquid corridor between mountains, forests and rocky islands filled with marine birds and animals. We suggest a half-day kayak tour of these waters before finishing with a welldeserved rest in local hot springs. The experience of touring by kayak is unique, especially when the Puyuhuapi Fjords become calm and all of the colors and reliefs of the mountain are reflected on their surface. Sitting even with the waterline, everything takes on a new perspective; the constant movement of the waves, the silent movement of the boat and the coast with its forests and beaches, keeping watch over everything from the distance. On these days, we would describe the experience of kayaking this Fjord with a single word: tranquility, just you, your paddle, your boat of approximately 4 to 5 meters, and nature. Paddling the fjords offers opportunities to watch sea lions, dolphins, and both coastal and forest bird-life, because the vegetation on the islands is so lush that all the forests extend to the sea.

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Begin your adventure in Puerto Puyuhuapi, a quaint village founded in 1935, joining German and Chilote heritage. The town was founded on the edge of the fjord by four immigrants from what is now the Czech Republic. They came to Patagonia in hopes of leaving behind the threat of impending war in Europe, bring with them a great spirit of adventure and a love for nature. Their initial idea was to inspire other families to join them as soon as possible; however, the Second World War delayed their plans until 1947. Meanwhile, they worked to develop the port, bringing in master carpenters and wood-workers from the island of Chiloe to assist with the daunting task of developing a colony in the middle of such a remote and indomitable landscape. Today, Puyuhuapi offers a fusion of cultures, reflected in the architecture and a gastronomy that borrows from both heritages, mixing fish and currant with German-style kßchen and asados. If you’re not traveling with your own equipment, the best way to kayak the Puyuhuapi Fjord is with a licensed operator, who will


OVERVIEW

»»Activity

cursion.

provide the right equipment and a guide familiar with these waters. As long as you are willing to follow the directions of your guides, this activity is even suitable for beginners. The excursion starts at the docks in town, where you’ll meet with your guide to organize and prepare your gear. Around 09:00, you’ll enter the water and start paddling the Puyuhuapi Channel, which is also known as the Cay Channel. This channel connects with the Jacaf Channel and then the Pacific Ocean to the north and to the south, where there is direct access to the open Pacific seas. Along the Puyuhuapi Channel, you’ll note various activities associated with salmon farming, which it one of the major economic activities in this area.

During the tour you will see the group of

»»Start: Puerto Puyuhuapi. »»End: Puerto Puyuhuapi. »»Distance: 6.5 nautical miles of navigation.

»»Duration: 3 -5 hours. »»Special Considerations:

Looking for more activity and adventure? You can combine this excursion with 6 kilometers of mountain biking, going from town to the Termas del Ventisquero Puyuhuapi, and then return to town via kayak after relaxing in the thermal baths.

»»Reservations:

In Puyuhuapi, you can contact: Experiencia Austral, Otto Ubel #36; (09) 87448755; adonisgam _7@hotmail.com; contacto@experienciaustral. com;w w w.experienciaustral. com.

volcanoes that rise up all around Puyuhuapi and a little later, an unforgettable panoramic view of the Queulat Hanging Glacier from the Puyuhuapi Fjord. In this sector there are thermal waters that spring from the rocks, and mix with the sea. You can leave your kayak on the nearby beach and soothe tired muscles with a well-deserved rest in their relaxing hot waters before returning to Puerto Puyuhuapi.

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Donning your neoprene wet-suit and other protective gear, you’ll begin to paddle along the northern shoreline, with the Carretera Austral always to your left. During the tour you will observe a large variety of birds, like black-necked swans, cormorants, herons, kingfishers, petrel and Magellan penguin, in addition to sea lions and austral dolphins, also known as toninas. Since you are in kayak, your tour will be extremely quiet, causing less distractions and fear amongst the fauna and rewarding you with the possibility of being much closer than you would be able to achieve in boat.

Type: Guided kayak ex-

105


EXPLORE QUEULAT NATIONAL PARK HIKING ITS MANY TRAILS

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The Queulat National Park can be explored through various hikes that will allow you to experience the forests, rivers, lakes, fjords, waterfalls and hanging glaciers that makes this place unique. Beginning in the XVI century, long before technical apparel, GPS, motor boats or portable generators, there were dozens of brave and capable explorers who ventured into the challenging and unpredictable lands and seas in this part of the world looking for the mythical City of the Caesars. According to legend, this mythical city was filled with the gold of indigenous groups and Spanish shipwrecks. Jesuit priest, Fr. José García Alsué, was one such explorer, and in 1776, he conducted an exploratory mission in the area that comprises Queulat National Park. He traveled deep within in his search for the mythical city, exploring the basin of the Queulat River until he reached a beautiful waterfall that is named in his honor. With the exception of hanging glaciers that reached all the way to the sea during Padre Garcia’s era, the early explorers saw scenery very similar to what you will encounter today: giant pangues, o nalcas, ferns, mosses, impenetrable forests and abundant lakes and rivers. The 154,093 hectares that comprise Queulat National Park are divided into three areas: (1) Sector Angostura, which includes Risopatrón lake and Los Pumas Lagoon, north of Puyuhuapi, and the glacial area toward the south of town; 2) Sector Ventisquero (Km 200 of the Austral Road), where you will find several trails leading to spectacular views of the Hanging Glacier and its Lagoon and 3) Sector Portezuelo, where there are trails to the Padre Garcia Cascade and the glacial lagoons of the Enchanted Forest. The park, established by the Chilean Government in 1983, is located 165 km north of Coyhaique and is a favorite for both nature photographers and hikers, thanks to its accessibility, scenic beauty and the added plus that the great majority of this territory still remains pristine and largely unexplored.

Discover the biodiversity of the Angostura Sector in the climb to Los Pumas Lagoon.


TRAVELERS’ TIPS

The path up to the Los Pumas Lagoon begins alongside the Carretera Austral, where there is a small parking area across from the Conaf campsites. The campsites offer 4 roofed tent sites with fire pits, drinking water and bathrooms with cold water showers. This area is one of the only documented habitats for the Darwin’s frog, an endangered species, barely 3 cm in length, which sings during the day and loves sunbathing.

There are several options for accommodation in this sector of the Park, in addition to the Conaf camping area. Reserve in advance in: Ecocamping Playa Arrayanes - Carretera Austral s/n; 5 kilometers north of Puyuhuapi; (09) 90785896; campingarrayanes@ gmail.com; www.campingarrayanes.com. Another option El Pangue Lodge, Carretera Austral, Km 240 North Shore of Risopatrón Lake;(067) 2526906; info@elpangue.com; www.elpangue.com. In addition to the lodge and cabins, they offer guests a restaurant, a heated swimming pool, sauna and hot tubs.

THE HIKE (DISTANCE- 5.6 MILES ROUND TRIP; ACTIVITY DURATION APPROXIMATELY 4 - 5 HOURS):

Approach the ice in the Sector of the

PALENA - QUEULAT AREA

The first 2,500 m of the trail are the hardest part of this trek, as you climb a seemingly never-ending rustic stairway through the forest. In this sector there are a lot of chilcos, a native understory bush that is one of the favorite foods of the pudu, the smallest deer in the world. If you are quiet and very lucky, they might just make an appearance! As you climb, you’ll pass two overlooks where you will have excellent views of the valley and the Risopatrón Lake. With patience and perseverance, you’ll reach the top of the climb, where things will level off somewhat and you will enter a mature forest of giant coigües, mañío, canelo and chauras, among other species. Subsequently, you’ll approach the tree line and the forest cover will change yet again, this time being dominated by shrubby lengas and ñires, as you approach the lake. The lake has a surface area of approximately 25 hectares and is the habitat for many different species of migratory birds, especially in spring. You can also find the tiny 3 cm tall carnivorous plant called the swamp violet (drosera uniflora). Ask the park rangers for help finding it!

107


»»In

Hanging Queulat Glacier The entrance to the Hanging Queulat Glacier Sector of the park is approximately 20 km south of Puyuhuapi alongside the Carretera Austral. Follow the entrance road to its end and park in designated areas in front of the Environmental Interpretation Visitor Center. From here you can access the trailhead for the Moraine Trail, the most famous hike within the Park and a definite highlight. THE HIKE (DISTANCE - 6 KILOMETERS OUT AND BACK; DURATION: APPROXIMATELY 2 - 3 HOURS):

PALENA - QUEULAT AREA 108

Leaving the Visitor Center you’ll cross the footbridge over the outflow of the Témpanos Lagoon, which forms a beautiful river with large rocks and stunning rapids. The views are spellbinding, and the movement of the bridge creates a sense of dizzy adventure! On the other side you’ll see signs indicating two trails; the one to the right takes you to the Témpanos Lagoon and the one to the left, the Moraine Trail, which is the one to choose. It winds upward for a length of approximately 3 km, through forests and moraine with panoramic views of the Puyuhuapi Fjord, the Témpanos Lagoon, and the grand finale: the Hanging Glacier. The start of the trail is flat, gently winding between the trees, lichens and ferns characteristic of these humid forests. The second section begins to climb with series of rustic steps taking you upward between giant tree trunks covered in vines. There are benches along the way if you need a break, strategically set amongst the forest in places where you can obtain great views of the Puyuhuapi Fjord with the Pacific Ocean in the back-

TRAVELERS’ TIPS

addition to The Moraine Trail, which is the most visited, there are three others that can be explored in this sector. The Trail to the Panoramic Overlook, which extends a short 200 meters to the confluence of the Ventisqueros and Desagüe Rivers, from which you can observe the Ventisquero Colgante (Hanging Glacier). The Trail to the Témpanos Lagoon is slightly longer (600 meters), crossing the Ventisqueros River over a hanging bridge and leading to the lagoon where there is a boat that can be contracted to cross the waters to the base of the glacier. The Aluvión Interpretive Trail is a short trail located in the area of the Hanging Glacier with information on landslides that have occurred in the past.

»»If you are looking for accommoda-

tions in this sector you can contact the Posada Estuary Queulat, located in kilometer 192 of the Carretera Austral; (09) 99193520; patricio@posadaqueulat.cl; www. posadaqueulat.cl. The Posada offers luxury cabins with country breakfasts and dinners included, in addition to guided trekking tours and boat excursions of the Queulat Estuary.

ground. Imagine! A little over a hundred years ago, the glacier reached all the way through the valley to touch the sea. Rest up and have a snack, because the last stretch of the trail is the most challenging, with a steep climb to an overlook of the Témpanos Lagoon and shortly thereafter, the Hanging Glacier, swathed by massive rocks and surrounded by waterfalls. The volume of the water from the waterfalls varies during the year; in the summer months you will likely be treated to more icebergs and calving. Shortly before reaching this final overlook you can fill your water bottle from a small waterfall at the side of the trail. The average annual rainfall in this area ranges from 3,500 to 4,000 millimeters, so there’s a good chance that you will not have visibility


of the glacier through the clouds and rain. While disappointing, it is precisely all this water that enables the growth of the lush vegetation that surrounds you in Queulat, filling the whole environment with hues of green and the smell of fresh, humid soil. Our advice is to plan your visit with ample time so that you can take advantage of the breaks in the rain to capture all of the amazing details and sights.

The Padre Garcia and Enchanted Forest Trails of the Portezuelo Sector In Queulat National Park, the towering Andes Cordillera drops abruptly to the shores of the Puyuhuapi Fjord and Queulat Estuary, forming steep and dramatic slopes with climbs of 500 meters over the course of a few kilometers in the Sector of the Portezuelo. The relieve is the product of large tectonic, glacial and volcanic movements, producing a rugged topography filled with rocky slopes, summits, glaciers and waterfalls pouring from ice fields just out of sight in the tops of the mountains.

After a series of switchback in the pass and driving through the Portezuelo, you’ll find the parking area for the start of the Bosque Encantado Trail, one of the most beautiful

THE HIKE (DISTANCE - 4.5 KILOMETERS, OUT AND BACK; DURATION - APPROXIMATELY 2-3 HOURS): The initial 2 km of the trail winds through a lush and seemingly enchanted forest gradually climbing up a steep slope up to a panoramic overlook of the sector. Afterwards, in order to access the Lagoon of the Gnomes, the hike leaves the forests and proceeds along the sometimes slippery edge of the Cascada River which winds through the moraine before finally leading up to the lagoon. The Lagoon of the Gnomes is surrounded by rocky walls, on which the Glacier is perched, just out of view; nevertheless, you’ll see the huge icebergs that have fallen from its elusive front. Note the tracks left by the glacier in its advances and retreats over these rocky walls. The first 500 meters of this trail are easy, beautiful and suitable for all walkers. Afterwards the hike becomes more challenging, with steep slopes, stairs and rocky moraine.

PALENA - QUEULAT AREA

The Padre Garcia Trail is located at the beginning of the northern side of the Queulat pass from a trail-head alongside the Carretera Austral. This short trail drops 150 meters, where you’ll be accompanied by increasingly strong sounds of water, until you reach a small opening in the middle of a lush green forest and a beautiful waterfall of about 30 m.

and unknown of the park, in the first few kilometers of the descent.

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OVERVIEW »»Activity Type: Hiking. »»Start: Queulat National Park. »»End: Queulat National Park. »»Distance: See each trail’s description. »»Duration: See each trail’s description. »»Seasonality: Mainly in the summer, due to snowfall and other climatic complexities.

»»Special

Considerations: You must register with Park Rangers and pay an entrance fee. Plan your walk with plenty of daylight hours, wear appropriate clothing for variable weather, and bring hiking poles, sunglasses, rain gear, a hat and sunscreen. You’ll also want water, a snack and your camera.

»»Reservations: Not necessary. You can PALENA - QUEULAT AREA 110

enjoy these trails self-guided or contract a guide service, as you prefer. Operators include:

E xperiencia Austral – Puyuhuapi, Otto Uebel 36; (09) 87448755; contacto@experienciaustral. com; www.experienciaustral. com. Posada Estuario Queulat - Km 192 Carretera Austral; (09) 99193520; patricio@posadaqueulat .cl; www.posadaqueulat.cl.

El Pangue Lodge - Carretera Austral Km 240, North Shore Risopatrón Lake; (067) 2526906; info@ elpangue.com; www.elpangue. com. If you’re in Coyhaique, you arrange a day trip through: ·· Ecotravel Patagonia; (09) 56679288; contacto@ e c o t r ave l p a t a g o n i a . c o m ; w w w.ecot r avelpat agonia . com. ·· Geosur Expediciones - Simon Bolivar 521; (09) 92648671; Facebook: Expediciones GeoSur; cristian@geosurexpediciones.com; www.geosurexpediciones.com. ·· GeoTurismo Patagonia - José de Moraleda 480, Office 6; (067) 2233439; (09) 66367733; info@geoturismopatagonia. cl; www.geoturismopatagonia.cl. ·· Purapatagonia Excursiones y Expediciones - General Parra 202; (067) 2246000; info@purapatagonia.cl; www.purapatagonia.cl. ·· Turismo Descubre Patagonia: Gral. Parra 329 Int.; (67) 2242626; (09) 96823300; descubrepatagonia@gmail.com; www.descubrepatagonia.cl


FROM THE FORESTS OF VILLA AMENGUAL TO THE PAMPAS OF ALTO RÍO CISNES

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the Río Cisnes Estancia has provided jobs and opportunities for the settlers of Villa La Tapera and Alto Río Cisnes. Travel this scenic route to visit this historic estancia. This route starts in Villa Amengual, taking Route X-25 in the direction of Villa La Tapera. We recommend stopping in Villa Amengual before you begin the route; there are multiple choices for accommodation and an excellent Center for Crafts. You can buy snacks and supplies in Villa Amengual and also in Villa La Tapera. Route X-25 begins by traveling through lush forest comprised of coigüe, tepa, mañío y ciruelillo, bordered by the valleys and waters of the Cisnes River. There are several spots for fly-fishing along this way, and overlooks where you’ll capture great shots of the intense greens and blues of the river, and large side canyons filled with white water rapids visible from the road. You’ll also be able to observe countless waterfalls, rivers and streams joining the river from these side canyons and valleys, helping to add volume as the river makes its way to the Pacific Ocean in the vicinity of Puerto Cisnes.

Villa La Tapera is a strange mixture of ancient houses constructed of adobe and tejuelas (hand crafted wooden shingles), mixed with modern paved streets, a fitness center and a brand new, state of the art, school. The vast majority of people who live in Villa La Tapera are associated with the Estancia in

PALENA - QUEULAT AREA

The landscape begins to change drastically as one nears Villa La Tapera. The forest cover changes from evergreen temperate rain forest to deciduous forests comprised of lenga and ñirre, and the landscape begins to open up, allowing you to see the mountains in all directions. Soon, you’ll leave behind the forest altogether; once past the village, Patagonian steppe quickly takes over the horizon, dominated by small scrub trees and grasses like coiron. Throughout the drive, you’ll see signage indicating the lands of the Río Cisnes Estancia. Nevertheless, from the moment you cross over onto the Pampa, pretty much everything in your view belongs to this giant ranch.

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TRAVELERS’ TIPS Visiting the Estancia in December is fascinating, because you can observe the sheep shearing process. It’s amazingly fast! The esquilador (shearer) supports the sheep against his body and begins by cutting the wool on the sheep’s stomach, then the extremities and finally, the head and neck area. For a skilled esquilador, the entire shearing lasts no more than a pair of minutes and the sheep is on his way. Within a month, the team of 12 esquiladores shear around 60 thousand sheep! If you want to observe, coordinate with the Estancia in advance. one way or another, so if you have questions or want to learn more, strike up a conversation with someone in town. It’s a gaucho culture, and interestingly, some time back, wild boar and red deer were introduced; Taperians have become skilled hunters and offer visitors excellent meals featuring these exotic meats. The journey continues eastward across the pampa in the direction of the border with Argentina, until, after approximately 37 kilometers, you encounter the airstrip, enormous barns and structures of the Río Cisnes Estancia, along the left-hand side of the road. Keep watch for gauchos working with the enormous sheep herds and native fauna like caiquenes, hares and birds of prey including

PALENA - QUEULAT AREA 112

eagles, kestrels and of course, the enormous Andean condor. The Río Cisnes Estancia was initiated in the 1920s under the direction of the Sociedad Ganadera Cisnes and went on to become one of the three largest estancias of Aysén. Today the Estancia is comprised of approximately 130 thousand hectares, and is


OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: Scenic route of historical, cultural and natural interest

»»Start: Villa Amengual. »»End: Alto Río Cisnes. »»Distance: 180 km round trip travel-

ing Route X-25, from the Carretera Austral.

»»Duration: 6 - 8 hours. »»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations:

focused on its sheep operations with a small secondary focus on cattle production. Some of the original facilities of the Estancia were declared to be of importance for National Heritage by the National Monuments Council in 2009. If you would like to visit these buildings, including the original house and the Cuero Bayo Sheering Shed, stop by the office to register and receive instructions.

Not required, but if you want to contact the Estancia in advance, you can visit their office in Coyhaique or contact them by phone: Baquedano 776, Coyhaique; (067) 2233055; (02) 19624513; www.estanciariocisnes.com.

From the Estancia you can also visit the Carlota Lake National Reserve which is an ideal place to camp, hike and fish. For more information and access to the reserve, coordinate with the office of the Estancia; it is necessary to cross Estancia land and even open some locked gates on the way.

»»Reservations:

PALENA - QUEULAT AREA

From the Río Cisnes Estancia, you’ll be just a few kilometers from Argentina and the Río Frías Border Crossing. Before crossing, talk with local police (Carabineros de Chile) regarding road conditions. If you are a citizen or permanent resident of Chile you will need to obtain a salvoconducto before crossing. Foreign visitors may need to obtain a tourist visa to enter Argentina (available on line). Remember to fill your tank in Mañihuales or Puyuhuapi before traveling.

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THE TROUT OF YOUR DREAMS IS WAITING FOR YOU IN LAS TORRES LAKE

If you are a fishing fanatic, the Las Torres Lake National Reserve is the place to visit. With a unique beauty, the Reserve offers a combination of comfortable amenities and beautiful environment; critical factors to inspire your search for the perfect trout. The rest is up to you! The Las Torres Lake National Reserve was created in 1982, although in its early years it was nothing more than a resting point for horseback travelers making their way through Cisnes Medio, as this sector was known. In the years that followed, Conaf installed a Ranger Cabin, fencing, and a dock, and beautiful Las Torres Lake debuted and began to gain recognition and visits. It quickly caught on as a good spot for fly-fishing and catch-and-release values have kept a good population for fishermen who visit its shores and waters today. The natural setting of the lake will captivate you immediately. Jagged snowy peaks jet up around you year round, giving birth to the tributaries of the Torres, Santa Andrea and Tobiana estuaries and the Cisnes Rodríguez y Picaflor Rivers. Add in the crystal clear waters of Los Torres Lake and you’ve got the ideal Reserve in which to spend a few days of good fishing. The lake has an area of approximately 330 hectares, with an abundance of large rainbow and brown trout. You can almost always find calm waters, as the mountains of the Pichacho and Torres chains enclose and protect the lake from the majority of Patagonian winds.

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One of the most special things about Lago Los Torres National Reserve is its location next to the Carretera Austral and the services it provides for fishermen, cyclists and other visitors. You will find small shelters for camping, where you can assemble your tent to the side or sleep inside. Each shelter is built in an attractive and rustic way with a large table where you can cook and eat, using your camping stove. There is also a grilling area, bathrooms with showers, a quincho, a small beach, a pier and guided boat excursions. If you prefer to sleep in a bed, Señora Mirta Arias, the manager of the area, offers both lodging and meals in her rural inn. She is


NOTE

an excellent cook so don’t hesitate to speak with her to coordinate breakfast, lunch, dinner or picnics.

»»Avoid tiring the fish. »»Touch the fish at little as possible. Holding it inside the water with as little pressure as possible, is your best option.

»»Do not cover their gills with fingers or other objects.

»»Use barbless hooks; they are eas-

ier to remove, and can easily be made by clamping the barbs with a set of pliers.

»»Don’t pull or force the hook, if it

is tough remove, cut the line near the mouth of the fish.

»»Return the fish to the water. If the

fish has not yet recovered, allow fresh water to enter its mouth and exit below its guts, by placing it in front of the current.

»»Let the fish swim away by its own

means (don’t toss or otherwise propel it).

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Ten kilometers north along the Carretera Austral, you’ll encounter the tiny town of Villa Amengual. Here there are several small hospedajes and minimarkets, a local handicrafts cooperative and a picturesque church crafted with tejuelas (hand carved wooden shingles) in the style of the famous churches of Chiloé. This church is very significant for the people of Villa Amengual. They built both the building and all of its furniture themselves, working together as a community, with the support of Father Antonio Ronchi, a missionary who worked in Aysén for close to 30 years, helping local communities to lower the barriers of isolation and poverty.

In order to conserve and protect the fish populations of Aysén, normal practice involves catch-and-release ethics. This practice consists of releasing caught fish with the least possible damage, so that they can survive, once returned. Some tips to release fish with minimal damage:

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OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: Recreational Fishing in Los Torres Lake.

»»Start: Los Torres Lake National Reserve

»»End:

serve

Los Torres Lake National Re-

»»Distance: The activity takes place in

the lakes, rivers and estuaries of the area, in a radius of approximately 20 Km.

»»In Villa Amengual, options include: • Lago Las Torres Lodge - Carretera

»»Duration: 1 day or more. »»Seasonality: Open year round; fishing

»»Special

during the season which extends between November and April.

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– Carretera Austral Km 120; Accommodations, Camping, Meal Services and Boat Excursions; Mirta Arias; (067) 2215425; (09) 87342603 92487016 – 91490064.

Considerations: You need to purchase a fishing license (www. sernapesca.cl) and inform yourself about regulations and how to prevent the spread of Didymo, a highly invasive algae which has contaminated rivers throughout the world, including in Aysén (www.didymo.cl).

»»Reservations: You do not need res-

ervations to visit the Reserve, but it is advisable to book accommodations in advance. When Señora Mirta is within the Reserve, there is no signal and she cannot receive calls, but you can leave messages with the details of your request. Lago Los Torres National Reserve Tourist Services

• • • •

Austral Km 130; (064) 2232514; (09) 98222685 - 81760221 81760709 - 81760221; jlgalvez@ lagolastorres.cl; www.lagolastorres.cl. Hostal y Residencial Las Bandurrias - Carretera Austral Km 132; dopifi@hotmail.com. Hostal y Residencial El Encanto Plaza Passage 3; (09) 91448662; hugomancillaopazo@hotmail. com. Hostal y Residencial El Indio Carmen Arias 10; (067) 2215434; (09) 81680876 – 85078137; mari_ amengual@hotmail.com. Hospedaje El Paso - Carmen Arias 12; (067) 2215413; idabulher@ hotmail.com. Hospedaje El Michay - Carmen Arias 14; (067) 2215425; cafeteriaelmichay@gmail.com. Hostal y Residencial Las Lumas Camino Austral, 8 Km north of the village; (09) 95103087.


HAVE YOU TRIED TORTAS FRITAS WITH PEBRE YET?

Tortas fritas are the Patagonian version of Sopaipillas, doughnuts or beignets, and have been a staple in this area since the time of the pioneers. Here’s your chance to learn how to make them. When Ayséninos gather to share yerba mate, is inevitable that someone breaks out a plate of warm, fried cakes, called tortas fritas. For meals and especially Asados al Palo, tortas fritas are usually accompanied by a savory relish called Chilean pebre, but their flavor also lends itself to toppings like Manjar or Marmelade, allowing you to serve them as both a bread and a cake. The pioneers of the Patagonia needed foods that were easy to prepare, could last several days and be transported through harsh climatic conditions and terrains. Tortas Fritas met all these requirements. Although they resemble Sopaipillas which are popular throughout the north of Chile, they are simpler, omitting the use of pumpkin in the dough. They are actually more similar to the fried breads made in Argentina and Uruguay, showing yet another example of how these cultures mixed in Patagonia through the enormous Estancias, which attracted gauchos from all over South America. Originally, Tortas Fritas were prepared with lard and fried in lamb oil; however, today most people eat a healthier version using vegetable oil.

Tortas Fritas and Chilean Pebre are great for taking on the road; just remember to store them separately. Their preparation is simple, so give them a try!

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It is becoming increasingly common to be offered a basket of Tortas Fritas with Chilean Pebre when waiting for your meal in one the many restaurants of the Region. Chilean pebre is a sort of salsa or relish. Its recipe varies in accordance with the cook, but usually includes tomato, cilantro, chopped onion and peppers. Slice your tortas in half and spoon the pebre on top and when you get down to the bottom of the bowl, dunk them in the pebre juice to sop up every last bit of goodness. It’s a practice that’s probably not registered in the manual of good habits, but which is worth fighting over with the rest of the guests, if necessary.

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RECIPE FOR 15 - 20 TORTAS FRITAS ACCOMPANIED BY CHILEAN PEBRE: »»Ingredients For the tortas:

1 Kilo of flour without baking powder • 1 T dry yeast • Salt • 1 Liter of vegetable oil or a small packet of lard • Warm Water For the pebre:

• • •

3 or 4 medium tomatoes 1 bunch of fresh cilantro 1 bunch of chives or 1 medium onion 2 cloves of garlic 1 lemon 1 green chili White vinegar Vegetable Oil Cold Water Salt

• • • • • • • »»Preparation

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First the pebre. Peel the tomatoes, remove the seeds and finely dice, then add 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil, a teaspoon of white vinegar, the juice of one lemon, two cloves of garlic, finely chopped, half a cup of chopped cilantro, half a cup of finely chopped onion or chives and a minced green chili. Add 3/4 cup of cold water and salt to taste. Let the pebre

sit for one hour to allow the flavors to mingle. Now for the Tortas. Make the dough by dissolving a tablespoon of yeast in 1/3 cup of lukewarm water. Mix 1-1/2 cups of flour with 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 cup of melted lard or vegetable oil. Mix until a dough is formed. If necessary, add a few tablespoons of water until the dough is homogeneous. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until it is no longer sticky and springs back when pressed with a finger. Form a ball and sprinkle with flour. Place the dough in a bowl, cover with a clean and slightly damp dishcloth. Let the dough rise in a heated area for about 45 minutes. There are several ways to shape your Tortas Fritas. One option is to roll out the dough to a thickness of approximately 2-3 centimeters. Use a round cutter or a glass, cut out small circles. Make a hole in the center of each circle with your finger. Pour enough oil in a deep fryer to cover the tortas and heat until it starts to sizzle when you sprinkle in a drop of water. Fry the Tortas in the oil in small batches until browned on both sides, requiring you to turn them at least once. Drain excess oil by allowing them to rest on a paper towel before serving with pebre or other delicious accompaniments.


OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: Gastronomy.

Preparation of Tortas Fritas and Chilean Pebre.

»»Start: Buy the ingredients at a local market.

»»End: The table, the trail, wherever!

»»Duration: Depends on the skill of the cook, but in 60 minutes you should be ready to enjoy.

»»Seasonality: Year Round. »»Special Considerations: Be careful

when frying the Tortas in the hot oil!

»»Reservations: Not required. 

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BIODIVERSITY IN THE PALENA - QUEULAT AREA The flora and fauna that you may see include: Trees and shrubs: Poplar or Alamos (Populus nigra - In-

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troduced); Chilean Araurcaria (Araucaria araucana - Introduced); Arrayán (Luma apiculata); Calafate (Berberis buxifolia); Hydrangea (Hydrangea serratifolia); Canelo (Drimys winteri); Chaura (Pernettya mucronata); Fuchsia or Chilco (Fuchsia magellanica); Cypress de las Guaitecas (Pilgerodendron uviferum); Ciruelillo or Notro (Embothrium coccineum); Coigüe (Nothofagus dombeyi); Chiloe Coigüe (Nothofagus nitida); Magellan Coigüe (Nothofagus betuloides); Lenga (Nothofagus pumilio); Luma (Amomyrtus luma); Maitén (Maytenus boaria); Short Leaf Mañío (Saxegothaea conspicua); Pointed Leaf Mañío (Podocarpus nubigenus); Michay (Berberis ilicifolia); Murta (Myrtus communis); Murtilla (Empetrum rubrum); Ñirre (Nothofagus antarctica ); Rosa Mosqueta or Rose Hips (Rosa rubiginosa - introduced); Sauce or Willow (Salix humboldtiana - Introduced); Tepa (Laureliopsis philipiana); Tepu (Tepualia stipularis); Tineo or Palo Santo (Weinnmania trichosperma); Zarzaparilla or Sarsaparilla (Ribes magellanicum)

Flowers and Canes:

Astelia (Astelia pumila); Cadillo (Acaena sp.); Coligüe Cane (Chusquea culeou); Quila Cane (Chusquea quila); Chocho or lupine (Lupinus sp. - Introduced); Coicopihue (Philesia magellanica); Coirón (Stipa humilis, Stipa speciosa, Festuca pallescens); Colapiche (Nassauvia glomerulosa); Dandelion or chicory (Taraxacum officinale); Wild strawberries (Fragaria chiloensis); Hebe (Veronica salicifolia); Reed or Juncillo (Marsippospermum grandiflorum); Manila (Eryngium paniculatum); Mata Negra (Chilitrichum diffusum); Neneo (Mulimum spinosum); Panguecito or devil’s strawberry (Gunnera magellanica); Yellow Retamo or Scotch Broom


(Spartium junceum - introduced); Swamp Violet (Drosera uniflora); Yuyo (Brassica rapa)

Mosses, Fungi and Ferns: Ampe or Palmita (Lophosoria

cuadripinnata quadripinnata); Old Man’s Beard (Usnea barbata); Cow’s Rib Fern (Blechnum chilense); Digüeñe of Coigue (Cyttaria harioti); Digüeñe of Ñirre (Cyttaria darwinii); Fuinque (Lomatia ferruginea); Large Palmetto Fern (blech-num magellanicum); Film Fern (Hymenophyllum dentatum o Hymenophyllum pectinatum); Feather Fern (Blechnum penna marina); Morilla (Morchella conica); Pinito Moss (Dendroligotrichum dendroides); Nalca or Pangue (Gunnera tinctoria); Palmita (Lycopodium paniculatum); Palomita (Codonorchis lessonii); Frog’s Umbrella ((Hypopterygium arbuscula); Topa topa or Capachito (Calceolaria tenella); Yerba loza or Palmita (Gleichenia quadripartita)

Amphibians:

Austral Litter Frog (Eupsophus calcaratus); Mottled Frog (Batrachyla leptopus); Darwin’s Frog (Rhinoderma darwinii); Variegated Leaf Toad (Nannophryne variegata)

Birds:

Marine Mammals:

Marine Otter (Lontra felina); Austral Dolphin or Tonino (Lagenorhynchus australis); Chilean Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus eutropia); Austral River Otter (Lontra provocax); Austral fur seal (Arctocephalus australis); Common sea lion (Otaria flavescens)

PALENA - QUEULAT AREA

Eagle (Geranoaetus melanoleucus), Hawk (Buteo polyosoma), Bandurria (Theristicus melanopis or Theristicus caudatus), Cachaña or Austral Parakeet (Enicognathus ferrugineus), Tufted Tit-tyrant (Anairetes parulus), Canquenes or Caiquenes (Chloegphaga picta or Chloegphaga poliocephala), Carancho or Caracara (Phalcoboenus albogularis), Ordinary Woodpecker (Picoides lignarius), Black Woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus), Kestrel (Falco sparverius), Chercán (Troglodytes musculus), Chucao (Scelorchilus rubecola), Chuncho (Glacidium nanum), Southern Tapaculo (Scytalopus psychopompus magellanicus), Black-necked Swan (Cygnus melancoryphus), Patagonian sierra-finch (Phrygilus patagonicus), Condor (Vultur gryphus’), Cormorants of the Rocks (Phalacrocorax magellanicus), Diucon (Xolmis pyrope), Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis), White Heron (Ardea alba ), Swallow (Tachycinetta leucopyga or Hirundo rustica ), Huairavo (Nycticorax nycticorax), Huala (Podiceps greater), Throated Huet-huet (Pteroptochos tarnii), Lile (Phalacrocorax gaimardi), Kingfisher (Ceryle torquata), Common Lesser Rhea (Rhea americana), Cormorant (cormorant), Jergon Giant Duck (Anas georgica spinicauda), Pejerrey Odontesthes regia), Giant Hummingbird (Patagona gigas gigas), Pinche (Zaerius pichyi-pichyi), Chilean Flicker (Colaptes fernandinae) Pitius or Colaptes fernandinae or pitius chachinnans) Pitío (Colaptes pitius or Colaptes pitius chachinnans), Flightless steamer duck (Tachyeres pteneres Flying steamer duck (Tachyeres patachonicus), Rayadito (Aphrastura spinicauda), Chilean Skua (Stercorarius chilensis), Tero (Vanellus chilensis)

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Land Mammals: Red Deer (Cervus elaphus - introduced); Huiña, Güiña, Colored or Colo Cat (Leopardus guigna); Wild Boar (Sus scrofa - introduced); Patagonian Hare (Dolichotis patagonum); Armadillo (Zaedyus pichiy); Hairy Armadillo (Chaetophractus villosus); Pudú (Pudu puda); Puma (Puma concolor); Arboreal Rat (Irenomys tarsalis); Orange-nosed Mouse (Abrothrix xanthorhinus); Long-haired Mouse (Abrothrix longipilis); European mink (Mustela lutreola - introduced); or Patagonian Skunk (Conepatus humboldtii); Colored or Culpeo Fox (Lycalopex culpaeus); Culpeo Fox (Lycalopex culpaeus)

Fish, Mollusks and Crustaceans: Crab (Aegla alacalufi);

Cholga or Mussel (Aulacomya ater); Mussel (Mytilus chilensis); Shoe Mussel / Malton (Choromytilus chorus); El Dorado Conger (Genypterus blacodes); Erizo (Paracentrotus lividus); Bag Lamprey (Geotria australis); Loco (Concholepas concholepas); Macha (Mesodesma donacium); Austral hake or Merluza (Merluccius M. cephalus); Peladilla (Aplochiton zebra); Puye (Galaxias maculatus); Róbalo or Snook (Eleginops maclovinus); Chinook salmon (Onchorhynchus body - Introduced); Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch - Introduced); Taca or Clam (Venus antiqua); Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss - Introduced); Fario trout (Salmo trutta fario - Introduced); Brown Trout (Salmo trutta - Introduced)

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FJORDS & CHANNELS CULTURAL AREA


Travels through the Fjords and Channels Area - Aysén Region of Chile 24 DAYS 23 NIGHTS

2 TRAVELERS (MY DAD AND I)

EXPENSES (MY PORTION)

$4,396 USD

Details of my expenses: Transportation = $2,200 (Air, Sea, Buses); Accommodation and Food = $1,296 ($54 /day average); Excursions and Souvenirs = $900 A few years ago I traveled with a group of friends to the Palena - Queulat Area in the Aysén Region of Chile. We explored the beaches of Raúl MarínBalmaceda and the Puyuhuapi Fjord (amongst other amazing things). Ever since, I had imagined returning to explore the archipelagos of Patagonia on my own. I dreamed of visiting the Guaitecas, the Chonos and the Huichas Islands, but it was little more than a fantasy until a couple of months ago when my life turned upside down. First, I broke up with my long-time boyfriend; then, two weeks after I was laidoff from the job and finally, two days later, my landlord asked me to vacate my apartment. I just couldn’t seem to catch a break! From one month to the next my life had turned upside down; I had gone from being happy, calm and confident to depressed, vulnerable and empty. My best friend, Caroline, commented that perhaps it was time to pursue my dream of traveling the fjords of Aysén, to re-center myself and to recover my lost energy. She always knows just the right thing to say! Instead of throwing myself a huge pity party, I began to plan an adventure on the other side of the world; a sort of spiritual and emotional redemption.

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I cashed out $7,500.00 from my retirement, justifying that if I was going to take a risk, I might as well go all the way. I spent $2,500.00 immediately, on the purchase of a new camera and a pair of lenses. I’ve always loved photography and I thought it was the perfect time to take my hobby a little more seriously. Then, I made my big move, buying a changeable but non-refundable airline ticket, from JFK to Castro, the capital of the Chilean Island, Chiloé. I booked the return from Balmaceda, Chile to JFK, for 22 days later. I decided on the “full-flex” option because I had read that traveling in the fjords and channels of Aysén is never 100% sure; there are many factors that can affect dates and plans, including the climate, the availability of seats on the boats, and lots of other unexpected variables. It’s all true; however, I’ve learned that the inconveniences aren’t so serious. You can always disembark at one of the coastal ports along the route and adapt your itinerary, traveling overland.

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Next came the dreaded day when I finally stopped by my parents’ house to tell them about all


of the wonderful developments taking place in my life (ha-ha) and my plan for dealing with things. My dad took everything calmly and was actually surprisingly supportive of the idea of my adventure BUT…. my mom literally went into shock. “You? Alone? Traveling in a foreign country? Without internet or your beloved iPhone? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I decided it was best to head home and give them a while to get used to the idea. The next day, my dad called me with a proposal: He wanted to travel with me and also spend a couple of days on Jechica Island, near Melinka. A sailing buddy had told him about it years ago, and he had always been curious to visit for himself. Hmmm, traveling the Fjords of Aysén with my dad – not at all what I had been dreaming. But, after considering the idea for a while I decided it was a pretty amazing opportunity! Traveling halfway around the world, disconnected from modernity, for almost a month – sharing an incredible place and an incredible adventure with my Dad. Of course, I accepted!

Day 1, USA - Santiago – Castro (making our way to Aysén) I had booked my flights to connect through Santiago, directly to Castro, the capital of the Island of Chiloé, to have a couple of days in Chiloé, prior to boarding the boat that travels through the Fjords and Channels of Aysén. I thought it would be good to have a few days to organize and confirm our reservations and get used to the rhythm of the tides and to traveling together. I also wanted to explore a bit and practice with my new camera. We stayed in a cute apart hotel named Mi Palafito Apart & Suite, (www.mipalafitoapart.cl). It was in a great neighborhood, really bohemian, with lots of fun restaurants and cafes and the suite was well-adorned and inexpensive ($30,000 CLP per night).

Day 2: Castro to Quellón, with a side trip to Chiloé National Park

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In the morning, my dad needed to connect with the world back home and handle some last minute business with his partners before disappearing for so long. I decided to go out and explore Chiloé National Park alone. You can go by bus from the P. Aguirre Cerda terminal and it gave me a great opportunity to experiment with my camera walking along the trails that meander through the forest and along the beach. In the afternoon, I met my dad in the Castro terminal to take the bus to Quellón. We stayed at the hotel Tierra del Fuego (www.hoteltierradelfuego.cl), due to its proximity to the offices of Naviera Austral, the company that managed the ferries.

Day 3: Quellón - Melinka, first leg of the Cordillera Route (Departure - 23:00) First and foremost, I should clarify that the Cordillera Ferry Route which travels within the Fjords and Channels of Aysén, operated by Naviera Austral, is NOT a tourist route. Set-

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tlement in this area began in the mid 1800’s and has always focused on the extraction of natural resources, like cypress wood which was used to build the railroads in Chile, and of course, seafood: locos and hake (merluza), among other types. More recently much of the waters and inlets have been exploited for the production of salmon, today, one of Chile’s largest exports. Thus, maritime navigation has always been prioritized for the movement of workers and equipment, rather than on the movement of travelers. Workers come to the fjords from other parts of Chile, like Chiloé, Valdivia, Osorno and Puerto Montt and basically live as nomads, migrating between jobs and islands, living away from their families for months or even years. Sometimes, their families also migrate, making monumental efforts and sacrifices to be together. Understanding that this meant we were not the number one priority, we spent the entire day going back and forth between the hotel and the offices of Naviera Austral, confirming our passages in the Jacaf, confirming the time of departure, watching the clock and, finally, “in accordance with their policies” appearing at the terminal to wait, in person, the ultimate 2 hours before our scheduled departure. Despite all, the ferry left an hour late - apparently a common issue, based on the comments of other passengers. My dad was a perfect gentleman about it all; in fact, the only emotion he showed was towards finally beginning the adventure. I was over it, by this time. The almost 4 days of travel leading up to this moment were taking their toll and I took a motion sickness pill, covered the eyes with a pair of eye-shades, put on my earphones and in 2 minutes, Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Day 4: Melinka and the treasure of Ñancúpel the pirate

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The trip lasted all night and I woke up at five in the morning with the horn of the ferry. We were reaching Melinka! The sun still hadn’t appeared on the horizon and the houses and buildings were little more than colored blocks in the distance. It seemed like the approach to the port took forever! Finally, we were able to disembark, recover our luggage, and find our way to the hostel. It was right next door! It was called Ruca Chonos (067) 2431608, and I would describe it as much more that hostel; in reality it is a huge wooden historic hotel, beautiful and full of atmosphere and inviting details. I was REALLY glad my dad has insisted that I arrange an early check-in to coincide with our arrival – it would have been miserable to walk around with all our luggage waiting for the 3:00 pm normal check-in time. I was still pretty knocked out from the motion-sickness medicine and opted for a few hours more of sleep. (By the way, I was really glad I had brought that medicine - my dad said the boat tossed around quite a bit when we moved through the Corcovado Channel and that most passengers had that “sea-sick” look.) I went straight to bed and woke up just in time for the last breakfast service at 10:00. At breakfast I discovered I had been ditched; my dad had found a captain who would take him out for some fishing. So, on my own, I struck up a conversation with Señora Lore, my waitress, and soon discovered my goal for the day:


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find the legendary cave where the pirate Ñancúpel had long ago buried his treasure. I could solve all my problems with a wealth of silver and gold! ;). Señora Lore told me that local pirate Ñancúpel had sailed the waters of Las Guaitecas almost 200 years ago, stealing ships and killing hundreds of people. Popular legend believed that there was still hidden treasure in some remote corner of the island. I just had to find it! I headed off in the direction of the beach but my treasure hunt ended before it began. Walking up the main street of Melinka I practically ran into a tiny old woman with a huge collection of hand woven reed shopping bags. (It’s a little hard to explain; they were shaped like bags but woven from reed, like baskets.) Anyway, I apologized for almost knocking her over and she was so gracious that I just couldn’t resist seeing if my Spanish was improving by asking why she had so many of these unique bags. She explained that she had been making them as long as she could remember, long before there were modern day plastic versions, and that she was going to collect luche, a seaweed that local people used in their cooking. The word luche immediately brought up memories of my last trip to Aysén, when Señora Pancha made us her Lamb and Luche Cazuela in her rural inn, Mirador del Río, alongside the Palena River. It was delicious! My curiosity took over and I asked if I could accompany her and help her. She (Señora Edilia) looked at me a little surprised and said: “Well, just so you know, this isn’t the best time of year for finding luche, but, if you want to join me and learn how I search, I will teach you how the ancients taught us to collect luche 60 years ago”. Oh yeah! We headed off together in the direction of the beach. So my treasure of the day was luche, or Porphyra columbina, to be a little more scientific. Walking through town with Doña Edilia, I felt like I was taking part in something truly unique and magical. As we walked, she told me stories of her 12 children and how things were “back in the days” when Melinka was nothing more than mountains and sea, and how her husband had died many years ago in a diving accident at work. He was a shellfish diver. Once we arrived at the beach, Edilia taught me to collect luche, just as she had promised. You harvest the reeds with care, not cutting all the way at the base, which can be really tough and full of sand. During the morning, we were able to fill 6 bags, and of course, I helped her to carry them home. When we got everything up onto the porch, she invited me to come back in the afternoon to learn how to make the “cakes” which are typically the form in which the luche is sold. I went back to my hostel to meet my dad for lunch and he invited me to explore the other town on the island, Repollal, but he seemed neither surprised nor angry when I explained that I already had plans to help my new friend. After lunch I went back to Señora Edilia’s home and she instructed me to carefully wash the luche leaves, first with a mixture of water and salt, and then with fresh water. After washing several times, we steamed the luche very slowly; it was similar to cooking seafood. When it was ready, we put it in a special mold and baked it slowly in the oven, on a low heat, so it formed a sort of loaf, or cake. Señora Edilia explained to me that in the Guaitecas, luche is used in various recipes, including empana-

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das, sauces, stews, rice, and salads. I went back to the hostel to show my dad the day’s treasures: a couple of shells, lots and lots of photos, my very own luche cake, and the address of my new friend Edilia. I hadn’t found Ñancúpel’s treasure but in my heart, I knew that this was much better.

Day 5: Side trip to Jechica Island

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An old sailing buddy of my dad had spoken about the Jechica Island Marine and Refuge (www.islajechica.cl), in the south of Chile a thousand times, and now, with me as his excuse, Dad organized a visit to this tiny paradise. It probably has the most luxurious accommodations available in the Guaitecas; the place where sailboats and yachts stop to relax during their voyages around the world. We boarded their “water taxi” and in three and a half hours we arrived to what was definitely, another reality. Jechica Island consists of 7,200 hectares of lush green vegetation, hiking trails and tons of amenities and luxuries; especially considering we were on a tiny island in the Pacific. We left our things in the hut, enjoyed a gourmet lunch and in the afternoon, took one of their star excursions: whale watching! It turns out that the Corcovado Gulf and the waters northwest of Chiloé are recognized by the international scientific community as the area with the highest rate of blue whale sightings in the entire southern hemisphere. It is said that after the height of the whaling industry there were not more than 3,000 of these amazing creatures in all of the world’s oceans (shocking!), but that this area alone has an estimated population of more than 300! The blue whale is the largest animal to ever exist on earth, growing up to 30 meters long and weighing up to 200 tons. As a reference, you know the double length buses, where they join two together? Well, those urban giants have a total length of 18 meters, a little over half that of our friend, the blue whale. And so far as weight goes, one blue whale is equal in weight to around 40 average sized African elephants (the largest land animal)! In spite of them being giants, they aren’t so easy to spot. Our guide explained that the area is very extensive, the sea is always stormy and the climate very complicated. Plus, because they are so huge, they are not as acrobatic as the rest of the whales; they don’t jump and play so it is very rare to see their tails and fins. We had faith and decided to undertake “mission impossible” anyway. Good decision. We had barely been navigating for half an hour when he saw an enormous blow (that’s what you call it when a whale breathes through its blow hole), a few meters from the boat, followed by screams of joy from the crew members and guests. Our friend, the blue whale, was right there in the shadows, a few meters from the boat. We listened to its thunderous breathing and watched it appear and disappear hundreds of times as it moved out to sea through the waters of the Corcovado Gulf (in reality, we were only able to see a tiny part of it: its dorsal fin). I even captured a few good shots, although in my excitement it was a challenge! Back in our hut, I napped for a good while. I think I was as dizzy on ground at this point as I was on water; with so much getting in and out of boats. Even when I was still everything around me seemed


to be moving. At dusk, we took a walk through the forest, listening to all the birds and afterwards we had a great dinner, before turning in for night and sleeping like angels.

Day 6: Back to Melinka I woke up a little worried about being so far from Melinka, because we needed to confirm our ferry arrangements for our 4:00 am departure the following day. But my father was wearing an expression of pure peace, something that I rarely see from him, so, I put my worries aside, enjoyed a delicious breakfast and afterwards, a walk through the forest. When we returned my dad went to the office to pay the account and book another trip for next year, this time with my mom. We had another delicious lunch, and set sail back to Melinka. I was glued to the window with the hope of seeing more whales, but I didn’t even spot a seabird, only the blue of the ocean. Guess we used all of our luck the day before! We arrived at 17:00 with several hours before our departure. We toured around town a while, photographing the church with its emblematic tejuelas (hand crafted wooden shingles), the sculptures of the pincoya (mermaid) and the rest of the Chonos Waterfront. Then we walked over to the Alvarez Estero to see the sculptures of the sea lions. For dinner we tried local fare at the Fogón de Rigel; sierra fish stew. Then we returned to the hostel because my dad, wise as always, had booked the rooms through the evening, so we could rest, even though the boat was set to depart en the early hours of the morning. I slept until around 2:30 am, but after that, forget it! Every 15 minutes I was looking out the window to see if the Jacav had docked. It appeared around 4:00 and made our way down to the dock.

Day 7: In route to… Raúl MarínBalmaceda, Santa Domingo, Melimoyu and, finally, Puerto Gala.

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We set sail more or less at the scheduled time and at 8:30 am, we arrived in Raúl Marín Balmaceda. I had really great memories of Raúl Marín from my previous trip in Aysén and I would have loved to disembark and show the town to my Dad, but if I wanted to visit the other places on my list, we had to keep going. After half an hour, we were back on our course to the south, en route to Santo Domingo and Melimoyu, two places so small that there was more port than people. During the day, I talked a lot with my dad… about life, family, dreams and regrets. It was so nice to have this time with him and even nicer, considering the landscapes and sights. We sat on the top deck under the canopy and every so often, we were treated to visits from sea lions, dolphins and lots and lots of seabirds, like gulls, pelicans and cormorants. We spent a lot of hours on the seas that day, before finally reaching Puerto Gala. There is no actual “port” in Puerto Gala, so the Jacaf puts anchor offshore and passengers are shuttled to shore in small boats. Our host at Hospedaje Macalu, Don Mario Acevedo, was waiting for us and we shared a few mates while he told us stories about the “gold rush” days in Gala, when thousands of people descended on the area to fish for Loco

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(a shellfish). At that time, there was a Loco craze and the markets went wild – it was like a gold rush, but of shellfish (hmmm). Anyways, people showed up overnight and started establishing their claims and going about the work of the hour – so much so that for quite a while, they just lived in make do shelters crafted from wooden post frames and covered with nylon. It wasn’t until much later that they were able to build proper houses and walkways – in fact the town wasn’t formally established until 1999! His wife, Marbi, and his daughter, Marita, prepared a delicious afternoon snack (called onces here and often eaten in place of a heavy dinner), and we all ate together. Afterwards, we showed them pictures and told them a bit about all of our adventures so far. (Keep in mind, my Spanish still needs work so, hopefully they could understand everything – they said so anyways, and of course the pictures were worth 1000 words each, right?)

Day 8: A SPECTACULAR day in Puerto Gala

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Sun, warmth, a light breeze - What luck! During breakfast, I told Señora Marbi of my desire to see the famous nylon houses that Don Mario had told us about. Neither she nor my dad seemed to share my enthusiasm but she made a call on her radio to let her husband know that we wanted a boat excursion in the afternoon. On the route to the island with the nylon houses Don Mario stopped at another island, named “Chita”, located about 15 minutes from Gala. He showed us an ancient Chono cemetery that coexists alongside little shrines for various saints and modern grave markers. The Chonos were a nomadic canoe people, who traveled from island to island in their hand carved canoes called “dalcas” to gather shellfish, fish and even hunt sea lions. My dad finally woke up; this was a thousand times more interesting to him than the nylon. Afterwards, Mario took us to a beautiful beach called “Beach of the Raleighs”. (It was named this because a group of Raleigh International program participants (www.raleighinternational.org), had used this regularly as a camping area.) There was a place here that Dario wanted to show us. He explained that it was a “fishing corral” used by the canoe peoples and in an excellent state of conservation. We searched for roughly carved stones and other tools that were used by the Chonos. My dad was the “winner” with the discovery of more than 20 artifacts, but we left everything EXACTLY as we found it because as Mario explained, these treasures are a precious part of local heritage and something that connects us all. So, we took only photos (tons), and the memories of an amazing place. We were heading back to Gala when Don Mario FINALLY stopped in a sector where there were nylon houses. I approached one that was completely abandoned except that inside there was still a wood stove made from an old oil drum and an old tea kettle that was totally black from the smoke. The “house” was much smaller than I imagined and I was pretty taken aback that people could live so simply, not so different from the Chonos in my opinion. When we had docked and were walking back to the hospedaje, Don Mario told us about a beach near Gala where we could camp the next day. Surprisingly my dad


seemed to really like the idea; as long as the weather agreed to cooperate, he was “in”.

Day 9: Camping in Bonita Beach, Puerto Gala The vacation gods were in good spirits and rewarded us with another beautiful day! My dad and I set off with Don Mario for a short 15 minute boat trip from Puerto Gala to Playa Bonita, one of the favorite sites for inhabitants of the area. The beach is a tiny paradise; white sand skirting an evergreen forest that is dominated by a waterfall towering from at least 30 meters above. It is protected from the wind and the big waves; an absolutely ideal place to spend a day of picnicking and camping. Don Mario said he would return for us the following day and was off, leaving us alone on a deserted beach, an absolute contrast to our normal world and lives. We walked through the forest looking for the overlook that he had mentioned, but we never found it. It didn’t matter since everywhere we looked we had excellent views of the channel and its islands. My dad fished for hours and caught our dinner. I wrote in my journal a good while and read and even built a sand castle like when I was a girl. We enjoyed an amazing sunset, followed by a night illuminated by sea sparkle (noctiluca scintillans). It was amazing! With the movement and the rubbing of the water, the plankton becomes phosphorescent emitting an incredible show of bioluminescence.

Day 10: The mysteries of the Chonos

Day 1 1: Departing Puerto Gala in route to Puerto Cisnes My dad was fascinated with the Chonos and asked me to accompany him to visit Thiaren in her house because he had more questions and needed me to help with the translation. We has to be pretty careful navigating the boardwalks leading to her house, as the boardwalks of Puerto Gala are not in

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In the morning, Mario reappeared more or less at the time we’d agreed, accompanied by Thiaren Jofré, the daughter of the owner of the Estero Sur, which, they explained, was another important Chono site. The plan? Continue our archaeological experiential education with a visit to the Estero. We set off for an hour of navigation through the Jacaf Channel, followed by a 30 minute forest hike ending at a rocky cliff wall. There were large fallen rocks from some ancient slide all around us and a collapsed cave where 16 bodies had been found a few years ago. The remains had subsequently been dated and were more than 2,000 years old! Thiaren explained to us that the Chonos lived in small shelters made of tree branches covered with leather or in caves like these. My dad was fascinated and I felt a bit of awe. I guess I felt humbled knowing that I was standing in the same place where men, women and children had lived so many years ago. What had life been like for them, living in this harsh environment, so many centuries ago? I could barely conceive it. After looking around a bit, we ate a snack on the beach and slowly made our way back to Puerto Gala.

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great condition, but soon, we were seated around her stove, sharing a round of mate and great conversation. Turns out that the Chonos need a lot more research – hey all you budding archaeologists, get your funding together and get going! My dad will volunteer to read all of your books (once they are translated into English). We left for Puerto Cisnes aboard the Jacaf around 14:30 and arrived around 19:30. As we arrived, we saw some kayakers coming, finishing their day, and my dad (still inspired by the canoe people) thought it would be a great idea to check into doing a tour.

Day 12: The local treasures of Puerto Cisnes We stayed in the Hosteria El Guairao (elguairao@yahoo. com), owned by Señora Norma, and in the morning I awoke to one of my favorite sounds, rain on a tin roof, something which is almost impossible to hear in the city. It was the perfect morning to stay in bed, reading and listening to the rain, so guess what? I did. At 11:30 my dad knocked on the door to tell me it was time to go out and check out the town. I took a lightning speed shower, donned my rain clothes and we went out in search of food. We found a cute cafe called Patagoni-K Mate & Expeditions, for küchen and cappuccinos. As luck would have it, the cafe also offered kayak tours (contacto@ patagoni-k.cl) so, as my dad had wished, we were able to arrange a tour for the following two days, weather permitting. The rain had slowed to a soft drizzle and we decided to walk around town for a while. We happened upon a local brewery, Finisterra (www.cervezafinisterra.cl), and without hesitation, walked in to check things out. The founder’s daughter, Carolina Saavedra, gave us a grand tour, including a sample and we chose a mixed six-pack to take back to the inn. But, we couldn’t resist another visit to Patagoni-K, as we’d seen pizzas on their menu and felt compelled to see if Chilean pizza was the same as NYC! We tested a version called “Cerro Gilberto”, with tomato sauce and slices, sautéed chicken, cheese and oregano. Different but delicious, and a good tip to remember because they also deliver to area lodging (067) 22346584.

Days 13 - 14: Kayaking through the rains of the Patagonian Fjords and Channels TRAVEL BLOG 134

The forecast was for rain the whole week, but without high winds, so we decided to kayak, rain and all. Juanita Ruiz (Juany), the owner of Patagoni-K made sure we were prepared with neoprene wet-suits, gloves, boots, windbreakers, rain hats and PFDs (life-jackets). We used our own rain pants over the wet-suit and a polypropylene base layer. I can happily report that will all this “gear” we stayed warm (not dry, but warm all the same). We descended the Cisnes River for a few kilometers to its outlet in a beautiful lagoon, called Escondida, with the guidance of Juany and our other guide, Cristian Salin. We explored the lagoon, discovering great hidden beaches and glacial valleys and then set up camp at one end where Juany and Cristian had a refuge that offered great protection from the rain. They blew us away with the


evening meal, a delicious salmon cooked in the embers of the campfire. We toasted the occasion with part of our “Finisterra” six-pack and after dinner Cristian surprised us with a liquor made from local berries and herbs, called Gotas del Sol, that he manufactures and sells in artisan batches, all over the Region (cristiansalintorres@yahoo.com). The next day, we ate breakfast and paddled back through the lagoon and into the delta, where the rapids of the Copa River feed in. Later, we returned to the Cisnes River and descended for almost 3 hours to its delta with the Puyuhuapi Channel which returned us to Puerto Cisnes. Truly a spectacular route! We saw a lot of birds, like chucaos, a caiquen family and a kingfisher. The river is wide open in this sector and not very technical, therefore, I felt pretty good even though I considered myself a beginner. Plus, Juanita and Cristian taught us a lot. They have years of experience in navigation and sea kayaking in the area, and are certified in kayaking, outdoor skills and “leave no trace”. Juany explained that she had learned many of her kayak skills in a course taught by ACA instructor and Regional Kayak Guide, Rolando Toledo, the owner of Aguahielo Expeditions (www.aguahielo.cl). The course included various techniques for paddling, nautical chart reading, minimum impact camping, emergency management and a thousand other things. I would love to take a course like that! She also told us about the local Festival del Pesca’o Frito that is held in Puerto Cisnes every year during one of the last few weeks of January. They have music, crafts, a community fish fry and a “minga”, which is a special tradition that originated in the Island of Chiloé. In Cisnes, the municipality chooses a family of meager resources to give a house. They build it in the weeks leading up to the festival and then, the day of the feast, they raise it up onto a giant raft, to move by sea to the main town docks, accompanied by a big floating parade. When they arrive, the whole town (and all of the visitors) tow the house through town with huge ropes (and wheels) until they reach the site where it is placed on its foundation and awarded to its new family. What a great tradition – I would love to participate some year! Arriving at the lodge, we had a message that our boat was running ahead of schedule and we needed to be ready much sooner than anticipated because the climate was expected to worsen. We needed to be ready to leave at 7:40 am the next morning!

We were ready and waiting at the docks at 7:40 am, just like we had been told, but in the end, we did not leave until 11:30. My dad was pretty frustrated but, today I was in a Zen state and remembered the saying that I had learned during my previous trip to Aysén, “he who hurries in Patagonia, loses time”. This was definitely not the smoothest trip aboard the Jacaf; the seas were rough and I was happy to have my motion sickness medicine. On the positive side, we didn’t arrive in the middle of the night as was originally scheduled; instead we set anchor around 3:00 pm, which meant we could water-taxi in and find our accommodations with plenty of daylight. Puerto Gaviota is definitely the real deal

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Day 15: Off to “unplug” in Puerto Gaviota

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and NOT a tourist destination. It is a working fishermen’s village located within the Puyuhuapi Channel and, in the words of my father, more like an “anti-destination”. There are no public services, not even a health post, no souvenir shops, no internet, no cells, no hotels… you get the picture. What there IS in Puerto Gaviota is 100% authenticity! People are who they are, no pretense, just hard work and simple pleasures. To arrange your stay in Puerto Gaviota, you have to call in advance to the community’s satellite phone to advise of your arrival (562) 19629586. The phone is located in one of the food markets and when they answer, you explain the dates and what you need and then they will organize your accommodation. It’s a bit of a leap of faith for people used to www.hotels.com! We chose to stay in the Residencial Isla Magdalena, managed by Señora Galicia Saldivia. Have you ever heard of a “home-stay”? Staying in a residencial is basically the same thing. You sleep in bedrooms in the same house as the family, share the same bathroom, eat together and are treated pretty much like a member of the family. If you prefer more privacy there are also some cabins in town. We wanted to understand what life was like in a place that was so disconnected from modernity and a residencial gave us a first-hand perspective. Logistics aside, I loved our visit to Puerto Gaviota. It was the place where I was most able to disconnect from my city life and spending so much time with my dad was a gift I will always treasure.

Day 16: Bad weather and good surprises in Puerto Gaviota

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We awoke to the sound of driving rains and lots of wind; the famous weather of the Patagonian fjords had decided to finally join us. What could we do? The truth is, not much. People here live with the rhythms of the weather and the sea 24/7, and when bad weather comes… it’s time to stay put. Truth be told, we were ready for a rest after 14 days of travel! Both of us slept in this morning and when we finally showed up in the kitchen, I felt a little embarrassed because we had missed the breakfast hour. Not to worry, Señora Galicia took it all in stride. We were sitting in her kitchen drinking mate when my father surprised us all with an offer to cook lunch (I’ve never seen my dad cook something if it doesn’t involve a grill!). He told us that he wanted to prepare a recipe he had learned after college when he had backpacked through Spain. He only asked for four things from Galicia: 1) use of the beautiful earthenware casserole pot we had noticed on the shelf, 2) 10 portions of fresh Austral Merluza (hake), 3) 1/2 a cup of fish broth (something that all the kitchens in Puerto Gaviota always have on hand) and 4) a batch of homemade tortas fritas. We would go to purchase the other ingredients in the nearby shop. Señora Galicia graciously accepted our offer explaining that the casserole dish had been hand-crafted in the small town of Puerto Ibáñez, along the shores of giant General Carrera Lake, and that she would be happy to see it in use. So, here’s the recipe for Merluza Stew that my dad taught


me that day in Puerto Gaviota in the middle of a Patagonian “nor’easter” (which I guess would be a “southwester”). Ingredients: 10 portions of Merluza, 6 cloves of garlic, 1 can of peas (could also be frozen or fresh, if you have access), 200 ml of white wine, 100 ml of fish broth, 4 tablespoons of chopped parsley, salt, 2 tablespoons of flour, 6 tablespoons of olive oil, 5 hard-boiled eggs. Instructions: The important thing about this recipe was having fresh fish like the merluza that Señora Galicia shared in Puerto Gaviota. Clearly merluza should be your goal, but if you aren’t so lucky, you could substitute other flaky, whitefish, as well. Cut the fish into thick slices, about 3 -4 cm each, rinse well and dry with a paper towel. It is best to use a large clay pot for cooking this dish because it will cook slower and it will give you a unique taste. Sauté the sliced merluza on both sides and set aside. Hard-boil the eggs. Allow to cool and then cut into slices. Peel the garlic cloves and mince very, very fine. Wash and chop the parsley. Place the pan over medium heat and incorporate the oil and the garlic, sautéing until it is lightly browned. Stir in the flour and cook for approximately 30 seconds to form a roux. (If you like a thicker sauce, add a little more flour, if you want it to be thinner and smoother, use less flour.) Before the roux turns brown, incorporate the white wine using a wooden spoon. Then add the hot fish stock and salt to taste. Boil for a minute and add the chopped parsley. Incorporate the sliced fish and the peas. Allow the fish to cook for about three minutes and turn. Meanwhile, constantly stir the broth to make sure the sauce thickens and does not become lumpy. Within five minutes of having turned the fish, your stew will be ready. Serve two slices per portion and cover with the green sauce and sliced hard-boiled eggs. Serve with tortas fritas and a salad of grated raw carrot, salt, lemon and vegetable oil. Delicious! And on that day it was truly THE PERFECT LUNCH – a Patagonian “southwester” that I will never forget!

Day 17: Puerto Gaviota, the calm after the storm

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We didn’t sleep much last night for fear that the wind would carry the house away. Instead, shortly before dawn it carried the storm away; we awoke to a day of calm seas and sun. My dad wanted to learn more about the fishing in the area and was able to accompany two local fishermen, Don Heriberto Sanchez, the captain of the Mazareno II, and his partner Jorge, in their day’s work of “stalling and hauling”. (I don’t know much about fishing, especially in Spanish, but I believe that’s what they said.) I also didn’t have much interest in going out to sea after all that wind so I decided to walk to nearby Puerto Amparo along a local trail that is almost taken over by the dense vegetation all around. Puerto Gaviota is home to the only Valdivian type forest and the greatest plant diversity of the whole Region. Señora Galicia walked with me to show me the way and explained in full detail the names of each plant and the story of how in summer, the whole town convenes at the soccer field at the end of the trail, for days of sport and fun. When my dad returned from fishing, he told

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me about all the birds and sea lions that he saw and of course, I wanted to see them for myself, so we organized a boat excursion with Don Luis Alvarez for the next day.

Day 18: The wonderful marine wildlife of the Maria Isabel Islets. It was an amazing visit to the Maria Isabel Islets with Luiz; the first one we approached was home to what seemed like millions of birds; pelicans, cormorants and gulls were gathered in H-U-G-E quantities! On another of the islets we watched hundreds of sea lions resting on the rocks and playing around in the sea. Don Luis explained to us the importance of maintaining a safe and respectful distance (50 meters), but with my new zoom I could get all the details; close-ups to the pups, yawning and scratching their backs, and the angry expressions of the male adults as they postured for position. Watch out National Geographic, I might be offering some competition with these photos. Or… we could negotiate a contract. (Ha-ha)

Day 19: Heading to Huichas Islands

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Daybreak was beautiful so we got up early to walk the trail to Puerto Amparo together. We took a picnic and relaxed to the natural rhythms of the simple life. After only a few days in Puerto Gaviota, we already felt like part of Señora Galicia‘s family, so we stopped by the store to buy some special cookies and fruits to contribute to the onces in the afternoon. We felt a bit of nostalgia as we shared this last evening meal together. Would we ever see or talk to our new friends again? It was difficult to promise to stay in touch knowing that there is only one satellite phone in the whole community and let’s face it, the great intentions we had of hand-writing and mailing letters were not very likely to be realized! It really is difficult to conceive how people communicate without cell phones, email, Facebook and WhatsApp. We sailed at 22:00, one hour earlier than scheduled, with a completely calm sea. We arrived in Puerto Aguirre in the Huichas Islands at 1:00 am, and there was not a soul in the streets, but I noticed immediately that Puerto Aguirre was much more developed, almost a city compared with Puerto Gaviota. We had reserved lodging in el Hostal Don Beña (09) 93182392, and despite the hour, Don Bernardino Balboa was awake and waiting for us. Hello and good night!

Day 20: Bring on the rainwater! It rained softly and constantly all night and we slept like angels, ultra relaxed by the rhythmic melody on the roof, especially after the ferry’s early morning arrival. Imagine our surprise to learn that in the Huichas Islands there was no potable water, only rainwater, which thankfully, showered down almost every day. A Señora brought a pail of water for each of us and we adapted as best we could to the idea of taking a sponge bath – I was right to call this trip an adventure. At my Father’s urging, after breakfast we called the airline, LAN and took advantage of having bought “full-flex” fares. We extended


our trip by one day and then arranged to stay in a top-shelf inn in Puerto Aysén, where we could take a final “rest” after our vacation (ha-ha) and absorb a bit of the reverse culture shock of returning to the concrete jungle. Affairs in order, we set out to walk Conaf’s, La Poza Trail, that Don Beña had suggested. It was super easy to find and follow because it is paved with white crushed shells. It winds through the Island’s evergreen forest and has a lot of information panels on flora and fauna. When we got to the pond, we settled into one of the Conaf quinchos to prepare coffee and a snack. We were joined by some large caracaras, a type of falcon, who posed patiently for our pictures. My dad was able to approach them and get close-ups and they didn’t even flinch; they must have been accustomed to people. We relaxed there most of the afternoon, playing around with the camera, taking photos of birds and a million different ferns and trees. We watched an otter swimming and fishing and celebrated his success when he came to the shore and went up to sit on a rock and eat his lunch. He finished his fish and began to play a game, sort of like hide and seek – but it was all him. He would come out, sit for a while, pretend to discover us and scurry away with fright. Then after a few minutes, the whole routine would start again; come close, sit on a rock, discover us and run for cover. So cute! After a while two dolphins appeared off the shore and accompanied us for the rest of our time in the overlook, coming and going in search of fish. Clearly, like the otter and the falcons, they were not concerned by our presence. As we were heading back, it started to rain very hard and we were soaked within a couple of minutes. Luckily, it was a quick walk back to the hospedaje and Don Beña had a roaring fire in the wood-stove so the house was warm and cozy. We changed into dry clothes and thoroughly enjoyed his wife’s home-cooked dinner before turning in.

Day 21: Exploring Puerto Aguirre

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The rain had paused so we decided to go for a walk around Puerto Aguirre to check out the local architecture, the docks and the artisans’ shops. I fell in love with a pair of wonderful wooden tables and thought seriously of trying to ship one home but then I remembered, I had no home (ha-ha), probably just as well. The town was quaint and almost everywhere there was another wonderful view of the archipelago, nearby islands, and fjords. It must have been hard to sit in the school and not daydream of being out within those landscapes. After lunch we walked up to a lookout point at the top of Puerto Aguirre. Another beautiful view! You can see all of the islands sprinkled within the fjords. The only thing missing was a rainbow (I’ve become a little bit of a fanatic), but that would have meant it was raining and I was glad to have the break. On the way back, we stopped to organize a final kayak excursion for the following day (Pachanca Kayak; (09) 92163339); and passed by the corner bakery, Panadería mi Rincón, for a küchen which we bought to surprise Don Beña and his wife. They worked so hard to keep on top of their hospedaje, feeding and cleaning for the salmon farm workers who were their regular guests. They invited us to join them

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for onces and we happily shared küchen and tea.

Day 22: A few final island adventures We woke up very early, ready to learn about the other town on the island, Caleta Andrade. It’s much flatter and more open than Puerto Aguirre, with a nice beach and to our surprise, a thriving artisan ship-building enterprise. Don Juan Gueten Perez was happy to explain that he had begun building wooden boats at the age of 13 in his hometown on the island of Chiloé; a craft which he has continued throughout his life. He moved to Caleta Andrade twelve years ago, because he felt that these islands were the ideal place for his work. He had access to plenty of good wood, which was super expensive in other areas. He preferred to work in Cypress de las Guaitecas, for its durability and moisture resistance. Apparently his work was well respected, because he showed us several boats and sailboats in progress, commissioned by captains throughout the Region. After talking with him for a while, we realized that it was time to go for our final kayaking trip, with local operator, Christopher Cerda. We toured around the small canals between the islands and we saw dolphins and lots of seabirds. Back in Puerto Aguirre, we had a quick dinner and went to prepare our things. The ferry was scheduled to depart at 2:00 am (seriously, who designs these schedules!?!); needless to say, we slept very little.

Day 23: Readjusting to life on shore

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We made our last EARLY morning ferry departure, and settled down to sleep aboard the Jacaf, which, by this point, was like a second home. When we arrived in Puerto Chacabuco there was a bus waiting for us to transport us to nearby Puerto Aysén, where we had rooms reserved in Patagonia Green (www.patagoniagreen.cl). We ate a small but delicious breakfast snack and climbed into our incredibly comfy beds in our warm and cozy rooms that were ready and waiting for us when we arrived. We decided to nominate the owner, Señora Isabel McKay for sainthood (or at least write a great review for Trip Advisor)! After sleeping a good while, we finally showered and ventured out to tour Puerto Aysén. It’s an interesting place, one of the busiest ports of the southern cone and capital of the Region until the late 1960s. But the massive deforestation and wildfires that occurred in Aysén during this period of history produced giant floods and landslides that had devastating consequences for Puerto Aysén. In May of 1966, a huge storm carried so many sediments down river to this port that large boats could no longer enter. Afterwards everything changed; the port was moved 14 km west to Puerto Chacabuco (where we arrived), and the capital was moved to its current location in Coyhaique. The fate of Puerto Aysén was changed forever. We toured the town center and had lunch in town at the Firefighters Cafeteria (Casino de Bomberos), where they raise money for the volunteer squad by serving a faithful clientele HUGE plates of yummy local food. In the afternoon it was time to finish some journal entries, organize pictures, catch up on Facebook, nap


and then, a bittersweet farewell dinner with my dad. We talked a lot about our memories of the trip and how awesome the adventure had been. We both agreed that this part of the world is truly A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and started dreaming of our next visits. My dad had already arranged a dream vacation to Jechica Island with my mom so I decided that my goal would be to rebuild my life and my savings account so that I would be in the position to come back and explore the territory around the area of General Carrera Lake where that amazing earthenware casserole dish had been made.

Day 24: Chao for now, Aysén! The shuttle for Balmaceda was arriving early so we had a quick breakfast, bid farewell to Señora Isabel and in the course of 24 hours, traveled from the calm of Puerto Aysén to the madness of Santiago, and then back to the states. I would miss Aysén but I knew the trip had been perfect. I had discovered a passion for photography and knew that somehow, things would work out fine.

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NAVIGATE THE FJORDS AND CHANNELS OF AYSÉN FOLLOWING THE CORDILLERA ROUTE

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The Cordillera route, operated by Naviera Austral, navigates the unknown channels of Aysén. It’s a beautiful territory that is much like a giant jigsaw puzzle made up of thousands of isolated islands, infinite natural wonders, and the stories of brave families who have populated their hidden coves. Imagine sitting down to construct a giant jigsaw puzzle, opening the box and pouring out 1000 pieces on the table. There’s likely a large chuck that never broke apart so you set it over to the right hand side of the table, happy for the head start. There are some other smaller chunks that you set nearby and the rest you spread across the table, piece by piece. As you look things over, it’s hard to imagine how it will all fit together. The Archipelagos of Aysén are the same sort of puzzle, a continuance of the mountains along the coast, but here, as a result of tectonic movements and the numerous glaciations that have taken place in the area, the mountains have been fractured into thousands of intricate parts, like a giant jigsaw picture, forming fjords, archipelagos and hundreds of islands that give life to a landscape without equal, of unique beauty, inhabited by hardworking fishermen and their families. The Cordillera Route originated with the important task of connecting the islands and coast of Aysén with other areas of Chile. The route operates via modern ferries which transport passengers, cars, trucks and goods between the coastal villages, following a regular schedule that is always subject to delays and changes, due to the weather of the zone. On-board amenities for passengers are basic and can include reclining seats, bathrooms, on-board video and a small cafeteria. You can travel the entire route straight through, or in a hop-on, hop-off sort of fashion, paying only for the segments you reserve. Navigating the Cordillera Route will give you the opportunity to see places so remote that many are not even named. In each of the segments of the route, you’ll be treated to natural wonders and the chance to observe marine animals and birds. On board you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get to know your fellow passengers: families, backpack-


ers, fishermen, inhabitants of the islands, and visitors from all over the world.

The route starts in Quellón, at the southern end of the Isla Grande of Chiloé. The first leg travels to the island of Melinka and can be one of the rougher crossings because you are navigating the Corcovado Gulf and the waters can toss you about a bit. In fact, if you have a tendency to get motion sickness, we recommend stopping at the pharmacy for some medicine. If the gulf is calm, keep a watch for seabirds in the coastal stretches and for dolphins following the boat. You’ll be in the territory of the giant blue whale which is a hard animal to spot, despite its massive size. Nevertheless, be ready with your camera – you never know! Melinka, the capital of the Guaitecas Islands, is the first stop along the route. In this picturesque village there are various hikes with great spots for the observation of flo-

ra and fauna, and you can learn about local culture walking around town, where you will likely meet artisans, fishermen and boat builders. The next stretch goes from Melinka to Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda, navigating the Moraleda Channel. Raúl Marín Balmaceda is a small village with sandy streets surrounded by a lush rain forest and lots of water all around (Raúl Marín is actually an island, although only separated from the coast by a stretch of several meters). On one side, you’ll encounter the freshwaters flowing from the mouth of the Palena River and on the others, the salt waters of the fjords and channels. Here, we can recommend hiking the Chucao Trail, taking a boat or kayak excursion, or simply strolling along the endless sandy beaches. The landscapes are amazing! The navigation continues toward Santo Domingo and Melimoyu, through the Refugio Channel. Melimoyu is a tiny town located at the base of the Melimoyu Volcano. The

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town began as part of the last Government driven colonization project of the twentieth century, under the military dictatorship. Inhabitants of this colony were provided with incentives and free land, but afterwards, were left on their own for many years in this isolated wilderness setting, to struggle for themselves. Although few of these settlers remain today, the Institute of Melimoyu Ecosystem Research (MERI), which owns and manages the private Melimoyu Natural Reserve, can be found here. Its’ main mission is conserving Patagonian indigenous habitat, through ecotourism and scientific research. The next stop is Puerto Gala which, along with Puerto Gaviota, was created during the 1980s as a temporary workers’ settlement, during the dramatic rise in popularity of hake, known locally as Austral Merluza. In fact, the first houses were little more than wooden log frames covered with nylon. Gradually they evolved into more permanent dwellings and finally, official villages. The island is close to several important Chono indigenous archaeological sites and is quickly becoming an area of interest for scientists seeking to learn more about this mysterious group of nomadic canoe peoples. The tour continues to Puerto Cisnes, passing through the Jacaf Channel into the calmer waters of the Puyuhuapi Channel. Good local food and drink, an unforgettable annual folkloric festival, and kayaking, are some of the highlights of what you can do in this charming city. In addition Puerto Cisnes is a good point if disembark if you want to begin an overland adventure. The next stretch travels from Puerto Cisnes

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to Puerto Gaviota through the beautiful Puyuhuapi Channel. Puerto Gaviota is located within the Isla Magdalena National Park and from the village there are a few short hikes, and opportunities to take excursions to view marine fauna or to accompany local fishermen as they go about their daily work. The stretch from Puerto Gaviota to Puerto Aguirre travels the Moraleda channel, stopping at the Huichas islands in which there are three locations: Puerto Aguirre, Caleta Andrade and Estero Cup. Here, you can learn about the life and culture of artisan fisherman and do plenty of walking around town, and on great interpretive trails. The route finishes with the navigation from Puerto Aguirre to Puerto Chacabuco, which is within the Aysén Fjord and is the main port of the Region. If you’d like to know more about these great destinations, keep reading! The following pages will provide lots of detailed information and some fun surprises.


OVERVIEW

»»Activity

Type: Navigation through the Fjords and Channels of Aysén along the Cordillera Route: Quellón - Melinka - Raúl Marín Balmaceda Santo Domingo - Melimoyu - Puerto Gala - Puerto Cisnes - Puerto Gaviota (Caleta Amparo) - Puerto Aguirre Puerto Chacabuco.

buco). The boats have hard-plastic seats outside on the upper decks and reclining upholstery seats below. Simple snacks are offered on board. If you have specific requirements for food, we recommend you bring your own. Itineraries are always subject to weather conditions and tides, so expect delays.

(Note: You can reserve your trip, segment by segment, in a sort of hop-on, hop off arrangement, allowing you to travel at your own speed and stay a few days in the locations you choose).

advance for all of the segments you plan to take. Contact Naviera Austral: contacto@navieraustral.cl, www. navieraustral.cl. Offices: Quellón - Pedro Montt 457, (065) 2682207 - 2682505 - 2682506; Puerto Montt - Angelmó 1673, (065) 2270430 2270431 - 2270432; Melinka - Av. Costanera s/n, (067) 2431510; Puerto Cisnes - Arturo Prat 07, (09) 84482837; Puerto Aguirre - Balmaceda N°350, (067) 2361357; Puerto Chacabuco – Ferry Terminal s/n, (067) 2351493; Coyhaique - Paseo Horn 40, Office 101, (067) 2210727.

»»Start: Quellón. »»Reservations: During the high season »»End: Puerto Chacabuco. months of January and February it »»Distance: Approximately 520 km. can be hard to find a seat. You defi»»Duration: 2 days, 1 night minimum. nitely need to reserve your tickets in

ules.

»»Special Considerations: The boats are

ferries that enable you to transport a vehicle and offload in Aysén to explore the Southern Road, BUT only some of the ports are equipped for the offloading of vehicles (Melinka, Puerto Cisnes and Puerto Chaca-

FJORDS & CHANNELS AREA

»»Seasonality: Year round; check sched-

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DISCOVER “BIRD WATCHING” ALONG THE COASTS OF AYSÉN

Visiting the coasts of Aysén provides you with a great opportunity to learn about the large number of seabirds that habitat the fjords. Here’s a brief guide to help you identify them. Approximately 470 species of birds have been recorded in Chile and 109 of those are considered seabirds, meaning that they obtain their food from an area near the coast. Seabirds of the fjords and channels of Aysén include albatrosses, petrels, fardelas, terns, cormorants, seagulls and pelicans. You’ll have the opportunity to observe these species from various points along the coast or you can contract an excursion with local fishermen or captains that are equipped to offer tours. So, keep a close watch when you are sailing the channels and exploring coastal towns and forests, like those you’ll encounter in Raúl Marín Balmaceda, Puyuhuapi and Puerto Cisnes. Bird watching is a great form of recreation that blends hiking, listening, visual observation and science. Success depends on a variety of factors, including your level of experience as an observer, the characteristics of the environment where you are, and of course, the cooperation of the feathered friends you encounter. In the coastal areas of Aysén, the environment is ideal for bird watching and the feathered friends are plentiful so, here are a few tips to help you with your skills.

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First, when birds are distant, note their form and structure; then, begin to observe their coloration and plumage. Other aspects that will help you with the challenge of identification include the bird’s silhouette, its size, and the shape of its wings, beak, tail and feet. The pattern of plumage coloration is the most commonly used feature for identification, because it not only allows you to differentiate between similar species, it also helps you distinguish sexes and determine the level of maturity of the bird. Generally, birds tend to have two basic plumages; one associated with being a juvenile, and another with being adult. But before you decide you can master all this in a single outing, consider that there many species, like the albatross, for example, which don four to seven different states of plumage during its lifespan. Bird watching is


both fun and a tremendous challenge!

Here are the characteristics of the more typical birds of the fjords and channels of Aysén:

reproductive period begins between November and December.

WILSON’S STORM PETREL OR GOLONDRINA DE MAR (OCEANITES OCEANICUS).

Key Features for identification

»»Length: 22 cm. Wingspan: 32cm. »»Coloring: The Magellanic Diving This small seabird is abundant in the fjords of Aysén and throughout the coastal areas of the southern hemisphere. It likes the open sea, frequenting channels and estuaries. Wilson’s Storm Petrel nests in caves throughout the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands, as well as the southern part of Chile. When they search for food along the surface of the ocean, they lower their long legs to skim the top of the water, giving the impression that are walking on its surface.

Petrel can be distinguished from other petrels by a crescent shaped band at the base of its head where it joins with the white of the body. The blackish dorsal feathers are lined with white, particularly noticeable in new plumage.

RED-LEGGED CORMORANT OR LILE (PHALACROCORX GAIMARDI).

Key Features for identification

»»Length: 17 cm. Wingspan: 40cm. »»Coloring: Coffee and black with notice-

MAGELLANIC DIVING PETREL OR YUNCO DE MAGALLANES (PELECANOIDES MAGELLANI). This small diving petrel is endemic to the Patagonian waters, distributed between the Chacao channel (Chiloé) and Cape Horn. It prefers coastal areas, so it is common to observe small groups diving and feeding in the fjords and channels. As is characteristic of petrels, they nest in caves amongst the islands, living and breeding in colonies. Their

The Red-legged Cormorant is one of the most beautiful species of cormorants, with a habitat that is distributed along the Pacific coast, from Peru to the Aysén Region in Chile, and there are also some colonies in Argentina. It is a threatened coastal species showing rapid declines; affected by fishing operations and industrial development. Around 70% of the world’s remaining population is distributed between the Regions of

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able white band across the tail bone continuing toward the sides. Gray line across the dorsal surface of the wings.

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Aysén and the Lakes Region, further north. They nest in permanent, year-round colonies along cliffs or rocky coastal walls where they lay two to three eggs per year. Both males and females share the parenting tasks of nest protection, incubation, care and upbringing.

ever, their silhouette, including the shape and size of the head and beak, will help you with identification. PERUVIAN PELICAN (PELECANUS THAGUS).

Key Features for identification

»»Length: 75 cm. »»Coloring: Gray

with a conspicuous white spot on each side of the neck. Yellowish-orange beak with reddish face. Green eyes. Red legs and feet. Juveniles experience several morphs but generally appear brownish above, paler below with a dark throat patch and orange or dark-colored legs.

MAGELLANIC CORMORANT OR ROCK SHAG (PHALACROCORAX MAGELLANICUS).

This very large marine bird with a wingspan of up to 228 cm, resides in large colonies along the coasts of Chile and Peru. They often fly close to the surface of the water in long lines or in V-formation. To feed, they dive into the water, catching fish within the large bag at the bottom of their beak. Key Features for identification

»»Length: 125 cm. Wingspan: 228 cm. »»Color: White head with yellow-

ish shading, yellowish beak. Dark body, with white spots. Gray legs.

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This relatively small member of the cormorant family habitats the coastal areas of Chile from the Lakes Region to the Diego Ramirez Islands as well as the Atlantic coasts of Argentina as north as the Chubut Province. It is a rather shy bird that lives in small groups, amongst coastal cliffs, often mixing its colonies with other species of cormorants.

GREY GULL OR GAVIOTA GARUMA (LARUS MODESTUS).

Key Features for identification

»»Length: 65 cm »»Coloring: Black

upper body and neck. Underparts white. Thin blackish bill. Red orbital ring and bare areas of the face. Pink legs. Juveniles are almost completely dark, with some bright spots on their chest and abdomen, and are often confused with the Guanay Cormorant, especially when they are in the water. How-

This bird is native of Chile, with a color pattern and plumage that changes each year until the bird reaches the age of three, be-


coming an adult. It is the only grey gull found in Chile. It feeds on sea fleas and crustaceans along the beaches.

DOMINICAN GULL OR KELP GULL (LARUS DOMINICANUS).

Key Features for identification

»»Length: 42-44 cm. »»Coloring: When adults are in their mat-

ing season a white plumage protrudes from their heads; the rest of the year their heads are grey, as well as their tails. They have black legs and a black beak.

SNOWY EGRET OR GARZA CHICA (EGRETTA THULA).

This beautiful coastal bird frequents sandy beaches, freshwater marshes and at times, rocky coastlines. Their population has been heavily impacted by maritime accidents, oil spills and the use of pesticides. Key Features for identification

»»Length: 50 cm. »»Coloring: Totally

white. Black bill, with yellow base. Long legs that are black in front and yellow behind.

Key Features for identification

»»Length: 60 cm. »»Coloring: White head, tail, chest and ab-

domen, with black wings and back. Yellow beak. The colors of the plumage in juveniles completely changes each year until they reach adulthood at the age of four.

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The most common of Chile’s gulls, this handsome inter-tidal bird derives its scientific name from the black and white plumage typical amongst adults, which is similar to the habits of the Dominican nuns. As omnivores, these birds feed on plankton, invertebrates and fish and have even been known to peck holes in the backs of living whales and feed on their flesh. They nest along beaches in shallow depressions lined with grasses and feathers, where the female lays 2 or 3 eggs per year.

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OVERVIEW »»Activity Type: Bird watching. »»Start: Anywhere along the coast and channels of Aysén.

»»End: Captured in great photographs

»»Duration: 4 hours. »»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations: If you are pas-

or sketches for your journal.

sionate about birds we recommend the English field guide, A Wildlife Guide to Chile, by Sharon Chester or the Spanish field guide, Guía de campo de las especies de aves y mamíferos marinos del sur de Chile, by authors Rodrigo Hucke Gaete and Jorge Ruiz Troemel. To listen to bird calls and songs, visit: www.xeno-canto.org.

»»Reservations:

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Although there are currently no specialists offering bird watching, there are several guides and captains who provide tours along the coast, including:

• •

Victor Ruiz – Melinka; (09) 62101686; victorruizoyarzo@ yahoo.es Patagoni-K Mate & Expediciones - Puerto Cisnes, Av. Arturo Prat 1037; (067) 2346584; contacto@patagoni-k.cl; Facebook: Patagoni-K Mate & Expediciones Kawelyek Expediciones - Raúl Marín Balmaceda, Pasaje Puerto Cisnes s/n; (09) 75429056; kawe-

• • • • • • •

lyekexpediciones@gmail.com; contacto@kawelyek.cl; www. kawelyek.cl Mario Acevedo Maritime Transport - Puerto Gala; Mobile Radio Base; (09) 78767405 -82162409; marbiroxana@gmail.com Volantín Passenger Transport – Puerto Gala; Mobile Radio Puerto Gala; marenopaca@hotmail. com Yeri II Passenger Transport - Puerto Gaviota; (09) 65139825; Luis Adrian Alvarez Gómez Oscar Barria Passenger Transport - Puerto Cisnes; (09) 82139452 Juan Carlos Torres Passenger Transport - Puerto Cisnes; (09) 82400063; demersalcisnes@ hotmail.com Arturo Ruiz Passenger Transport - Puerto Cisnes; (09) 95030057; ruizruiz69@hotmail.com Claudio Matamala Passenger Transport - Puerto Cisnes; (09) 87428544; claudiomatsalazar@ gmail.com Born in Patagonia Passenger Transport - Raúl Marín Balmaceda; (09) 77690375; born.ricardo@gmail.com Experiencia Austral – Puyuhuapi, Otto Ubel Nº36; (09) 87448755; adonisgam_7@hotmail.com; contacto@experienciaustral. com; www.experienciaustral. com


EXPLORE THE MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF ÑANCÚPEL THE PIRATE

Explore Melinka, one of the small beach towns of the Guaitecas Archipelago, where you’ll discover great seaward overlooks and a myriad of stories and legends, including tales of the raids of pirate, Pedro Ñancúpel. Will you be the lucky one to discover his treasure? For some, the pirate Pedro Ñancúpel is remembered as a hero, for others a thief and a brutal murderer. There are countless stories told of this legendary pirate who roamed the Guaitecas Archipelago in the mid 1800’s and it is hard to distinguish fact from fiction. The only hard facts are that he was born in 1837 in a small hamlet of Chiloé and became one of the most feared pirates of the era in the Fjords and Channels of the area. The rest is legend…

Ñancúpel set sail from Chiloé in route for Las Guaitecas with provisions, a shotgun and gunpowder. He was looking for his brother Juan and a nephew, who made their living hunting beavers and otters in the different islands of the archipelago and selling their pelts. When he found them, it wasn’t hard to convince them that stealing skins would be much more lucrative than hunting and they formed a plan to attack a crew of hunters who were working nearby. They killed the hunters, robbed their skins, weapons and merchandise, and hid the bodies in a cave.

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Chiloé had been annexed as part of Chile only a few decades prior and the economic, social and cultural changes resulting from this relationship were not being well received by islanders. Outsiders had arrived with funding and permits to extract local resources; perhaps the most powerful was Ciriaco Álvarez, known as the King of the Cypress. His economic wealth was aligned with the political power in the area and it wasn’t long before he was begrudgingly considered as lord and master over a large portion of Chiloé. Pedro Ñancúpel rebelled against Álvarez and his foreman, deciding to migrate to the Guaitecas and forge his own destiny. But treason against the King of the Cypress, was the same as rebelling against the authority of the Government of Chile, and soon, Pedro found himself as a local symbol of the resistance against the establishment.

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With their stolen weapons and supplies, they traveled to other area islands finding other crews to rob; thus, beginning a rash of brutal crimes, the scope of which is still being discovered. Many of these crimes went unrecognized because there was little maritime control in this era; people disappearing were attributed to shipwrecks and storms in the Corcovado Gulf. It is not uncommon today, with increased traffic and exploration of the islands and islotes of Las Guaitecas, that skeletons and stashes are discovered and added to the list of Ñancúpel’s pillages. Ñancúpel’s wealth and power increased rapidly; each time he amassed a full load of booty, he would go into Melinka, Castro or Ancud to sell his wares; interchanging skins for ounces of gold. With his profits, he would by more guns, powder and provisions, and head back out to the sea, where he reigned, spreading terror and death. It is said that he had no pity, no respect for age or gender. Some stories go so far as to say that he raped

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the young wife and killed the baby of one of the captains, whose boat he later sank. The story says that he took them to a cave where he abused the woman for 3 days, before slaying the baby in front of his mother and then also killing her. Other stories contradict this image of Ñancúpel as a cruel murderer. These accounts tell of the pirate delivering food and supplies to indigenous peoples, peasants and workers and punishing the captains of sea lion hunting vessels who abused their employees. In these stories, Ñancúpel never attacked vessels owned by fellow Chilotes, preferring instead to wreak havoc on those whom he termed as “the mighty”. This version of the myth depicts an image that is more like a Robin Hood of the seas than a ruthless criminal. Stories go that when Ñancúpel had completed a total of 99 murders (or 200 or more, depending on who’s telling the story) he was


finally apprehended in Melinka and extradited to Chiloé where he went on trial and was executed in 1887. It is said that he never showed the slightest evidence of remorse. But all of this is myth and legend, there is little official information about the Pirate Ñancúpel. And with pirate stories, does it really matter? Isn’t it more fun to listen to the hundreds of good stories you’re sure to hear when conversing with the inhabitants of the Archipelago de las Guaitecas? If you want to explore the stomping grounds of this legendary character, we suggest you invest some hours in strolling around Melinka, the main town of Las Guaitecas, and its surrounding forests, beaches and caves. Start by walking northeast from the village following the path toward the airfield. About halfway to the airfield you should detour, taking the trail that crosses the forest toward a small bay enveloped by evergreens. This is the place to test your luck as a treasure hunter, the legendary area of the famous cave of the Pirate Ñancúpel. According to the legend, the pirate buried a treasure trove of skins, furniture and gold in some place in Melinka and many believe it was in the cave in this protected bay, which now bears his name. Afterwards, there is another trail located a little further north, where the Raya Beach begins, that will lead you through a beautiful sector protected from the winds and ideal for sunbathing or a picnic. Another perfect place for a picnic is the Faro Falso sector. If you head north from Melinka along the road that runs parallel to the sea, you’ll soon reach an evergreen forest that harbors an old lighthouse, now decommissioned after many

centuries of protecting captains following this coastal route. The beach is beautiful in this sector, the perfect place to sit for a while and watch the sea, contemplating the myths and contradictions of the pirate Ñancúpel. Don’t be surprised to spot a ghostlike ship on the horizon with a skull and crossbones – after all, you’re in Las Guaitecas, where the past and the future are always connected by the continuing rhythms of the tides.

OVERVIEW »»Activity Type: Scenic and historic walks and treasure hunting.

»»Start: Melinka »»End: Melinka »»Distance: Approximately 2 km

from Melinka to the Faro Falso sector.

»»Duration: 2-6 hours. »»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations: we »»Reservations: Self-guided activity.

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recommend you take a picnic to enjoy on the beach.

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MEET SOME OF THE CULTURAL AMBASSADORS OF THE GUAITECAS

This is a different sort of tour that permits a glimpse of the customs and traditions of the Guaitecas Archipelago through the work of its people. Artisan fishermen, boat builders, sailors, masters of the cholga seca, and personal histories full of anecdotes and sacrifice. In the ancient huilliche language, Las Guaitecas means “passage to the south”. Here, in this archipelago, this fascinating and largely unknown territory of Patagonia begins, in a landscape filled with innumerable islands of all shapes and sizes. Melinka and Repollal are the main towns of the archipelago, which has a total of more than 1500 inhabitants, 91.6 % of them in Melinka. The shores of the Guaitecas have been inhabited for thousands and thousands of years by people with a primary connection to the sea. At least 6,000 years ago, early indigenous canoe peoples inhabited the area, ancestors of the chonos who occupied the fjords and channels of Aysén until modern times. The chonos were a nomadic people primarily devoted to fishing, hunting for sea lions and the collection of shellfish. Today, these groups have disappeared; yet the connection between the sea and the culture continues for modern Guaitecanos. It is their primary economic resource and the basis of their traditions and stories. Read along as we share a bit of this culture, through the stories of some of the interesting people you are likely to meet.

An expert algae collector. FJORDS & CHANNELS AREA 154

María Edilia Pérez arrived in Melinka from Chiloé, at the age of 15, when the town was little more than a few houses sprinkled amongst the forests. She married at 18 and is the mother of 12 children. Her husband died many years ago, but she has been able to provide for her family independently thanks to her skills in collecting, preparing, and selling the algae popularly known as luche. She learned this craft from other women of Melinka who passed along their knowledge and traditions from one generation to the next. María collects luche along the beaches during the months of August, September


and October, when it reaches it’s the largest size. Collections consist of scraping the algae from the stones along the shore, using your hands. Maria uses a 20 liter pail for collection and then dries the luche in the open air for a few days, before cleaning and cooking it over a low heat to form a loaf, or cake that can later be re-hydrated for use in various recipes, including empanadas, sauces, stews, soups, and salads.

A Keeper of Sailing Traditions

An Artist and Master Carpenter José Arroyo was born in 1971 in the city of Puerto Montt. At the age of 16, his family moved to Melinka where his mother was raised. His father, from Chiloé, was an expert in wood, and taught his craft to José. Today, when José is not fishing, he devotes his time to his passion, as an expert woodworker, making miniature replicas of boats, tables and carvings of animals including dolphins,

A Weaver of Grasses and Reeds María Griselda Nahuel was born in 1938 in Chiloé. Maria came to Melinka with her mother and brothers, at the age of 15 and learned to fish and collect mussels, called cholga, in Spanish. When she married, she stopped working at sea and devoted her time to her home and the hard work of taking care of their ten children. Today, María celebrates grandchildren, great grandchildren and even great grandchildren! As a small girl, her mother taught her how to work with junquillo, a local reed, to make baskets. Junquillo is a native plant that grows in the wet grasslands of central and southern Chile. María collects the reeds, dries them in the sun and transforms into long strands which she uses to create baskets and all kinds of figures, including birds. A few years ago, María’s creative spirit inspired her to begin

experimenting with manila, an herbaceous perennial and today she weaves in both mediums.

A Keeper of Culinary Heritage: Dried Mussels or “Cholgas” Cecilia Leviñanco was born in Chiloé and lives in Melinka, where she is an expert in the complex art of drying cholgas, a local mussel. She collects the cholgas and cooks them in a big drum filled with sea water. Next, she takes them out of their shells and slowly dries them inside her Fogón (smokehouse). Then she strings them in long strands and hangs them to smoke before finishing this

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José Vera, born in Melinka in 1972, has worked in connection with the sea his entire life, as a shellfish and algae collector along the beaches and a small-scale fisherman and diver. He is one of the few sailors who knows how to navigate by sail in a traditional boat, called a chalupa. The art of sailing these vessels is a tradition that has been maintained from generation to generation, and that today has a great risk of disappearing. Sailing chalupas can be dangerous because it is easy to capsize if the captain does not have sufficient knowledge of the winds and tides. José current devotion is diving for sea urchins and Louga algae, a practice he began to study more than twenty years ago.

sea lions and birds, among others. He works with native woods, including alerce and cypress, which he collects along the beaches.

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OVERVIEW

»»Activity

Type: Cultural journey through the traditions of the Guaitecas.

»»Start: The communities of Melinka and Repollal.

»»End: The communities of Melinka and Repollal.

»»Distance: You can design your own

circuit by contacting and visiting some of the cultural ambassadors of the Guaitecas.

traditional preparation by braiding the long strands together. Currently, this culinary tradition is being threatened by an increasing presence of red tide in many areas historically used by the settlers for shellfish gathering. Nevertheless, communities continue to search for ways to keep this craft alive.

A pair of Master Boat builders

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Alberto Carimoney was born in 1930 in Chiloé and lives in the sector of Repollal, where he is an expert boat-builder. He only uses hand tools; an ax, a hammer and a chisel. He crafts traditional boats, like the Chalupa, from dried cypress which has natural water repellent qualities. He softens the woods with steam and works with his tools to carve and shape the form of the boat. Later, he adds other hard woods for strength, especially in the creation of his masts and riggings. He still knows how to craft sails but receives much more demand for boats that can be adapted for use with motors. Jorge Eduardo Piucol was born in 1950 in the town of Repollal and has lived there his entire life. He also crafts boats and chalupas, explaining that the difference between the two is that a chalupa has both its bow and stern shaped with a point, like the paper boats you might make as a child. A boat’s bow also ends in a point, however its stern is straight, allowing for installation of a motor and making it MUCH easier to build. Jorge can build a boat in little more than a month.

»»Duration: 1 - 3 hours »»Seasonality: Year Round. »»Special Considerations: The

persons presented in this article participated in an inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Aysén Region, conducted by the National Council for Culture and the Arts in 2013. They are people who maintain one or more cultural traditions and are willing to share their knowledge with others to enhance understanding of the local culture of the Guaitecas and insure its survival. They have other jobs and responsibilities and may not always be available to meet with you.

»»Reservations: To learn more about

these cultural ambassadors and their respective crafts, contact:

• • • • • • •

María Edilia Pérez – Melinka, Calle Costanera s/n; (09) 66388116 José Vera – Melinka, Corner of Angamos & Leucallen s/n; (09) 77441826 José Arroyo – Melinka, Angamos s/n; (09) 95973189; jose_arroyosilva@hotmail. com María Griselda Nahuel – Melinka: Felipe Westhoff s/n; (09) 97939410 Cecilia Leviñanco – Repollal, Repollal Alto s/n; (09) 84550465 Albero Carimoney – Repollal, Repollal Alto s/n Jorge Piucol – Repollal, Repollal Alto s/n; (09) 84433898


IN SEARCH OF THE ELUSIVE GIANT OF THE SEAS

Despite their enormous size, the blue whale is not easy to sight; but it is not impossible either. The stormy seas of the Corcovado Gulf are considered to have the greatest rate of blue whale sightings in the entire southern hemisphere. Excursions leave from Melinka and the exclusive Jechica Island resort. Up for the challenge? The travel chronicles of early explorers like Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire, who explored the southern stretches of the Pacific in 1616 leave little doubt about the abundance of whales in these waters. “We saw countless penguins, abundant fish and thousands of whales, so many that we had to weave our way around them to avoid hitting them with our ship”. But then the whaling industry arrived and cetaceans became a highly profitable product, coveted throughout the world, leading to the near extinction of the species. The blue whale, the largest of all the whales, was one of the most affected; whale hunters killed more than 97% of its global population. For many years there were no recorded sightings of the blue whale within Chilean seas. Zero! But, approximately a decade ago, Chilean scientists from the Cetacean Conservation Center (www.ccc-chile.org), and the Blue Whale Center (www.ballenazul.org), began to witness a miracle: the giants were back!

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In 2003, marine biologist Rodrigo Hucke, of the Austral University, published a paper in the Royal Society Journal of the Academy of Sciences of the United Kingdom: “Discovery of a feeding and recovery zone for blue whales in the south of Chile.” Soon after, dozens of scientists, environmentalists and television crews, like the BBC, came to the Corcovado Gulf to observe and film these whales. Today, the international scientific community recognizes the Corcovado Gulf and the area northwest of the island of Chiloé as the area with the largest number of sighting of blue whales in the entire southern hemisphere. There are believed to be no more than 3,000 blue whales in all the world’s oceans, and approximately 300 of

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these are believed to habitat the Corcovado zone; to date around 160 individual blue whales have been identified here, in a project to photo register and catalogue their population based on the unique markings of their fins. Observing the blue whale is a tremendous challenge, due to a number of factors. First, the Gulf is immense, extending more than 90 km with a width of around 45 meters. Second, the whales are constantly moving underwater. They can swim between 25 and 50 km/h and only need to surface for brief intervals to breathe, three or four times per hour. The climate of the zone is adverse and seas are often rough, complicating further the difficult task. Finally, the enormous size of this animal, with up to 30 meters in length and 200 tons in weight, precludes them from being as acrobatic as other whales whose frequent jumps assist the task of watchers. In contrast, the most common blue whale sightings involve seeing a dense stream of

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water released during breathing. If you are lucky, you might have the privilege of sighting a tail fin (fluke), or the dorsal ridges and fin. Try your luck at the panoramic overlook in Melinka where you can gaze across the horizon in search for the jets of water that the blue whale emits from its blow holes, reaching up to 10 meters in height. You’ll want to bring a good windbreaker and hat because the wind never stops in this sector. If you’d like to try your luck at sea, contact Victor Ruiz, who offers day trips to observe blues. It is also possible to see humpback whales, austral dolphins (or toninos), colonies of sea lions and a great variety of sea birds. You could also visit the Jechica Island Marine & Refuge, located about three and a half hours from Melinka by boat. The island consists of 7,200 hectares that have been conserved in their natural and pristine state, are one of the best kept secrets of the Gulf. The island is frequented by small sailing


OVERVIEW »»Activity Type: Whale watching »»Start: Melinka. »»End: Jechica Island. »»Distance: Variable, based on circuit you elect.

the

»»Duration of the activity: 4 hours to

various days, based on the circuit you elect.

»»Seasonality: December to March. »»Special Considerations: As ex-

plained previously, sighting the blue whale is a challenge; you should be prepared for the likely event that you will not realize this goal in every excursion.

»»Reservations:

To organize your tour, we suggest you contact:

• • boats and yachts from all over the world that stop for a few days of pampering, gourmet food and pure nature. It is not necessary to own a yacht to visit this exclusive spot, you just need to coordinate with their administration and they will provide passage from Melinka. On the island you can participate in whale-watching excursions, explore hiking trails, kayak and relax in luxurious cabins, a club house, bar, library, internet and more.

Melinka; Victor Ruiz; (09) 62101686; victorruizoyarzo@ yahoo.es Island Jechica Marina and Refuge; Satellite phones: (562) 24217000 - 24217001; contacto@islajechica.cl; www.islajechica.cl

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PADDLING THE FJORDS OF AYSÉN

A great way to immerse yourself in the beautiful landscapes of the channels and fjords of Aysén is to get close to the level of the water paddling in kayak. Following the shorelines of the islands and coasts provides a unique opportunity to learn about and observe the lush flora and fauna of this area. There are plenty of options, including guided excursions for paddlers of all levels, and expeditionstyle courses for those who seek to master this challenging sport. As you travel the fjords of Aysén, pause and imagine how they might have appeared during previous ice ages when they were giant frozen estuaries! The ice receded away hundreds of thousands of years ago, forming the long, narrow, submerged glacial valleys and high towering walls that surround you during your trip. These fjords are one of only eight fjordal systems in the world; the others are located in Canada, Greenland, New Zealand, Norway, and the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

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The winds and water movements that are typical of fjords produce the conditions for extensive nutrient upwelling, producing a plethora of alga and zooplankton that form an incredible productive base for the aquatic food chain. That is why the fjords and channels of Aysén are incredible natural reserves for unique and interesting fauna ranging from microscopic algae and corals to sea anemones and fish, and many cetaceans, including the austral dolphin and several varieties of whales. The Aysén fjords have been complemented by tectonic forces which have fractured the coastal mountain range into a thousand of parts forming islands, islets and channels. And each island is a small bio-diverse paradise, with hundreds of species of flora and fauna. Ferries and charters navigate these waters providing various options for travelers, and there are also several options for kayaking, which places you at the water’s level. It’s an incredible perspective that allows you to connect with this magnificent area at a very physical level, propelling yourself through the


water in complete silence, surrounded by the mysteries and marvels of the sea and shores.

There are several kayaking options within the fjords and channels of Aysén. To access the coastal towns and ports, you can travel the Cordillera Route with Naviera Austral, which circulates between Puerto Chacabuco and Quellón, stopping at all the intermediate ports and docks. If you have your own boat, you can arrange to porter it on the ferry and if not, you can lease equipment in Puerto Cisnes, Raúl Marín or Caleta Andrade.

Some Routes and tours We suggest heading to Puerto Gaviota to explore the 6.4 kilometer stretch between Puerto Gaviota and Puerto Amparo, a paddle that takes you along beautiful areas of the peninsula and does not require previous experience. It is ideal for paddlers of all levels; the winds are not usually a limiting factor, since both ports are protected, and the na-

ture along the route is impressive. You can make a side trip to visit the mysterious cave of San Andrés, which is presumed to have been a refuge for ancient nomadic canoe peoples. To reach the cave, you will enter the Puyuhuapi Channel where the winds are less predictable, therefore we recommend this route only for more experienced paddlers. If you are exploring this area independently, consider traveling with a support boat; there are several captains in Puerto Gaviota who can be contracted for logistical and safety support. In Puerto Cisnes, Patagoni-K Mate & Expediciones offers guided two-day tours to the Escondida Lagoon, and other excursions in the Cisnes River Delta and the Lago las Torres National Reserve. Excursions include kayaks and gear, transport, guide, safety equipment and box lunches. You can also rent kayaks by the hour, including all needed safety equipment. Pachanca Kayak offers tours of the small channels between the Huichas Islands,

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which allow close up viewing of friendly bottle-nose dolphins and lots of seabirds. Their shop is located along the waterfront in Caleta Andrade.

Interested in developing you kayak skills? Try one of these expedition style experiential courses. The Aysén based branch of the American wilderness leadership school, NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School), offers two week adventure courses, where you travel through the fjords and channels, learning paddling techniques, expedition planning and behavior, risk management and rescue techniques, and wilderness living skills. The course also will teach you to interpret and read nautical charts, understand tides and currents, and study how weather and wind affects your plans and decisions. At the end,

you will be prepared to plan and carry out kayak trips within many remote areas of the world. Aguahielo Expeditions, located in Puerto Aysén, also offers options for experiential kayak courses that provide shorter and more economic options for learning and perfecting your skills. Rolando Toledo, ACA instructor and regional kayak guide offers several itineraries including expeditions to the San Rafael Lagoon National Park and a descent of the Baker River to its delta, near Caleta Tortel. The courses offer great adventure and many of the same learning opportunities as the NOLs options; including paddling techniques, wilderness survival skills, nautical chart reading, minimum impact camping, emergency response procedures, and lots more.

OVERVIEW »»Activity Type: Kayaking in the fjords and channels of Aysén.

»»Start: There are several options. »»End: There are several options. »»Distance: It depends on your abilities and preferences.

»»Duration: weeks.

A few hours to several

»»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations: The waters of

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Patagonia offer unique and unforgettable experiences and a wide range of activities and sports. However, you need to be responsible and prepared to avoid and manage the risks involved with water based adventure activities. Use appropriate clothing and technical equipment (life vests, wet-suits, wind jackets, gloves, helmets, etc.). Remain close to the shore and always kayak in a group accompanied by a guide or others with sufficient training and experience. Use a GPS and appropriate maps and charts.

»»Reservations: • Naviera Austral; austral.cl;

www.naviercontacto@na-

• • •

vieraustral.cl; Offices include: Quellón - Pedro Montt N°457, (065) 2682207 - 2682505 2682506; Puerto Montt - Angelmó 1673; (065) 2270430 2270431 - 2270432; Melinka - Av. Costanera S/N, (067) 2431510; Puerto Cisnes - Arturo Prat N°07, (09) 84482837; Puerto Aguirre Balmaceda N°350, (067) 2361357; Puerto Chacabuco – Ferry Terminal S/N, (067) 2351493; Coyhaique - Paseo Horn N°40 Office 101, (067) 2210727. Patagoni-K Mate & Expediciones - Puerto Cisnes, Av. Arturo Prat 1037; (067) 22346584, patagonik.expe@gmail.com; contacto@patagoni-k.cl Pachanca Kayak – Caleta Andrade; Cristóbal Cerda; (09) 92163339; Facebook: guacho.matero Aguahielo Expediciones; (09) 76053580 - 96162538; info@ aguahielo.cl; www.aguahielo.cl NOLS – Coyhaique. Consult in their website: www.nols.edu/ courses/patagonia-sea-kayaking-prime/; (09) 75292502 75292488


PUERTO GALA’S OFFERS FASCINATING NATURE, MYSTERY AND FORTITUDE

The tiny fishing community of Puerto Gala inhabits a protected bay that rests between four tiny islands, Toto, Chita, Padre Ronchi and a fourth so small, it has no name. It’s an incredible natural setting where you can explore the mysteries and remains of early nomads, recent nomads and the brave settlers who have decided to stay. This tiny grouping of islands is located at the opening of the Jacaf Channel where it meets with the Moraleda Channel. It is home for about 300 inhabitants, most of whom are devoted to the work of the sea. To visit the island, you can charter a boat in Puerto Cisnes that will drop you at the docks in a little less than two hours, or reserve your space on one of the ferries regularly moving beyond the islands and ports of Aysén, along the Cordillera Route. The closest port is Puerto Cisnes, however, you can embark at any of the ports along the route.

Why should you go? Let’s start with the nature.

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Playa Bonita, a local favorite, is about 15 minutes from Puerto Gala. This small paradise is comprised of white sandy beaches surrounded by forests and a towering 30 m cascade; all protected from the wind and high waves. It is the ideal place to spend a day or two, as minimal impact camping is allowed. The forest provides opportunities for hiking, there are amazing overlooks with incredible views of the entire channel and its islands, and the sunsets are stunning. If you are especially lucky, you may be at the beach on one of the nights where the sea is illuminated by sea sparkle, also known as the sea ghost or fire of the sea. This amazing phenomenon makes the waves and fish glow an icy blue-green, resulting in an incredibly beautiful and magical site. It is the result of noctilucas, a common marine single-celled microorganism that lives on photosynthetic algae that gather in shallow coastal areas around the world. Each microscopic, lily pad shaped cell is made up of thousands of organelles that produce their blue-green light, or sea sparkle, when they are agitated by the movement of the waves

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or fish moving through the waters.

Now let’s add a little history.

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Puerto Gala is home for several important archaeological sites of the chonos, an ancient nomadic group of canoe peoples, who moved between the islands of the fjords and channels in canoes, called dalcas to fish, gather shellfish and hunt for sea lions. There are two archaeological excursions on the islands that will allow glimpses of this mysterious culture. The first is a visit to the tiny Chita Island, 15 minutes from Gala, by boat. You can arrange transport from one of the local Gala captains, who will take you to a beautiful beach in a protected cove that was used by the chonos to corral fish. There is evidence of their fishing scattered around the beach, hand carved rock implements that were used in their fishing. If you visit take lots of pictures but DON’T TAKE ARTIFACTS. It’s illegal and wrong; these implements are important aspects of the heritage of this area and deserve respect and care. A short walk from the beach leads you to an interesting cemetery where ancient chono graves coexist alongside modern grave markings and crèches for various saints. You also have the opportunity to visit the Estero South archaeological site, an hour from Puerto Gala traveling through the Jacaf

Channel. The site sits on the private property of the Jofre family, so before you visit, you will need to contact them in Puerto Gala, seek permission and organize your trip. When you arrive at the island, you’ll need to walk through the forest for around 30 minutes in order to reach a rocky cliff overhang and a rustic cave. When the chonos made temporary camps, they erected small wooden frames, made from tree branches and covered with skins or lived in caves, such as these. In this particular cave, 16 bodies were found dating back approximately 2,000 years. The natural environment of the estuary is fabulous, with beautiful beaches at low tide and lush vegetation. We recommend camping for the night and taking the time to listen to nature and imagine what life was like for the men, women and children who roamed these seas with little more than their canoes and a zest for living.

Finish it off with some folklore. “Pueblos of plastic, wills of steel” is a popular saying that does a great job of summarizing the spirit of the fishermen who came to the Islands of Gala from various points of Chile in the mid-1980s, lured by the high prices being paid for austral merluza (hake). Believing that this would be a passing craze, these modern


day nomads installed themselves in what has come to be known as “nylon ranches”, something that they themselves invented. They were a sort of makeshift plastic tents, large sheets of nylon mounted on four sticks and erected on rocks or in the forest. Inside, they improvised crude stoves for heat and cooking, from big metal oil drums. They slept on cushions on the ground or crudely erected cots. They lived in these “nylon ranches” for years, surviving through summers and winters and the hostile and inclement weather that is common within the fjords.

As time passed, they were joined by their wives and families, converting their haphazard shelters into a virtual plastic pueblo. It was hard on everyone and they soon realized it was time to commit to something a bit more permanent. Thus, they worked together, with the help of a few brave and caring outsiders, like the Italian priest and missionary, Fr. Antonio Ronchi. Slowly, they converted their precarious nylon ranches into permanent communities, which today are known as Puerto Gala and Puerto Gaviota, located further south. These communities were recognized officially as pueblos of Aysén, in 1999. Today, the nylon ranches are the symbol of a shared heritage for many in the area and they haven’t entirely disappeared. As you navigate through fjords and channels of Aysén, you will likely still encounter some isolated nylon ranches, used as temporary posts for fishermen and foresters.

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OVERVIEW

»»Type of activity: Visit to Puerto Gala and nearby islands

»»Start: Puerto Gala. »»End: Puerto Gala. »»Distance: Depends on the circuit that you do.

»»Duration:

Your visit to Puerto Gala can involve a single night or several days. Programs will depend on how you schedule your transportation. There are regular boats from Melinka, Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda, Puerto Cisnes and Puerto Chacabuco.

»»Seasonality: December - March »»Special Considerations: Remember

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that everything you find in heritage and archaeological sites must be left intact where and how it was found. Take along your camera and GPS to record your findings. It is important to coordinate your visit and transportation plans in advance and travel with plenty of time in case of unexpected weather or cancellations. To arrange passage via the ferries of the Cordillera Route, contact Naviera Austral (www.navieraustral.cl), or one of the boat services that transfer passengers from Puerto Cisnes: Oscar Barría (09) 82139452, Juan Carlos Torres, (09) 82400063, demersalcisnes@hotmail.com; Arturo Ruiz (09) 95030057, ruizruiz69@hotmail.com; or Claudio Matamala, (09) 87428544, claudiomatsalazar@

gmail.com.

»»Reservations:

You can obtain more information about the island and your trip on Facebook: Port Island Gala Toto. You should get in touch in advance of your arrival and reserve your accommodations by calling Claudio Patricio Aravena Navarro via the satellite phone in the Puyuhuapi Grocery Store: (5602) 1960238 - 1960239, claudio_pez_2@yahoo.es. He can coordinate your accommodations with one of the two options on the island: Hospedaje Macalu and the Cabanas owned by Sandra Isabel Meza Gonzalez. There are several captains who offer boat transfers and excursions, including:

• • •

Turismo Omega Boat Transfers; Marco Antonio Coronado Salas; Mobile Radio Base Miller. Embarcación Tauro II Boat Transfers; Sandra Isabel Meza González; Mobile Radio Base Tauro; (56-09) 73746560. Mario Acevedo Boat Transfers; Embarcación nenita; Mobile Radio Base Puerto Gala; (09) 78767405 - 82162409; marbiroxana@ gmail.com, acreditor.ecomar@gmail.com. Volantín Boat Transfers; Embar cación Volantín; Cristian Enrique Espinoza Aguayo; Mobile Raio Base Volantín; marenopaca@ hotmail.com.


FIND THE PEARL OF THE LITTORAL IN PUERTO CISNES

In the course of a few hours, Puerto Cisnes will fill your senses with tastes, sights, sounds and textures. Meander through coastal landscapes, walk along the beaches, sample local flavors and be amazed by the sounds of an orchestra of frogs and toads in the evening. This self-guided tour will help you learn your way around. Puerto Cisnes is called “the pearl of the littoral” and it is truly a coastal gem; ferns grow like weeds in the courtyards of the houses, the hills are covered with lush native forest, the sea and the beaches reflect the peaceful, laid-back attitude of the inhabitants. It is the perfect combination to create a unique and spectacular landscape, located on the shores of the spectacular Puyuhuapi fjord. You’ll find this pearl via a brief detour from the Carretera Austral or if you prefer, you can arrive by sea aboard the ferries of Naviera Austral. Puerto Cisnes is home for around 2,500 inhabitants and nestled between two National Parks: Queulat and Magdalena Island, making it a great base from which to organize your visits to both parks. Get to know this great town and some of its stories in this fun walking tour.

The Municipal Public Library, located on the west side of the Plaza de Arms, is also worth a visit. It is a wooden building with a striking facade of columns and a carvings representing the struggle between good and evil. It was designed with a Greco-roman aesthetic by

FJORDS & CHANNELS AREA

The ideal place to start is walking up the short Virgin of the Roses Trail, where you will be treated to excellent views of the city. Walk north from the plaza to find the trail-head at the end of Sotomayor Street. It is very well maintained with an entry portal and steps that take you up to the virgin. The stature of the Virgin of the Roses was brought to Puerto Cisnes by former mayor Eugenia Pirzio-Birolli, who immigrated to the area in 1957 from Italy, and was mayor for many years. Her fans emphasize her interest in nature preservation and the rights of those most in need.

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the renowned Italian-Chilean architect, Vittorio di Girolamo and constructed by local craftsmen and carpenters. Inside you’ll find more than books, there are also exhibits of historic photos and documents that highlight the important role that mayor Pirzio-Birolli has played in this town and the area. The exhibit also features the community supported work of Father Antonio Ronchi, a missionary who contributed to pueblos throughout the Region of Aysén, whose legacy is undeniable, and whose memory is celebrated by hundreds of persons in the region who knew and loved his unique personality and style. Next you can stroll along the urban trail that connects the two sides of Puerto Cisnes along a beautiful urban trail crossing the picturesque hanging bridge over the San Luis River. The trail winds through the forests that surround the town, comprised of giant trees like coigüe, arrayanes, lumas, tepas and canelos. At the end of this trail, you can descend in the direction of the sea until you arrive at the waterfront (Avenida Arturo Prat), where the port’s fleet of boats rests to your left. If you are interested in navigating to visit the Isla Magdalena National Park or nearby islands, this is the place to contract your captain. From here, you can continue walking south along Arturo Prat Avenue along the original overland route between the Carretera Austral and Puerto Cisnes. As you meander, you’ll soon pass a series of narrow curves

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where the forest comes down to the road. In this sector, during the final hour of almost every day, a countless number of local frogs and toads, including grand Chilean frogs, tree frogs, and striped frogs, join forces with the sounds of the nearby ocean to create an incredible natural orchestra. If you’re curious, head back at dusk to enjoy a free symphony, in Patagonian coastal style. One kilometer south of town, along Arturo Prat Avenue (Route X-24), you’ll reach the Las Truchas Beach, which is open for swimming between 10:00 and the 20:00 during the summer months, and monitored by the Maritime Authority. It borders a protected cove, with views of the port and town, and is a beautiful place for picnics and camping. There is a wetland nearby which hosts local geese, called caiquénes and various kinds of ducks, ideal for bird watching fans. Without doubt, a great way to finish your tour of Puerto Cisnes is with a visit to Finisterra, (www.cervezafinisterra.cl), an artisan brewery located near the plaza, at #297 José María Caro Street. With seven varieties of beer: pale ale, golden ale, dark ale, and pale ales flavored with calafate, cauchao (the fruit of the Luma tree), honey or aji chili peppers, all 100% organic and made with water from waterfalls in the Queulat watershed. The brewery offers guided tours and tastings or you can enjoy its brews in local restaurants and shops around town.


OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: Self-guided city tour. »»Start: Our Lady of the Roses Trail, Puerto Cisnes.

»»End:

Finisterra Cisnes.

Brewery,

Puerto

»»Distance: Approx. 3 Km. »»Duration: We suggest a full day. »»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations: You can visit

»»Reservations: Not required, but if you

are interested in lodging there are a variety of cabins with fully equipped kitchens. We recommend buying some of the great local seafood available in town and cooking a great Cazuela or Paella in the evening. Some

• • • • • •

Cabanas y Hospedaje Michay, Gabriela Mistral 112; (067) 2346462; (09) 87240475 Cabanas y Residencial Santa Teresita, Gabriela Mistral 327; (067) 2346820; (09) 77660642 Enrique’s Cabanas y Residencial, Gabriela Mistral 234; (067) 2346461; (09) 62468428 Cabanas El Triángulo, Séptimo de Línea 274; (09) 84428064 Cabanas Brisas del Sur, Costanera 51 (Waterfront); (067) 2346587 Cabanas Portal del Mar, Gabriela Mistral s/n; (067) 2346439; (09) 92222522 Lafquen - Antu Hostal & Restaurant, Arturo Prat s/n; (067) 2346382; (09) 76078885; lafquenantucomidas@gmail. com; Facebook: lafquen_antu_ comidacisnes

FJORDS & CHANNELS AREA

all of the places along this tour in a single day but it is worthwhile to use Puerto Cisnes as your base for a few days and explore nearby Queulat National Park or a sea excursion to Isla Magdalena National Park.

options include:

169


BRING AN APPETITE WHEN YOU VISIT THE CAPITAL OF MERLUZA AUSTRAL!

Each year during the last weekend in January the town of Puerto Cisnes celebrates the Fiesta del Pesca’o Frito – a Patagonia style version of a giant fish-fry. Thousands of visitors pour into town during this three-day festival, ready to enjoy great music, fun local customs and of course, delicious Merluza Austral (Southern Hake), an icon of the fjords and channels of Aysén. Nestled between Queulat and Isla Magdalena National Parks, Puerto Cisnes and its residents celebrate the traditions and history of the fjords and channels of Aysén, which have been heavily influenced by the Grand Island of Chiloé, the original home for many of the area’s settlers. The annual Fiesta del Pesca’o Frito is their biggest celebration, organized by the community as a way of celebrating traditions, great food, great music, community and fellowship. The star of this festival is always the same – delicious Merluza Austral! The celebration lasts all weekend and one of the most exciting and special events occurs Saturday, right after lunch. It’s called a Minga Cisnense and it celebrates a tradition that began in Chiloé and has been transferred to towns of Aysén, owing in grand part to the work and mission of Padre Antonio Ronchi.

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Father Antonio Ronchi arrived in Chile in 1960, at the age of 30, and dedicated the remainder of his life to work within her most rural and isolated communities. He helped them improve basic infrastructure and build social capital, with a unique style that enabled ALL to participate. One of the unique aspects of Father Ronchi’s style was his use of what is called a “minga” approach, something he had borrowed from the Island of Chiloé, a bit further north in Chile, where many of the Aysén settlers had ties. When communities in Chiloé had challenges or problems to address, people came together to solve them as a community; each making a personal contribution to the project, based on their individual talents and resources. In Aysén, Father Ronchi would go door to door, calling on each and every person in the community, asking for their help. From donating


wood and supplies to putting in hours of hard labor in construction, to providing food for the workers; everyone in the town would help in some way or another. This is one of the main reasons why Father Ronchi is still so highly praised; beyond helping build infrastructure, he helped connect communities. In Puerto Cisnes, the minga is more alive than ever, thanks to the Fiesta del Pesca’o Frito, the municipality and the hard work of the community. Each year before the festival, the community elects a local family in need of a new house. The house is constructed using municipal funds and then raised onto a special raft. On Saturday morning, during the festival, it is floated out into the harbor and a giant floating boat parade accompa-

nies it, as it makes its way through the water to the main docks of town. From here, the whole town and thousands of festival participants join forces, tugging the house along the streets of town with huge ropes, until it reaches the lot where it will be placed. Of course, the hard work is followed by an enormous party, with a giant fish-fry, local music and dance, artisan beer and lots more. At other points in the weekend you can peruse local arts and crafts exhibits for the perfect souvenir or take part in kayak excursions, hikes or visits to the local beach.

Don’t worry if your visit does not coincide with the festival; there’s great food in Puerto Cisnes year round.

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You’ll find some of the best restaurants in town in the blocks between the Plaza and the waterfront, all of which feature the classic dish, Fried Merluza Austral. You can also try merluza broiled or grilled or sample other local favorites, like congrio and salmon and of course, great steaks and lamb. Some of your choices include the Río Mar Restaurant, which features grilled merluza, congrio or salmon, with Russian salad and seafood empanadas, the Guairao Restaurant, which offers a peaceful atmosphere and a wide variety of traditional Patagonian dishes, the Panchita Restaurant, which offers a great variety of fish and shellfish during the season, and the Monchito Restaurant, with daily specials, like puye, a delicious local fish, and “merluza a lo pobre”, which consists of fried merluza topped with french fries, sautéed onions and a fried egg. You’ll also want to stop in to visit the Finisterra Brewery with seven varieties of delicious local-crafted beer, brewed with the waters of the cascades from the Queulat watershed. Tour this family brewery, owned by the Saavedra family, to learn about their history and processes and sample their delicious brews. For afternoon tea visit Patagoni-K Mate & Expediciones, where you can enjoy great sandwiches, pizzas and an excellent cup of “Lucaffe” Italian coffee. You can also schedule a kayak tour or rent one of their moun-

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tain bikes and take a spin through town. And if you’re a fishing fan, you may want to stop by another restaurant in town, Tour Bellavista, to sample their sandwiches and organize a fishing or kayak trip, on the rivers and lakes near town. Finish your gastronomic tour with a nice after dinner drink of locally brewed, Gotas del Sol, one of the finest small-batch liqueurs of the region. Crafted from delicious combinations of local herbs and berries, this liquor makes an excellent gift for those at home.


OVERVIEW

»»Type of activity: Gastronomic Tour of Puerto Cisnes.

»»Start: The Fiesta del Pesca’o frito or a • local restaurant.

»»End:

Enjoying a great after dinner drink of locally brewed, Gotas del Sol.

»»Distance:

Everything is in walking distance (500 meters). Most of the restaurants are on the waterfront or close to the Plaza of Arms.

»»Duration: We recommend you spend

• •

a few days, especially if you plan to attend the Fiesta del Pesca’o frito.

»»Seasonality:

Mainly in summer, although there are many restaurants that remain open year round.

»»Special Considerations: During the Fiesta del Pesca’o Frito, you’ll definitely want to have advance lodging reservations. Local restaurants do not require reservations. If you would like more information, contact :

Fiesta del Pesca’o Frito - organized by the Fiesta del Pesca’o Frito Cultural and Social Club. Contact: Boris Ojeda (Municipality); Facebook: Minga Cisnense. Moraleda Seafood Shop - Located on the waterfront in front of the Guairao Restaurant, this market belongs to the Cooperative of

• • • • •

FJORDS & CHANNELS AREA

»»Reservations:

Moraleda Independent Fisheries Workers (STI Moraleda), of Puerto Cisnes. Gotas de Sol artisan made liqueurs Forest passage #36; Cristian Salin; (09) 88276850; cristiansalintorres@yahoo.com Finisterra Brewery - José María Caro #297; Carolina Saavedra, (067) 2346407; contacto@cervezafinisterra.cl Lafquen - Antu Hostal & Restaurant, Arturo Prat s/n; (067) 2346382; (09) 76078885; lafquenantucomidas@ gmail.com; Facebook: lafquen_antu_ comidacisnes Patagoni-K Mate & Expediciones - Arturo Prat #1037; Juanita Ruiz (09) 76486378; (067) 2346584; Facebook: Patagoni-K Mate & Expediciones; patagonik.expe@gmail.com, contacto@ patagoni-k.cl Tour Bellavista Restaurant and Excursions: Séptimo de Línea #112; (067) 2346408; www.tourbellavista.cl Monchito Restaurant - Aguada de Dolores s/n; (067) 2346411 Restaurante Panchita – Corner of Arturo Prat and Aguada de Dolores; (067) 2346130 Restaurante Río Mar - Piloto Pardo #032; (067) 2346959; (09) 82723481 Restaurant Guairao – Costanera #373; (067) 2346473; www.guairao.cl

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SPEND A FEW DAYS WITH THE FISHERMEN OF PUERTO GAVIOTA

Inhabited by about thirty families, Puerto Gaviota is a fishing village located in remote Isla Magdalena National Park, in the Puyuhuapi Channel. Schedule a visit and share the rhythms of days spent working at sea. The same sea that isolates the tiny community of Puerto Gaviota from the rest of the world also gives reason for its existence. Situated inside Isla Magdalena National Park, the town was officially founded in 1999, after slowly evolving from makeshift camps known locally as “nylon ranches” that began during the decade of the 1980’s when a few brave fishermen came in search of the coveted Austral Merluza. Today, these rustic camps have evolved into a tiny village with basic services including a church, school, boardwalks, boat slips and homes.

Visiting Puerto Gaviota is an adventure that is not for everyone. The isolation

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of the island results in conditions that can be challenging, but if you are the type of traveler who views these challenges as part of the fun of the adventure, you will be rewarded with a unique experience. To visit, you’ll need to coordinate boat passages, either with a private boat operator in Puerto Cisnes, which is more expensive but provides you with added flexibility, or via the Cordillera Route operated by the ferries of Naviera Austral. If you plan to travel via ferry, have some flexibility with your plans; the ferries only stop a few times per week and the weather of the fjords sometimes results in delays. There is a residential on the Island, named Residencial Isla Magdalena, managed by Señora Galicia Saldivia, and two cabanas, owned by Señora Blanca Morras Rathgeber. There is no medical service of any kind, so you should be prepared with your medications and first aid supplies. Electricity is obtained by a generator, but you should be prepared with flashlights and headlamps, just in case. During your visit, you’ll likely spend a lot of time on the boardwalks that connect the houses and docks of the town, from one end to the other. Think of it as the off-line version of the information highway and the social media of the island. It’s the place where


you can introduce yourself to local residents and find out local news and happenings. Don’t be shy, news travels fast through such a tiny place so they’ll already know that you’re in town and where you’re from. Say hello and ask them about their lives on the islands; once they warm up, you’ll be treated to great stories.

You can also arrange to accompany some of the fishermen and learn the rhythms of their daily work. The cycle

starts with preparing the bait, which usually happens the day prior to actual fishing and is a great day to relax, help out and share some great stories and jokes. On fishing days, you’ll have to get up very early and have a big breakfast before meeting your crew. You’ll navigate to a good fishing spot, place the buoy with the nets and wait for the merluza to nibble. Once they’re hooked, you’ll bring them in and remove each fish by hand once they’re safely on the ship’s deck.

You’ll also want to trek to Puerto Amparo during your time on the island. It’s only a 30 – 40 minute hike, but

you may spend at least that long, finding the trail. The dense vegetation of the Valdivian forest tends to grow over quickly so pay attention along the way. The trail begins behind the community center and ends at the beach, winding its way through an area with the greatest diversity of flora of the entire Region. If you have the chance, take along a local who can show you the way and explain the names of plants and birds you encounter. At the beach, there are great picnic spots and a soccer field where the community gets together for local competitions.

If you want to go to learn about the cave of San Andrés, believed to have been a refuge for nomadic chono canoe people who once inhabited this area, talk with local captains and organize an excursion. Another great excursion visits the María Isabel Islets, home to a variety of sea birds like pelicans, cormorants and seagulls. Bring your bird guides, binoculars and cameras because you’ll see thousands and thousands! Behind the first islet there’s a great place for viewing sea lions

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Circling the peninsula in a small boat or kayak is also a lot of fun. The area is well protected from strong winds and waves and you’ll see lots of sea life, including mussels, sea urchins, starfish and other mollusks. Although it’s tempting to collect and eat a few clams or mussels, remember that red tide has contaminated some of the shellfish in this area and since there’s no testing facility or healthcare on the island, you would be taking an ENORMOUS risk.

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OVERVIEW

»»Type of activity: Visit to Puerto Gaviota.

»»Start: Take a boat from Puerto Cisnes or Puerto Chacabuco.

»»End: Puerto Gaviota »»Distance: From Puerto

Cisnes, the navigation to Puerto Gaviota is approximately 65 km, each way.

»»Duration of the activity: A few days or a few weeks; it’s up to you.

»»Seasonality: Year round. »»Specialties Considerations:

Coordinate your visit based on the itineraries of the boat option you elect, allowing plenty of time for unexpected delays. You can obtain more information about the island on Facebook: Puerto Gaviota XI Region.

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»»Reservations: • To get to

Puerto Gaviota, you can travel via ferry (www.na-

– you’ll encounter several families resting and playing on the rocks. Don’t be surprised if they swim over to check you out – they are quite curious and will want to know who the stranger is invading their peaceful world! In spite of the challenges and logistics, a visit

vieraustral.cl), or contract one of the boat transport services that operate from Puerto Cisnes: Oscar Barría, (09) 82139452; Juan Carlos Torres, (09) 82400063, demersalcisnes@hotmail.com; Arturo Ruiz, (09) 95030057, ruizruiz69@hotmail.com; or Claudio Matamala, (09) 87428544, c l a u d io m at s a l a z a r @ g m a i l . com. For your lodging and other logistics, contact the island in advance using the satellite phone (562) 19629586, located in the store, “San Pedro”, owned by Don Jorge Hernandez, or Don Miguel Acosta’s Amparo Base repeater, (067) 2361350. You may need to call several times before successfully connecting, but, keep trying! Either of these contacts can coordinate your accommodation and other needs.

to Puerto Gaviota has the potential for providing some of the most incredible moments and memories of your trip to Patagonia, offering you the chance to truly escape the fast pace of the modern world and disconnect, rediscovering simple pleasures and joy.


AMONGST THE LUSH RAIN FORESTS AND UNPREDICTABLE WATERS OF HUICHAS

In the middle of the tangled geography of channels and islands of the southern Pacific there are a group of beautiful islands known as the Huichas. Here, set amongst lush rain forests and unpredictable waters, you can explore the tiny communities of Puerto Aguirre, Caleta Andrade and Estero Cup. The Huichas Islands are beautiful, teeming with native forest that extends from their highest points all the way to the sea. Here, there are plenty of hidden coves to explore, beautiful shell-lined trails to walk and lots of interesting people who love sharing their crafts and traditions with curious visitors. The most direct way to reach the Huichas Islands is from Puerto Chacabuco, aboard the “Shaker”, which departs from the Emporcha Artisan Fishing Docks, or the Naviera Austral ferry, which departs from the Ferry Terminal, as part of the Cordillera Route. Either way, you’ll navigate approximately four hours between channels, fjords and landscapes filled with abundant native forests, before arriving at the docks in Puerto Aguirre.

Here, you’ll find hostels, pensions, a couple of restaurants and bars and lots of fun adventures and excursions so plan to stay at least a couple of days!

The residents of these islands LOVE the sea

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Depending on the day, you may arrive to what appears to be a quiet coast where the sea barely moves and the islands are perfectly reflected in its waters, but don’t be fooled! The water around these islands can turn rough, as rough as the open sea. That is why most of the people in these Islands live in Puerto Aguirre, Caleta Andrade and Estero Copa, all located along the southern side of the Island, which is protected from the strong winds. When you arrive in Puerto Aguirre, you’ll likely be a bit amazed at the ingenuity locals have shown with the manner in which they have built their homes into the steep slopes in the middle of dense native forest. It’s amazing what you can figure out in order to keep safe from gale-force winds!

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TRAVELERS’ TIPS There are two boats that travel regularly between Puerto Chacabuco and the Huichas Islands, the Jacaf ferry owned by Naviera Austral ((067) 2351493; www.navieraustral.cl) and the Shaker, owned by Juan Halabi ((067) 2333609; aysénmotors@ gmail.com). Both ships travel only a few times per week and have limited space so, reserve in advance and buy round trip tickets. and their independence. They don’t mind living in isolated conditions because they are brave, resourceful and self-sufficient. Early settlers arrived more than 100 years ago, from Chiloé, in search of Guaitecas Cypress. They found plenty and much more in these islands and waters. Over the years the primary economic activity has shifted from forestry to small-scale fishing and the collection and production of smoked mussels, (there is a canning factory on the island), and more recently, salmon farming. There are several things to do in the Huichas. Walk around Puerto Aguirre and check out the local architecture, especially the hand-crafted wooden shingles, called tejuelas that are characteristic of the town. If you keep heading uphill, you’ll soon reach the highest point in the town, where you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic panoramic view of the nearby islands and fjords. It’s a great spot to rest for a while and put your camera to work!

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There is a great trail in Puerto Aguirre, called The Poza, located as you head out of town towards Estero Copa and Caleta Andrade. Keep watch on the right hand side for the small wooden gate marking the start of this beautiful trail lined with crushed white shells to mark your way, along with a series of informative panels that explain the flora, fauna and history of the Huichas Islands. You’ll pass through lush, dense forest before arriving at a pond, where there are quinchos to protect you from the frequent rain of the area. It’s a perfect place to prepare a picnic and await the frequent visits of local fauna like falcons and other local birds, river otters and even dolphins. It is truly a magical place to relax and observe in peace. Another fascinating experience awaits you along the waterfront in Caleta Andrete, where the traditional art of hand crafted boat building is still alive and well. You can watch and learn this trade, observing the beautiful work of Don Juan Guenten, who was born in Chiloé and began building boats and sailboats at the age of 13, with his father. He uses Guaitecas cypress, which is abundant in the Huichas Islands, because it is the most water resistant of native woods. Kayak excursions through the small channels between the islands are also possible to arrange along this waterfront. Get ready for a close up view of dolphins and hundreds of seabirds.


OVERVIEW

»»Type of activity: Visit to the Huichas Islands.

»»Start: Puerto Chacabuco. »»End: Puerto Aguirre. »»Distance: Depends on the

circuit that you choose but you can explore all of the populated areas of the Island walking no more than 3 – 5 kilometers.

»»Duration: 2 - 3 days, plus 8 hours round trip, navigating.

»»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations: There is no

fresh water in the Huichas Islands. Habitants collect and use rain water (which is frequent), however, taking a shower is almost impossible. Plan accordingly and please, conserve your use of the limited water available. Carry your rain gear – you will need it!

• • •

Aguirre; (067) 2361248; (09) 93182392; bbalboa@live.cl. Cabanas Aysén - Puerto Aguirre; (067) 2361278; (09) 78031707 - 76419566; robertovando@gmail.com. Hospedaje Las Huaitecas Puerto Aguirre; (067) 2361459; socialhuichas@gmail.com. Pachanca Kayak - Caleta Andrade; Christopher Cerda; (09) 92163339; Facebook: guacho. matero.

FJORDS & CHANNELS AREA

»»Reservations: Reserve in advance: • Hostal Don Beña - Puerto

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A DELICIOUS RECIPE FOR GREAT TIMES BETWEEN FRIENDS

Paella is a delicious dish of Spanish origin which has the added bonus of being able to be modified depending on the ingredients that exist in a particular area. This version emerged amongst a group of friends and residents of the fjords and channels of Aysén, who were celebrating a long weekend. They succeeded in having a great time and making a special dish that was unforgettable. Now it’s your turn! Every year small groups of young Chilean professionals come to Aysén to better understand the realities of life in the more isolated areas of their country. They are assigned to work in the small towns and rural areas of the region, using their professional talents and skills to assist with community development. They work for the National Foundation for Overcoming Poverty, as participants in the program, Servicio País (Service to Country), an important program that has had a presence in the Fjords and Channels Area and each of the other four Cultural Areas of Aysén, since 1995. The program works because participants do not come to impose their ideas in a one-sizefits-all fashion; rather, they adapt their styles and ideas to the realities of their environment in order to promote the potential that is already present in the region’s communities. And of course, in a short period of time, many of them become part of their community; some have even stayed for good, forming families and changing the course of their own lives and others.

FJORDS & CHANNELS AREA 180

What does all this have to do with a recipe for paella? Well, one year (not too long ago), a group of Servicio País professionals working in the fjords and channels of Aysén, joined together with their friends in the community and with colleagues in other areas, and created an amazing feast. Everyone brought something from their local area. Folks from the fjords and channels brought seafood. Others came from Coyhaique, with rice, artisan beer and wine. Still more showed up from La Junta, with fresh vegetables, chicken, smoked pork and chorizo sau-


sages. With all the helpers, celebration and great ingredients, they created an exquisite paella Aysénina, mixing the fresh products of the area with the collaborative spirit of its people.

Now, we invite you to try this recipe; but a word of advice, the most critical of all the ingredients are friendship and a spirit of celebration. You can ad lib all the rest!

RECIPE FOR PAELLA AYSÉNINA (8 - 12 SERVINGS): »»Ingredients: • 1/2 Kg of mussels, •

• • •

iards in your group)

• 4 tablespoons of paprika • 2 tablespoon of oregano • Salt to taste »»Preparation • Sauté the onions in the

oil and then add the rice, stirring until all of the rice is coated with the oil. Add the hot broth, mixed with the wine and saffron. Incorporate the chopped garlic, paprika, red peppers, oregano and salt. Mix well. Layer the chicken, ribs, and chorizo sausage over the rice and cover the pan. Bake (225˚C) for approximately 20 minutes. Uncover, add the peas and stir everything to mix, prior to layering the seafood on top. Recover and cook for 10 - 15 minutes more. Presto! Time to enjoy.

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• • • • • • • •

well-washed, with their shells still intact. You can also use frozen, if necessary 1 Kg regional chorizo sausage, cut into slices. You can sauté these before adding to the paella, to get rid of excess fat 1 kg of smoked pork ribs 1 kg of chicken thighs or wings 1 kg of white rice, grade 1 6-8 cups of hot chicken broth 1-2 cups of wine Chilean white 1 large onion, chopped fine 4 garlic cloves, crushed 2 chopped red bell peppers, with the seeds removed 1/2 - 1 kg of peas 1/2 cup of olive oil 0.25 gr of saffron (or up to 3 tablespoons, if there are some Span-

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OVERVIEW »»Activity Type: Gastronomy.

Opportunity to share with your friends preparing a paella Aysénina.

»»Start: At the local fish markets, butcher shops and produce fairs of the area.

in front of Sodimac in Avenida Ogana #825. For vegetables, we suggest (among others):

»»End: Sharing the work of washing the dishes over a glass of wine or a beer.

»»Duration

of the activity: An afternoon and evening complete.

»»Seasonality: Year round. »»Considerations: You need a very large

pot with a lid, preferably a skillet or a paella pan, for cooking and serving your paella. You can replace almost all of the ingredients with substitutes, but saffron is essential to the flavor of a paella. Remember that you should only consume certified seafood purchased in established shops during your visit to Aysén.

»»Reservations: You won’t need reser-

FJORDS & CHANNELS AREA 182

vations, but some insider tips for your purchases might help. For seafood, try Moraleda Seafood Shop: located on the waterfront, in front of the Guairao Restaurant, this market belongs to the Cooperative of Moraleda Independent Fisheries Workers (STI Moraleda), of Puerto Cisnes. Another good option is Promar Seafood Shop: - Coyhaique: Located on Lautaro Street #780; Hours: 10:00 - 13:00 and 15:00 - 18:00, Monday to Saturday. If you are looking for fresh meats and chorizos in the area, you can visit (among others): Carnicería Ganaderos on Avenida Ogana #1035; Carnes Fuenzalida, Avenida Francisco Bilbao #1546, Coyhaique; Supermercado El Arriero, Coyhaique, Calle Presidente Errázuriz #1755, (067) 2237947 or

The Women’s Agricultural Club of the Valleys Weekly Vegetable FairLa Junta: Located in the community center. Hours: Fridays, 09.00 - 11:00 am, year round; President: Frances Solis; (09) 61776894; contacto@miradordelrio.cl Coyhaique Horticultural Fair: Corner of Los Coigües and Las Quintas, every Saturday of the year president: Amanda Rivera Foitzick. La Granja Municipal de la Agrupación de Horticultores, a community farm located on Carlos Soto Street, (067) 2423365: Carlos Soza S/N (next to the Rodeo Arena), Monday - Saturday, all year round; Contact: Prodesal of Ibáñez; prodesalibaneznorte@ gmail.com Horticultural Fair - Women’s Agricultural Club of the Bahia Jara Valley - Chile Chico: Hours: 10:00 - 12:00, on Wednesday, on the south side of the supermarket, Bernardo O’Higgins Street and Saturdays in the Construction Workers Union Building located in José Miguel Carrera S/N next to the Flea Market of Patagonia; contact: Municipality of Chile Chico, fomento.chilechico@ gmail.com, (067) 2411295 Tamango Municipal Market of Cochrane: located in Vicente Previske Park. Monday to Saturday, year round; Contact: Municipality of Cochrane; Emerald 398; turismo@cochranepatagonia.cl


BIODIVERSITY IN THE FJORDS & CHANNELS AREA

The flora and fauna that you may see include:

Algae: Forest kelp (Macrocystis sp.); Sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca);

Gummy lichen or Irish moss (Chondrus crispus); Spoon Luga or Short Luga (Mazzaella laminarioides); Black or Curly Luga (Sarcothalia crispata); Red Luga (Gigartina skottsbergii); Pelillo (Gracilaria chilensis)

Trees and shrubs: Arrayán (Luma apiculata); Chilco (Fuchsia

magellanica); Guaitecas Cypress (Pilgerodendron uviferum); Coigüe Chiloé (Nothofagus nitida); Luma (Amomyrtus luma); Sharp leaf Mañío (Podocarpus nubigenus); Michay (Berberis ilicifolia); Tepa (Laureliopsis philipiana); Tepu (Tepualia stipularis); Tineo or Palo Santo (Weinnmania trichosperma)

Flowers and Canes: Astelia (Astelia pumila); Quila Cane or bamboo (Chusquea quila); Coicopihue (Philesia magellanica); Wild strawberries (Fragaria Chiloénsis); Juncillo Reed (Marsippospermum grandiflorum); Manila (Eryngium paniculatum); Panguecito or Devil’s Strawberry (Gunnera magellanica); Scotch Broom (Spartium junceum - introduced); Swamp Violet (Drosera uniflora)

Mosses, Fungi and Ferns:

Amphibians: Austral Litter Frog (Eupsophus calcaratus); Mottled

Frog (Batrachyla leptopus); Darwin’s Frog (Rhinoderma darwinii); Variegated Leaf Toad (Nannophryne variegata)

Birds: Black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys); Salvin

Albatross (Thalassarche (cauta) salvini); Wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans); Northern Royal Albatross (Diomedea

FJORDS & CHANNELS AREA

Ampe or palmita fern (cuadripinnata quadripinnata); Cow’s rib fern (Blechnum chilense); Fuinque (Lomatia ferruginea); Grand palmetto fern (blechnum magellanicum); Film Fern (Hymenophyllum dentatum o Hymenophyllum pectinatum); Feather Fern (Blechnum penna - marina); Pinito moss (Dendroligotrichum dendroides); Nalca or pangue (Gunnera tinctoria); Palmita (Lycopodium paniculatum); Palomita (Codonorchis lessonii); Frog’s Umbrella (Hypopterygium arbuscula); Topa topa or Capachito (Calceolaria tenella); Pot Herb or Palmita (Gleichenia quadripartita)

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(epomophora) sanfordi); Southern Royal Albatross (Diomedea (epomophora) epomophora); Bandurria (Theristicus melanopis or Theristicus caudatus); Caiquen or Canquen (Chloegphaga picta or Chloegphaga poliocephala); Caranca (Chloephaga hybrida); Carancho or caracara falcon (Phalcoboenus albogularis); Chucao (Scelorchilus rubecola); Magellanic cormorant or rock shag (Phalacrocorax magellanicus); Imperial cormorant (Phalacrocorax atriceps); White puffin (Puffinus creatopus); Little puffin (Puffinus assimilis); New Zealand puffin (Procellaria westlandica); Black bellied puffin (Puffinus griseus); Giant black puffin (Procellaria aequinoctialis); Gull (Larus scoresbii); Brown gull (Larus maculipennis); Franklin’s Gull (Larus pipixcan); Grey gull or gaviota garuma (Larus modestus); Dominican gull or kelp gull (Larus Dominicanus); Elegant tern (Sterna elegans); South American tern (Sterna hirundinacea); Storm-petrel (Oceanites oceanicus); Redlegged cormorant or Lile (Phalacrocorax gaimardi); Kingfisher (Ceryle torquata); Peruvian pelican (Pelecanus thagus); Southern giant petrel Macronectes giganteus); Subantarctic giant petrel Macronectes halli); Silver petrel (Fulmarus glacialoides); Nazca Booby (Sula variegata); Flightless steamer duck (Tachyeres pteneres ); Flying steamer duck (Tachyeres patachonicus); Chilean skua (Stercorarius chilensis); Tero (Vanellus chilensis); Guanay cormorant (Phalacrocorax olivaceus or Phalacrocorax brasilianus); Magellan diving petrel (Pelecanoides magellani); Snowy Egret or Garza chica (Egretta thula)

Marine Mammals:

Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus); Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus); Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis); Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae); Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis); Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis); Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus); Marine otter (Lontra felina); Southern dolphin (Lagenorhynchus australis); Chilean dolphin (Cephalorhynchus eutropia); Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus); Southern right whale dolphin (Lissodelphis peronii); Dusky Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus); False killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens); Southern River otter (Lontra provocax); Southern fur seal (Arctocephalus australis); Common sea lion (Otaria flavescens); Espinosa harbor porpoise (Phocoena spinipinnis); Orca (Orcinus orca ); Tursion (Tursiops truncatus); European mink (Mustela lutreola - introduced)

Fish, Mollusks and Crustaceans: Cod (Gadus morhua); FJORDS & CHANNELS AREA 184

Dog winkles or Rock shells snail (Thais chocolata ); Palo palo snail (Argobuccinum argus cymatiidae); Spider crab (Lithodes santolla); Cholga mussel (Aulacomya ater); Chilean mussel (Mytilus chilensis); Choro zapato (Choromytilus chorus); Cojinoba of the north (Schedophilus haedrichi); Cojinoba of the south (Austral cojinoba); Pink cusk-eel (Genypterus blacodes); Purple Sea Urchin (Paracentrotus lividus); Marmola crab (Cancer edwarsi); Loco (Concholepas); Pink clam or surf clam (Mesodesma donacium); Southern hake or Austral Merluza (Merluccius cephalus); Hoki (Macruronus magellanicus); Mero (Epinephelus marginatus); Common Galaxias or Inanga or Puye (Galaxias maculatus); Skate or Stingray (Dipturus trachyderma); Kite Skate or Stingray (Zearaja chilensis); Chinook salmon (Onchorhynchus body - Introduced); Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch - Introduced); Taca/Clam (Protothaca thaca); Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias)


AYSÉN - SIMPSON CULTURAL AREA


Travels through the Aysén - Simpson Area - Aysén Region of Chile TOTAL PER PERSON

14 DAYS 13 NIGHTS

2 TRAVELERS (ME AND MY LOVE)

$3,250 USD

Details (my part of the payment): Transport = $2,000.00 (Air, 50% of the lease of a vehicle for 6 days + gasoline), 50% of the Accommodations + Food = $840.00 ($60.00 /day average), Excursions and Souvenirs = $410.00

TRAVEL BLOG 188

My previous trips to the region of Aysén (Chile) have been some of my most popular posts and I’m pretty sure that my latest adventure in Patagonia will also capture your interest and imagination. For those who have been keeping up, it’s been a little over two years since my odyssey through the fjords and channels of Aysén. This trip inspired some MAJOR life changes (you could also say some MAJOR life changes inspired the trip), like the decision to pursue my photography and writing full time and to make travel a central focus in my life. Since that time, I’ve explored various continents and written hundreds of articles; it’s been amazing! Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with Andy, who has been my full-time adventure companion for a little over a year now. Andy’s specialty is museum development; not the old-school Natural History or Art museums that we grew up with – rather, the new kinds of museums that give people the chance to touch and play and feel while they learn. Andy works with cities to attract investors and assists with museum design and innovation. A few months ago at a conference, Andy met someone who was working on an idea to develop a museum about the glaciers of the Patagonia Ice Fields. They asked him to join their project and assist with the feasibility study. As fate would have it, his assignment included a month of on-site work, in the city of Coyhaique, the capital of my beloved Aysén Region. So, I joined him for a few weeks to explore the central area of Aysén, learn more about its history and landscapes, and develop a few articles to share with travelers, like you.


Day 1: Arrival in Coyhaique

TRAVEL BLOG

Andy met me at the airport in Balmaceda and even though he had only been gone a week, it was so great to see him! When we stepped outside he had to hold on to me to keep me from blowing away! Déjà vu! Last time it was exactly the same thing but with my Dad holding on to me – I get the feeling that in Balmaceda the wind never stops. We arrived in Coyhaique in little less than an hour and stopped by the cabana Andy had rented, (Cabins Queulat, www.descubrepatagonia.cl) to drop off my things. Good choice; cozy, well-equipped and only one block from the Plaza de Arms. We walked around a bit and stopped for lunch at a fun restaurant named Mama Gaucha (Paseo Horn 47, www.mammagaucha.cl). We shared a delicious grilled camembert with a sauce made from a local fruit called calafate that tastes like a cross between blueberries and blackberries. They say that if you eat calafate while in Patagonia you are sure to come back – I’m SURE I’ll be back, calafate or not (but, the sauce was really good). For the main course we shared a plate of handmade pasta called panzotti that was stuffed with crab. Afterwards, we walked around the downtown area and Andy showed me some of the local spots including the travel agency Purapatagonia (www.purapatagonia.cl), which rents bicycles. At 3:00 pm, all the businesses reopen from their two hour lunch break, so Andy headed off to meet with his team. It was a beautiful afternoon so I decided to get a little exercise and explore. I went back to Purapatagonia and they were super friendly, recommending a route around town that included some of the historic sites. Map in hand, I pedaled through the streets of Coyhaique, to the top of Baquedano, to check out some of the original buildings of the Industrial Society of Aysén, which moved into this area in 1903 with a government concession to develop ranching and infrastructure in the central area of the region. Most of the buildings are long gone but you can still visit the building that served as the company store and a beautiful stone barn; both of which are national monuments. On the way back to the downtown area, I stopped to walk through the park in the boulevard. There are several statues and monuments, kind of an outdoor museum, one of which, the monument called the Ovejero (a pioneer moving his sheep), was clearly the star attraction. Afterwards, I returned the bike and wandered into a lovely café, called La Ovejita (Facebook: Cafetería Ovejita) where I enjoyed one of the most delicious hot chocolates I’ve ever had. In the afternoon, I met Andy at the Restaurant Histórico Ricer (also on Facebook), which is a great place to check out local culture. They have lots of local books you can read, a second floor full of antiques and historic photos and lots of local plates and ingredients on their menu. We tried a local beer (Finisterra, www.cervezafinisterra.cl), that I had first tried with my Dad in Puerto Cisnes a few years earlier. For dinner we shared a lamb asado, prepared in the traditional way, in one of the corners of the restaurant. Yum. We finished the night with a Chile’s national cocktail, the pisco sour – but this local version was made with juice from the Nalca plant, which is endemic to the region – (I remember seeing it everywhere we went when we traveled through the Palena – Queulat area of the region, four years ago). Delicious!

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Day 2: Coyhaique’s next door neighbors - Puerto Aysén and RN Simpson The last night of my trip to the fjords and channels of Aysén, my dad and I had stayed in nearby Puerto Aysén. It is just an hour northeast of Coyhaique and I could have gone by bus (they run every 30 minutes from the terminal), but I decided to take advantage of the rental car Andy had rented. I went to visit Señora Isabel McKay at her hotel Patagonia Green (www.patagoniagreen.cl), where we had stayed, and I was amazed that after two years, she remembered us. We had a good visit and she showed me the latest improvements she had made in her hotel, cabins and restaurant. We talked about the area and when I told her of my previous kayak adventures, she recommended an excursion on one of the hundreds of lakes in the surrounding area and put me in touch with Rolando Toledo of Aguahielo Expediciones (www.aguahielo.cl). I couldn’t resist, so I booked a kayak tour for the following day. On the way back to Coyhaique, I took the time to explore some of the amazing landscapes along the way. For example, there is a mountain that you pass that looks just like a giant green muffin (it’s called the English Cake), and later, an incredible waterfall and two really interesting Catholic shrines; one next to the waterfall and the other a bit further south, just opposite the entrance to the Simpson River National Reserve (Facebook: Reserva Nacional Río Simpson). I stopped in the ranger’s office to pay the entrance fee and learn about the El Pescador trail. The trail takes around two and a half hours at a relaxed pace and follows the banks of the Simpson River through native forests full of songbirds. It is amazing that we were so close to the city of Coyhaique and in such a beautiful natural setting. After the hike, I headed back to meet Andy – he had a great afternoon snack waiting (called onces here), with a nice bottle of wine, local cheeses and cold cuts, dips and pates. We talked about everything we had seen that day and I showed him the photography of the day - this area of the world is truly amazing.

Day 3: Kayaking in Puerto Aysén TRAVEL BLOG 190

In the morning I called Rolando to confirm the time of our departure and see how the weather was in Puerto Aysén. Even though it’s so close to Coyhaique, the climate is completely different because of its proximity to the fjords, and its temperate rain forest ecosystem. Fortunately for us, it was a little cloudy and there was no rain or wind; an excellent day for kayaking. We met in his office, loaded the kayaks and headed to the Lago los Palos sector, just 10 km from Puerto Aysén. The lake is surrounded by virgin forests, huge snow-capped mountains, lots of small waterfalls and beautiful beaches. We paddled the entire lake, before descending a small river with water so transparent that we could even see the trout passing underneath the kayak. It was an incredible day and I was STARVING when I got back to Coyhaique. Andy asked the owner of the cabins for a recommendation


and we found ourselves at Lito’s Restaurant (067) 2254528, a local favorite with great food and big portions (they call restaurants like this “Picadas”). We had the Patagonian version of a “pupu platter” – which means an individual grill is brought out to the table filled to the brim with beef, chicken, pork chops, chorizo and other sausages, plus potatoes and other goodies. It was A-W-E-S-O-M-E and they had the best pisco sours I’ve found (so far!).

Day 4: A Day of Surprises in Coyhaique

Day 5: The Grand Tour of the Empanada

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When I woke up I realized that my beloved boyfriend was not to be found! He had left a note explaining that he had received an early phone call from the project coordinator and had needed to take the car. I decided to relax and people watch in the morning and headed to the plaza in the center of town with my camera and lenses in tow. It was a gorgeous sunny day and all of the children in town were out of school for summer, so the plaza was filled with people; families playing, friends talking, kids eating ice cream and driving around in little model cars that they rented over in one corner. There was a band playing and sights and sounds and smells everywhere. I sat on a bench and got out my camera and set to work! I spent the entire morning watching and playing with my camera and talking with people who stopped to chat. Andy called me around 1:00 pm and we went to lunch at the Casino de Bomberos (067) 2231437, another “picada”, where you’re sure to find crowds of locals, great foods and huge portions. (Don’t miss their ceviche). After lunch we wanted to get a little exercise, so we went to the Coyhaique National Reserve, five minutes outside of town, where we met an awesome park ranger named Rody Alvarez. We asked him why there was so much pine in this reserve because the National Reserves are supposed to protect native forests and pine is not native to Patagonia. Rody told us about the massive forest fires that had swept through the Aysén Region in the 1950s (mostly man-made) and the flooding and erosion that had followed. To address these disasters, Conaf (the National Forest Service), developed a system for forest recuperation that used introduced species that were fast-growing and could protect the remaining native forest. We walked a short trail that bordered the Verde Lagoon, where there are nice camping areas and shelters for picnics and barbecues. Andy had come prepared with picnic supplies so after our walk, we sat down in one of the shelters and enjoyed the afternoon sun and the views of the lagoon with an awesome snack. It was a nice surprise.

Our conversation with Rody at the Coyhaique NR had piqued my interest so in the morning I headed to the regional library (Facebook: bibliotecacoyhaique) to read more about the history of Coyhaique. They have a great local collection and it gave me an opportunity to practice my Spanish, learning more about the historic sites I had seen during my bike outing, and about the fires of the 1950s and early 1960s.

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Inside one of the books, in the margin of the page, someone had made notes about how to make empanadas, which made me remember a game that we invented during our trip to Palena - Queulat: “The Grand Tour of the Empanada”. It works like this: during your travels you look for EVERY place that offers empanadas (most places do in Chile) and buy one or two in search of the perfect example of this local gastronomic delight. Of course, it’s best when you play as a group and enjoy a few tasty beverages along the way. The prize? Great food, great drinks and lots of laughs. I decided we should play and started to explore the downtown area in search of contestants - I found several, including the baked empanadas at the Casino de Bomberos (General Parra 365), interesting varieties at la Panadería M&B (12 de Octubre 27), papas rellenos at Palestina Sándwich (avenida Ogana 963), which use the same filling as empanadas but substitute mashed potatoes for the bread outer layer, and more than 25 options at Todo Empanadas (Lillo 366 interior). I headed home with an ample variety and in the afternoon we invited some of Andy’s friends from the project to come over with a sample of local beers, like Dolbek of Coyhaique (www.dolbek.cl) and Hopperdietzel of Puyuhuapi (Facebook: Cerveza Hopperdietzel). Between beers, music and lots of laughter, we searched for the perfect empanada. Hmmm, should I tell you the winner? Nahhhh, more fun if I leave it for you to decide, when you visit. I’ll leave it at this, we took lots of fun photos to document the event and I’m sure they are floating around somewhere in Facebook. Later, our friends took us out to show us the nightlife of Coyhaique. We stopped for a few drinks in the Piel Roja discotheque, before deciding to go to the Quilantal (067) 2234394 dance club to learn the local dance, chamamé, to a live band. We then finished the night in El Bulín’s (Facebook: El Bulin’s Coyhaique). It was an awesome Friday night – Saturday morning!

Day 6: In Search of Huemules

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As you can imagine, we slept in Saturday morning. When we finally got up we needed some food so we headed to the locally famous bakery of the Colombians, as it’s known here, for a couple dozen “facturas”, which are hand-made Danish with all kinds of fillings (in reality it is called Delibreak Gourmet and absolutely worth a visit - Ignacio Serrano 143). So delicious! Afterwards, we visited the tourism information kiosk in the Plaza to ask about where we could go to do some hiking and maybe see the see Huemul, a native deer that is Chile’s national animal and endangered. We were sent to Cerro Huemules, an area of the Río Simpson National Reserve that is specifically designated for Huemul protection and study, only 16 kilometers from Coyhaique. Again, we met super friendly and knowledgeable rangers who told that in the morning they had seen a family of huemules along the trail to the summit. In fact, one of the rangers even decided to hike with us to show us where they were. At first we couldn’t find them, because they were so well camouflaged, but soon our eyes sharpened and there they were… it was fantastic! We watched a female grazing with her calf, by far


the best experience of the trip so far. In the afternoon there was a soccer (futbol) match on television and Andy and I were invited to go and watch the Chilean national team play at Bajo Marquesina, (21 de mayo 306, (067) 2210720). I can’t say I’m a huge fan but it was a blast to go to this local bar and hang out a ton of people who were. Plus, they had a great selection of sandwiches and local beers – good times. We tried Pioneros, another beer from Coyhaique and after the game, we went back to Mamma Gaucha to test their home brew, Cerveza Tropera. Ah! AND Chile won the game.

Day 7: Lakes, rivers and of course, fly fishing! This area of Patagonia is famous for fly-fishing so, since Andy had to work, I contacted local fly fishing guide, Julio Meier (www.coyhaiqueflyfishing.com), to have a lesson and see what all the talk was about. Julio showed me a beautiful sector close to Coyhaique where, within the space of 30 kilometers, we encountered the Simpson River, the Elizalde Lake, the Paloma River and finally, the Caro Lake. They were all amazing on the eyes and challenging to fish – Julio explained that the wind in this area makes for very technical fishing, one of the challenges that attracts world-class fans of this sport. Julio laughed at my complaints about fishing in the wind (which seemed impossible to me), and showed me the proper techniques so that I could cast and retrieve. It was fun to learn but, after a couple of hours in the cold water, I decided that I preferred watching him and photographing the graceful movements of the line as it arched over the water, and the excitement on his face each time he landed a trout. In addition to being an excellent fisherman, Julio was an expert on the culture and nature of the area, and when he saw how much I liked photography he recommended that I visit the Punta del Monte Estancia, (www.puntadelmonte. cl), where I could have the opportunity to get up close and personal with Andean Condors.

Day 8: Condors and Culture in Coyhaique

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Alejandro Galilea, one of the owners of the Punta del Monte Estancia, was waiting for me in front of the cabana at the incredibly early hour of 5:00 am, with a strong cup of coffee and the promise that he would do his absolute best to fulfill my dream to photograph a condor from only a few feet away. The estancia is in Coyhaique Alto, which is about an hour and a half from the city, along the border with Argentina where the landscape is dominated by pampa and sheep. We drove across the pampa, first along farm roads and finally, literally crossing the grasslands, until we finally arrived at a canyon, where we got out the binoculars and cameras and walked to the edge. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that about 15 meters away there was a family of condors sleeping! About a half an hour later they began to stir as the first rays of the sun hit the rock wall, and Alejandro began teaching me the differences between the males, females, and juveniles, while we all (condors included) waited for the air to warm up and began to produce the conditions needed for flight. Around

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40 minutes passed, during which the condors cleaned their feathers and did a condor warm-up exercise routine and then suddenly, everything clicked and they all began to lift off and circle us and the canyon below. There were eight condors flying a few meters above me at one point and my poor camera seemed to be a machine-gun because of all the shots I was taking. It was almost a mystical experience being there and I was close to tears; everything was so amazingly beautiful: the vibrant early morning light, the infinite grasses of the pampa, the ribbon of water below in the canyon, and the beautiful grace of these giant birds as they flew their maneuvers above us. Alejandro told me that at times there are more than 30 condors; can you imagine? We arrived in Coyhaique around lunchtime so I met Andy for a HUGE sandwich, called a churassco, at Club Sándwich Patagonia (José de Moraleda 437, (067) 2244664). We shared one sandwich between the two of us and that was more than enough. Afterwards we went for a walk and around 3:00, we passed by the Cultural Center (Facebook: Cultura Coyhaique), and I noticed there were a ton of people gathered. We asked what was up and they explained that it was the first day of the Patagonia Live Theatre Festival (www.patagoniaenescena.blogspot.com), which, of course, was impossible to resist. We watched a few of the plays and in the process, someone mentioned that a few weeks prior, they had finished the Patagonia Film Festival (Facebook: Festival de Cine de la Patagonia). I had never imagined that Coyhaique would have such a developed cultural scene. I finished the afternoon in the library, because I was planning on going to explore the area of Mañihuales and El Toqui mine, and I wanted to have more of a context of the history of this area, especially the rock slides and floods that had occurred around 1966 in this sector. I was pretty sure there was an important story to write but I needed more facts.

Day 9: Lessons to learn - perspectives to share

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I woke up thinking about my article and what I had discovered. I headed north towards Puerto Aysén but, about 15 km before reaching town, I turned right at the Viviana crossing toward the tiny town of Villa Mañihuales. The road was excellent and so was the weather! I stopped several times along the route for photos of the beautiful rivers and mountain landscapes. When I reached Mañihuales, I stopped at the grocery store on the main strip to find out where Señora Iris Leiva, and her husband, Don Moses Flores lived, because I had heard they were local authorities on the history of this area. In fact, Iris had written a poem celebrating the pioneers of the sector, saying (roughly), “although the settlers’ life was difficult and many suffered, they never forgot to extend their special form of hospitality and warmth”. Seems this tradition continues, because when I knocked on their front door, a complete stranger, they invited me in as if they had known me all their lives! I explained that I had been reading about the great flood and rock slide of 1966 and that I wanted to hear about the events first-hand for an article I planned to


write. They told me all about the events that had destroyed almost the entire pueblo. It was a miracle that nobody died, and more evidence that their unique traditions of hospitality were essential for their existence. Basically, imagine a region that was using slash and burn clearing to develop usable land. As a result there was no forest cover to keep the soils intact and so, when the rainy season of 1966 arrived, the mountains began to move and erode, producing giant landslides and flooding throughout much of the region. Mañihuales experienced a tremendous landslide on May 21, 1966, a day which is traditionally celebrated in Chile as the end of the War of Pacific, in which Chile gained its northern territories in the Atacama Desert. Thus, thanks to their spirit of hospitality and community celebration, at the time of the landslide they were all gathered together in the local rodeo club on the other side of the Mañihuales River, in a huge community feast. Señora Iris told me all about her memories of the event and shared lots of pictures of the “before and after”. She even helped to arrange an interview with someone from Conaf who explained the creation of the Mañihuales National Reserve, a tremendous pine forest in the center of town which plays a crucial role in protecting this area from other landslides and continuing erosion. On the way back, I decided to take the back route that passes by the El Toqui mine. I was not expecting much from the route, so I was really surprised to encounter so many incredible and contrasting landscapes: fields full of wildflowers, enormous native forests, wetlands full of migrating birds, rivers and lakes and in the middle of everything, the giant modern infrastructure of the Toqui mining camp. In my research I had come across a stat explaining that the Aysén Region was undergoing a sort of “mini” gold rush – and that as of 2012 - 635,802 hectares had been awarded to mining interests, 89% for explorations, primarily for gold. It was pretty scary to imagine that there could be “El Toquis” cropping up all over these beautiful sectors. I sure hope that Aysén has good environmental policy in place and sufficient controls.

Day 10: Coyhaique’s cafes and breweries

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I stopped by Conaf early to confirm the facts of my article and then installed myself and my computer in a local café to enjoy a few lattes, write and edit photos. I spent the whole day working, grateful to have work that I love, until Andy showed up and we decided to trade in the foam of coffee for that of local brews. We headed to the Belgian-style tavern of the D’Olbek Brewery, (www.dolbek.cl), which is right next door to their brewing and bottling operations. In addition to learning about their process and tasting several varieties, we bought a few gifts to bring back for our family and friends. I love arriving home after my travels with little surprises.

Day 1 1: Old friends and new friends in Mi Taller Che When I found out about my trip I had contacted an old friend, Marisol, who lives in Coyhaique. She had studied in the U.S. for a semester of college and we had gotten to know

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each other then. She told me about a group of artisans who had a workshop in Villa Ortega and suggested we go together and make a day of it. The workshop, Mi Taller Che sits in the corner of the town plaza, next to the village museum. We walked in on a lively group of women whom we christened the “little witches” of Villa Ortega, because their workshop was filled with tiny little witches crafted from elements of nature and a whole lot of what we called “magic”. We wanted to be witches too and asked if we could learn about their art. First step was to accompany them in the collection of the raw material. We walked across town to a beautiful forest on the outskirts and gathered “old man’s beard”, a lichen that grows from the trees in places where the air is extremely clean. With our arms full of lichen and our lungs full of fresh Patagonian air, we headed back to the workshop to learn how to conjure up our witches. Well, actually, it seems that witches are a little complicated for amateurs so they taught us to make nests and tiny little birds that turned out to be really cute. Then we learned to make felt earrings and necklaces which I will probably be wearing for the next few months straight. Of course, we couldn’t leave without a few rounds of mate and a few professionally crafted witches and handicrafts for my mom and Andy’s mom, and of course, some for friends, and yes, some for yours truly as well. It was an awesome day!

Day 12: Bottling up the essence of Patagonia in Don Santiago’s Quincho

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It was Friday and since Andy did not have to work, we decided to go to Frio Lake with a couple of new friends from his project. The mission of the day was to find Señora Norma’s farm and quincho, Don Santiago (www.casaturismorural. cl/gastronomia), so we could learn how to make artisan liqueurs. Her farm and house were in a beautiful place with panoramic views of the lake, and she told us about her family while we walked her fields in search of wild strawberries (so yummy!). It took longer than it should have because we were eating one for every four we put in the bucket but finally she said we had enough, so we returned to the house to make a batch of her delicious liqueur. They are really easy to make however, they require patience; you have to wait several months for the flavors to meld and mature. No problem though, we left our batch for another group of visitors to try and bought a batch that had been made last summer. It was perfect – like drinking the sweet taste of summer, bottled with all its sweet essence. We bought several to try and to take home to others. I definitely bought too many souvenirs on this adventure; getting them back was a colossal challenge! When we arrived in Coyhaique we learned that there was a regional band, Par de Chocos Trio (on Facebook), launching their new disc at the Cultural Center so we shared a fondue at La Ovejita (09) 90905636, right across the street, and then ventured over to listen to a little local music.


Day 13: Biking through the Simpson Valley After so many great meals and beers during our trip, it was time for some exercise. We rented a couple of bikes in the kiosk of the Restaurant Histórico Ricer (067) 2232920, in Paseo Horn. They recommended a route through the Simpson Valley, towards the tiny town of El Blanco. We liked the idea because it promised great rural landscapes and the route is almost entirely on pavement. As an added bonus, we could ride right out of town so there was no need to coordinate cars and bike racks. We had the Patagonian winds at our backs so we arrived at the village of Valle Simpson in no time. It’s a tiny place, with an interesting local museum and lots of gauchos, with their berets, handkerchiefs and sculpted faces that are a testament to decades of working outside, exposed to wind, cold and sun. We continued on our path, stopping briefly on the banks of the Simpson River to enjoy a snack, and then continued through the giant farms of the sector, winding our way along country roads toward El Blanco. There, we wandered through the Mate Museum (Genoveva Perez; (09) 90778834) which we liked just as much as the first museum in Valle Simpson. They were both tiny and created by local families, but as Andy said, they told the local stories of this area’s history and colonization, and I think it’s great that the local community is interested in keeping these memories alive. We arrived in Coyhaique super tired, but glad to have had a day in the fresh air.

Day 14: Promises and farewells

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I had my flight in the afternoon, so I took advantage of the morning to walk through town in search of a special souvenir that my dad had requested. When we traveled through the fjords together, he fell in love with three things: the wine botas that people in Aysén use to share wine at their Asados (barbecues), the berets that the gauchos use, and the ceramic casserole dishes made in Puerto Ibáñez. We had agreed that if I returned with the first two, we would search for the third together, during a future trip with the whole family. So I went in search of all things “gaucho” and at 10:01 am, I was ready and waiting for the doors to open at the House of Mate (Errázuriz 268 - Facebook: La Casa Del Mate Coyhaique) so I could honor my part of the commitment. And yes, of course, I took advantage of the occasion to buy a mate gourd, bombilla and yerba for Andy and me, once we returned home. We left around 12:00 to head to the airport in Balmaceda and arrived in less than an hour, so, I was checkedin and ready with a few hours to spare. We decided to walk across the street to town and explore this tiny frontier town. We strolled along the streets, and toured yet another tiny local museum and the new plaza which pays homage to the town’s founder, but more than anything, we enjoyed our last moments together during this adventure in Aysén. Then I began the long journey home, jealous of Andy who was making his way down to the Patagonian Ice Fields (grrrr – next time)!

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THE HEART OF COYHAIQUE BEATS ALL SUMMER LONG, IN THE PLAZA

If your trip takes you to Aysén’s regional capital, there’s little doubt that you will find yourself in the Plaza of Arms in the center of the city at one point or another. Even though Coyhaique is the region’s largest city, it still maintains the intimacy and atmosphere of a small town, where everything radiates from its core. If you’re walking through Coyhaique’s downtown area, try this brief experiment: sit on a bench for a couple of minutes and watch the people passing through. The ideal place to do so is the Plaza de Arms, because its unique pentagonal design unites the downtown streets, passages, locals and visitors in a flurry of activity and energy.

Has it been a few moments? Okay. Abracadabra. Now we’ll describe the scene you’ve just observed.

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First of all, it wasn’t hard to recognize the coyhaiquinos and differentiate them from the visitors, right? You probably saw several parents watching their children running and playing everywhere; especially at the edge of the plaza’s fountains. Some were probably riding their bikes since the Plaza is known as a safe and popular place for learning. And those with the best luck (or grandma) were enjoying a delicious ice cream, right? Teenagers were grouped around the corners of the lawns, flirting and laughing and plotting their evening adventures. And depending on the hour and day, you also saw lots of residents and business folks walking at a fast pace through the central corridor of the Plaza with their hands full of folders containing the bureaucratic paperwork needed for their latest transaction. Even though they were clearly in a hurry, they probably stopped once or twice to greet a friend or family member, because the city is small and you always run into people you know. These people, young and old, are the Coyhaiquinos, the pulse of this city, its life and spirit. In addition to spotting the people of Coyhaique (and, of course, quite a few of their dogs), it is very likely that your experiment also roused some other senses: the sounds


of music and traffic, the smells of the roses and the popcorn, and the sensations of the feel of the sun, rain or wind or perhaps all three at the same time! And, if your visit is during the summer, no doubt, you also saw dozens of visitors, that (just like you), are in search of: 1) tourist information, 2) banking services, 3) a good place to eat or 4) something exciting to do. They are easy to distinguish because of their giant backpacks, their maps, their cameras, their bicycles weighted down with tents and saddlebags, and their mixture of languages and accents from all over the world. So, here are a few tips to help you find everything you are looking for:

Tourist information? There are options all around. The kiosk in the west corner of the Plaza is home to the Chamber of Tourism of Coyhaique and the Rural Tourism House. They have information and advice for what to do and where to go within the entire region. Around back of this building you’ll find Dussen Street, and The Patagonia Rural Experience, a local tour operator with several tours and products that emphasize the rural areas and experiences in the Region. If you keep walking to the corner you’ll find Prat Avenue and to the right, in the middle of the block, are the offices of the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism of Coyhaique, which can also help you with advice and ideas. On the northeast side of the Plaza, you’ll find Bulnes Street, home to the tourist information offices of the National Tourism Service (Sernatur), and a little further on, the offices of PuraPatagonia, another tour operator.

Banking Services? Just south of Bulnes you’ll find Condell, which is the main artery for the national banks and ATMs (cash machines). Banks are open from Monday to Friday, 9 am to 2 pm, but ATMs are available 24 hours a day. There are two money exchange houses near the plaza: Casa de Cambio Tourism Prado on 21 de Mayo, and Casa de Cambio Austral, in Paseo Horn #4, store #3.

Looking for a snack? On the southeastern side of the Plaza, you’ll run into Subteniente Cruz Street. Here there is a bus parked that sells awesome artisan ice cream and a wide selection of other snacks and drinks. If you’d rather sit a while and enjoy a coffee, juice or an ice cold beer, try Fitz Roy Coffee, in front of the plaza between Lord Cochrane and Paseo Horn. This pedestrian street (Paseo Horn), extends a few 100 meters and has several open air cafes and shops, like Café Ricer, which has been offering Patagonian specialties for more than 20

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Condell Street and 21 de Mayo. You can wander around and window shop the entire sector in about an hour, unless you get tempted by some special treasure that catches your eye. If you are with children, and especially if it is a rainy day, walk a block to the northwest of the Plaza, along Balmaceda Street to the Plaza Patagonia Parque de Entretenciones. Their game room, oriented for kids from 6 months up to 12 years may become your new best friend!

years, and Mamma Gaucha that is renowned for its stone-hearth pizzas and home-brew, La Tropera. There are also two great cafes on Dussen: Café y Pastelería Holzer and Te Quiero Café, both with a selection of coffees, juices and delicious pastries. And a couple of blocks to the east of the plaza, on 21 de Mayo, you’ll find several other restaurants and cafes including Café Oriente, Café de Mayo, Café Confluencia and Café Montana.

Need something interesting to do? If you are looking for a special souvenir, visit the Feria Artesanal, located in front of the west side of the plaza. Among the many treasures, you’ll find lots of interesting local crafts like wool sweaters and caps, mate gourds in a variety of materials, leather and woodwork, baskets and jewelry and carved stones depicting myths and legends of Patagonia. The commercial sectors of Coyhaique are primarily found in Prat Street, Paseo Horn,

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And, it is worthwhile to visit the Cathedral of Coyhaique, located in front of the northeast corner of the Plaza. If you could position yourself above, you would notice that the building is shaped like a giant cross. The interior reflects a solemn simplicity produced via the use of local woods and artisans, a huge wooden crucifix and the Virgin of Sorrows, the Patron Saint of the temple. The altar is made of a solitary piece of coigüe and weighs about a ton and a half.


OVERVIEW

»»Activity

Type: Walking tour of the Coyhaique downtown

»»Start: Plaza de Arms, Coyhaique »»End: Plaza de Arms, Coyhaique »»Distance: Approximately 1 kilometer »»Duration: 1 - 4 hours »»Seasonality: Year Round. »»Special Considerations: You will likely

see stray dogs in Coyhaique’s downtown area, as is the case in all the sectors of Chile. In general, if you don’t bother them it is unlikely that they will bother you. The majority of downtown businesses (except restaurants) close between 13:00 - 15:30.

»»Reservations:

Self-guided Some useful contacts:

• • • • • • •

• •

Café Confluencia- 21 de mayo 544; Contact: (067) 2245080 Café Konken - Arturo Prat 340; Contact: (09) 93498341; marioguerreropacheco@gmail. com C afé de Mayo - 21 de mayo 543; Contact: (09) 62174897; www. cafedemayo21@gmail.com C afé Montana - 21 de Mayo 417; Contact: (067) 2273073 - (09) 66461430; montanacoffee2013@gmail.com Café Oriente - Condell 201; Contact: (067) 2231622 Café Restaurant Express - Prat 402; Contact: (067) 2242386; adolfofigarend@hotmail.com Cafetería y Chocolatería La Ovejita - Moraleda 599; Contact: (09) 90905636; laovejita.patagonia@gmail.com Café & Pastelería Holzer - Dussen 317; Contact: (067) 2210700; www.holzer.cl Cámara de Turismo de Coyhaique, Kiosk on the western side of the Plaza; Contact: www.aysenpatagonia.cl Cámara de Comercio de Coyhaique, Arturo Prat 348; Contact: (067) 2239523 - (067) 2231918; contact@camaracoyhaique.cl;

• •

• • •

• •

• •

www.camaracoyhaique.cl Casa de Cambio Turismo Prado 21 de Mayo 417 Casa de Cambio Austral - Horn 40, Local 3; Contact: (09) 85893867 Casa del Turismo Rural - Kiosk on the western side of the Plaza; (067) 2214031 - 2524929 - (09) 78988550; contact@casaturismorural.cl; casadelturismorural@gmail.com; www.casaturismorural.cl Catedral of Coyhaique, Our Lady of Sorrows Parish - Plaza de Arms; Contact: Facebook: Parroquia Nuestra Señora de los Dolores Mamma Gaucha - Horn 47; Contact: (067) 2210721; Facebook: Mammagaucha Coyhaique Café Histórico Ricer - Horn 48; Contact: (067) 2232920; www. historicoricer.wordpress.com; Facebook: RestaurantHistoricoRicer. Plaza Patagonia Kids Games and Entertainment Center; Corner of General Parra and Balmaceda (Access via Balmaceda); Contact: (09) 92367525; plazapatagoniaentretenciones@gmail.com; Facebook: PlazaPatagoniaEntretenciones Purapatagonia Excursiones y Expediciones - General Parra 202; Contact: (067) 2246000; info@ purapatagonia.cl; www.purapatagonia.cl The Patagonian Experience - Dussen 317; Contact: (09) 96371858; info@tpe.cl; www.tpe.cl Sernatur, Tourism Information Office; Bulnes 35; Hours: Mondays - Fridays 08:30 – 18:30, Saturdays 10:00-14:00, Closed Sundays; Contact: (067) 2240290 - 2240299; infoaysen@sernatur. cl; www.recorreaysen.cl Servitur Patagonia – Corner of Freire and Prat; all year round. Contact: (09) 84549793; serviturpatagonia@gmail.com Te Quiero Café - Dussen 360; Contact: (067) 2210050

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activity.

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WALK THE SHORES OF THE SIMPSON RIVER, SURROUNDED BY HISTORY AND NATURE

The Simpson River, renowned primarily for its great fly-fishing, is gaining popularity with walkers thanks to a fairly new trail that borders the river, offering a beautiful hike for the whole family amongst exuberant nature just 30 km from the city of Coyhaique. The “El Pescador” Trail that winds through the amazing native forests within the Río Simpson National Reserve, was named in honor of the fishermen that frequent the banks of the River. It’s a quick drive from Coyhaique that offers changing landscapes that evolve from grasslands to temperate rain forest in the space of a few kilometers. Evergreen species abound along the trail, including coigüe, canelo, tepa, mañío, ciruelillo, quila and chilco. The entrance for the Reserve and Trail-head are visible directly across from the Shrine of San Sebastian, 32 km north of Coyhaique on the road to Puerto Aysén. Here you can park, pay your access fee, and if you’re lucky, convince one of the Reserve’s park rangers to guide you on your walk through the forest and teach you about the diverse flora you will encounter. If a ranger is not available, check out the museum and arboretum which are also helpful guides to identifying local flora along the route.

The Hike:

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For the first few paces of the hike you’ll be in a pine forest, part of an experimental reforestation initiative, but you’ll soon leave this behind and enter the native forests of the temperate rain forest ecosystem. You’ll border along the Simpson River for the entire hike, moving between calm and quiet areas and raging white waters, where lucky cormorants fish for trout in what is considered to be the fourth best river on the planet for fly-fishing. If you are quiet and pay attention, you may be rewarded with sightings of some of the shyer forest birds like the chucao and throated huet-huet, whose singing provides the perfect harmonies to the river and the forest setting. If you’re a photographer, this trail is a great spot to capture these often elusive feathered friends.


OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: Hiking »»Start: Administrative

Area for Conaf, Río Simpson National Reserve

»»End: Administrative Area for Conaf, Río Simpson National Reserve

»»Distance: 5.6 miles, out and back »»Duration: Approximately 2 hours 30 minutes.

»»Seasonality: Year round, from 8:30

am to 17:30 pm with extended hours during the summer, to 19:30 hrs

»»Special Considerations: Wear suit-

able clothes and shoes and carry rain gear, sunglasses, a hat for the sun and sunscreen. Don’t forget carrying water, a snack and your camera. Walk carefully and use the handrails along boardwalk areas as the wood may be slippery due to the humidity.

»»Reservations: Self-guided activity.

The hike travels the same path that the early settlers used to move their carts and merchandise from the port in Puerto Aysén to the inland valleys, and if you keep close watch, you can spot vestiges of these times, like the pathways of tree trunks, called “envaralados”, that were constructed across wetlands and marshes. You’ll also pass a mysterious abandoned stone house covered with moss in the middle of the forest, that local historians are still trying to explain.

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After the stone house, the trail continues to border the river along a stretch with challenging rapids that are popular with local kayakers and rafters. As you continue to advance, you’ll leave the forest and enter an area dominated by the massive leaves of the nalca plant and the colorful red flowers of

the chilco bush. Both of these plants grow especially giant in this ecosystem, as you will surely observe. About 500 meters from here, you’ll reach the trail’s end. You can return along the same trail or flag down one of the many buses that pass through this sector on their route between Puerto Aysén and Coyhaique.

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PUERTO AYSÉN, FROM BRIDGE TO BRIDGE

Puerto Aysén (Port of Aysén) is the second largest city in the region; full of history and nature, great food and fun. The one thing Puerto Aysén is NOT – is a port! Take a walking tour of town to learn why there are beached ships and ancient docks in this seemingly misnamed city. Today, Puerto Aysén is the second largest city in the region, but for many years it was the largest and most important, the designated capital of the region and the official port of entry for Chilean Patagonia. During the first several decades of the 1900s, the city of Puerto Aysén was a renowned hub of intense commercial activity, including a tremendous timber production and significant livestock and wool trade. Large ships would sail up the Aysén River on a daily basis, docking at the vibrant port which facilitated trade between Aysén, Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas.

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But the pace of the economic bonanza of Puerto Aysén proved unsustainable. Over timbering, wildfires used for clearing land, massive livestock grazing, and the natural conditions and climate of Aysén all converged in the early 1960s, resulting in an enormous accumulation of sediments in the Aysén River that no longer permitted the movement of large boats. The port was moved 14 kilometers west to Puerto Chacabuco, forever affecting the growth and productivity of this once vibrant port. The city’s situation was worsened by the designation of Coyhaique as regional capital in 1976. In the late 1980s the city’s fate began to improve as a result of growth resulting from the arrival of salmon farming and later, tourism. Today, Puerto Aysén and Puerto Chacabuco are inseparably linked; Aysén provides the infrastructure and basis for great visitor experiences and Chacabuco provides the bay and access to the sea. We suggest you begin your tour of Puerto Aysén in the city’s artisan market located on the south bank of the Aysén River. Craftsmen from all over the region work from this market during the summer months, offering a variety of handmade crafts that range from traditional woolen sweaters to wallets and


handbags made from salmon skins. And don’t forget to look for the delicious handmade chocolates of Puerto Aysén, filled with local fruits like calafate, murta and rose hips; definitely a delicious “trail mix” to enjoy during this urban hike. Leaving the market, head north, over the beautiful President Ibáñez Bridge, which is a National Monument and a critical artery for the movement of goods throughout the Region. Its 210 meter length makes it the longest suspension bridge in Chile, and as you cross over, you will be able to observe its complex structure with hundreds of huge metal support cables. The bridge was a pivotal symbol and strategy for the 2012 “Social Movement of Aysén”, when inhabitants of the region, mobilized by demands that the State make long-needed social and economic improvements, prevented use of the bridge for more than 30 days via roadblocks and demonstrations.

Continue straight two blocks and take a left onto Sargento Aldea. As you walk along this street you’ll get a feel for the day to day rhythms of life in the city, with opportunities for great window shopping and people watching. Keep in mind that you’re also tracing the history of this sector; if you walk all the way to the end of this street you’ll end up at the Old Port, which formerly welcomed ships from all over the world. Leaving the Old Port, head for the adjacent Aguas Muertas Docks. The scene is one of the main postcards of Puerto Aysén, with a colorful collection of small fishing and touring boats. It’s a great place to talk with local fishermen, reminisce about the “golden era” or contract a day excursion to explore the nearby waters. If you keep walking, you will find the suspension bridge that crosses the Los Palos River. Here you have two options: 1) continue toward the right for 10 km to the Los Palos Lake sector, where you’ll be surrounded by

If you’re ready for some great food after your walk, try one of these great seafood spots: Isla Verde (Teniente Merino 710, (067) 2334583); Cabanas Patagonia Green (Lago Riesco Ave. s/n, Puerto Aysén, (067) 2336796, www.patagoniagreen.cl); or Café Entre Amigos (Sargento Aldea 1077, (067) 2333433).

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TRAVELERS’ TIPS

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OVERVIEW »»Activity Type: Walking Puerto Aysén.

»»Start:

Aysén.

tour of

Artisan Center of Puerto

»»End: Suspension bridge that crosses the Los Palos River

»»Distance: Puerto Aysén is approximately 67 km (1 hour) west of Coyhaique. The walking tour is 2 – 5 km, depending on your chosen route.

»»Duration: 2 – 4 hours »»Seasonality: Year Round »»Special Considerations:

We suggest bringing a good pair of walking shoes, a raincoat and your camera.

»»Reservations: Self-guided activity.

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the beautiful waters of the lake, huge native forests, impressive snow-capped mountains, small waterfalls and beautiful beaches; or 2) head toward the left for 8 km to the Acantilada Bay in the Aysén fjord, one of the favorite summer swimming spots for local Ayseninas.


EXPLORE THE BACK ROADS AND NATURE OF PUERTO AYSÉN

Puerto Aysén is blessed in terms of natural wonders. With lush greenery, towering mountains, numerous lakes and rivers, you’ll quickly discover why Puerto Aysén is so popular with fans of nature photography and outdoor sports. Grab a bike or 4x4 and let’s go discover the incredible nature around Puerto Aysén! Start your exploration in Puerto Aysén heading west on Route 240 in the direction of Puerto Chacabuco. You’ll probably want to stop right away for a few photos of the President Ibáñez Bridge which is a National Monument and the longest suspension bridge in Chile. It is an engineering marvel, stretching 210 meters in length with hundreds of huge metal cables to support the slab. At the intersection of Route 240 and Route X-550, veer to the left. This road leads directly to Riesco Lake (22 Km), which is excellent for kayaking, fishing or just relaxing along the beach. The road is gravel and the slopes are gentle so it is ideal for bikes. During the first part of the journey you’ll border the Aysén River which runs all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The river has several whitewater sections with class III rapids and is considered intermediate level for rafting or kayaking, mainly because of the challenges it presents in the sections where it joins the Mañihuales and Simpson Rivers. If you are interested in a kayak excursion, you can contact Aguahielo Expeditions, which offers several excursions in the area.

Around Km 15, you’ll see the small cable-ferry used for vehicle crossings of the Blanco River. The ferry is powered by the flow of the river and uses an interesting system of cables and pulleys, operated by the ferry

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As you get closer to the lake, you’ll notice that the vegetation becomes denser and even lusher. Watch for calafate, one of the emblematic fruits of Patagonia. It grows on a medium sized, thorny, evergreen bush and produces a small, edible, purple berry during the summer months. Tehuelche legend says that people who eat calafate berries will be bound to Patagonia, so, if you’d like to come back some day, be sure to give these berries a try!

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TRAVELERS’ TIPS

»»Patagonia

Green Tourism offers half and full day bicycle tours of the areas surrounding Puerto Aysén, including Acantilado Bahía, Caracoles River, Pangal River and Los Palos River. They also have an excellent hotel, cabanas and one of the best restaurants in the area. They are located 400 meters from the south entrance of the President Ibáñez Bridge, along Route X-550. Contact: (067) 2336796; infogreen@patagoniachile.cl; www.patagoniagreen.cl

»»Aguahielo

Expediciones offers tours and kayaking expeditions in the lakes and rivers of the Puerto Aysén area, in addition to the Baker River and San Rafael Lagoon. Their tours include instruction for kayakers of all levels. They are located at Carrera 1410 in Puerto Aysén. Contact: (09) 76053580; info@aguahielo.cl; www. aguahielo.cl; Facebook: AguaHielo Expediciones

»»If you enjoy camping, we recom-

mend a visit to La Pancha Ecotourism, located at kilometer 7 on the way to Los Palos Lagoon near Puerto Aysén. They offer camping, kayaking, horseback riding and use of their quincho. Contact: (09) 98878572; (067) 2333067; quincholapancha@gmail.com; www.ecoturismolapancha.cl; Facebook: Ecoturismo la Pancha.

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master who lives nearby. The crossing has no cost and operates from Monday to Sunday between 8:30 to 12:30 and from 13:30 to 17:30. Continuing straight on Route X-550 until kilometer 22, you will take a right along the entry road that leads to the Beach of Riesco Lake, a favorite summer spot for locals who enjoy this lake’s calm waters of glacial origin and the ancient myrtle trees that form the backdrop for the extensive beach. From here, you can go back to Puerto Aysén or continue your adventure to the Condor River sector, 13 km further south. This stretch of the road is President Ibáñez Bridge more challenging, with steep slopes and lots of curves, but the scenery makes it worth the effort; vividly green native forests


with coigües, tepas, canelos and thousands of ferns and mosses, contrasting with the whites of the waterfalls that cascade along the sides of the road. You’ll advance two more kilometers along Route X-550 and then veer to the right, following a winding farm road through the beautiful landscapes. The ride ends at Ciervo Creek, at the base of one of the most beautiful cascades and the Andrade Farm, owned by Don Juan Andrade, a settler who came to this area in the 1980s. If you have the opportunity, sit and talk with him; he is an expert on the area and has lots of great stories to share.

OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: Bike or 4x4 tour of

one of the natural areas around Puerto Aysén.

»»Start: Puerto Aysén. »»End: Puerto Aysén. »»Distance: 70 km from

Puerto Aysén to Río Condor and back.

»»Duration: 3 – 8 hours, depending on your travel mode.

is advisable to wear layers and bring rain gear, sun protection, water and snacks. As with all biking in Aysén, you should ride defensively, be prepared for the need for back-country repairs and use safety equipment like helmets, reflective lights, and bright clothing.

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»»Seasonality: Year Round. »»Special Considerations: It

»»Reservations: Self-guided activity.

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GET TO KNOW MAÑIHUALINA STYLE HOSPITALITY; IT’S A REAL LIFESAVER!

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Take some time to share the relaxing pace of Villa Mañihuales, famous for its fly-fishing and gaucho style hospitality. When we say that mañihualina style hospitality is a real lifesaver we are not exaggerating; the community spirit and celebrations of Villa Mañihuales have literally saved the lives of hundreds of local families. More about that in a bit! First, let’s get you there. Villa Mañihuales is located along the Carretera Austral (Route 7), 75 km north of Coyhaique and 95 Km south of Queulat National Park, at the confluence of the Mañihuales and Ñirehuao Rivers. It’s a beautiful drive, from either direction, full of rural landscapes brimming with wildflowers, forests and rivers. From the south, you’ll pass stretches of the Coyhaique, Simpson, Correntoso, Aysén, Ñirehuao and Mañihuales Rivers along the route, so if you are a fly-fishing fan, bring your equipment, and if not, bring your camera; either way it’s a drive that’s not to be missed. The area is lush and green, characteristic of its temperate rainforest ecosystem, with waterfalls in all directions and more than 300 days of rain each year. In an area that receives so much rainfall, the dense forest coverage is important for protecting against erosion and landslides. Without it, the steep slopes would push all that water and debris down into the rivers below; precisely what occurred in this area of Aysén in the early 1960s. During the preceding decades there had been tremendous timbering and clearing in the region, both for the construction of new towns and as the primary driver of the local economy through timber exports. Much of the native forest cover had been removed or impacted, producing a sort of giant ecosystemic game of dominoes that played itself out in the region during May of 1966. The rainy autumn season of this year was particularly heavy, beginning in March and lasting well into the winter months of June and July. By May, the soils were heavy and dense and could take no more. Water began


moving from the high lands down into the valleys and riverbeds, carrying along everything in their path. Landslides and flooding were widespread and especially massive in the rivers of this sector. The Simpson, Coyhaique, Aysén and Correntoso Rivers overflowed leaving thousands of people trapped and isolated. Puerto Aysén was the city most affected, only 18 blocks remained above water and the channels of the port were permanently altered; the tremendous accumulation of sediments carried downstream by the Aysén River during the May floods filled in the channel making it no longer suitable for large boat traffic. It had to be decommissioned and relocated to Puerto Chacabuco, 14 km further west.

What happened in Villa Mañihuales?

The floods and landslides of 1966 produced lasting repercussions for much of the Region of Aysén, changing the trajectories of several towns and cities, including Coyhaique and Puerto Aysén, and teaching all, including the region’s foresters, important lessons about ecosystem management and protection. Today, you can visit the Mañihuales Forest Reserve, right in the center of town, and learn about the responses made to protect the valuable and sensitive nature of this area. This reforestation project has helped shore up the terrains around Mañihuales, providing protection for the town and its native fauna, like huemules, pumas, foxes and condors, among others. With such great nature as a

TRAVELERS’ TIPS Are you interested in experiencing a Mañihualina style festival? The Fiesta Campesina de Villa Mañihuales takes place annually, during the third week of February, with traditional music, rodeo, fly fishing, typical games, and a huge Patagonian asado. Contact the municipality for more information: (067) 2314141.

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Well, as we mentioned earlier, Mañihualinos have a long tradition of celebrating together and are happy to turn just about any occasion into a great party. Whether it is a national holiday, a local sports event or a neighbor’s barn raising, this community loves to gather around good food, good music and good times. And on May 21, 1966, this grand community spirit saved their lives! The entire community had braved the rains and gathered in the local Rodeo Club celebrating a national holiday that memorializes the soldiers and naval traditions of Chile. We are talking about 50+ years ago, before twitter, television, or Facebook, so they had no idea of the floods and disasters happening in the rest of the region or the danger they were in. Naturally, it came as a complete surprise when suddenly, on the other side of the Ñirehuao River, the towering mountains gave way, producing an enormous landslide that pummeled down, straight through the center of town, destroying everything in its path; the village, the houses, the school and other public buildings. Miraculously, the Rodeo Club was located on the other side of the river and all lives were spared! In true

Mañihualino spirit, the 2,000 survivors of the rockslide worked together to slowly rebuild their beloved pueblo, maintaining their hospitality and collaborative spirit, alive and stronger than ever. Today, Villa Mañihuales is home to a diverse community of a few thousand miners who work in the nearby Toqui mine, farmers, sons of pioneers, park rangers and foresters. It is a community with several active associations and groups that get involved in the planning and management of the area, making sure that it continues to develop while preserving its important traditions and spirit of gracious hospitality to its visitors.

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OVERVIEW

»»Activity

»»Start: Coyhaique or Queulat National

»»End:

Type: A visit to Villa Mañihuales, its National Reserve and many nearby rivers. Park.

Villa Mañihuales and its Forest Reserve.

»»Distance: Villa Mañihuales is located

75 km north of Coyhaique and 95 km south of Queulat National Park.

»»Duration:

»»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations: If you plan to

1 - 3 days, depending on your preferences.

fish, you’ll need a license, available online: www.sernapesca.cl. Inform yourself on regional fishing policies and practices including ways in which you can help prevent the spread of Didymo (www.didymo.cl), a highly invasive alga that has contaminated rivers throughout the world, including many in Aysén.

»»Reservations:

Self-guided activity. Some options of accommodation and food in the village include:

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Residencial Mañihuales - Eusebio Ibar 280; (067) 2431403; pablo.caromansilla@gmail.com Camping Mañihuales National Reserve - Las Lavanderas Km 65; Reserve with the park guards. La Cocina de Yussef - Carretera Austral s/n, Popular restaurant with travelers who are seeking a break from the Carretera Austral and a great lunch or coffee. Supermercado Carretera Austral Carretera Austral s/n, This supermaket has a bit of everything, including an ATM Cash Machine. Panadería y Provisiones El Camionero - Carretera Austral s/n, This small market offers great food, to go, like empanadas, chaparritas and sandwiches. They offer a public bathroom, free to customers and a few hundred pesos for others. Cafetería Luis Nick - Carretera Austral northern end of town; (067) 2431376 - (09) 85285259; great lunches and sandwiches.

Cabañas La Ruka - Eusebio Ibar 865; (09)78003768 - 85285259; egcaro@hotmail.es

“backyard” Villa Mañihuales has lots to offer visitors. There is great camping right in town that attracts cyclists and backpackers from all over the world. In its rivers, you will find a great abundance of rainbow and brown trout and plenty of great shoreline with public access. There are several local restaurants that offer a range of traditional fare

and supermarkets for fueling up your next adventure. What’s more, the famous Rodeo Club continues to offer lots of gaucho and hauso events and celebrations, (hausos are cowboys from the central valleys of Chile), keeping the traditions of the pioneers very much alive.


IN SEARCH OF THE CONTRASTING LANDSCAPES OF THE MAÑIHUALES SECTOR

Without a doubt, the development and settlement of Patagonia have left traces on its landscapes and culture; contrasts of the delicate balance between livelihood, economic opportunity and healthy natural ecosystems. This half-day circuit takes you off the beaten path to see and consider a variety of these traces for yourself.

AYSÉN - SIMPSON AREA

This untraditional tour takes you off the beaten path and outside the typical tourist routes. You’ll begin and end in the village of Villa Mañihuales, where the majority of the Toqui mine workers have their homes. Mining is the most important economic activity for Mañihuales and the sector, producing a solid economic base for nearly 4,000 inhabitants, and the justification for having good schools, recreation facilities, stores and services; all important factors for recruiting and maintaining workers. The first mining prospections in the Aysén Region were related to early explorers’ quests to find the mythical “City of the Caesars”, a city of gold that the Spanish conquistadors of the sixteenth century believed to exist somewhere in Patagonia. Hundreds of years later, at the end of the nineteenth century, explorers arrived again, also searching for gold, but this time in the form of veins trapped within the quartz and granite found in many sectors of Aysén. In 1904, the inevitable occurred when Mauricio Braun and John Dunn made the first findings of metals in Aysén. Within a few decades, mining in Aysén was booming; by 1940 the region produced more lead and zinc than anywhere else in Chile (a country where mining is king!). During those years, the epicenter of the mining in Aysén was further south, centered along the southern shoreline of General Carrera Lake. In the 1930s and 40s, tens of thousands of workers flooded into the towns bordering the lake, like Chile Chico, Guadal and Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez, and most were quickly dispersed amongst the mining camps in Puerto Sánchez and Puerto Cristal. Many communities doubled or tripled in size during this boom, even adjacent towns like Bahia Murta, which offered the timber and building materials

213


critical for the construction of jetties and settlements to support the mines.

Contemporary mining in Aysén Today, there are two major mining operations in the region, the gold mine in the Paso las Llaves sector, between Mallín Grande and Chile Chico, and El Toqui mine which has been in operation since 1983 in the sector of the Mañihuales and Ñirehuao Rivers, producing gold, lead, silver and zinc. Nevertheless, gold fever is more alive than ever in the Patagonia; in 2012 the region designated 635,802 hectares to mining concessions, 89% of which were for exploration, mainly in search of gold.

The Tour Stop in the Villa to buy coffee or snacks for the route, as the stores open early to provide services to the workers who are starting their day. Head north out of the village along the Carretera Austral to the crossing with Route X-421 (Km 28) that leads to the El

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Toqui mine. From here on, the road is gravel, passing through quickly changing landscapes that begin with farms and large fields, full of fallen tree trunks that pay homage to the grand forests that predated the fires of the early years of the twentieth century. You’ll begin to climb, surrounded by native forests on the mountains that surround you and the Ñirehuao River far below to your left. Keep your attention on the road which winds and climbs through this section; at any moment you may find yourself face to face with the giant trucks of the mines which are used to having this road basically to themselves. A little further the road descends and levels out, and here you will find the welcome signs for the El Toqui mine and shortly thereafter, the camp itself, with various houses painted in bright colors, machinery and the infrastructure, including offices, the mines and of course, the overflow pools. The scale and modernity of the infrastructure are impressive and in stark contrast with the natural and rural landscapes of the area. Nyrstar (www.


nyrstar.com) a Belgian company, is owner of the deposit, with 460 direct workers and another 200 contractors. In this sector you will also want to be careful, first, for the presence of trucks and buses of the mine, and second, because the company sometimes reroutes the roads to prevent problems between their trucks and passenger vehicles. Follow the signs carefully! Once you’ve passed the mine, follow the signage indicating the public road that winds its way toward the tiny village of El Gato. The landscape changes dramatically, transporting you from the modern realities of heavy industry to scenery that has existed practically untouched for centuries. What more appropriate gateway to mark this sharp contrast than two small streams that stand between you and the road you must follow?!? There’s no bridge here so you’ll need to cross; they are small and should be no problem; engage your 4-wheel drive and then advance slowly and steadily to the other side. Now that you’ve met these early challenges, the rest of the route is a piece of cake. Just after the streams, you’ll encounter a fork in the road (Km 45) and you’ll bear to the right. From there you’ll just follow the road. In the first few kilometers, you’ll wind past country churches and beautiful wetlands full of native and migratory birds, lagoons, creeks and natural pools that almost touch the road. At the end of the giant wetland you’ll encounter an enormous field with millions of yellow, pink, or purple flowers, depending on the season. From here the road begins to climb toward a beautiful pass with a mature native forest of lenga and ñirre that glows with vibrant oranges and yellows and reds in autumn. In this

sector you’ll encounter pioneer era barns and fences that show century old building practices, including canogas (hollowed out trees, halved lengthwise and overlapped to form rustic roofs), tejuelas (ax hued wooden shingles) and traditional “palo a pique” fences. Keep a watch for gauchos working with cattle and sheep in this area; you may even be treated to a show as they round up their animals using Patagonian sheepdogs.

To complete this circuit, turn right at the intersection and head back to Villa Mañihuales (approximately 24 kilometers).

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Toward the end of this road, you’ll make a steep descent into the tiny village of El Gato. Here you’ll notice the tragic implications of the fires, with a landscape heavily impacted by deforestation and erosion. El Gato is a tiny place, familiar only to its inhabitants and fly-fishermen who come to visit the exclusive lodges that are located in this area. But collections of tiny villages like this were precisely how this region began its course of development: widespread collections of a couple of houses in the middle of immense nature that little by little began to grow and form villages. El Gato remains tiny however; it does have a couple of small markets, where you can stop for a snack, a rural school, a first-aid post and a community center.

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OVERVIEW

»»Type of Activity: 4x4 back roads circuit.

»»Start: Villa Mañihuales. »»End: Villa Mañihuales. »»Distance: 85 Km. »»Duration: 4 - 6 hours approximately. »»Seasonality: Year round, depending on local conditions. During winter when there is snow you will definitely need chains, four wheel drive and experience driving in winter back road conditions!

»»Special

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Considerations: Drive with caution, since it is common to encounter cattle or trucks on the road. The signage is not optimal, so keep an eye on your odometer and follow the descriptions provided. If you feel lost, stop at a nearby farm and ask for directions. We recommend bringing snacks and water, because there are few stores along the way.

»»Reservations:

Self-guided activity. If you want more information about Nyrstar and the El Toqui Mine, you can visit their company website or contact: communications@ nyrstar.com. Some of the services available in Villa Mañihuales include:

Cabanas La Ruca - Eusebio Ibar

• • •

• •

865; (09)78003768 - 85285259; egcaro@hotmail.es Residencial Mañihuales - Eusebio Ibar 280; (067) 2431403; pablo.caromansilla@gmail.com Camping Mañihuales National Reserve - Las Lavanderas Km 65; Reserve with the park guards. La Cocina de Yussef - Carretera Austral s/n, Popular restaurant with travelers who are seeking a break from the Carretera Austral and a great lunch or coffee. Supermercado Carretera Austral Carretera Austral s/n, This supermaket has a bit of everything, including an ATM Cash Machine. Panadería y Provisiones El Camionero - Carretera Austral s/n, This small market offers great food, to go, like empanadas, chaparritas and sandwiches. They offer a public bathroom, free to customers and a few hundred pesos for others. Cafetería Luis Nick - Carretera Austral northern end of town; (067) 2431376 - (09) 85285259; great lunches and sandwiches.


TIME TRAVEL THROUGH THE STREETS OF COYHAIQUE

Coyhaique, the capital of the Aysén Region, was founded in 1929. If you have a couple of hours and a bike or good shoes, you can learn about its history and traditions by visiting its neighborhoods and historical landmarks. After a few days traveling along the Carretera Austral, reaching Coyhaique is sure to be a bit of a shock. After hours of silence and solitude, the small regional capital can seem a flurry of urban activity, where suddenly, it’s possible to find of everything. Hotels, restaurants, pharmacies, gas stations and shops, everything a traveler needs to continue (or start) their trip. Despite its seeming urban nature, Coyhaique is a city that can easily be toured by walking or by bike. Coyhaique was founded in 1929 with the original name of Baquedano and first populated by workers of the Industrial Society of Aysén, which was dedicated to sheep ranching. During the 1930s, the livestock that once populated the city’s center were moved to other pastures and the development of the city was taken over by the State. A great way to get to know this city and its history is by getting a map from your hotel or a downtown tourist information center (check the kiosk on the west side of the Plaza de Arms) and taking a walk or bike ride around the neighborhoods and sites.

Depart from the Plaza de Arms on Paseo Horn, heading southwest toward Arturo Prat.

Follow the road up and around to the El Claro Sector, home of Coyhaique’s rodeo arena and Club, the site for important celebrations like the City’s Anniversary and the regional fair, Expo Patagonia. When you

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Take a left, continue 4 blocks to Av Simpson and turn right, advancing a couple of blocks to the road on your left that descends toward the Simpson River. You’ll soon pass over a hanging bridge. Take a look toward your right and you’ll see the Piedra del Indio (Rock of the Indian), a weathered rock cliff that has been molded by the force of the winds to resemble an Indian brave; thus inspiring its name.

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reach the intersection that ends this sector, take a left to wind your way back to Coyhaique, crossing back above the Simpson River and eventually coming face to face with a giant hand holding a mate gourd and straw, a sculptural testimony to the influential gaucho culture present in the region. At the giant mate, follow the roundabout to the north, along the road that borders the Simpson River. Immediately after the roundabout, on the right-hand side, you will see a small park with wooden sculptures representative of the settlers in the area, and a little beyond, on the left side, an impressive overlook of the River and Cerro MacKay. Follow this road, which is the bypass for the Carretera Austral, approximately 3 kilometers and just before the Coyhaique Bridge, take the fork to the right, onto Baquedano Avenue, the northern entrance to the city. You’re leaving the waterfront sector now, on the way up to the top of Baquedano Avenue, to visit some of the oldest and most historic buildings of the city. You’ll climb a total of 3 kilometers to the remaining buildings of the Industrial Society of Aysén (SIA), which date back to the 1930s and were declared Historical Monuments in 2009. On the way up you’ll pass the city’s main police station, several of the oldest and finest hotels, the historic cemetery on the left, and the Dolbek Brewery entrance on the right. After the crossing for Tejas Verdes, you will see a stone barn which originally housed the SIA workers’ mess hall. Just in front of the mess hall you’ll find the building that housed the company store.

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Descending back to the center of town, again for Baquedano, you’ll come a boulevard type park, home to the Pioneer Square and one of the greatest landmarks of the city, the Monument to the Ovejero (Shepherd). Built in granite, this sculpture celebrates a shepherd with his horse and dogs, leading his flock. It was built in Punta Arenas in 1944

and brought to its final home in Coyhaique. Later, in 1962, the city of Punta Arenas decided it liked the sculpture so much that it commissioned a bronze replica so that it could honor this historic profession as well. In this same plaza, you’ll find other interesting tributes to the history of Coyhaique, like the Monument Celebrating the role of Chilotes (persons from the Island of Chiloé) in the development of the Region. There is also a giant wagon, called a “Chata” which was one of the first means of overland transport for the region. Pulled by 12 horses, it was used to travel to Argentina and could carry up to 6 thousand kilos of goods. Now it’s time to explore the city’s center, marked by the location of the Plaza de Arms and the administrative and commercial development in the surrounding blocks. To visit the Plaza de Arms which is, without a doubt, the social center of the city, turn left onto Condell Street and travel three blocks until you intersect with the plaza.

TRAVELERS’ TIPS By the end of 2015, the Industrial Society of Aysén lands will not only be a National Monument, they will be the site of the first official Regional Museum of Aysén. The project includes restoration of several of the historic buildings including the company store, workers’ houses and the dining hall, among others. As well, the project will establish a learning and support network between the curators and experts in Coyhaique and local museums like including Valle Simpson, Villa Ortega, El Blanco, Balmaceda, Cerro Castillo, Cochrane and Villa O’Higgins.


OVERVIEW

»»Activity

Type: Historic walking or bike tour of Coyhaique.

The social nature of the Plaza predates the founding of the city. Around 1925, when the SIA managed the lands that today form Coyhaique, this sector was called “La Pampa del Corral”, filled with paddocks for troperos’ animals, so that these weary travelers could take a much needed rest. Gradually, the pampa evolved to include fun events, like Chilean style horse races, football matches and typical games like the Taba ( a sort of horseshoes like game), and Truco (a betting, lying, rhyming card game). In 1928, the Ministry of Lands and Colonization designed the first subdivisions of the city and the layout of the Plaza de Arms, which is unique within Chile and features ten streets that converge at its perimeter. On the north side of the Plaza, you’ll find the Cathedral of Coyhaique, inaugurated in 1970 as a replacement for the previous cathedral that was destroyed in a fire in 1960. The building was built using local hardwoods, like coigüe and mañío, and local workers and companies, in a collective effort represen-

»»Start: Plaza de Armas. »»End: Plaza de Armas. »»Distance: Approximately 12 Km. »»Duration: 2 - 4 hours. »»Seasonality: Year Round »»Special Considerations: If you

choose to bike, be aware that you will be integrated with traffic; there are no bike paths.

»»Reservations:

Self-guided activity. You can rent bicycles at the following locations near the Plaza de Arms:

Historic Café Ricer – Paseo Horn 48; (067) 2232920; www. hi s t o r ico r ice r.wo rd p re s s . com; Facebook: RestaurantHistoricoRicer Purapatagonia Excursions & Expeditions - General Parra 202; (067) 2246000; info@purapatagonia.cl; www.purapatagonia.cl

tative of the community spirit that has remained strong throughout the development of Patagonia.

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End your tour of the historic city center in Paseo Horn, the footpath on the southeast side of the Plaza that extends approximately 100 meters between the Plaza and Baquedano and features several shops and open air eateries, including the Historic Café Ricer (Paseo Horn 48), a busy café and restaurant that always has great lunch specials, coffees and local fare. In addition to great food, the restaurant (and especially the second floor), has lots of books and historic photos and artifacts about the history of Coyhaique, Aysén and Patagonia. And they also rent bicycles so if you want, start with breakfast and a cup of coffee and end with lunch or an ice-cream after your tour!

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DISCOVER LOCAL FLAVORS IN THE “PICADAS” OF THE CAPITAL

Nothing better for making one feel welcome than a generous plate of homemade food. “Picadas” are those special local restaurants where the food is plentiful and the hosts are authentic, great ambassadors for the identity and traditional gastronomy of a place. Get ready to tour the picadas of Coyhaique, Bon appetit! Picadas are sought after for their fair prices, the abundance of their dishes and their traditional homemade preparations. You can find them throughout the Region of Aysén, and in Coyhaique, we can assure that you that there are an abundance of picadas, brimming with great food and true regional identity. We’ll start with the legendary Casino de Bomberos (General Parra #365; (067) 2231437), chosen as the best picada of the region in a contest held by the National Council for Culture and the Arts in 2012. Specials of the house include steaks, fish, empanadas (hand-held pastries stuffed with meats of cheese), papas rellenas (same as empanadas but enveloped in potatoes) and pichangas (think of it as a Patagonian pupu platter). Service includes daily lunch specials and empanadas to go.

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Lito’s restaurant (Lautaro #147; (067) 2254528), is famous for its preparations of local beef, all year round, and seafood specialties, according to what’s in season. Don’t miss their pichangas and delicious pisco sours, accompanied by tortas fritas and house-recipe pebre sauce. You’d never guess such a great restaurant was hiding inside its humble exterior, and in addition to a charming atmosphere, the service is excellent and the owner is always nearby! In the Comedor Restaurant (12 de October #337; (067) 2210840), the rustic carvings, photos and decor transport you to a farmhouse dining room somewhere in the countryside of Aysén. The comfortable atmosphere makes the food even more tasty and authentic, featuring proprietary recipes for fish, seafood and regional meats, accompanied by garden fresh salads, tortas fritas and pebre. During the spring and early sum-


mer, the menu features various preparations of chiporro, which is young lamb, weighing between 12 and 14 kilos, when the meat is at its most tender. Don Luis, the owner, will even prepare a traditional lamb asado, with prior coordination. For those looking for the experience of sharing an authentic meal in a Patagonian house, the ideal place is El Mastique (Bilbao # 141; Contact: (09) 96824067). This Coyhaique mainstay has been open since 1995, and is renowned for big plates and authentic Chilean cuisine. Typical dishes include guatitas (a stew made with strips of the stomach of cows), charquican (a stew that features dried, roasted meats – and sometimes the

TRAVELERS’ TIPS These picadas are only a few of the many that you can find in Coyhaique and throughout the region. If you find yourself with other travelers, an exchange of tips about the great picadas in the local area is a great way to start a conversation!

The Loberías de Chacabuco Restaurant is another traditional picada (Eusebio Lillo #366; (09) 82841296). Don Juan, the owner, learned the restaurant trade working for the classic Aysén Hotel in the years that Puerto Aysén was the capital of the region, sharing: “there we even served the President of the Republic”. When he moved to Coyhaique, he decided it was time to become independent and opened his own restaurant. He serves a variety of lunch specials but his true passion is seafood. We can definitely recom-

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meat is horse), Chilean beans, noodles with red sauce, cazuela, beef stew, and salmon, among others. In 2011, Sercotec recognized the owner, Señora Carmen Hernandez,for her contributions to the conservation and celebration of traditional Chilean recipes.

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mend the paila marina, the fried fish and, in season, puyes, jaibas (stone crabs) and (centollas) spider crabs. If you’re interested in eating with local farmers and gauchos, you’ll want to head to the Moneda de Oro (Arturo Prat #431; Contact: (067) 2233321). Here, you’ll dine with Ayseninos from all over the region who have ventured in from the farms for some sort of business in the capital. Of course, while they’re in town, they make it a point to enjoy the great food and service in their favorite picada. Bet you can guess the specialty of the house – meat and potatoes!!!

OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: Gastronomic tour in

search of the best picadas of Coyhaique.

»»Start: The picada of your choice. »»End: With a cup of coffee after a great meal.

»»Distance: All of these picadas are

located in the central sector of the city, in a radius of 8 blocks of the Plaza.

»»Duration: 1 to 2 hours. »»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations:

Picadas tend to fill up with locals during the 13:00 to 15:00, lunch “hour”. It’s advisable to go early.

»»Reservations: The Restaurants do not require reservations and are generally open during the lunch hour (13:00 to 15:00) and for dinner (20:00 – 22:00).

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COYHAIQUE NATIONAL RESERVE, 100% NATURE, JUST PACES FROM TOWN

It’s not necessary to travel hours from the city to get to know the natural beauties of Patagonia. The Coyhaique National Reserve is located just a few minutes from the regional capital, with 200 year old forests of lenga and more than 12 kilometers of trails, for every level and taste. There are hikes for everyone in this National Reserve, located just 3 km from Coyhaique. To get there, you can even walk or bike, but it’s a steep uphill climb so if you prefer a taxi, make your way to the Plaza where they are always ready for action. From there, you’ll head east on Condell to Baquedano and make a left, headed out of town toward the bridge over the Coyhaique River. Just past this bridge, (which is to the right at the intersection of Baquedano with the Carretera Austral), you’ll see the sign for the Reserve on the right. Follow the access road beside the sign for 1.5 km to the entrance and park ranger station.

Trails and Sites: One of the greatest attractions of the Reserve is a mature lenga forest with specimens that are over 200 years old. The forest is in pristine condition without intervention, generating a great example of a semi shade ecosystem that allows seeds to germinate and naturally regenerate the forest. If you keep heading up the trails to 1100m you will find another important dynamic of Patago-

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Like many of the region’s National Reserves, this protected wildlife area was created to help avoid erosion after the many large-scale fires that ravaged the area around the city at the start of the colonization. That’s why you’ll encounter approximately 700 hectares of pine trees in the Reserve. They were planted to help shore up the side of the mountain in order to assist the area’s recovery and reduce the amount of sediments in the river below. As curious as it may sound, these introduced species played an important role in the protection of native species during the latter part of the twentieth century, and today, you’ll see an interesting mix of both in the Reserve.

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nian forests; here the lengas are also mature, however, due to harsh temperatures, winds and the weight of the snow in the winter, they grow much slower and develop much more stocky, almost like natural Patagonian bonsais. One of the most visited places in the Reserve is Laguna Verde. On the way up to the Lagoon area, you will see a sign directing you to the right, to the “Casa de Brujas” (Witch’s House). Don’t panic! Historically, in the times of colonization, pioneers would attempt to construct their houses rapidly in order to stake a claim over the land. To avoid being discovered, the houses were “prefabricated” and then secretly assembled during the night, giving the illusion that they had magically appeared from one day to the next, thus the name “witches’ houses”. The Witch’s House in the Reserve is a small museum, paying homage to that time. At Laguna Verde there is a camping area with quinchos, barbecue grills, tables, toilets, showers, laundry and dishwasher. There is also a large barbecue area for special events. In the sector you can walk a quiet 800 meters trail that runs along the entire perimeter of the lagoon and count how many rainbow trout you can spot in the transparent waters, and how many different birds you can identify. There is also a wheelchair accessible trail that leads to a fantastic overlook of Coyhaique, far below. If you enjoy hiking, one of the most challenging trails in the reserve is the one to the summit of the Cinchao peak. It’s a 4 km climb that can be hiked in about 3 hours, de-

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pending on your physical state, the amount of photos that you take on the way, and the wind. The first 2.5 km is along a gently sloping trail that winds between a forest of lenga, ñirre and coigüe. The next kilometer takes you above the tree line and has a markedly steeper slope, so make sure you protect yourself from the wind and walk with more caution. The gusts can be wicked! The last part is the most difficult, with a steep slope and a loose stone surface but if you tough it out, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of the whole city and the surrounding mountains, including Mano Negra and Divisadero, when you reach the summit.

TRAVELERS’ TIPS

»»If your stay in the Region is short, a

visit to this Reserve is a great way to learn about the forests of Aysén and to spend a while amongst the nature of the area. It’s well worth the taxi ride!

»»The recommendation to come by

taxi can also save you from being bitten or arriving with your pants torn. In the middle of the climb leading up to the Reserve there are a couple of dogs that have the reputation of being grumpier that “Grumpy Cat”. Stay clear of these guys! (If you don’t know Grumpy Cat – Google before deciding to walk or bike!!

»»If

you’re curious about the reforestation efforts of Conaf in Aysén, visit the Experimental Nursery at the Reserve where they are studying how best to reforest with native trees in these southern extremes. It’s a good place to learn about Conaf ’s management efforts in the area, native coigüe evergreen forests and deciduous trees, like lenga and ñirre, which fill Patagonia with shades of yellow, orange and red in autumn.


OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: A visit to the Coyhaique National Reserve

»»Where to Start: Plaza of Arms, Coyhaique.

»»Place

of term: Laguna Verde in the Coyhaique Reservation.

»»Travel Distance: 4 - 12 km, depending on your trail selection.

»»Activity Duration: 3 hours – 3 days,

depending on your preferences of activities.

»»Seasonality:

Year round, in winter, the Reserve is an excellent place for snowshoeing.

»»Special Considerations: It is advisable

»»Reservations:

The Reserve is open from Monday to Sunday from 8:30 to 17:30 hrs. In the summer season, the Reserve stays open until 19:30. Entrance fees are as follows: adults - $1000, children - $500, foreign visi-

Cristian Solis, Expediciones GeoSur, Simón Bolívar 521; (067) 2221990 - (09) 92648671; www. geosurexpediciones.com; cristian@geosurexpediciones.com Hugo Castañeda, Alma Patagónica Expediciones - Ignacio Serrano 621; (09) 76183588; contacto@ almapatagonica.cl; www.almapatagonica.cl Manuel Medina, Aventura Tehuelche, Pimpinela 723; (09) 84118736; aventuratehuelche@gmail.com; www.aventuratehuelche.cl Cristhopher Piñeira, Ecotravel Patagonia; (09) 56679288; contacto@ecotravelpatagonia.com; www.ecotravelpatagonia.com

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to bring trekking poles, hiking boots, water, snacks, layered clothing, a raincoat, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, especially if you plan to hike the more difficult trails. Don’t forget your camera. Dogs are not allowed in Chile’s National Reserves or Parks.

tors - $3000. Camping is $5000, use of the picnic quinchos is $4000 and rental of the large quincho of $25,000 for groups of 8 - 20 persons. There are several regional guides who offer trekking in the Coyhaique National Reserve. It is important to choose a guide with experience working in the reserve, good equipment, and knowledge of rescue and first aid. Some options include:

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ENJOY THESE CRAFT BEERS PREPARED WITH THE PUREST WATERS OF CHILE

Imagine a tasty artisan brew featuring the pristine waters of the mountain streams flowing from the glaciers of Patagonia. Actually, there’s no need to imagine because each day the selection of small batch brews crafted in Aysén GROWS, and the water makes all the difference! Consider this your official invitation to explore Aysen’s Craft Beer Trail, flowing through the restaurants, bars, breweries and markets. You need only four ingredients to brew a good beer: malted barley, hops, yeast and water. It seems a modest list, but there are infinite variations in the origin, form and treatment of these simple raw materials, as well as the brewing processes. The combinations produce endless versions of the tasty beverage known as “beer” and in each one you can savor the essence of the main ingredient, water. Beer consists of a 90% water, therefore, the characteristics and composition of this primary ingredient play a fundamental role in the quality of the final product. Beer brewing requires potable, chlorine free water as its starting point. And this is where things start to get interesting; there are lots of different sources of water, for example, glacier waters, thermal mineral waters, water from mountain streams, rain water, lake water and of course, city tap water. Each one of these sources of water contains different types and amounts of salts and minerals that affect the pH, color and flavor of the beer.

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The region of Aysén is the largest freshwater reservoir of Chile and also one of the cleanest. In fact, it is still possible to drink water directly from many of the region’s tributaries. A growing number of local breweries are celebrating this unique aspect of Aysen’s heritage by utilizing local waters from the glaciers, streams and rains of their local sector to make their unique brews. These waters are characterized for having a soft character and low levels of minerals, a neutral pH and are low in nitrates. Thanks to the amazing waters of Aysén and the creativity of entrepreneurs, you can find a wide range of exquisite handcrafted


ales flowing through the restaurants, bars, breweries and markets of the region. Aysen’s Craft Beer Trail continues to grow but here’s a partial list to get you started. KAWIÑ ARTISAN BEER – LA JUNTA: Available in the Hotel Espacio y Tiempo, every day of the year. Contact: (09) 76418823; donald.manque@gmail.com; Facebook: Cervecería Artesanal Kawiñ - La Junta. These golden ales and porters are brewed in La Junta using the pristine high-mountain waters of the thawing of the Lago Rosselot National Reserve. In the Mapuche indigenous language, Mapudungun, the word Kawiñ means “a meeting or social celebration”. The word is used in connection with the action of celebrating in nature, and respecting nature’s codes. Donald Manquenahuel, the owner and brewer, shares the goal of respecting

nature’s codes by being a responsible, environment-friendly business and using Chilean malts and no additives or preservatives. HOPPERDEITZEL BEERS - PUYUHUAPI: 22km north of Puyuhuapi, along the Carretera Austral. Contact: (09) 98183839; www. puyuhuapi.com; Facebook: Cerveza Hopperdietzel. The handcrafted beers of Hopperdietzel were inspired by the heritage of Puyuhuapi, its founders and the brave pioneers who settled this sector. Their three varieties, Goldene Jahre Ale, Roter Teppich Ale and Schwarz Back Ale, are all brewed using the pure waters of the spring thaw captured in the streams of the Valley of the Cesares in the midst of the Patagonia temperate rain forests.

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Campo d´Hielo Beers are offered in three varieties: Glaciar, Vertiente and Río Baker. All three are Pilsner; however, each is produced from a different source of water, producing subtle but marked differences in flavor. The Glaciar variety is brewed using glacial waters from the Exploradores Glacier. The Vertiente variety is produced with waters from the springs of the El Claro Sector of Coyhaique. The Río Baker variety is brewed with the waters of the Baker River, the most powerful river in Chile. These waters add a special sense of power, force and rebellion to

FINISTERRA BEERS - PUERTO CISNES: José María Caro 297; Open every day. Contact: (067) 2346407 - (09) 88198330; contacto@cervezafinisterra.cl; www.cervezafinisterra.cl. With seven varieties (Pale, Golden, Dark, and Pale Ales flavored with Calafate berries, Cauchao berries, Honey and Chili peppers), Finisterra Brewery is one of the older craft beers in the region and stands out for its use of spring melt waters from the Queulat Range. The Saavedra Berndt family owns and operates the company, offering a 100% organic product brewed using German traditions. They offer guided tours of the brewery with the option to “carry out” and they distribute to local restaurants and shops. BRAVO BEERS - PUERTO AYSÉN: Facebook: CERVEZA BRAVO.

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Bravo beers are brewed with the waters from the waterfalls of Puerto Chacabuco and manufactured in Puerto Aysén. Victor Hernandez, owner of the microbrewery Bravo, explains that “in Aysén, the water is ideal for lagers because it does not contain minerals that affect their flavor”. His most popular varieties are the Dark Lager taste with coffee and chocolate notes that perfectly complement the flavors of a lamb asado al palo. The Amber Lager is also delicious, with a bitter caramel flavor and a high alcohol content. CAMPO D’HIELO BEER - COYHAIQUE: Parcela 43, Sector El Claro; Hours: Call for appointment. Contact: (09) 81594206 78552514; cervezacampodhielo@gmail. com; www.campodhielo.cl.

the flavor of the brew. D’OLBEK BEER - COYHAIQUE: Baquedano 1899; Open every day. Contact: (067) 2232947; beacha@dolbek.cl; www. dolbek.cl. D’Olbek is the most popular beer brewed in Aysén, created by the family Smet d’Olbecke, which emigrated to Chilean Patagonia from Belgium in 1948. The family decided to develop a beer that represented the culture and traditions of their country of origin, taking advantage of the quality and abundance of Patagonia’s waters. You can enjoy their excellent beer in many of the restaurants and pubs of the region as well as in their new tavern on the same grounds as the brewery. PIONEERS BEER – COYHAIQUE: Independence 871; Call for an appointment. Contact: (09) 85296175; Facebook: Cerveza Pioneros. The creator of this beer was inspired by the pioneers, the first explorers to arrive in Patagonia, and also the brave men who


Contact: cerveceriacaiquen@gmail.com; Facebook: Cerveza Artesanal Caiquén. Caiquén is an artisan beer with character, strong hops and a robust body, born in the heart of the Carretera Austral, at the base of the Cerro Castillo Glacier and the Ibáñez River. Its inspiration comes from the noble spirit of the Caiquén Wild Goose that inhabits Patagonia, the unique and harsh geography that surrounds the Ibáñez Valley, and the strong, self-sufficient people of Villa Cerro Castillo. The result is a unique and authentic beer. took charge of opening the first routes. The founder of this brand, Jourdan Cabezas, is also a pioneer, in the art of developing beers. He offers three tasty varieties, Pale Ale, Red Ale and Dark Ale. TROPERA BEER - COYHAIQUE: Paseo Horn 47; Call for Restaurant Hours. Contact: (067) 2210721; Facebook: Mamma Gaucha Coyhaique. Produced by the owners of the Mamma Gaucha restaurant in Coyhaique, varieties include Porter, IPA, and Wheat, among others. One of the favorites is the India Pale Ale, “that is bitter so it harmonizes with the idiosyncrasies of a region that also prefers to drink its yerba mate bitter,” says Frank Valdes, owner of the brand. In addition to its cultural fit, the Mama Gaucha IPA is a very good choice for pairing with pastas, pizzas and grilled lamb. HANDCRAFTED CAIQUÉN BEER - VILLA CERRO CASTILLO:

DALLMAN BEER - PUERTO INGENIERO IBÁÑEZ: The El Maitenal Farm, La Balsa Sector, Route to the Levicán Peninsula; Y can visit the farm year round; Contact: (09) 83892832; lijiger@hotmail.com. Dallman is a traditional German beer, brewed using the original recipe of the grandparents of the owner, Gerald Dallman. His grandfather immigrated to Patagonia along with his wife, Lilian Henriquez, a Chilean by birth. The beer is 100% craft brewed and can be found only at their farm, El Maitenal, where it is the perfect thirst-quencher after a great day of rock climbing, or as an accompaniment for an asado al palo, prepared by Gerard, who is not only the master brewer but also, the grill master.

OVERVIEW

»»Activity

Type: Gastronomy. Craft beer tasting.

»»Start: Regional restaurants, stores, the Region.

»»Duration: Depends on your thirst. »»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations: Drink with

moderation and if you drink, don’t drive.

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breweries and bars.

»»End: Enjoying the last drop. »»Distance: The length and width of

»»Reservations: Not necessary.

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INDULGE IN THE GRAND EMPANADA TOUR

Are you one of the many people who learn about local culture using your taste buds? If so, give this gastronomic experience a try. It’s a fun and delicious way to try out a Chilean tradition that’s made even more delicious by the quality of Aysen’s local ingredients. Revealing the secrets of an Undiscovered Patagonia includes telling you about our typical dishes. Empanadas are a mainstay in Chilean cuisine; our version of fast food. Baked or fried, they are the perfect self-contained snack; great to purchase or prepare ahead and gobble up during a break from work in the fields, or in your case, at a picnic spot alongside one of our many trails. Almost all cultures have some version of empanadas; which, in their essence, are hand-held bread pies stuffed with an infinite variety of fillings. In actuality, this precursor to Kellogg’s “pop-tart” dates back to ancient times. Examples from other parts of the world include Italian calzones, Polish-Russian pierogis, English turnovers, Cornish pasties, Middle-Eastern/Indian sanbusaq, aka, samosa, Italian-American strombolis, Louisiana Natchitoches, (deep south U.S.A.), and countless variations of Tamales tracing back to the Indigenous cultures of the Americas. Our own Patagonian empanadas are believed to have originated in Spain, probably migrating to South America with the first European settlers.

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The name derives from the Spanish word, emanar, which means, to coat with bread. The traditional Patagonian filling contains ground beef, onions, raisins, hard-boiled eggs, cumin, and a little aji sauce or cheese. But within the cultural areas of Aysén, you can find ALL KINDS of empanada fillings, including luche, merluza, congrio and shellfish in the Fjords & Channels; sautéed apples with a pastry-like dough in Palena – Queulat and other areas that have been influenced by German immigrants; ham and cheese, chard and mushroom, and chicken and mushroom, in Aysén – Simpson. If you are lucky, you may even find a cherry empanada in the Chile Chico sector of Chelenko or a roasted lamb version somewhere south of Cochrane, in Baker – O’Higgins.


We suggest a Grand Tour de Empanadas, in which you visit the restaurants and pubs of town in search for your favorite versions! Here’s a list of Empanada sources in Coyhaique that can get you started, but you’ll find empanadas practically everywhere you go so, make this an ongoing quest! Buen provecho. PANADERÍA MYB 12 de October #27; Hours: Monday to Saturday from 7:30 to 22:00. Sunday from 9:00 to 22:00; Contact: (067) 2232121. Empanadas are the star attraction in this traditional bakery that offers a wide selection of varieties like assorted shellfish, shrimp and cheese, squid, and chicken, among others. They also offer chaparritas (similar to an empanada but stuffed with hot dogs and cheese), great breads and tortas fritas, and a

variety of pies, cakes and cookies. PANADERÍA Y PASTELERÍA STEIBLER Calle Dussen, #289; Hours: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 to 13:00 hrs and from 15:30 to 18:00 hrs. (067) 2213887. Located on Dussen in front of the Pedro Quintana Mansilla School, this tiny bakery will surprise you with their big selection of delicious empanadas, breads and sweets. Try their traditional baked beef empanadas as well as some alfajores and cookies! TODO EMPANADAS Lillo 366, interior; Hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 12:00 to 15:30 hrs and 18:30 to 24:00 hrs. (067) 2210418; Facebook: Todo Empanadas Delivery.

PASTELERÍA ALMALUK Avenida Ogana #1135; Hours: Monday to Saturday; (09) 98750399. This is a great spot to pick up some empanadas as you head out of town toward the south. It’s located on Ogana, just beside the Copec Gas Station and has a great variety of

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Here, the name of the game is “variety” with more than 40 types of empanadas, several based on unique combinations of regional products, like the “criolla”, filled with lamb, and other versions filled with clams and oysters. Here, you can also test your own culinary creativity by choosing your own combination of ingredients!

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OVERVIEW »»Activity

Type: Gastronomic quest to encounter the best empanadas!

»»Start: Coyhaique. »»End: At a table or a picnic. »»Distance: No more than 2

km, if you try an empanada in each of these great spots.

»»Duration: baked and fried empanadas, breads (including whole grain), chaparritas, and delicious sweets like marraquetas and alfajores!

»»Seasonality: Year Round. »»Considerations: Bring an

PALESTINA SÁNDWICH

»»Reservations:

Avenida Ogana #963; Hours: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 to 21:00 and Sundays from 11:00 to 16:00 hrs. This local favorite is perfectly situated in the south entrance/exit of Coyhaique and offers a good variety of empanadas, including beef, chicken, shrimp and apple. You can also find great sandwiches, papas rellenos and various specialties with a Chilote influence, like chapaleles and milcao. SUPERMERCADO EL ARRIERO Avenida Ogana 825, in front of Sodimac; (067) 2237947.

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Varies, depending on your tastes and hunger level.

Locals consider this small market a mandatory stop on their way out of Coyhaique. Here, you’ll find practically everything you could need; delicious empanadas, chaparritas and breads, plus fresh regional meats and cheeses, artisan beers, a good variety of yerba mate and lots of other “must haves” for the road. CASINO DE BOMBEROS General Parra 365; Hours: Monday to Saturday; (067) 2231437. In addition to being a famous picada, the Casino de Bomberos is famous for their traditional, oven-baked, beef empanadas. They’re baked fresh daily but, here’s a tip: once they are gone, you’ll have to wait until the following day! There is always a line waiting to carry-out a dozen of these delicious empanadas so, if you want to try them, get there early.

appetite and don’t forget your camera! Not necessary.


PREPARE YOUR OWN EMPANADAS WITH AYSÉN STYLE

What better way to learn about Patagonia and its culture than tasting and preparing part of its traditional gastronomy. Here we teach you everything you need to know to impress even the most experienced empanada chefs with this recipe for your choice of beef, ham and cheese, or apple cinnamon fillings. Empanadas are fun and easy to make. They are a typical dish eaten throughout Chile, especially during the annual Independence Day Celebrations, but in the farms and cities of Aysén they are also part of daily lives. Empanadas are prepared frequently in almost all of Aysén, and with lots of different fillings and versions. The most traditional versions are filled with a “pino”, made with beef, onions, raisins, and hard boiled eggs. Other versions include cheese, seafood and interesting mixes of ingredients like chicken and mushroom. They can be baked or fried, according to your preference. There are also dessert versions that borrow elements of German settlers’ gastronomy and include ingredients like apples, pears and nuts. In this short cooking course we’ll teach you how to prepare three types of fillings: pino, ham and cheese, and apple cinnamon. So grab your chef apron and let’s get cooking!

Step 1: Gather the ingredients for the dough (15 medium or 25 hors d’oeuvre size empanadas) 2 cups of flour 1/2 teaspoon of salt 3/4 cup of chilled butter, cut into small cubes 1 egg 4 to 5 tablespoons of water

• • Step 2: Choose your filling and gather the needed ingredients EMPANADAS FILLED WITH PINO (TRADITIONAL BEEF FILLING)

• • •

1/2 kilo lean ground beef 2 chopped onions 1/2 cup of vegetable oil

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• • •

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2 teaspoons Pimenton Rojo (Sweet paprika) • 1 teaspoon Aji Chileno • 1 teaspoon ground cumin • 1 Tablespoon of White Vinegar • Salt to taste • 1/2 cup of raisins, re-hydrated in water • 1/2 cup of pitted sliced black olives • 3 Hard-boiled eggs; peeled and chopped HAM AND CHEESE EMPANADAS

1/2 Kilo of semi hard cheese (in Aysén you’ll find cheeses like gouda or chanco) • 1 or 2 packages of sliced ham (in Aysén, ham is sold in small packages of 10 – 12 slices) APPLE CINNAMON DESSERT EMPANADAS

• • • • • •

1/4 cup (55g) of butter 4 to 5 firm green apples, peeled, cored and diced finely (cubes of approximately 1 cm in size) 3/4 cup (170 g) of granulated sugar 1 – 2 teaspoons of cinnamon 2 teaspoons of cornstarch 2 tablespoons of water

• •

Pinch of salt 3 teaspoon of dulce de leche or manjar (optional) 1 egg

• Step 3: Prepare the Crust

Mix the flour and salt thoroughly and then add the egg, the cold butter, cut into small pieces, and the water. Mix until a clumpy dough forms. You may need to add a few more tablespoons of water, depending on the consistency of the dough. Knead the dough well, (5 – 8 minutes), on a floured surface. Once the dough is well kneaded, form it into a ball and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Step 4: Prepare your Filling Traditional beef filling (Pino): Sauté the onions in the vegetable oil until they are transparent. Add the ground beef, 2 teaspoons pimenton rojo (sweet paprika), aji chileno, ground cumin, and white vinegar. Cook for approximately 20 minutes until the beef is browned and the flavors have had time to blend together. Salt to taste. Remove from heat and allow to cool. (Patagonians swear that you should make this filling at least one day in advance and store it in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to properly blend). Prepare the other ingredients (raisins, olives and hard-boiled eggs) and set aside until assembly time. Ham and cheese filling (or cheese only): Cube cheese in squares of approximately 11/2 – 2 oz each. If you are using ham, chop and reserve in a small bowl.

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Sweet cinnamon apple filling: Combine the diced apples, butter, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat until the apples are beginning to become tender. In a small bowl, mix the water and corn starch until smooth. Add the cornstarch mixture to the apples and cook, stirring, until the mixture starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and if desired, stir in 3 tablespoons of dulce de leche or manjar. Chill the filling mixture for at least an hour, stirring occasionally.

Step 5: Assemble the Empanadas Roll out the dough into a thin sheet, about 2 mm in thickness, and cut out round disc shapes (You can use a small bread plate as a


pattern and cut around the outer rim). Wet the edge of a dough circle slightly with water, all around the perimeter. Traditional beef filling (Pino): Place one heaping tablespoon of filling in the middle of the dough and disperse 1/2 teaspoon of the olives, 3-4 raisins, and 1/2 teaspoon of the chopped hard-boiled eggs over the top. Ham and cheese filling (or cheese only): Place one cube of cheese and 1/2 teaspoon of chopped ham (optional) in the middle of the dough. Sweet cinnamon apple filling: Place one heaping tablespoon of filling in the middle of the dough. All Versions: Fold the circle in half, enclosing the filling, and pinch the edges together firmly to seal, flattening and extending them slightly as you pinch them. Fold and crimp the flattened edge over itself decoratively. Repeat with remaining empanadas.

Step 6: Cook the Empanadas

»»Activity Type: Gastronomy. Recipe

for making your own empanadas in Aysén style.

»»Start: You can find the needed in-

gredients in almost any market in Aysén, both in the cities and rural areas.

»»End: Watching the happy expres-

sions on the faces of your friends, family and of course, yourself. This recipe is sure to please!

»»Duration:

Approximately 3 - 4 hours, plus time for the pino to chill.

»»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations:

Feel free to invent your own fillings for your empanada with the ingredients and combinations of your choice!

»»Reservations:

No reservations needed. In Coyhaique, you can find fresh regional meats at the following markets (amongst others): Carnicería Ganaderos, Avenida Ogana #1035; Carnes Fuenzalida, Avenida Francisco Bilbao #1546; Supermercado El Arriero, Avenida Ogana #825, in front of Sodimac.

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For all three versions, there are two options for cooking. First, you can bake your empanadas on a baking sheet in a preheated 180˚C oven, for 20-30 minutes, until browned. If you choose to bake, use a fork to poke a few holes in the top of each empanada, for steam to escape, and brush with whipped egg yolk before baking. Special note: Fruit empanadas are famous for leaking in the oven. It helps to chill the formed empanadas overnight before baking. Alternatively, you can deep-fry your empanadas in hot vegetable oil for 5 – 7 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool a bit before eating! Buen provecho.

OVERVIEW

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UNLEASH YOUR CREATIVITY AT MI TALLER CHE, IN VILLA ORTEGA

There is a growing local permaculture movement afoot in the tiny town of Villa Ortega, an hour outside of Coyhaique. If you’d like to know more about their sustainable development efforts, visit Mi Taller Che, a local artisan workshop, on a Thursday afternoon during your trip. You’ll be able to spend a few hours with the artists of the village, visit local forests to collect the natural materials used in their special artistry and then join them in making your own, unique souvenir. The forests of Patagonia could well be the backdrop for an adventure or mystery movie, with their nearly impenetrable forests, full of streams and wildlife, and the almost constant wind that rustles the branches in a constant swaying dance. To make things even a bit more magical, many of the forests are streaming with hanging lichen, Usnea barbata, popularly known as “old man’s beard”. This light colored lichen is an indicator plant for air purity; thus, the further away you go from civilization, the more abundant and dense grow the “beards” hanging from the trees.

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In the forests of Villa Ortega, just one hour from Coyhaique, the old man’s beard grows in such abundance that it inspired a group of ingenious artisans to incorporate it as a raw material in their unique artistry; the creation of unique miniature gauchos and gauchas, scarecrows, witches, angels, birds and other tiny figurines that later grace the houses of visitors from all over the world. Their project started with a small group of local women who were looking for a hobby that would bring them closer, connect them with their natural environment, and provide them with an additional source of family income. The result has been the creation of Mi Taller Che, a social group and artisan workshop that has become well known throughout the region and the inspiration for a growing permaculture movement throughout the community. Their workshop is located in one corner of the Plaza in Villa Ortega, next to a small community museum where you will find old


TRAVELERS’ TIPS Be sure to check out the community projects at the local school (the mosaic walls and the unique tree-house). These projects have all been developed by the community in minga fashion and have been an important factor for keeping this rural school open. Many rural schools have closed during the past decade, creating stress for rural families that have to find housing for their children in Coyhaique, but in Villa Ortega, children have been able to stay within their community and their homes for their primary school years, a real plus for the families of this tiny community! farming tools, historic documents, coins and photographs and other artifacts of the pioneer era. You can visit the workshop and purchase a souvenir; however, we recommend that you opt to spend an afternoon with the women and men of the Taller so that you can participate in the entire process, an experience that the artisans are very willing to share each Thursday. Members meet in the workshop on every Thursday afternoon to work, share knowl-

edge and have a good time, and they are more than happy to welcome travelers who want to learn about the area and their art and buy their crafts. You can even accompany them to the forest to collect the old man’s beard and grasses used in their art and then work with them to learn the techniques for making your own special souvenir. Artisans in the workshop also work with raw felt to make figurines, clothing and jewelry. The non-woven wool comes from local sheep and is often stained using natural products, like scotch-broom and yerba mate, which provide green tones, and onions or calafate branches for the yellows. Crafts are only one of the ways in which Villa Ortegans are defining a sustainable future for their tiny community. For several years now, community members have been developing a growing number of projects and initiatives

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related with permaculture and fair trade. As you walk around town, you’ll likely notice a unique house built of mud and recycled materials, surrounded by gardens and edible landscapes. Don’t hesitate to visit the owners of this house, Jorge Águila and Marcela Agüero. Marcela is the president of Mi Taller Che and Jorge is an artist who works with recycled woods to build sculptures and drums. They will be glad to show you the techniques for water and energy savings that they have implemented in their home and tell you

about the minga-style (volunteers working together), approach to community revitalization and development taking place in their community. You can see examples of this growing movement in the mosaic murals and interesting tree-house at the local school; all developed with community volunteers. You can also speak with them about volunteer possibilities that would provide the opportunity to stay a bit longer and learn about permaculture construction, philosophies and techniques.

OVERVIEW

»»Type of activity: Visit to Villa Ortega

and Mi Taller Che to learn and create your own unique souvenir!

»»Start:

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Coyhaique. From Coyhaique, take the road to Puerto Aysén and at the junction for Villa Ortega veer to the right, following the original route of the Carretera Austral. The road is well marked and the route is full of beautiful scenery.

»»End: Coyhaique. »»Duration: 5 - 6 hours or more. »»Distance: Approx. 65 Miles, round trip

»»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations:

If you plan on staying in Villa Ortega overnight, plan on bringing your tent and kitchen equipment because there are no formal tourist accommodations in town.

There is a small market where you can buy food and basic supplies.

»»Reservations: MI Taller Che is locat-

ed next to the Museum of Villa Ortega, on the corner of the square. Visitors are welcome each Thursday, without reservations, between 15:00 and 18:00 hrs. During these hours, the artisans always gather to work and socialize. To visit them at other times, you should coordinate your plans in advance. There is no telephone service in Villa Ortega; therefore, you can communicate with Jorge Águila via Facebook: Jorge Alexis Aguila Calderon; email: otropasomas@yahoo.com, or phone: (09) 84972773. If you don’t receive an answer when you call, leave a message with the details of your request and your contact information.


WAKE UP WITH THE ANDEAN CONDOR IN COYHAIQUE ALTO

The Andean condor is the national symbol of Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, and represents power, strength and freedom for the people of Patagonia. In Aysén it’s still a daily event to stop, look up at the sky and marvel at these giants circling in the jet-stream high above without any visible effort. Seeing them up close is a privilege extended to only a few, but if you’re willing to get up early, you’re likely to be rewarded in Aysén. For “elal”, one of the heroes of the Tehuelches, renowned for his skills in hunting and protection, the condor was the Lord of the Andes. With its aerial skill and range, it dominated the entire cordillera and the shadow of its huge wings could freeze the driving Patagonian rains and convert them into snow. So begins one of the most famous legends of these early inhabitants of Aysén, who like most indigenous Andean peoples, worshiped the giant Andean condor, earth’s largest terrestrial habitat flight bird. For the Incas the condor was a messenger of the Gods that could fly all the way to the upper level of the religious world to deliver their prayers. For the Mapuches, only the most noble and brave souls were reincarnated as condors.

As you head east toward Coyhaique Alto, the landscape changes dramatically, from deciduous forests to the vast steppe of dominated by coiron grasses; here you’ll see

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During your time in the Aysén Region, you will be able to observe these magnificent birds in several sectors and even have the unique opportunity to observe them from only a couple of meters away, at the Punta del Monte Estancia located in Coyhaique Alto, approximately one hour from the regional capital. If you choose to take advantage of this opportunity, between 5:00 - 5:30 in the morning (yes, you read it right) Alejandro Galilea, a rancher and amateur ornithologist, will be waiting for you at your hotel in Coyhaique to take you to the pampa. We assure you that seeing these magnificent birds at such close range is absolutely worth the sacrifice of an early morning rising!

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sheep by the thousands! Punta del Monte is one of the larger Estancias of the sector and in addition to high-end wool production; the Galilea family offers horseback riding, fly fishing, condor and migratory bird watching and estancia stays. Yes, you can arrange to stay at the estancia a few days and enjoy their unique style of hospitality and the chance to spend a few days in the rhythm of the gauchos. PLUS, you can sleep in a bit and still be on time for your appointment with the condors! You’ll drive across the pampa along a winding farm road until you reach a flat area about 200 meters from the edge of a small canyon. The landscape is stunning, with small hills jetting up from the pampa, rock formations, and the Ñirehuao River ribboning through the bottom of the gorge, perfectly lit by the golden light of the dawn. Grab your camera and head over to the edge of the gorge, but DON’T get too close to the edge and be careful with the wind! Here the instructions are clear: bundle up, don’t get too close to the edge, be careful with the wind and make gentle movements, because you will be entering the “bedroom” of the majestic Andean condor and the idea is to arrive and install yourself in a strategic spot so you can observe them before they arouse and embark on their early morning flights.

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If you have timed things right, you will witness the amazing daily morning ritual of these massive birds in which, while waiting for the first warm currents of morning air that they need in order to lift their heavy bodies into the skies, they begin to stretch their wings again and again as if they were performing an avian form of yoga. The condor’s outstretched wings measure around 3 meters, and its total weight is around 12 – 15 kilos, so it must take advantage of the rising air currents that appear with the sun. You’ll notice it plucking its down and tossing it into the air, presumably testing the currents in

anticipation of the conditions it seeks. Take advantage of this wait to observe the details of these animals; for example, the adult male has gold eyes, a white crest, and a collar at the base of his neck; the female’s markings are similar but their eyes are red, and the juveniles are brown in color completely brown.

NOTE The giant of the Andean skies The Andean condor is the largest flight bird on land (the snowy or whitewinged albatross, a seabird, is larger). The condor reaches up to 1.2 meters in height, its wingspan can reach up to 3 meters and its weight is between 12 -15 kilos. It is not easy to fly with such bulk! That is why condors prefer to roost on large cliffs and take advantage of the thermals for take-offs and landings. Condors live between 50 and 70 years and mature between 6 and 8 years. During this period, they mate for the rest of their life. Each pair has a chick approximately every two years. The female lays her egg in the nest built into a protected area of a cliff and then both parents share the task of incubation. The newborn depends on their parents for two years before it can survive on their own. Condors are carnivores but they are not predators; their talons are not developed for hunting thus they depend on dead animals for their food source. They are considered a threatened species due to habitat degradation and illegal hunting, amongst other pressures.


TRAVELERS’ TIPS »»If OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: Condor observation »»Start: Coyhaique »»End: Coyhaique »»Distance: Approx. 43 Km to the Punta del Monte Estancia and another 15 km to the gorge.

»»Duration: 4 - 6 hours approximately.

»»Seasonality: Year round, always depending on climatic conditions and behavior of the condor.

»»Special Considerations: Remember

that condors are wild animals and thus, their behavior cannot be controlled. Sometimes, you could go the condoreras and not encounter the condors. Alejandro does everything in his power to find them, but it is not 100% guaranteed that you will achieve the sighting that you expect.

»»Reservations:

In due time the special moment will arrive and the first condors will launch into the air to confirm that the currents have arrived. After a few fluttering circles, the condors confirm their absolute dominance of the wind and air currents with a fantastic aerial show up and down the valley’s corridor. And if you are used to looking high up into the skies to follow the condor’s flight, adjust your

»»Parque Patagonia, owned and man-

aged by the non-profit organization, Conservación Patagónica (www. conservacionpatagonica.org), is an amazing natural grassland habitat where you can immerse yourself in nature and another great place to observe Andean condors and a host of other native wildlife.

»»If

you find a wounded condor or other wild animal, don’t approach the animal. Contacts the regional offices of the Agriculture and Livestock Service (SAG), for assistance and rescue. Their offices are located in Avenida Ogana #1060, Coyhaique. Phone: (067) 263260 - 263200; contacto.aysen@sag. gob.cl, and open Mondays through Thursdays from 08:30 to 13:00 and Friday from 14:30 to 16:30. If you need help outside of their working hours, please contact the closest post for the police (Carabineros de Chile) and they will assist.

thinking; here the condors are practically at eye level and you will even be able to watch them as they fly through the gorge a few meters below your perch. Gradually more and more will arrive in the valley, which is a condor gathering place, referred to as a “conderera”, until you can barely count them. It is truly an experience not to be missed!

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Please contact Alejandro Galilea in his Coyhaique office to arrange your excursion and payment, Bilbao #398. Contact: (067) 2231601; condores@puntadelmonte.cl; www.puntadelmonte.cl.

the condors have awoken your passion for bird watching, make a stop at the Dos Lagunas Natural Monument on your way back to Coyhaique, where you can observe the black woodpecker, pitío, cachaña, zorzal patagónico, tagua and the black-necked swan.

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EXPLORE THE ARTS IN COYHAIQUE, INSPIRED BY THE BEAUTY OF PATAGONIA

If you are a fan of music, painting, literature, theater, and the rest of the arts, Coyhaique is sure to capture your curiosity and your heart! Although Coyhaique is one of Chile’s youngest regional capitals and, in many ways, more of a frontier town than a 21st century metropolis, the area’s incredible natural beauty and rich cultural traditions have inspired more than a fair share of contributions to the arts. Coyhaique is developing the reputation of being a hub for creativity, “the place to be”, especially when it comes to music, painting, literature and theatre. For instance, independent film producers from all of Chile come to compete in the annual Patagonia Film Festival and show off their awards with great pride. In addition, the actors who come to participate in the Patagonia Live Theater Festival leave as ambassadors for the event, speaking of its worth from the Atacama to Tierra del Fuego.

Coyhaique has a pretty amazing music scene.

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Various bands, including Los Difuntos Correa and Los Vásquez, began their careers playing in Coyhaique’s pubs and cultural venues, and have moved on to successful national careers. Other nationally known musicians, like Duo Trapananda, Par of chocos, Alonso Núñez, and Richard Sepulveda have opted to remain in Aysén. Thus, you can find Aysén’s music in I Tunes, on YouTube and in the pubs and nightclubs of Coyhaique, including the Historic Café Ricer (Paseo Horn 48), Mamma Gaucha (Paseo Horn 47) and El Bulin´s (Moraleda 579). These places are recognized for their contribution to regional music and are excellent places to visit and enjoy. If rock and roll is your passion in life, you’ll want to coordinate your plans to attend the Rockin’ the Simpson River event that takes place in January of each year on the grounds of the La Posada del Conejo Restaurant, along the shores of the Simpson River (Km 3, Route X-600). The best regional, national, and Argentinean rock bands take part in this great open air rock festival. During the day, head to the Cultural Center Coyhaique (Eusebio Lillo 23), to enjoy


regional art exhibitions. In this same forum you can participate in workshops and classes including dance, pottery, theater and painting. The bulletin board announcing events, activities and workshops is located outside the Cultural Center; stop by and check out the latest and greatest happenings so that you can incorporate some into your visit.

Coyhaique is the muse for a number of great artists. Watercolor artist Renato Tilleria is considered one of the masters of Chile, with his unique style of capturing the colors of the local landscapes of the area, and blending with the local culture. Don Renato is world renowned, has made countless exhibitions nationally, and internationally. His works are in private collections in Chile, Argentina, Australia, Japan, Italy, France and the United States, among others. In Coyhaique, it is possible to see his work in the Cultural Center and other local exhibitions and also you can visit him in his workshop located in the bypass of the city (Route X-7, #123), to gain a personal perspective of this great regional artist (and also to buy an original painting for your own gallery).

Using rawhide as his canvas, Artist Segismundo Sade enchants regional visitors with giant murals that capture local traditions and fauna, using the traditional cultural process of leather etching. You can view his works in highly visible places in the region, like as the airport of Balmaceda and the Cultural Center of Coyhaique. Don Sade is beloved in Coyhaique as one of its most colorful characters; a wealth of knowledge about the Region and a storyteller with a great sense of humor! You can ask for details about his

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Robinson Mora is another of Aysen’s master painters, specializing in oils. He has made Coyhaique his home since 1971; here, he has been able to find the tranquility and inspiration he has needed to paint award winning canvases which have been cataloged within the style of “geometric surrealism”. Mora has participated in numerous collective and individual exhibitions, both in Chile and abroad, and his works are part of the permanent collections of major national museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago. You can contact Don Robinson Mora via email: robmoram@gmail.com.

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works and exhibitions at the Cultural Center or in the office of the National Council for Culture and Arts in Aysén (21 de Mayo, #574). The inspirations of Aysén are also capturing contemporary, up and coming artists, like Catalina Correa, a Santiago native, who has made Coyhaique her home base since 2009. Catalina is a remarkable and versatile visual artist, who works with various techniques including pen and ink drawings, multimedia installations and performance works. You can see examples of her work in her Online forum: www.ladistanciaproyectos.cl, or in person, in the Café de Mayo (21 de Mayo #543), or contact her directly for additional information: ktacorream@gmail.com.

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The Artisan Fair across from the Plaza is home to sculptor Oscar Ziehlmann (www. piedraspatagonicas.cl), who works primarily in stone etchings. When you visit the fair, look for his sculpture, “The Tehuelche Mother”, which is permanently displayed in front. This work was commissioned by the city of Coyhaique, and as Oscar explains, represents the love and connectivity between mother and son. Oscar is almost always in his workshop in the fair and welcomes visitors. Here, you can view and discuss his works and if you like, purchase one of his unique stone carvings of landscapes, animals and scenes of rural life.

Patagonia is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for literature. Each year that passes brings valuable additions to its growing collection of regional books, focused on its culture, its landscapes and its stories. We highly recommend a visit to the Regional Library (Lord Cochrane #233), which has a large collection of regional, national and international texts about Patagonia and Aysén, as well as the possibil-

ity to connect to the Internet, participate in writers’ workshops and children’s activities or simply enjoy a good read. If you discover a text that you would like to take home, there are several great bookshops in Coyhaique that specialize in regional texts and authors, including La Librería Librería, (Carlos Condell #228; Facebook: lalibreria.libreria), LeoLibros librería (Horn #53) and Mundilibros (21 de mayo #447).

Live theatre and film are also finding a home within the arts community of Coyhaique. During the summer, two groups of motivated “cultural ambassadors” are celebrating live theatre and film by developing regional festivals that attract national level actors and filmmakers. The Patagonia Film Festival (Facebook: Festival de Cine de la Patagonia), organized by the Patagonia Visual Group, brings films and documentaries to the region, playing an important role for promoting the arts in a corner of the world that does not have the opportunity to enjoy movies on a regular basis (there in not a regularly functioning movie theatre in Aysén). The Patagonia Live Theatre Festival, organized by the Malotun Ortiga Organization, (www. patagoniaenescena.blogspot.com), brings local and national actors together in a weeklong celebration, including workshops, of theater arts that provide locals and visitors with the opportunity to enjoy the best of the national theater, without leaving Coyhaique.


OVERVIEW

»»Activity

Type: Discovering the Arts and Culture of Coyhaique.

»»Start: Coyhaique’s Cultural Center. »»End: Based on your preferences and

discoveries.

»»Distance: Everything is in the Coyhai- • que downtown, the majority within a radius of approximately 10 blocks.

»»Duration: A few hours to a lifetime, depending you your level of inspiration.

»»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations:

We recommend researching a bit in advance of your visit so you will be aware of the exhibitions, festivals and productions that will be in the city during your stay. As well, when you arrive, you can visit the Cultural Center of Coyhaique to find out their scheduled events.

»»Reservations: Most locations do not • • •

Historic Café Ricer - Horn 48; (067)2232920; www.historicoricer.wordpress.com; Facebook: RestaurantHistoricoRicer Mamma Gaucha - Horn 47; (067) 2210721, Facebook: mammagaucha El Bulín’s - Moraleda Street #579, across from the Cultural Center.

• • • • •

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require reservations but you will want to arrange gallery visits with artists, in advance:

Facebook: elbulins.coyhaique Rockin’ the Simpson River Event, Restaurante La Posada del Conejo - Km 3, Route X-600 (Road to Teniente Vidal); Contact: (09) 94688129 - 62942846 National Council for Culture and Arts in Aysén - May 21 #574; (067) 2214841; www.cultura.gob.cl/region/aysén; Facebook: Cultura Coyhaique; Hours: Monday to Thursday: 08:30 to 17:30 and Friday: 8:30 to 16:30. Coyhaique Cultural Center - Eusebio Lillo #23; Contact: (067) 2211596; Facebook: Culture Coyhaique Artist Don Renato Tillería; (067) 2233499; (09) 84135908; renatotilleria@gmail.com. Artist Robinson Mora; robmoram@ gmail.com Artist Oscar Ziehlmann; oscarziehlmann@gmail.com; www.piedraspatagonicas.cl Artist Catherine Belt; Contact: www. ladistanciaproyectos.cl; ktacorream@gmail.com Aysén Regional Library - Lord Cochrane #233; (067) 2232433 2240713; bibliocoyhaique@gmail. com; www.biblioredes.cl/coyhaique; Facebook: bibliotecacoyhaique; Office Hours: Monday to Friday 10:00 to 20:00 and Saturday 10:00 to 14:00

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TIME FOR A LITTLE BOHEMIA COYHAIQUINA?

After so much travel and time in nature, a change of pace can be welcome; if you feel the same, head out into the night air and enjoy a bit of music and dance. Although Coyhaique is small (as regional capitals go), it boasts an active nightlife and various spots to unwind. Perhaps the best way to start a night out on the town is to join friends for a great dinner out. A great option is to go to one of Coyhaique’s picadas and enjoy a parillada or one of the other house specials. Various restaurants offer live music including the Historic Café Ricer (Horn #48). This great local spot features an atmosphere dedicated to the best of Patagonian including lots of local books, a second floor “mini museum” where you can find historical photography and artifacts displayed and a fantastic and intimate venue for enjoying local and national bands, like Swencke and Nilo and Toro & Bluesman. The pizzeria Mamma Gaucha (Horn 47), is another local spot to enjoy good music, great food and hand crafted brews.

After dinner, the options are varied… If rock is your passion, head to Barground (Condell, just before Moraleda), a great pub with good music and lots of locals. Moraleda Street is a block further and home to two of the nightlife mainstays: Piel Roja (Moraleda 495), and El Bulin’s (Moraleda 579), Piel Roja has a great pub on the first floor where

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you can relax, enjoy a drink and warm up beside the fire, and a discotheque on the second floor, where you can get your groove on until the wee hours of the morning. A little further along Moraleda, opposite the Cultural Center of Coyhaique, you’ll find El Bulín’s, a great site for salsa and other Latin rhythms, including chamamé, a traditional music for Aysén, and usually offer live music on the weekends. Close by you’ll find Pepe le Pub (General Parra 72), an ideal spot for conversation and fun and a few doors down, Akelarre (General Parra 26), is the place to go to hear the best bands in the region.

If you are interested in a more traditional experience, check out Salón de Baile El Quilantal (Av. Baquedano 791), a giant dance hall where you can experience the music, dance and culture of Aysén every weekend. They have a great house band and a staple crowd of loyal dancers. During the night, you’ll hear a mix of cumbia, chamamé, cueca and lots of other traditional Aysén rhythms. It’s a favorite with coyhaiquinos and visitors that offers a great time for all.

OVERVIEW

»»Activity

nightlife.

Type: Tour of Coyhaique’s

»»Start:

Dinner in one of Coyhaique’s great local restaurants.

• »»End: Watching the sunrise? »»Distance: Everything is within walking •

stamina.

»»Duration: Depends on your pace and »»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations:

It’s easy to walk between spots, however there are several taxi dispatches in Coyhaique, including: (067) 242424 2252525.

»»Reservations: No reservations need- • ed. Spots include:

Piel Roja - Moraleda 495; (067) 2237832; info@pielroja.cl;

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distance in Coyhaique’s downtown area, within a radius of approximately 10 blocks.

www.pielroja.cl; Facebook: Piel Roja Pub & Dance El Bulin´s - Moraleda 579; Facebook: El Bulin’s Coyhaique Barground - Condell, just before Moraleda; Contacto: (09) 89024667; Facebook: Barground Patagonian Drinkers Mamma Gaucha - Horn 47; (067) 2210721; Facebook: Mammagaucha Coyhaique Café Histórico Ricer - Horn 48; (067) 2232920; www.historicoricer. wordpress.com; Facebook: RestaurantHistoricoRicer. Salon de Baile El Quilantal - Av. Baquedano 791; (067) 2234394; Facebook: Salón De Eventos “quilantal” En Coyhaique Pub Akelarre - General Parra 26; Facebook: Aquelarre Pub Pepe le Pub - General Parra 72; (067)2246474; Facebook: Pepe Lepub

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PEDALING THROUGH THE SIMPSON VALLEY

The valleys between Coyhaique and the Balmaceda airport contain some of the oldest and largest farms in the region. This 77 km biking route travels the interior of the Simpson Valley, meandering meadows, rivers, lagoons and small villages, where you can relax and share a few mates with pioneers of the area. When you’re looking for a good bicycle dayroute, there are two vital things to consider: that the terrain is apt for biking and that the landscapes are so great you’re not thinking about how tired your legs are. We chose this 77 km route between Coyhaique, the heart of the Simpson Valley and the small town of El Blanco, with these two important factors in mind. The majority of the route is on asphalt and the scenery is top notch; a mix of serene rural landscapes and the mountains of the Cerro Castillo National Reserve accompany you throughout the ride. You’ll cross bridges over several rivers and streams, where you can stop for a picnic, relax and even fish for a while, as well as two small villages where you can buy snacks, visit local museums and get to know some of the pioneers of the area.

Section 1: Coyhaique – entrance of Valley Simpson, Route X-674 (16.2 kilometers)

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The first section of the route consists of a series of hills and straightaways, bordered by the high walls of the MacKay and Divisadero Mountains, as you make your way to the Simpson Valley. Begin your ride at the corner of Simpson Street and Ogana Avenue, leaving Coyhaique in the direction of the Balmaceda Airport. After the first winding hills, you’ll reach a long straightaway. On the right side, between kilometers 5.5 and 6, you will see luxury fishing lodge, Cinco Rios, which offers great amenities and plenty of options if you are looking for an unforgettable fly-fishing experience. Shortly thereafter, you’ll come upon the Foitzick lagoon sector, named in honor of one of the most important settlers of the valley, Don Eduardo Foitzick, who came to the area in 1909. Here, the road makes a few hairpin turns in order to avoid the lagoon and in this sector,


known for its black ice in winter, there have been several accidents that have prompted locals to install different shrines to remember the victims and to ask for protection and good luck. Many ayseninos pay homage to Saint Sebastian, who they believe to be the protector of travelers and they also honor several popular Patagonia saints, including the Difunta Correa, who according to legend, died of thirst wandering the pampas of Argentina, but, miraculously, was able to save the life of her baby by protecting it with her own body. The Difunta Correa is an icon in Patagonia, with many devotees, as you will note each time you pass a small shrine with a collection of plastic bottles in front, left to quench this heroine’s thirst. Another popular saint is Gauchito Gil, also of Argentine origin. According to devotees, Gil saved the life of the dying child of his executioner, saying “As you are about to spill the blood of an innocent man, call upon me to intercede before God and to heal your son”. According to legend, the executioner took heed of Gil’s command and the sick child was immediately healed. Gauchito Gil’s shrine is characteristically a small red house with his picture and red flags. You can view these sanctuaries around the lagoon and in many other sectors in the region.

Section 2: Simpson Valley (Route X-674) – Mate Museum in El Blanco (27.5 kilometers) Turn right when you reach the crossing for Route X-674 and the Simpson Valley (Km 16.2). After pedaling a couple of kilome-

Continue through town and into the valley along Route X-674. Around kilometer 20, you will spot an ancient house that was the first school for the area. Don Hugo Wahl, owner of the site, has an excellent talent for storytelling, especially tales about the sector and how the region has developed and changed over the years. Drinking mate with him is always a great experience. And only 500 m beyond, you’ll cross the bridge over the Simpson River and find great places to rest, picnic or fish. In kilometer 22 you’ll encounter the crossroad, Route X-680 on the left, marked by signs for the regional campus of INIA (Institute for Agricultural Investigation). You’ll turn here and enter the part of the route that travels over gravel, a fitting surface for this stretch that is filled with remnants of the colonization period in the valley. You’ll bass old barns and houses, tiled with handmade wooden shingles, called tejuelas, and lots of traditional wooden fences marking the boundaries of ancient farms and fields. You’ll reach the end of this road around kilometer 34 and reconnect with Route X-674, where you’ll make a left and travel another 9.5 kilometers to the small town of El Blanco. This section borders follows the same course as the Simpson River and takes you through beautiful farm country. In El Blanco, you’ll find a fun little museum dedicated to yerba mate, with lots of historical photos and

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After the lagoon, you’ll wind another 6.5 km through farmlands and an interesting rock formation, known as the “Wall of China”. This formation is very popular with local climbers who have several routes armed along its length.

ters, you will enter the small village of Valle Simpson where you can stop, buy a snack, visit the Museum of the Colonization and the greenhouse of the Señora Blanca Molina, a charming resident of the valley who sells an impressive variety of vegetables, in addition to handmade crafts knitted from sheep and alpaca wool. Her house is located on the right side of the street in the second block before you get to the school. If you have problems finding her, ask any of the town’s residents for guidance.

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artifacts from the colonial era and a few places where you can buy a snack before the trip back to Coyhaique. Be sure not to miss the fun wooden sculptures, like the giant mate, ax, gaucho knife and horse-head, among others. They are a great place to celebrate your ride with a new “selfie” for your Facebook profile.

rejoin the asphalt and start your return route to Coyhaique. You’ll pedal approximately 33.6 Km and along the way there are several options to stop at local farms and buy vegetables , fruit, cheese, and freshly laid eggs. Don’t forget to wear a backpack to load everything you buy; you’ll be glad for the farm fresh dinner after this great day ride.

Section 3. El Blanco – Coyhaique (33.6 kilometers) When you leave El Blanco turn to the left, to

OVERVIEW »»Activity Type: Self-guided bike circuit • through Simpson Valley

»»Start: Intersection of Ogana Avenue and Simpson Street in Coyhaique.

»»End:

Intersection of Ogana Avenue and Simpson Street in Coyhaique.

»»Distance: 77 km. »»Duration: 6 -10 hours. »»Seasonality: Bike in summer 4x4 vehicle all year round.

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• season,

»»Special

Considerations: Bring drinks and snacks and cash for purchases. Dress in layers using bright colors and reflectors and be aware of traffic, especially on the main roads. You need to purchase a fishing license (www. sernapesca.cl) and inform yourself about regulations and how to prevent the spread of Didymo, a highly invasive algae which has contaminated rivers throughout the world, including in Aysén (www.didymo.cl).

»»Reservations:

Self-guided activity. In Coyhaique you can rent bicycles in:

Café Histórico Ricer - Horn #48; (067) 2232920; www.historicoricer.wordpress.com; Facebook: RestaurantHistoricoRicer. Purapatagonia Excursiones and Expediciones - General Parra #202; (067) 2246000; info@purapatagonia.cl; www.purapatagonia.cl Other useful information: ·· Museo de la Colonización (Museum of the Colonization - Valle Simpson: Clodomiro Millas s/n, beside the school; Hours: Thursday – Sunday from 10:00 to 13:00 and 15:00 to 18:00; Contact: Irene Jara; (09) 85541848; irenedelvalle@ outlock.com ·· Museo del Mate (Mate Museum) - El Blanco: Carretera Austral s/n; Hours: Thursday – Sunday from 10:00 to 13:00 and 15:00 to 18:00; Contact: Genoveva Pérez; (09) 90778834; samy_1990@live. com


“GAUCHO UP” IN THE TALABARTERÍAS (SADDLERIES) OF THE CAPITAL

It’s a pretty safe bet that as you’ve traveled around the region of Aysén, you’ve run into gauchos; men and women who proudly maintain old-style Patagonia customs, from the way they live and work to the way that they dress. Gaucho traditions came to Aysén with the pioneers and remain alive today, despite the arrival of modern technology and globalization. Learn more about these traditions and do a little “gauchoing up” of your own in the saddleries of Coyhaique.

Traditional gaucho dress includes a boina (beret), a pañuelo (scarf) around his neck and bombachas (a type of pants). The most commonly worn boina in Aysén is black felt and of Spanish origin, although many folks own several others that are crocheted in wool or cotton. Boinas protect their owners from the sun and rain, and unlike the wide brimmed huaso hats that are typically used

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There is no doubt of the influence that Argentina has had on the culture of Chilean Patagonia and for that matter, of the influence that the original gauchos of Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay have had on Argentina. South American cowboys (gauchos) have a long tradition of migrating to where there is work, and from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, there were tons of work in Patagonia with the installation of enormous estancias; first in Argentina, then in the Magellanes Region of Chile and finally, in Aysén. Gauchos made their way down to Patagonia and followed the work in what was, for many decades, a South American version of the U.S. Wild West. Many of their customs and traditions came with them to Patagonia; styles of clothing, music, yerba mate, even slang terms, like “che”. And that is why there are such regional differences between the customs in Patagonia and those in the rest of Chile. Ayseninos are proud of this tradition; thus here, you’ll see that gaucho clothing is almost a regional symbol; used both by ranchers for practical and traditional reasons, and by people in the cities, who don their boinas and bombachas because it is part of what defines their heritage and culture.

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TRAVELERS’ TIPS

by the Chilean huasos (cowboys) in the central region, they aren’t likely to blow away in the harsh Patagonian winds. Many people in Aysén wear their boinas a little to one side. The best pañuelos are made of silk but polyester is also common. They are worn around the neck, often with a decorative clip, called a golilla, used in front. They are used for all kinds of practical applications but mainly, to protect a gaucho’s neck from the wind and sun. Bombachas are baggy work pants made of a heavy-duty cloth, with pronounced darts, or pleats, in the front and rear and a small cuff at the bottom that is held snug around the ankle with a button. Old-school gauchos use a special kind of wide cloth or leather belt with their bombachas, called a rastra; some of which are decorated with coins. Gauchos also typically wear a special type of leather boots, which have a short heel and a pointed tip that perfectly fits in the wooden stirrups that they frequently use with their saddles.

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Mantas (blankets) or ponchos are traditional gaucho outerwear. They are hand-woven of raw wool by weavers in the area, normally in natural colors and if dyed, natural dyes are used (onions, yerba mate, calafate, etc.). The same applies to vests, sweaters and socks; however, these items are typically knitted, rather than woven. The most important factor for all of these garments is that even if raw wool gets wet from the rain, it continues to generate heat. Mantas and ponchos are one of the most precious possessions for a gaucho, especially for winter work, and are longer than the huaso mantas used in the central zone of Chile so that they can provide better coverage in the harsh Patagonian

Drinking wine from a bota requires skills and some practice. First, you need to take it by the top, open the lid of the take it out of the top, open the lid and then grab the bota by the lower part. Then come the more complicated part: bend your arms, tilt the bota so that the mouth is just a few cm from her mouth and then gently squeeze the bottom so that the stream of wine hits your mouth without hitting your shirt, your chin, or your nose! The bota shouldn’t touch your lips because it’s passed around like yerba mate – from one friend to another, so that everyone gets a taste. With more practice, you’ll be able to extend your arms as you drink, so that the stream becomes longer and longer and then bring the bota back in close at the end, all without spilling a drop. conditions. In addition to clothing there are a number of other items that are part of the gaucho culture and very handy to have around. For example, the bota de vino, is a great way to make wine portable, and virtually possible to take anywhere! It is made of goat leather; refined on the outside and natural on the inside and usually sewn in a teardrop shape, with a plastic mouth that squirts out a tiny stream of wine. They hold about a liter of wine and are ALWAYS close by during asados and celebrations. A kit for drinking yerba mate is another utensil that is always close at hand. First, you need a mate, which is a small gourd or a small cup made from wood, metal or pottery. Many mates are exquisitely detailed and adorned – and every household has at least two or three in regular use. Additionally, you need a straw, called a bombilla, which is made of metal or bamboo and a small teapot or thermos to hold your water. A good knife is one of the gaucho’s prized possessions, definitely his most important tool. There are two common knives used, a facón, which is big and heavy-duty, used for farm work and heavy jobs, and a verijero which is the size of a large steak-knife, no


more than 15 cm, and used like a buck-knife, for a bit of everything, from cutting leather or rope, to skinning a lamb, to cutting a portion of meat at an asado. Verijeros tend to be the more decorative of the two knives and you are likely to find hand-made versions using local woods, bones, precious metals and other materials for their one-of-a-kind handles.

Ready to gaucho up? Coyhaique’s Artisan Fair, across from the

OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: shopping tour of traditional elements gauchos.

»»Start:

Coyhaique’s Artisan Fair, across from the city’s Plaza of Arms

»»End:

Comercial Temuco, La Casa del Mate.

»»Distance: All of these locals are in »»Duration: Three hours »»Seasonality: Year round. »»Considerations: We recommend

that you spend some time visiting and drinking mate with some of the gauchos of Aysén so that you can learn more about their way of life. The store owners are also a great wealth of knowledge.

»»Reservations: Not required.

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the center city district of Coyhaique, in a radius of approximately eight blocks.

city’s Plaza of Arms (between Paseo Horn and Dussen) and El Rincón de la Artesanía (General Parra 97; (09) 77691968), are great places to go to buy knitted and woven woolen articles, including woolen boinas, vests, socks, mantas and hats, amongst many other treasures. You can continue your search in Fernández Regalos (Francisco Bilbao 280), one of the oldest shops in Coyhaique, specialists in articles more refined, such as an authentic wine boot or a scarf for special occasions. To follow this route you will need to know Talabartería Santa Teresa (Freire 205 D; (09) 93185011), with implements for farm labor, in addition to hats, belts and boots of excellent quality. Finally in the Comercial Temuco, La Casa del Mate (Errázuriz 268; (067) 2214243, Facebook: La Casa Del Mate Coyhaique), in addition to the inevitable mate yerba and bulb, you’ll find literally everything for yourself as a gaucho. Don’t forget to buy Spanish playing cards and ask someone to teach you to play tricks, after that, you’ll feel like a true gaucho.

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VISIT CERRO HUEMULES, HOME OF THE WORLD’S MOST SOUTHERN DEER

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Formerly, the habitat of the huemul extended throughout much of the Southern Cone; north to Mendoza, Argentina, and south, to the Strait of Magellan. Today only a few thousand of these deer remain, most residing in the Patagonian Andes. When the huemul walks through the Andean forests of Patagonia, it does so with unique grace and tranquility. Thanks to its dark brown fur, it can blend in with rocks, soil and shrubs, making those rare instances of observation even more awe inspiring. It is a majestic and noble animal; however, it is also timid and easily stressed. The huemul is not capable of surviving in captivity and the most minimal disturbance to their habitat can inspire the drastic decision to migrate in search of an area where there is still virgin nature. This is why Aysén is home to a large percentage of the world’s remaining huemul population, (if you don’t already suspect, huemul are in serious danger of extinction). Strangely enough, a few kilometers from Coyhaique, the region’s largest city, there is a place where huemul have lived for several decades, seemingly comfortable with their habitat and surroundings, despite the proximity to civilization. The Cerro Huemul Protection Zone of the Simpson River National Reserve was established in 1976 and is the main huemul protection and research area in the Aysén Region. To visit this sanctuary, head out of Coyhaique along Route X-600 towards the Coyhaique Airport (Teniente Vidal Aerodrome) and the Río Claro Valley. A little less than one kilometer after crossing the road for the airport you will turn left onto Route X – 618, immediately after crossing the bridge. Continue along this gravel road for 14 km and you will cross over another bridge and begin to climb up the mountain along a short dirt road, which requires a 4x4 vehicle. (Tip: If you don’t have a 4x4 vehicle, park at the bottom and hike up.) At the top, you will enjoy an amazing panoramic view of the Río Claro Valley. After taking in the view, head over to talk with the rangers, whose mission is to conserve the huemul. They can explain the history and pressures faced by the huemul: wildfires,


ranching, deforestation, roads, domestic and introduced animals, and hunting. They can also help guide you on how to behave if you encounter huemul on the trails, so that ideally, the huemul barely notes your presence, and does not become stressed. According to park ranger Rody Vladimir, “the composition of the forest has changed drastically since the opening of this protection area in 1976. There has been a proliferation of several introduced plants like lupine and scotch broom. As well, aggressive native trees, like ciruelillo, or notro have taken over the area, so much so that it is now the dominant foliage in the landscape”. The rangers, who work in the Reserve on a daily basis, have observed that the concentration of huemules is declining and they hypothesize that the changing composition of the forests no longer meets the needs of a large population of huemules, so many have begun to

migrate further east, in search of the lenga and coigüe forests of the Cerro Castillo National Reserve, and in particular the area of the Chiguay Lagoon. There is still a significant population of huemules in the Cerro Huemul Protection Area, however, research supports the theory that this species requires an extensive habitat where they can move freely in search of the optimal combination of attributes for their welfare.

The Protection Zone has two hiking trails, one is 3.5 km and the other is 14.5 km. You are likely to encounter huemules along both hikes, especially if you go with a ranger, because their acute knowledge helps them to distinguish the huemul from the natural camouflage of the landscape. The short

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OVERVIEW »»Activity Type: Trekking and Huemul Observation.

»»Start: Coyhaique (Trails begin at the Ranger Station, where you will need to register and pay the entrance fees.)

»»End: Coyhaique »»Distance: The Protection

Zone for Cerro Huemul in the Simpson River National Reserve is located 16 kilometers from Coyhaique. The interior trails are 3.5 km and 14.5 km, round trip.

animals.

»»Reservations:

No reservations required; however, you must register with the ranger and pay an entrance fee. There are several regional guides who offer these treks. It is important to choose a guide with experience working in the reserve, good equipment, and knowledge of rescue and first aid. Some options include:

»»Duration: Four hours for the 3.5 km

trail and 8 - 12 hours for the trail to the summit.

»»Seasonality: Year round. In winter you

can snowshoe and randonee ski.

»»Special

Considerations: Trekking poles, hiking boots, layered clothing and a waterproof jacket are all important for these hikes. You’ll also want sunglasses, sunscreen and a brimmed hat. Carry your own water, snacks and a camera. Please be extra cautious in this, and other likely Huemul habitats, that your actions and movements do not produce stress for these special and endangered

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trail starts in the ranger post and runs along a ridge that constantly overlooks the valley below, and its forests that begin as deciduous and then abruptly change to temperate rain forest. While observing coigües, tepas, mañios, ciruelillo, canelo, tepu and chilcos, perhaps you will encounter a huemul. If you should be so lucky, stay still and avoid making noise that might startle or stress the animals. Do not take flash photography and if you want close-up shots, bring appropriate lenses. Do not approach the animals. The second trail is longer and more technical, climbing alongside the western shore of a

Cristian Solis, Expediciones GeoSur, Simón Bolívar 521; (067) 2221990 - (09) 92648671; www. geosurexpediciones.com; cristian@geosurexpediciones.com Hugo Castañeda, Alma Patagónica Expediciones - Ignacio Serrano 621; (09) 76183588; contacto@ almapatagonica.cl; www.almapatagonica.cl Manuel Medina, Aventura Tehuelche, Pimpinela 723; (09) 84118736; aventuratehuelche@gmail.com; www.aventuratehuelche.cl Cristhopher Piñeira, Ecotravel Patagonia; (09) 56679288; contacto@ecotravelpatagonia.com; www.ecotravelpatagonia.com

stream until reaching an old logging road and a decommissioned sawmill. From here the trail makes an abrupt right hand turn, heading upward through the forest to the vegetational limit. Once above the tree line, you’ll need to find the best route to access the flat area with several small lagoons. Then, take the trail toward the pass that separates some small valleys. Once above the pass, skirt the top of the mountain (Cerro Cordillerano), along the right hand side, making your way to the next pass, known as the Filo. From here, ascend to the summit of Cerro Filo. Return following the same route.


BRING ANCIENT ICE FIELDS BACK TO LIFE DURING THIS WEEKEND ESCAPE

Glacial Ice and tectonic forces have made Patagonia an incredible natural work of art and this short getaway gives you the chance to study the canvas from up close! Prepare your bike, your tent and your fishing rod and follow this 157 km route, winding around beautiful valleys, lake after lake, and river after river; all within a few hours of Coyhaique. You have probably noticed the diverse and almost erratic variance of landscapes in Aysén; immense pampas, dense forests, jagged cliffs, green meadows and giant rocks seemingly tossed here and there. The unpredictable scenarios are almost ALWAYS intercepted by water; fjords, rivers, lakes, lagoons and cascades; practically everywhere you look. These landscapes are the testimony of glaciations, a natural phenomenon that began on the planet 3 million years ago. The most recent glaciation ended approximately 10,000 years ago.

We may not have a time machine but if you use the clues and visible traces on this 157 km route, your imagination can provide the means to recreate the icy wonders that molded the incredible landscapes between Coyhaique, the sector of Six Lagunas, and the route between Elizalde Lake, the Paloma River and Caro Lake. The route is easily traveled in a day by 4x4 vehicle, with time for a picnic and a few hours of fishing. And if you’re looking to get away for a long weekend, we suggest biking the route as a three

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If we could step back millions of years in time, the planet would look completely different. Imagine scheduling your time machine to go back a little more than two million years and taking the opportunity to walk from Siberia to Alaska without any problem. Or 700 thousand years ago, when Coyhaique was completely covered over by a giant ice field. In fact, the entire Southern Cone was covered by glaciers and as warming began to melt the ice, you could navigate to Argentina through the El Blanco and Simpson Rivers, because in this time, the waters drained toward the east.

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or four day expedition. It will give you the opportunity to get closer to the sites on this beautiful route, and your slower pace will give you time to notice and appreciate the details.

The circuit starts and ends in Coyhaique. Depart from the Plaza de Arms on Paseo Horn, heading southwest toward Arturo Prat. Take a left, continue 4 blocks to Av Simpson and turn right, advancing a couple of blocks to the road on your left that descends toward the Simpson River. You’ll soon pass over a hanging bridge. Take a look toward your right and you’ll see the Piedra del Indio (Rock of the Indian), a weathered rock cliff that has been molded by the force of the winds to resemble an Indian brave; a great first example of what nature can do to a landscape.

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Follow this road through the El Claro Sector and veer right at the fork, taking the next left (Km 3) for Route X-608, and the Coyhaique Airfield. Pass the airfield in continue straight passing a series of farms and forest sectors that border the Simpson River. Around Km 16 you will pass a beautiful cascade before coming to a crossing where there is a giant wall of sand to the right, the remnant of a giant ancient lake that formed during the retreat of the glaciers and covered much of the valley you will soon be moving through. Turn toward the left, entering route X-648 and

the Six Lagunas Sector. For the next 20 km you will see a multitude of lakes and lagoons and spectacular scenery. The landscape is full of blues and greens, flowers, fields, and you will likely spot a variety of migratory birds. Millions of years ago, this entire landscape was under a gigantic ice field and later, when the ice receded, an enormous lake was formed that extended throughout this entire route. If you look closely in the Seis Lagunas Sector, you will make out the borders of this ancient lake, which shrank during the centuries; appearing like contour markers on a giant living map. In km 36 you will come to a crossing. Take the road on the right (Route X-686), which winds for approximately 48 kilometers bordering Elizalde Lake, the Paloma River and, finally, Caro Lake. As you border the Elizal-


de Lake, pay attention for the clues of the ancient moving ices that are all around you: smooth and polished rocks that are often scarred by deep scratches marking the path of advances and retreats. Elizalde is one of the most well-known and visited lakes in the region, with a public beach, camping areas, various cabanas, a rural hospedaje and various boat operators who offer fishing excursions. This is a great lake for trout! The next section takes you through farm lands on the way to the Paloma River Valley. Keep watch for a strange honeycomb like rock formation on the overhanging rock wall you will see on your left in Km 47. This rock formation is called columnar jointing and it’s formed within basaltic lava flows like this during the cooling process. When the lava cools rapidly from the outside in, often as a result of being submerged in river currents, shrinkage occurs and causes cracks to form in this unique and beautiful hexagonal pattern. Looking at this incredible formation, you can imagine this landscape taking shape after hundreds of thousands of years under ice. The eruption of volcanoes shaped new contours in the recently exposed land and the retreating ice was giving force to giant rivers. Thus, in this very spot, the river’s waters cooled the lava and formed these per-

fect hexagons. Now, hundreds of thousands of years later, your travels have brought you to this very spot, to observe and imagine these ancient landscapes. You’ll enter the Paloma River Valley crossing over a beautiful gorge formed by the River, which then winds through a relatively narrow valley, bordered on both sides by high peaks that are snow-covered in winter and reveal tiny (but impressive), glaciers during the summer, the last remnants of the ultimate glacial age. There are good campsites and excellent fishing at the edge of the river.

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As you continue through the valley on the way to Caro Lake, the landscape transform again, with thousand year old forests and the photogenic corrals, horses and farm houses of the sectors rural ranches. The lake is surrounded by forest of tepas, coigües, mañíos and arrayanes, providing an evergreen exuberance that shelters the rocky beach with plenty of wooded areas for camping.

OVERVIEW »»Activity Type: Scenic route in vehicle or bicycle

»»Start: Plaza of Arms, Coyhaique. »»End: Plaza of Arms, Coyhaique. »»Distance: The complete circuit is 157 km.

»»Duration: In vehicle, schedule 8 hours AYSÉN - SIMPSON AREA 260

for this excursion and you will have time for photo stops, a picnic and fishing along the route. If cycling, schedule 2 - 4 days for this expedition.

»»Seasonality:

Year round, depending on road conditions.

»»Special Considerations: If you’re in a vehicle, drive with caution as there are places with loose gravel and steep inclines. Bring picnic supplies as there are no stores in the route. If you’re biking, bring the necessary equipment: tents, stoves, provisions, etc. Dress in layers using bright colors and

Return along the same path to its junction with the track of the sector Six Lagoons, where you must bend to the right and move forward a couple of kilometers toward the junction opposite the small village of Villa Frei. Turn left and follow this road for approximately 10 Km, passing the village of Simpson Valley up to the junction with Route 245 which runs between Balmaceda and Puerto Aysén. Veer to the right and at 19 km you’ll be back in Coyhaique.

reflectors and be aware of traffic, especially on the main roads. You need to purchase a fishing license (www. sernapesca.cl) and inform yourself about regulations and how to prevent the spread of Didymo, a highly invasive algae which has contaminated rivers throughout the world, including in Aysén (www.didymo.cl).

»»Reservations:

Self-guided activity. Does not require reservations. You can rent bicycles and also contract guides and logistical services:

Historic Café Ricer - Horn #48; (067) 2232920; www.historicoricer.wordpress.com; Facebook: RestaurantHistoricoRicer. Purapatagonia Excursions and Expeditions - General Parra #202; (067) 2246000; info@purapatagonia.cl; www.purapatagonia. cl.


BOTTLE THE ESSENCE OF PATAGONIA AT BEAUTIFUL FRIO LAKE

Artisan fruit-infused liqueurs are found throughout the Chile, but in Aysén they take on unique characteristics. The purity of the water and intense climate provide a special essence to native fruits. When blended with family traditions and expertise, the result is amazing flavor and color - unique concoctions that you won’t be able to resist taking home to share with friends. When you visit the Aysén Region you’re surrounded by its beautiful landscapes, full of intense colors, scents and flavors, especially if you time your trip with the summer season, when the countryside is full of wild fruits, like murta, calafate and wild strawberries, as well as fruit trees like cherries, apricots and raspberries. Wouldn’t you love to be able to bottle these sensations to carry them home? You can!

The adventure begins 23 km south of Coyhaique, in the family farm of Don Hernan Riquelme Jara and his wife, Señora Norma Quijada de La Hoz. Depart Coyhaique toward the Balmaceda Airport and turn left after 14 km, at the crossing for El Fraile (Route X-667). Continue along this route for approximately 7 km, until you reach Route X-659, marked with signs indicating Lago Frio. Take a right and drive another two km to a beautiful farm on the right hand side, which is home to

AYSÉN - SIMPSON AREA

In fact, many Aysén families have a long-standing tradition of capturing summer and bottling it up for a little bit of sunshine during the long months of winter. How? By steeping handpicked berries and fruits in Chilean Aguardiente, an alcohol made like Italian grappa, by distilling the left over grape residues, after pressing for wine making. Using a special artisan process and fruits picked at the perfect height of their ripeness, you can literally capture and preserve the essence of a place. And just 23 kilometers outside of Coyhaique, you can spend a day with a master of artisan liqueurs, Señora Norma Quijada de La Hoz, and learn the entire process of bottling up summer – from the search for the perfect fruits to the tasting at the end of the day; and, you take home a bottle of this magic, with the essence of Patagonian summers captured in every delicious drop.

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TRAVELERS’ TIPS When you visit Señora Norma, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a delicious asado in the Quincho Don Santiago. It is prepared with beef or lamb from their own farm and the atmosphere is amazing, with panoramic views of Frio Lake. the Quincho Don Santiago, a rural banquet house. The farm sits up on the hill and overlooks a panoramic view of Frio Lake, located just on the other side of the road. You’ll probably find Señora Norma working in her greenhouse or garden, or preparing marmalades, liqueurs or some other goodie in the Quincho. This farm originally belonged to pioneer, Belisario Jara, Hernan’s grandfather. Norma’s family also lived in the sector and they had always been friends, until, one magical day, they fell in love and later, decided to marry. They decided to live in the farm and restored Belisario’s historic home together, continuing the family traditions of ranching

OVERVIEW »»Activity Type: Gastronomy.

Purchase and/or assist in the preparation of artisan liqueurs.

»»Start: Quincho Don Santiago, Frio Lake.

»»End: Enjoying the essence of Patagonia.

»»Distance: 56 miles from Coyhaique, round trip.

»»Duration:

Half day experience which involves collection of fruits and preparation of the steeping process, as well as tasting liqueurs that have previously been prepared. The artisan liqueur takes a minimum of four months to prepare and distill.

»»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations: If you can-

not find ripe local fruits or ingredients at home, purchase ripe fruits of choice at a local fair or market.

»»Reservations: To organize your vis-

it, contact Señora Norma Quijada: (09) 87869820. You can also coordinate your visit through the Casa del Turismo Rural, located in the Tourism Information Center in the Plaza of Arms in Coyhaique; (067) 2524929; www.casaturismorural.cl.

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and farming. Norma learned how to make liqueurs from her mom who had learned from her own mom, Norma’s grandmother. The process is actually pretty straightforward; but, according to Norma, there are two important secrets that absolutely cannot be ignored. First, capturing the essence of Patagonia requires harvesting the fruits at the absolute height of their ripeness. Second, success demands patience; the marinating process can take up to six long months. You probably don’t have that much time in Patagonia; so, we suggest a bit of “paying it forward”. Spend the day with Señora Norma and Don Hernan and learn the tradition. Your batch will go into the queue, ready for a future visitor who, like you, is looking for the magic way to bottle Patagonia and take its essence home.


RECIPE FOR PATAGONIA WILD FRUIT ARTISAN LIQUEURS »»Ingredients & equipment • 1 liter bottle of aguardiente. • 2.5 kilos of wild fruit (calafate, • • • • • •

murta, cherries, etc.). 1 cup of sugar. 3 cups of water. Saucepan and strainer. 5 liter glass container with a hermetic seal. Cheesecloth to strain and filter the fruit. Small sterilized bottles with corks or caps, for bottling the liqueur.

»»Preparation

Step 2: Steep the fruits. This is one of the most important stages and using a good aguardiente will ensure the best results. Place the washed, drained and dried fruits in a large, 5 liter (or larger), glass

Step 3: Prepare and add the syrup. Spend a few hours wandering the fields and forests of Norma and Hernan’s farm in search of the perfect fruits, at the height of their ripeness. You can use cherries, plums, calafate, murta, raspberries, wild strawberries, or any other delicious Patagonian flavor, including herbs, like sarsaparilla, mint or lemon verbena. Wash your treasures well and leave to drain, taking care to remove any stems that might leave a bitter taste in the liqueur. Step 4: Filter and bottle. Use the cheesecloth to filter the fruit, filling the glass bottles with the filtered liqueur. It may be easier to filter the liqueur first into another large container and then pour the filtered liqueur into the smaller recipients. You can discard the fruits or, serve them as a garnish or dessert. Step 5: Time to taste! Now that you’ve proven your patience, it’s time to be rewarded with a taste. Señora Norma suggests serving your liqueur in brandy snifters or port wine glasses.

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Step 1: Collect and wash the fruit. Spend a few hours wandering the fields and forests of Norma and Hernan’s farm in search of the perfect fruits, at the height of their ripeness. You can use cherries, plums, calafate, murta, raspberries, wild strawberries, or any other delicious Patagonian flavor, including herbs, like sarsaparilla, mint or lemon verbena. Wash your treasures well and leave to drain, taking care to remove any stems that might leave a bitter taste in the liqueur.

container with a hermetic seal. Pour the entire bottle of aguardiente over the fruit and seal the container. Steep the fruits for at least two months in a darkened place that does not receive direct sunlight.

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BALMACEDA IS SURE TO (ALMOST) BLOW YOU AWAY!

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The regional airport is located just steps away from the small border town of Balmaceda. Yes, it is tiny, but its history is gigantic. Instead of spending hours waiting at the airport, leverage your last few minutes being “blown away” by the fresh Patagonian breezes and one of the oldest settlements in the region. In addition to being beside the airport and just paces from the Argentine border, the village of Balmaceda affords a MUCH more interesting alternative to sitting in a smalltown airport waiting for a flight. Here’s our recommendation - arrive at the Balmaceda Airport two hours in advance of your flight, march right up to the counter (because if you arrive this early, you’ll avoid the long lines that will form a bit later), check your bags and pick-up your boarding passes, and then, walk right out the front door and over to the tiny town of Balmaceda which has a lot more to offer than first meets the eye. And, if you are crossing the Huemules Pass on your way to Argentina, stop a few moments in this town before the border and enjoy a last little bit of Chile before entering the endless landscapes of the pampa! Balmaceda was founded on January 1, 1917, by Jose Antolin Silva Ormeño. During this time in history, the divisions between Chilean and Argentinean Patagonia were becoming much more concrete and there was a lot of pressure for Chilean nationals who had been living, informally, in Argentina, to return to Chilean soils. Silva sought to provide a refuge for Chilean citizens who had been living in the Argentine province of Chubut, and wanted to return home; thus, he created one of the first settlements of the Aysén region, right across the Huemul border crossing, just meters across the border.

Silva’s legacy is all around you in Balmaceda. For example, as you walk around Balmaceda you’ll see several of the older houses that appear distinct from the typical architecture of Coyhaique and other areas of Aysén. While they include elements of Chilean architecture, like tejuelas, they also incorporate a clear Argentine influence, like the use of


adobe and bricks. And when you arrive at the recently renovated Plaza of Arms, take a look at the monument named, “The image of a Visionary”, which honors Silva. Don’t be alarmed if you hear an eerie hiss; the monument was designed with a unique system of pipes that produce a whistling noise when the wind fills them with wind. And as you will quickly notice, the wind never stops blowing in Balmaceda, so the whistling pays a constant tribute. There is another sector of the square dedicated to the ferocious Patagonia “breezes”; this time with a series of artistic mobiles that all come to life with the near constancy of winds. To learn more about Silva and the history of the village, visit the local library and Museum of the Pioneers. Located next to the plaza, this is the place to discover the legacy of the first settlers who arrived in the region of Aysén, via a fantastic photography collection and an array of other artifacts. Often, there are also some living exhibits at the museum; long-time residents who are more than happy to share a few stories with interested visitors, before grabbing a new book

TRAVELERS’ TIPS If you are a fishing fan and just can’t get enough of your favorite sport, get in a few more casts in the river right by the side of the road, just before arriving in Balmaceda. or checking their email. After a walk around, stop in one of the great little snack bars or restaurants in town for a quick bite. In the Rincón De Mirna (Mackenna 832), you’ll be served by owner Mirna Echaveguren, who offers a daily lunch special and homemade food. At the “Fast and Rich” Restaurant, located in the C block of the Vientos del Sur neighborhood, Señora Ruth Vera serves delicious sandwiches, like beef churrasco or ham and cheese, on homemade bread. Both Señora Mirna and Señora Ruth will be happy to share stories about their tiny village as they prepare a farewell snack.

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OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: Walk around the town of Balmaceda.

»»Start:

The Balmaceda Airport, located 55 km southeast of the city of Coyhaique.

»»End: Back at the airport in plenty of time for your flight.

»»Distance: Balmaceda is located just a few meters from the airport and consists of no more than 10 blocks.

AYSÉN - SIMPSON AREA 266

»»Duration: Approximately 1 hour. »»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations: It is very, very,

very unlikely to find a day without wind in Balmaceda, so carry a windbreaker when you head to the airport. If you get to the airport late and don’t have time to go Balmaceda, the Las Piedras Cafeteria, located on the second floor of the airport, has good coffee and sandwiches. In addition to the café, the airport has ATM service,

souvenir kiosks, transfers, and rent a car.

»»Reservations:

If you need transfers between the airport and other regional destinations you can book with:

• •

• •

T & T Transfer - Subteniente Cruz 63, Coyhaique; (067) 2256000; (09) 93123939; tranytur@gmail. com; www.tranytur.cl. Transfer Valencia - Lautaro 828, Coyhaique; (067) 2233030 or Alcalde Chindo Vera 183; Puerto Aysén; (09) 66540076; transfervalencia@hotmail.com; www. transfervalencia.cl. Transfer Velasquez - Los Alamos 1023, Coyhaique; (067) 2250413. Traeger Rent a Car - Av. Baquedano 457, Coyhaique and at the Balmaceda Airport; (067) 2231648; contacto@traeger.cl; www. traeger.cl.


BIODIVERSITY IN THE AYSÉN – SIMPSON AREA The flora and fauna that you may see include: Trees and shrubs:

Black Poplar (Populus nigra - Introduced); Araurcaria chilean (Araucaria araucana - Introduced); Arrayán (Luma apiculata); Calafate (Berberis buxifolia); Canelo (Drimys winteri); Chaura (Pernettya mucronata); Chilco (Fuchsia magellanica); Ciruelillo or Notro (Embothrium coccineum); Coigüe (Nothofagus dombeyi); Coigüe Chiloe (Nothofagus nitida); Magellan coigüe (Nothofagus betuloides); Lenga (Nothofagus pumilio); Luma (Amomyrtus luma); Short Needled Mañío (Saxegothaea conspicua ); Michay (Berberis ilicifolia); Murtilla (Empetrum rubrum); Ñirre (Nothofagus antarctica ); Rose Hips (Rosa rubiginosa - introduced); Willow or Sauce (Salix humboldtiana - Introduced); Tepa (Laureliopsis philipiana); Tepú (Tepualia stipularis); Sarsaparilla (Ribes magellanicum)

Flowers and Canes: Astelia (Astelia pumila); Coligüe cane (Chusquea culeou); Quila cane (Chusquea quila); Coicopihue (Philesia magellanica); Dandelion or chicory (Taraxacum officinale); Wild strawberries (Fragaria chiloensis); Juncillo reed (Marsippospermum grandiflorum); Mata Negra (Chilitrichum diffusum); Neneo (Mulimum spinosum); Panguecito or Devil’s strawberry (Gunnera magellanica); Scotch Broom (Spartium junceum - introduced)

quadripinnata); Old Man’s Beard (Usnea barbata); Rib’s cowfern (Blechnum chilense); Digüeñe of Coigüe (Cyttaria harioti); Digüeñe of Ñirre (Cyttaria darwinii); Fuinque (Lomatia ferruginea); Giant palmetto fern (blech-num magellanicum); Film Fern (Hymenophyllum dentatum or Hymenophyllum pectinatum); Feather Fern (Blechnum penna - marina); Morrell mushroom (Morchella conica); Pinito moss (Dendroligotrichum dendroides); Nalca or pangue (Gunnera tinctoria); Palmita (Lycopodium paniculatum); Palomita (Codonorchis lessonii); Frog’s Parasol (Hypopterygium arbuscula); Topa topa or Capachito (Calceolaria tenella); Yerba loza or Palmita (Gleichenia quadripartita)

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Mosses, Fungi and Ferns: Ampe or Palmita (Lophosoria

Birds:

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Eagle (Geranoaetus melanoleucus); Hawk (Buteo polyosoma); Bandurria (Theristicus melanopis or Theristicus


caudatus); Cachana or Austral Parakeet (Enicognathus ferrugineus); or Canquenes or Caiquenes (Chloegphaga picta or Chloegphaga poliocephala); Caracara or Carancho (Phalcoboenus albogularis); Ordinary woodpecker (Picoides lignarius); Black woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus); Kestrel (Falco sparverius); Chincol (Zonotrichia capensis); Chucao (Scelorchilus rubecola); Chuncho (Glacidium nanum); Cinclodes (Cinclodes patagonicus); Black-necked swan (Cygnus melancoryphus); Patagonian finch (Phrygilus patagonicus); Condor (Vultur gryphus’); Rock Comorant (Phalacrocorax magellanicus); White-crested elaenia (Elaenia albiceps); Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis); White Heron (Ardea alba ); Gull (Larus scoresbii); Brown Gull (Larus maculipennis); Franklin’s Gull (Larus pipixcan); Dominican gull (Larus dominicanus); Elegant tern (Sterna elegans); South American tern (Sterna hirundinacea); Swallowtail (Tachycinetta leucopyga or Hirundo rustica ); Huairavo ( Nycticorax nycticorax); Huala (Podiceps greater); Throated Huethuet (Pteroptochos tarnii); Goldfinch (Carduelis barbatus); Kingfisher (Ceryle torquata); Common lesser rhea (Rhea americana ); Duck (cormorant); Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata); Large jergon Duck (Anas georgica spinicauda); Pejerrey (Odontesthes regia); Pinche (Zaerius pichyi-pichyi); Chilean Flicker (Colaptes pitius o Colaptes pitius chachinnans); Flightless steamer duck ( Tachyeres pteneres ); Flying steamer duck (Tachyeres patachonicus); Rayadito (Aphrastura spinicauda); Chilean Skua (Stercorarius chilensis); Tero (Vanellus chilensis); Tordo (Curaeus curaeus); Guanay cormorant (Phalacrocorax olivaceus or Phalacrocorax brasilianus); Thrush (Turdus falcklandii)

Land Mammals : Guanaco (Lama guanicoe); Huemul (Hip-

pocamelus bisulcus); Huiña, Güiña, Colorado or Colo Cat (Leopardus guigna); Wild boar (Sus scrofa - introduced); Patagonian hare (Dolichotis patagonum); Armadillo (Zaedyus pichiy); Hairy Armadillo (Chaetophractus villosus); Pudú (Pudu puda); Puma (Puma concolor); Arboreal rat (Irenomys tarsalis); Orange nosed rat (Abrothrix xanthorhinus); Long haired rat (Abrothrix longipilis); European mink (Mustela lutreola - introduced); Patagonian skunk (Conepatus humboldtii); Colorado or Culpeo Fox (Lycalopex culpaeus)

Fish, Mollusks and Crustaceans: Cholga mussel (AuAYSÉN - SIMPSON AREA 268

lacomya ater); Chorito mussel (Mytilus chilensis); Choro Mussel (Choromytilus chorus); Peladilla (Aplochiton zebra); Chinook salmon (Onchorhynchus body - Introduced); Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch - Introduced); Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss - Introduced); Fario trout (Salmo trutta fario - Introduced); Morrón trout (Salmo trutta - Introduced)


CHELENKO CULTURAL AREA


Our Family’s Travels through the Chelenko Area Aysén Region, Chile 24 DAYS 23 NIGHTS

ELEVEN PEOPLE (3 GENERATIONS)

TOTAL PER FAMILY

$9,852 USD

Details of our Expenses, per person: (*Note: Thanks to the grandparents for covering our son’s trip!) Transport = $2,949 per person (Air travel plus one portion of the costs of chartering a group vehicle for eleven people, with a professional driver); Accommodations and Food = $984 ($41 /day per person on average); Tours and Souvenirs = $989 Ladies and gentlemen, I am about to share a MON-U-MEN-TAL event with you! Three generations and four families came together to explore the Region of Aysén, in the heart of Chilean Patagonia in an epic journey. What exactly am I talking about? Well, it has been a decade since my first trip to Aysén - a fun adventure with my friends in the Palena – Queulat Area of the region; eight years since my incredible journey to the Fjords and Channels Area, with my dad; six years since my trip to the Aysén – Simpson Area with Andrew, when we were dating; and five years since our adventurous honeymoon to the southern zone of the region. And now (drum roll, please), we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary during an epic family adventure in the Chelenko Area of this incredible region!

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We had been putting away pennies for this trip for several years, ever since my father and I had dreamed up the idea after our travels in Area of the Fjords and Channels Next we each had to convince our respective bosses and companies to allow us to save up vacation time and accumulate comp time so that we could have sufficient weeks to relax and explore. I don’t know how, but we were all able to pull things off and miraculously, secure three and a half weeks together to share the wonders of the Aysén Region. We concentrated our time in the Chelenko Area of the Region, the only area that I had not previously explored. We traveled with our wonderful son (almost four years old, now), my parents who have just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary, Andy’s parents, my brother-in-law, his wife, and their two sons (19 and 14). Phew! That’s a lot of people! The logistics were overwhelming at first, with a group comprised of all different ages, levels of physical fitness, and VERY different tastes. But we were able to manage things by agreeing to travel together to some areas and divide up for others; this way, everyone was able to see and enjoy the places that caught their interest. We divided all the expenses into 11 equal portions and my parents and Andy’s parents paid for


the grandchildren. Of course, this HUGE gift from the grandparents was the single most important aspect for making the dream trip a reality! For the 10th millionth time, thank you! Before filling you in on all the adventures, I’ll provide a bit of foreshadowing: the trip was a huge hit, and we came home with enough memories to last a lifetime! So, keep reading and take notes. My goal is to share everything you need to plan your own adventure and family reunion in the heart of Patagonia.

Day 1: The journey to reach Puerto Tranquilo

After a nice stop in town, we continued south towards Puerto Tranquilo. Don Dario showed us several interesting landmarks along the way; things we definitely wouldn’t have noticed or understood without his guidance. For example, all along the route there are traces of the eruptions of the Hudson Volcano, the most violent of all of Patagonia’s active giants. This volcano’s location is so remote that, for thousands of years, no one gave it attention until 1971, when it awoke furiously, causing tremendous devastation to the ecosystem and ranches in this area. A second and even more violet explosion occurred twenty years later in 1991. Twenty

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The trips from the U.S. were long (as always), but, most of us were able to get at least five or six hours of sleep on the overnight flight to Santiago and we shepherded the rest through customs and the airport to take the national flight down to Balmaceda. Probably the best decision we made during the entire journey was to employ a professional chauffeur with a minibus capable of carrying 14 people. It gave us total freedom to go wherever we wanted without having to worry about driving the intense Patagonia roads! Here is our driver’s info: Don Dario Figueroa, (www.patagoniamarmoltour.cl). There are several good drivers offering tours and custom services in the region, but after three weeks traveling with Don Dario, we have officially adopted him as a beloved member of our raucous clan. He picked us up at the airport and we immediately began heading toward Puerto Río Tranquilo, 183 km south along the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway). The first 60 km are asphalt and after that, pure gravel, complete with potholes, washboards, wild animal crossings and gaucho cattle drives! There are always sections being repaired and plenty of oncoming traffic to surprise you around every twist and turn. We enjoyed it all, happy to have hired our own chauffeur who was a pro at navigating these roads! The Carretera passes through the Cerro Castillo National Reserve and the small town of Villa Cerro Castillo, which is beautifully situated at the base of this truly breathtaking mountain, which is topped with pointy towers and spires that completely resemble a medieval basalt castle (Castillo = Castle)! We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called Villarrica (09) 66560173, that had great sandwiches and delicious regional beers (another giant advantage of not driving!) I recommend the Cerveza Caiquén, (check them out on Facebook) that has a picture of the mountain on the label! What better way to start off the trip!

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more years passed, and sure enough, Hudson started showing signs of eruption in 2011, but this time it only coughed a bit of smoke and ash; nothing in comparison to the damage produced during earlier explosions. In 1971, according to Don Dario, there was extensive damage, and most of the area’s ranchers lost pretty much everything. The 1991 eruption was so disastrous that everything was covered in ash all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, I later read that it is considered one of the world’s largest volcanic eruptions of the twentieth century. Don Dario, remembers everything vividly: houses under meters of ash, dead animals, and family and friends who lost everything. Terrible! We actually took a minute to stop along the Carretera at an area still recovering from the last devastating eruption. The valley, dead forests, and fences buried among the ashes bear witness to these past events. I took a lot of black and white photos, adding even more feeling and drama to the sorrowful landscape. We continued our way south immersed in the wonderful landscapes. It was so cool to see Josh (my son) sitting with my mom, both of them smashing their noses against the windows, in a constant dialogue of “ooohhhs” and “ahhhhhs”. My little guy was enjoying every minute of the trip, and I loved that. I think he has definitely inherited the explorer gene his parents share! Upon reaching Tranquilo, we settled in at Cabanas Valle Exploradores located on Arrayanes 205, (www. valleexploradores.cl). It’s a small complex of six cabanas, each one equipped for four people and well stocked with bedding, kitchen accessories, and the like. We rented three and used the biggest of the kitchens to cook a delicious meal which we shared over a fun and crowded conversation about the day’s events. Crazy fun! Day 1 = total success.

Day 2: Marble, marble and more marble! The Marble Caverns (Cavernas del Marmol) in Puerto Tranquilo are one of the most famous natural sites to visit in the area. I had discovered dozens of phenomenal images of these caves in my pre-trip research. For example, “Buzzfeed”, lists them as one of the most surreal sites in the world to visit. So that was our family’s goal for Day 2, close-up views of this mysterious natural wonder.

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After spending a few hours preparing breakfast, taking showers, and arranging the disorder (think aftermath of a tornado), Don Dario finally succeeded in rounding up our giant flock of sheep, loading us into our chariot, and dropping us off at the boat docks where Don Lenny Soto, owner of Excursions Maran-Atha, (hombredelago@hispavista.com; (09) 66479614), was patiently waiting. There are a ton of operators with trips to the caves, but we chose Don Lenny because he had two boats available and was willing to visit both the caves of Puerto Tranquilo, and the other caves that surround the Panichini Islands in Puerto Sánchez. The weather was on our side, so we spent the entire day browsing the lake and admiring these wonders, with their naturally sculpted rippled textures and beautiful colors of white (pure marble), grayish blue, and pink. Don Lenny told us that this huge reservoir of


marble is more than 300 million years ago, but that the caves and caverns were formed more recently, by the sculpting actions of receding ice and waters from the General Carrera (or Chelenko) Lake. He navigated close enough to some of the caverns that we could actually jump off the boat and sit inside for a great family photo! We took turns entering the caves, thanks to the great dexterity of our boatmen, where we were surrounded by the marble and the turquoise blue waters that reflected the sun’s rays through the tiny entrances and small “windows” on the marble walls. What can I say? Surreal doesn’t do the experience justice, it was absolutely magical! At the end of the day, we returned to Puerto Tranquilo and cooked another delicious meal together. Then, we headed back to our respective beds because the following day held another huge adventure in store!

Day 3: Exploring in Exploradores

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I don’t know how, but we managed to get all the sheep and lambs rounded up in record time to leave early for the Exploradores Valley and its Glacier. The journey began with a 52 km drive down a lovely road that became more and more beautiful and green with each kilometer we traveled on our westward route along the narrow road. Dense forests, giant nalca leaves, ferns, mountains with glaciers hanging from their peaks, waterfalls, lakes, and rivers. Wow! We stopped at a waterfall called La Nutria, with crystalline waters falling at least 30 meters. Around the 50th kilometer, we stumbled upon the Exploradores River and a couple of kilometers beyond, the Refuge for El Puesto Expediciones, (www.elpuesto.cl), where Don Dario left us in the hands of their capable guides. Our parents decided to do a short walk (20 minutes) with our little one, up to the observation deck for the glacier. The rest of us took a guided hike on the glacier. The first few kilometers are a bit complicated as you hike over the moraine, maneuvering your way amongst tons of rocks and stones and enormous boulders the size of a house! But the hike is totally worth it because once you reach the enormous sheet of ice, and buckle on your crampons, you are immersed in a quiet world of blue, green and white. You can explore some of the ice caves and walk through the crevasses, touching ice that is tens of thousands of years old. Just incredible! We met up with our parents and Josh at the refuge, several hours later, and they told us that they had no trouble staying entertained with the panoramic views of the glacier and the little birds fluttering about as Josh skipped stones with his Grandpas by the river. We headed back to Puerto Tranquilo with zero energy to cook, so we opted for one of the local diners, Restaurant Costanera, (67) 2419500, and then hit the sheets!

Day 4: More ice in Laguna San Rafael National Park! We headed back through the Exploradores Valley during the early hours of Day 4, this time following the road until you could go no further, so that we could meet our guides for the Explorer’s Route to Aysén’s most famous glacier, San Rafael.

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Don Dario left us in the hands of the two companies that have pioneered this new route, Destino Patagonia (www. destinopatagonia.cl), and Turismo Río Exploradores – EMTREX (www.exploradores-sanrafael.cl). Once we had been shuttled across the river by rowboat and driven to the Puerto Grosse docks, we were fitted for life-jackets, and divided into two smaller groups and boats. We started our sailing adventure traveling through the Exploradores River Delta. Suddenly, my son yelled at his grandmother, “Nana, look!” He was the first to notice a group of bottle-nose dolphins dancing and swimming alongside the boat. So agile and fast! Definitely a good start to the trip! After the river, we traveled along the Cupquelan Estuary and later, through the Elefantes Channel, where we paused to take photos of the Gualas Glacier before continuing our journey through the Témpanos River. Imagine our faces when we got our first views of the San Quintin Glacier and the enormous San Rafael Glacier and Lagoon. We stopped at the Conaf dock to chat with the park rangers and then circumvented the ice floes all the way to a few meters from the imposing huge blue wall of ice. At first Josh was afraid of the glacier calving, hiding between my legs every time he heard the glacier breaking and huge chunks of ice tumbling down into the sea. But once he realized that the captains were in complete control and there was nothing to fear, he LOVED the giant splashes and waves the ice created, and began screaming with excitement every time the glacier started to creak. “More, more”, he shouted, clapping and shaking his tiny hands! An adventurous soul, am I right? When we arrived back to the Exploradores River, Don Dario was waiting for us with hot chocolate and sandwiches in the minibus. We arrived the cabanas at about 21:00, exhausted (and rightfully so). It was an unforgettable and incredible day!

Day 5 - 8: A delicious potpourri of Patagonia: Meatballs, Bahía Murta (both), and SuizAike.

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After two MARATHON days, it took a while to get all 11 travelers awake, clean, fed and ready to go, and we ended up clearing out of our cabanas around noon. Man, what it takes to mobilize this troop! I wasn’t too concerned about half the day being gone because we had only programmed to travel 30 kilometers north, to the tiny village of Bahía Murta. Along the way, Don Dario surprised us with a stop at an old cemetery. We climbed a small hill for a closer look, and were greeted with a beautiful panoramic view of General Carrera Lake and the peninsula. At first I didn’t understand why he was showing us the mouths of the Engaño, Murta and Resbalón Rivers, but thanks to four prior trips and lot of practice over the last decade, I was finally able to decipher his Spanish. He related the story of how the people of Bahía Murta actually moved their entire town from this site to a nearby plateau after years of constant flooding of these rivers. Thank goodness they moved when they did, because shortly after there was a huge storm that wiped out the original town. Hence, there are two Bahía Murtas: what remains of Murta


Antigua and the new town, Nueva Murta.

We stayed in SuizAike for three wonderful days, eating like royalty, enjoying the serene setting and their rustic sauna, and exploring the surrounding area. We fished and kayaked, hiked to the Escargot Lagoon, summited Cerro Pichón, and relaxed in the hot springs of the Engaño River. Werner and

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By now our stomachs were growling with hunger so we headed to the Residencial Patagonia, (09) 87259186, where the owner, Señora Clotilde made us one of her specialties: homemade Patagonian-style meatballs accompanied with rice and salad. Lunch was D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S! Please, if you happen to wander in this direction, stop in and try them! I promise you’ll appreciate this blogger’s humble suggestion! Señora Clotilde and her lodge are precious with beautiful gardens filling the grounds and lots of antiques and artifacts related to the settlers in the area, very well organized within a small museum. After completely filling our stomachs and exploring the museum and garden, three hours had passed, so we said our goodbyes and headed over to “New” Murta. We stopped at the beach on the southern end of town to take in the views and pose for a few family shots and then headed up above the town along the road towards Puerto Sánchez for about 4.5 km, entering the small parking area for Hospedaje Rural SuizAike (blog: loghouse-suizaike-patagonia.over-blog.com). We took a good long while to organize ourselves here; we unpacked the suitcases and reorganized all of our gear so as to only carry the essentials (of which there were many), because you have to hike from the parking lot to the Hospedaje, (800 m) and we could see that on the way back we would be hiking UP! The walk down to their main house was easy and beautiful, not to mention good old family fun. Imagine eleven people of diverse ages and energy levels making their way down through the forest and stopping every 50 meters or so to take in another incredible glimpse of General Carrera Lake. Finally, we left the forest behind, and entered a beautiful protected area of fields that were perched above the spectacular backdrop of the lake. In the center of the landscape, there was a magical log house made of entire trunks of native coigües situated above a perfect knoll and a bit farther, tucked into the woods, a charming log cabin. We were greeted by Werner and Ninoska, the creators of this amazing oasis, who Andy knew from his time working on the project in the Ice Fields. SuizAike is “intimate and family-oriented” and absolutely did not have accommodations for 11 people, but they welcomed us in as if we were part of their own family. My in-laws stayed in the main house, my parents with Josh in the cabin, and the rest of us in 3 tents, next to the corral. The farm is absolutely idyllic AND the cooking is amazing - everything fresh-picked and gathered; eggs from free-range chickens, whole-grain breads, organic vegetables straight from the garden, roasted salmon from the lake, and delicious risottos! Our first night they prepared a creamy, cheesy risotto with a flavorful sauce made out of morel mushrooms, gathered from the fields behind their corrals.

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Ninoska invited us to visit Murta with them to attend the Festival of Arreo, which celebrates the old customs and traditions of the gauchos and pioneers of the area. It was fantastic! We watched the gauchos herding animals and shearing sheep, attended the rodeos and dances, and a thousand other entertaining activities. It was truly great watching Josh and his grandparents be entertained by the same things, two different ages yet completely in sync, eating up the scene by clapping, shouting and trying every different food they were offered. It was really fun! Before we said farewell to this small hidden paradise, we purchased some beef to have a big asado (Patagonian cook-out). They say that Murta has the best beef in the region, (we bought ours at the Carnicería La Bahía, (09) 84652955, located next to the Plaza de Armas), and we completely agree because the asado was delicious! Between hugs, kisses and tears, we parted ways with our dear friends of SuizAike and rejoined Don Dario to head south along the Carratera. Our next campsite/adventure would be the Eco Camping and Hostel, Un Destino No Turístico (translation: Not a Tourist Destination Eco-camping and Hostel), www.destino-noturistico.com, in Puerto Guadal. This spot was another one of Andy’s ideas; he really has a knack for finding some of the best “off the beaten path” spots. Not a Tourist Destination, is a project created around the concept of ‘slow travel’, embracing the idea that travelers need to take their time and truly get to know a place and its people. Their hostel and camping promote environmental responsibility and awareness of the ecological footprint that we leave as tourists, offering a variety of compensations like the use of organic agricultural methods, renewable energy, solar cooking, bio-construction, recycling, and permaculture. Andrew and I were very interested in getting to know the owners and the rest of the family were great sports, showing genuine curiosity about all these new concepts.

Day 9 - 10: In a non-touristy destination and horseback riding to Mallín Grande

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The plan for the next few days was for Andrew, Josh, myself, and my parents to stay at Not a Tourist Destination Eco-camping and Hostel, while my in-laws, brother-in-law and his family took an overnight horse trek. Early in the morning, they met with their guide, Pascual Diaz, owner of Kalem Turismo of Puerto Guadal (Facebook: Turismo Kalem Patagonia), to head to his family’s farm in Mallín Grande on the southern shore of Lago General Carrera. From there they rode up into the foothills of Cerro Tronador to a sector known as Las Horquetas. Meanwhile, we participated in a private workshop, learning about the practices used on the farm and in the hostel. They have an amazing organic garden with an excellent composting system using earthworms that enrich the soil. Everything was really interesting, and we even had a cooking class using their solar cookers to make an incredible soup and homemade bread. Everything is much


slower and takes more time and work, but it was fascinating and we learned so much! I know that this style of living is not feasible for us at this point in our lives, but both Andy and I agreed that we needed to incorporate some of these principles back home. I jotted down tons of notes so that when I got back, I could write an article on slow travel, because I found it so rewarding and relaxing. Actually, I’ve always enjoyed traveling in a way that permitted me to really dig in and learn about a place, but I never knew it had a name! The next day, we reunited with the rest of our group in Mallín Grande at Don Pascual’s family farm. The others had a blast, as well. Sounds like they are becoming real gauchos! That afternoon, Don Dario drove us around the southern border of the lake to Chile Chico. The road was fairly intense, narrow and steep, especially in the area known as the Paso de Las Llaves, where one can really get their head in a tizzy thanks to the narrow winding road with its 90° curves and steep cliffs perched HIGH, HIGH, HIGH above the lake. Yet another reason Don Dario is our hero! He proved to be first class as a chauffeur, giving us the chance to snap tons of pictures - the scenery was incredible! We arrived in Chile Chico and went directly to the Hostería y Camping de la Patagonia (www.hosteriadelapatagonia. cl) for hot showers and a nice night in beds. The majority of the group stayed in the main part of the hostel, but Andrew, Joshua and I stayed in a cabana that is pretty unique. It was a converted, old steam boat called “El Chile”, which had served the city during its most prosperous years, the 1940s and ‘50s, transporting minerals, mining equipment, employees and passengers between different ports along the lake. Inside the antique iron relic, things has been completely refurbished, with comfortable (and top quality) bedding, a cozy wood-burning stove, an excellent bathroom and a kitchen. You could accommodate up to six people aboard so with the three of us, there was plenty of room to move around and play. That’s exactly what Josh did – jumping from bunk to bunk and pretending all sorts of games. It was pretty cool sleeping in an old steamer, especially for Josh! He just loved it!

Day 11: A day of relaxation in the “city of sun” TRAVEL BLOG

Chile Chico is one of the oldest towns in the Aysén region. The original settlers made their living raising livestock, but their strategic location on the shores of the lake near the border with Argentina led to them becoming a center of commerce and transportation for the wool produced in the entire sector of General Carrera. Then they became one of the most productive cities in Chile for a few decades when they were the hub for exportation of the zinc, lead and copper being mined around the basin of the lake during the decades of the 1940s and ‘50s. During those years, hotels, clubs, and theaters were built – they say that Chile Chico had everything in those years. Today’s Chile Chico is much different; a calm relaxed town nestled into the lake shore. It is focused on taking full advantage of its glorious micro climate and producing some of the most delicious cherries in all of

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Chile. Be sure to try some as I can honestly say that they are the richest cherries I have ever eaten, and they are giant! We took advantage of the beautiful weather and spent a relaxing day walking around town to check out some of the history for ourselves. We went to the lookout point, veiled in hundreds of flags from countries all over the world and walked along the waterfront, where we passed by historic buildings and went to the flea market, next to the docks, which is held every Saturday morning. There, we met the Agrupación de Mujeres del Valle de Bahía Jara, a group of women from the nearby Bahía Jara sector (17 km west of town), who have formed an agricultural club and begun several projects for their greenhouses and fruit groves, in order to improve their production and have more great products to sell at the fairs. We bought a ton of homegrown fruits, jams, preserves, cheeses, crafts, herbs, and crafts to enjoy during the remainder of our trip. The picnic for the following day would be great! We ended the day at the Restaurante La Mercè (67) 2411582, located in one of the historic houses of the Belgian colonization of the year 1948, a reminder that this region’s history is so recent that one can visit pioneer sites that are no more than 50 or 60 years old!

Day 12 - 13: Trip to the Jeinimeni National Reserve’s distinctive landscapes and archaeology

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Jeinimeni National Reserve is located just 60 km from Chile Chico, but poor Don Dario took almost three hours to get us there, thanks to our little game of making him stop every 30 seconds with our shouts of, “last photo Don Dario, we promise! “. We stayed almost an hour in the sector of the Flamencos Lagoon (40 km from Chile Chico), where you can see thousands of native and migratory birds. It was so spectacular that I got out my tripod and set up shop for a while to capture some awesome close ups of the birds. The landscapes throughout this incredible reserve were much different than any I’ve ever seen in Aysén, full of new contrasts, colors, and sensations. I loved them and the way they changed every few minutes based on the light that filtered through the moving clouds! We camped next to Jeinimeni Lake, where there is a great campground with toilets, showers and large quinchos for entire families. It was an evening full of laughter, stories, a little fishing on the part of the men, and a nice cookout, or asado as they say here. The next day, Don Dario led the more athletic members of our group to the beginning of the trail to the Cave of the Hands, the Rock Tower, and the Valley of the Moon. It’s a 9.5 km loop, passing through areas where one is completely immersed in a world of 10,000 years ago. If I had been an indigenous Tehuelche nomad, this area would have been one of my favorite places to wander and it made me a little melancholy when I saw the rock art that had been so carefully placed some 8,000 – 10,000 years ago, only to be vandalized during the last fifty. There were mysterious geological formations and rocks full of a thousand rich colors, but my favorite


place was the summit, which we reached after a long gradual climb. Here, the Patagonian winds rip and roar and you have fantastic views all the way to General Carrera Lake (it was originally named: Chelenko, meaning “troubled waters” in the Tehuelche language, definitely more fitting). The waters appear all the more blue and troubled when seen rolling against their shores amongst a vast space of arid pampa. If there was one thing I might do differently with this hike, it would be to have hired a guide. We made out okay, but we wandered around quite a while trying to re-encounter the trail a few times. I was told later that there is a guide service called Patagoniaxpress (www.patagoniaxpress.cl) that offers daily hikes during the high season. I highly recommend finding a local guide to help you along this trail! For our last night, we decided to stay in the cabanas of some more friends Andy had made during his work on the Ice Fields project, Don Juan Mercegue and Doña Fidelina Rocco. They are the owners of Turismo Kon-Aiken, located on Peter Burgos 3, Chile Chico (konaiken.blogspot.com). They have a giant kitchen in their hostel and almost all of us were able to cram in and help out with cooking a delicious dinner! We were chatting and celebrating with them until about 03:00 am and we needed to be on the ferry that runs from Chile Chico to Puerto Ibáñez at 07:15 the next morning! Ha ha - I can’t believe that we are “partying” every night with our parents. So much fun!

Day 14: Crossing the Chelenko to Puerto Ibáñez

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We didn’t have time for breakfast, but no one minded because Fide had sent us on our way with a basket full of delicious foods from the Chile Chico area; jerky, cheeses, lettuce, bread and, of course, cherries! Moreover, she nestled in one of her own marmalades, a homemade delicacy. Yum! We bought coffee on the ferry (Sotramin - Ferry Tehuelche, www.sotramin.cl), and enjoyed our excellent breakfast picnic, while taking in views of the assorted colors of Chelenko Lake (I’ve decided to call it that for the rest of the trip), and the changing landscapes of the Peninsula Levicán. We arrived in Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez in just a few hours and Don Dario took us to the Cabanas Bordelago (www.patagoniabordelago.cl), where our entourage had reserved the entire complex. Several of the group opted for a few hours of additional sleep, while the rest went to explore the sector around the Salto Ibáñez, a HUGE cascading waterfall where you can feel the breeze created by the moving waters blowing the spray on your face. Afterwards, the women of our group went to peruse the many greenhouses and gardens in town, thanks to a tip Fide had provided. We went to Las Paramelas, (09) 99813498, near the airfield and to the Granja Municipal de la Agrupación de Horticultores, a municipal farm on Carlos Soto S/N; (67) 2423365, where we bought culinary treasures to offer the guys. In return, they took on the cooking this night and treated us to a delicious dinner!

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Day 15: Our attempt to become artisans! When traveling with my father through the islands of Aysén’s fjords, some eight years ago, we discovered some wonderful, handcrafted clay casserole dishes. My dad was inspired by these pieces of art and as a result, I discovering his hidden chef talents and the delicious baked fish he prepared. These very same earthenware casserole dishes - and a whole lot of other beautiful things – are made here in Puerto Ibáñez. Do you remember my mentions in past blogs about Father Antonio Ronchi? He was an Italian priest who was much loved throughout the region because of his tireless work to improve the quality of life for people living in and around the isolated rural communities. The town of Puerto Ibáñez was no exception. Father Ronchi worked with the women of town to develop a way for them to contribute to their family’s welfare through their creativity and local resources. He managed to bring a master craftsman to the area, who taught this group of around forty women to gather, and work with, a local clay, and helped them create their own unique designs and styles, based on the Tehuelche cave drawings that fill the Ibáñez Valley. Now, some 40 years later, these cacharritos (jars of clay) are the region’s most well known handicraft. Amazing legacy, in my opinion! Some of the pieces, like the original miniature cacharritos, are merely ornamental and others are utilitarian, like the cookware my dad coveted so many years ago when we first traveled within the region.

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So, we were in Ibáñez, and for that matter, in Chelenko, to find our very own hand-made casserole dish, from the artisans of this tiny Patagonian village. After waiting so many years, we couldn’t just buy the first pot we found, could we? So we decided to visit each of the workshops in town and learn about the artisans and the history of their work. The rest of the group was excited to accompany us on this adventure after hearing the stories so many times. Our idea was to find a few of the artisans that would be willing to let us help with the creation of our own works of art. So we asked, and found two workshops where we were welcome to join in and “play a bit in the mud”. The workshops we discovered were Artesenia Gladys on Diego Portales 453 (Facebook: Artesenia Gladys), owned by Señora Gladys Alarcón, and Taller Las Manos, located on Luis Bolados 485, (09) 83668888, owned by Señora Marfa del Aguila and Don Joel Vargas. We loved both workshops and the opportunity to build a friendship with their owners. Most of all, my dad and I loved the opportunity to make our own “priceless” earthenware treasures, but it requires several days to complete the job, so we decided to compromise and share the responsibility with the masters themselves. That day we focused on accompanying the artists to collect the clay which they extract from the Levicán Peninsula, in the sector of the Salto del Río Ibáñez. We returned to the workshops and mixed the clay and later, filled the molds. Then we let the masters do their work – they fired our earthenware in their kilns and laid them out for drying and cooling, with the promise that we could


return in two days more, to help with glazing and decoration.

Day 16: Rock- climbing in the Maitenal Don Dario was waiting for us at 10 :00 to go to the El Maitenal del Río Ibáñez, owned by Gerald Dallman (09) 83892832 and his wife, Lilian Henriquez (09) 85327680, a Chilean-German couple who came to this area with the idea of making a new life based on sustainable farming and tourism. Interestingly enough, neither were avid climbers when they arrived, but, as things unfolded, they found themselves equipping a huge rock wall on their property with several routes for sport climbing that has turned their farm into a fantastic climbing zone; one of the best in this sector of Patagonia. As you’re leaving town toward Cerro Castillo, you turn toward the Salto and later, the Peninsula Levicán, continuing along this dirt road for 3 km to the entrance for El Maitenal. It was a great day! Not only was the climbing fantastic, but also because the asado al palo, prepared by Gerald and served with his handcrafted Dallman Beer, brewed according to a recipe brought from Germany, truly made the day complete. After so many beers, it’s a good thing that we had Don Dario to take us back to the cabanas!

Day 17: Pottery in Ibáñez 2.0 Thanks to a full day of activity and thirst-quenching Dallman Beers, the climbers (and everyone else), slept in late. After finally getting up and organized, we walked to the waterfront where there is a small park and Restaurant El Lago (09) 82284422, where we had a huge breakfast with panoramic views of the lake (Short side note: they don’t usually offer breakfast, but the granddads had talked them into it the day before). Afterwards, we headed back to the workshops to finish and decorate our works of art. They were coming along great! Andy, Josh and I each added our own personal touch to ours, and we left them in the capable hands of our new friends for the finishing steps. Mission accomplished! I thoroughly recommend this activity as it is a great way to get the whole family involved; children, adolescents, adults all had a blast and each one has a unique and special souvenir. A personal note to my father: I’m counting on the fact that you’re going to invite me to try another recipe prepared in your new casserole, no?

Our dear friend Don Dario came to collect us in the morning to explore the sector known as Las Ardillas. It is a spectacular journey that runs between Puerto Ibáñez and Villa Cerro Castillo, a stretch of the national Trail of Chile, but still gloriously undiscovered by the masses. If you decide to take this route, definitely bring your camera and fishing pole, because the landscapes leave you speechless, and the road is accompanied by lagoons, lakes and streams for almost its entire expanse. Several people in the group wanted to try their luck fishing in these waters, so we had arranged to stay in the Cabanas Lago Tamango (www.lagotamango.com), located 19

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Day 18: Following the beautiful Las Ardillas Route

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km before Villa Cerro Castillo, on the shores of this beautiful lake. There are two cabins that can accommodate up to 11 people, a camping area and a quincho for barbecuing.

Day 19: Like nomads, making our way toward the campsite Ñires Today, after a beautiful and relaxing sunrise over the lake, we meandered our way toward Villa Cerro Castillo, beckoned by amazing views of the Cerro Castillo mountain range, getting bigger and more panoramic with every kilometer. Wow, we had really lucked out with the weather on this trip! Pure sunshine! Joining back up with the Carretera Austral, we took a short detour to the first school of the village, which has been completely restored and converted into a museum and historical center for archaeological research in the area. The Ibáñez River Valley has more than 80 archaeological sites from the Tehuelche and pre-Telhueche hunter-gatherer cultures. The Paredón de las Manos, located just 200 meters from the Old School and Museum, provides an excellent opportunity to get a closer look at this ancient culture of Patagonia. A short walk leads you to a wall with tons of hands painted around 5,000 years ago, by nomadic groups of adults and children. It was incredible to imagine groups of ancient peoples painting their art on these rocks and having us look in wonder, more than 5,000 years later. I wish they had left us more clues so that we could understand their strange art. We took many photos of this site to remember it well (of course without flash, in order not to damage them). We ended the day sleeping under the stars just like the first nomads who moved through this area (Okay, we had 3-season tents, but hey, that’s progress!). We stayed in the beautiful area of Camping Los Ñires (09) 92165009, right along the Carretera Austral, 10 km south of Villa Cerro Castillo. It is a tranquil site, set amongst the fields of a local family farm surrounded by native forest, with a Fogón, which, similar to a Quincho, allows for indoor cooking around an open fire pit, and we enjoyed wonderful bathrooms with hot showers.

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Today’s breakfast was one of the best of the entire trip! If guests want, they can ask Señora Rosa Chacano, the owner of this charming camping area, to prepare a feast for the morning. Nothing beats a savory farm fresh breakfast with scrambled eggs, homemade bread and preserves of a local plant called nalca. Go there and eat up! You can thank me later ;). We spent the early morning relaxing on the farm and playing with their animals and around 11:00, Rosa’s husband, Don Eleuterio Calfullanca, grilled out for us in the Fogón. (Don’t worry, we had plans for burning off all these calories we were eating!) The great food was followed by a small “fashion show” where Señora Rosa showed off her wool craftsmanship. As always, we were good and faithful customers, buying several items to take home and wear, helping us to fondly recall each of the amazing people we’ve met on this


trip. Then it was time to start our last big adventures and burn off all the calories we had been consuming. Again, we were dividing in two groups; one group, formed by Andy, me, and my brother-in-law’s family, would hike for four days in the mountains of the Cerro Castillo National Reserve, from the sector of Las Horquetas back to Villa Cerro Castillo. My in-laws and parents had agreed to take care of their grandson and had planned their own adventures. Don Dario took us to the trail head where we met our guides for the next four days, from Expediciones GeoSur, (www.geosurexpediciones.com), and after saying our goodbyes and wishing us luck with giant hugs, we separated from the others and headed deep into the forest. OUR ADVENTURES ON THE TRAIL

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It’s one thing to see this giant castle of rock and ice from afar, but something very different to see it up close, with all its details, its glacier and its impressive lagoon. Wow! I was enamored the whole way, but let’s take this one day at a time. The first day we walked from the area of Las Horquetas to the campsite of Río Turbio (16km!). We got a bit of a late start so it was a good thing we were traveling in the Chilean summer, when the days last almost 17 hours. The trail was mostly gentle slopes, passing old mountain farms used only in the summer months, but we did have to wade through streams on three different occasions. I have a history of blisters so I religiously took off my boots, slipped on hiking sandals, crossed the stream, dried my feet, and replaced my hiking boots. What a chore to do 3 times! But no, no, no, no, ladies and gentlemen, THIS time blisters will NOT take the fun out of my trek! After we put our boots on for the last time, we went to the Conaf shelter to register and pay the entrance fee, and then, a few kilometers later, we arrived at the campsite along the shores of the Turbio River. We pitched our tents and spent the twilight hours chatting with the guides while they prepared the best lentils that I have ever eaten in my life, (or maybe I was just really hungry?). The second day was shorter (8 km), but a lot harder. We hiked from the Turbio River Campsite up, up and more up until crossing El Penon Pass (1,460 m) that graced us with amazing views of hanging glaciers. Then, we slid down the snowdrift of El Penon and descended the pass, before ascending once more, through the woods, to reach our mid-mountain Bosque Campsite. The third day was 9 km, and the most intense of all, because of the huge rocks and stones we had to hike over, but mostly because of the fierce Patagonian wind! I think it was also my favorite day because we arrived at the sparling turquoise lagoon at the foot of Cerro Castillo’s spires with its impressive hanging glacier. A little beyond the lagoon, there was viewpoint overlooking the entire Ibáñez Valley, all the way to our dear friend, the Chelenko Lake, and Chile’s neighbor on the other side, Argentina. We ended the day with terrible wind gusts, forcing us to our knees to reduce our profile (advice from our expert guides), and I was happy when we arrived at the tree line where we were sheltered from the wind. We all arrived at the last campsite, Porteadores, completely spent!

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The last day was easier, hiking down the mountain under the cover of beautiful lenga forests until we reached a small gravel road that leads up to Villa Cerro Castillo (10km). We were an awesome group; everyone tried their best and got along great! We were also VERY happy to have contracted local guides who knew the area and the route, because it is not an easy hike at all! THE ADVENTURES OF OUR PARENTS

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There is no need to be a backpacking expert to explore Cerro Castillo’s magnificence, and our parents proved that! On the first day they hired a horseback guide, Senderos Patagonia (they’re on Facebook or www.aysensenderospatagonia.com). They met the owners, Señora Mary Brys and her gaucho husband, Don Cristian Vidal, in their lovely camping area and after a short demonstration on how to ride, they all took off on horseback towards the mountain of Cerro Castillo. Josh and my mom stayed behind, but were thoroughly entertained by the couple’s son, Benja, who happily shared all of his dogs, cats, chickens, and the like! They told us that it was an excellent day, riding slowly through the foothills of the mountains until reaching the National Reserve (protected by Conaf ). Here, they left the horses and began to walk in a zigzag pattern up the steep rock scree. It was a bit of a challenge for my mother-in-law, but afterwards, she was SO PROUD. Forty-five minutes later they had successfully climbed to the saddle of two mountains directly in front of the spires of Cerro Castillo. Each of them said the hike was absolutely worth it, and they arrived at the same overlook of the Ibáñez Valley that we had on day three of our trekking, and hiked a tiny bit further to an overlook of the same turquoise lagoon. How awesome that they were also able to see this beautiful place! They liked the experience so much, that they decided to stay the night in the Senderos Patagonia Refuge, and do another ride the next day, riding back to the cabanas that we all loved so much at Lago Tamango. This time my mom rode with the group and my mother-in-law went with Josh and Don Dario, following the group in the bus and joining up with the others in Tamango, to see their photos and share stories of their adventures along the route. The third day, the men went fishing and Don Dario (I swear, he knows everyone!) surprised the women and my little guy with an invitation to visit the El Franco Farm, and Señora Oclidia Sandoval, known fondly as the Señora “Tati”. Apparently she is a personal friend of Don Dario’s family, and although she doesn’t work in tourism, she is well-known for her charming gaucho-style hospitality and her excellent home cooked meals. She taught the group how to prepare a delicious chicken Cazuela, or stew, made with polenta and veggies from her garden. The next day, our parents left the cabanas and we reunited in Villa Cerro Castillo for a final night of camping and celebration of this mega family adventure. We checked out another local camping area, Baqueanos de la Patagonia (www. baqueanosdelapatagonia.cl), located in the Villa, on the gravel road of Bernardo O’Higgins S/N, in the sector of the Bosque Stream. Of course, we celebrated our monumental


trip with a giant asado al palo in COMPLETE gaucho style. Señora Loreto and Don Claudio Sandoval were excellent hosts, sharing stories of their own adventures, and we really enjoyed their quaint farm and quincho. It was the perfect way to start to say goodbye to our beloved Patagonia.

Day 24: There is always a little nostalgia and a longing to return In the morning, Señora Loreto prepared a delicious breakfast to send us on our way. After millions of hugs, group photos, and commitments to maintain contact and return, we loaded the flock into Don Dario’s minibus for the return trip through the Cerro Castillo National Reserve to the airport in Balmaceda, and our first leg of the long flight home. Everyone was pretty quiet along the way, in fact, the minibus was a bit tense with the pressure of all of our quiet contemplation. Now, back in our own homes and apartments, the memories and great times we had flood through my mind a million times a day. I know it will be a trip that none of us (especially Josh!) will ever forget. The farewell with Don Dario in the airport was super sad, because he was a true companion, and became an integral member of this great family of travelers. Dearest Don Dario, please keep in touch, OK? Now, after five trips through Aysén in ten years, I feel like my life has been truly blessed with the immense privilege of entering the doors to so many homes, and quinchos, and natural wonders, in each area of this unique and amazing region. I think I have experienced the essence and differences within each of them, and learned much about their authenticity and unique value. Of course, I am sure that this tremendous corner of Patagonia has infinite secrets and beauties still to be discovered. I look forward to the opportunity when once again, my feet touch this rich soil and I can continue to explore this amazing region called Aysén!

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BACKPACK YOUR WAY TOWARD CERRO CASTILLO’S TOWERS AND ICE

Cerro Castillo has become one of the most famous mountains in the Aysén Region, thanks to its tremendous beauty and awesome spires, which resemble a medieval stone castle. There is a fantastic four-day backpacking route that weaves through the passes to the base of the towers before dropping down into the tiny village below. Over the past several years, it has become one of the most popular and highlighted treks in Patagonia; one you probably don’t want to miss! After paying a visit to Cerro Castillo you’ll undoubtedly agree: from afar, this mountain is impressive, but experiencing it up close and personal, touching its glaciers, hiking beneath the needles of rock and swimming in its aquamarine lagoon, leaves you speechless! This Patagonian icon is located within the Cerro Castillo National Reserve, where the hiking trails provide the route for intimate encounters with the mountain and its landscapes, dominated by forests, rivers, hanging glaciers, crystal waterfalls, and native flora and fauna. For now, it’s still fairly uncommon to encounter a lot of other hikers along the way, but this circuit is well on the way to becoming one of the most famous in Patagonia, ranking amongst epic hikes like those in Torres del Paine, El Chaltén and the Dientes del Navarino.

But before hitting the trail, PLEASE consider these useful tips. CHELENKO AREA 288

At this stage of your trip you’ve probably come to realize that the weather in Patagonia is extremely variable. In the mountains it is even more extreme and should be treated with preparation and respect. In Patagonia, the mountains are the boss, not you, and one can never tell when a snow squall could change your plans. You have to be willing to make unexpected changes in your itinerary, by shortening your route or even having to cancel the hike altogether. No matter the season and time of year, it is very likely that you will experience sun, rain, snow and wind. Sometimes all at the same time! Secondly,


please note that this is not a trek for beginners. Walking through this reserve involves river and stream crossings (many), thick forests, and high alpine valleys (including a steep mountain pass) where you’ll be exposed to all the risks and furies of the Patagonian climate. Some of the trails are established and well marked and in other sectors, you won’t see a single trace. If you have trekking experience, good navigational skills, and all the appropriate equipment, you won’t have a problem hiking this circuit on your own. Make sure you have a good map, (some of the outfitters in Coyhaique sell topographical maps or you can obtain an official CONAF map of the area), and a few surplus days in case you encounter unexpected weather or need to go slower than you thought. Don’t worry if you’re new to trekking or wish you were in a bit better physical condition, or lack the proper equipment, (good tents and a camp stove are musts). Simply give one of the local professional guides who work in the area a call.

Day 1 - Las Horquetas – Turbio River Camp (16 km). The trail starts in the sector

known as Las Horquetas, along the Carretera Austral (68 km from Coyhaique). The initial trail follows an old logging road still used by local gauchos to herd their animals to the valleys during the summer months, thus make sure you close any gates as you pass through their farms! You’ll alternate between forested areas that were burnt in wildfires that swept the area decades ago, and vibrant lenga forest, all the while bordering a crystal-clear stream that you’ll wade across on three occasions. The crossings are shallow but you should wear sandals so that your hiking boots don’t get soaked. After walking approximately 14 km, you’ll arrive at the Conaf shelter and post, where you will register and pay the National Reserve’s entrance fee. Two kilometers further you’ll find the Turbio River Camp, where you can assemble your tent, cook dinner and appreciate a well-deserved rest.

Day 2 – Turbio River Camp - Bosque Camp (8 km). The second day of this hike

starts along the river that flows down from the Turbio Glacier. Little by little you’ll climb, first through forests, and then along a steep section of rock scree to cross the saddle of El Peñón (1,460 m). Depending on the time of year, you may be crossing this section on

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They are awesome! In fact, no matter who you are, we recommend hitting the trails of this reserve with a guide; you’ll have a more relaxed trip without the need to worry about logistics or carry all the gear, and working with a local guide allows you the chance to discover all the secret details of these landscapes. Each of the guides has their own version of this hike, with special places to show you and preferences on where to stop and where to camp along the way. A lot will depend on your experience and the condition of the terrain. The following four-day, threenight itinerary is based on the route that we hiked with Cristian Solis, owner of GeoSur Expediciones, (www.geosurexpediciones. com), a regional company with more than 10 years of experience offering guided trekking expeditions in the area.

TRAVELERS’ TIPS Although it is tedious to take your boots off every time you have to cross a river, we assure you that if you don’t, you’ll end up regretting it! Hiking with wet shoes is almost a guarantee for having blisters later on!

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snow, but one thing is certain, your legs will be ready for a break upon reaching the next campsite! Luckily, the views are incredible, offering a great excuse to stop and catch your breath while photographing the magnificent glaciers of the Cerro Castillo range, which seem just an arm’s reach away. This is also a great spot to view condors drifting and gliding through the peaks. Once you’ve descended from El Peñón, the trail borders the Peñón Glacier Stream for a while, during which you’ll get your first amazing views of the “castle” before climbing a bit more through the woods to your camp.

Day 3 – Bosque Camp - Porteadores Camp (9 km). You’ll start day three with a strong initial climb along the banks of the river that pours down from the Cerro Castillo Glacial Lagoon, until you reach a small plateau at the base of the “Castle” itself. Once you’ve had a break (and filled your camera’s memory card), you’ll begin to climb the moraine surrounding the lagoon to an overlook

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In this sector, as in all high-mountain areas, you need to be aware of the weather and be prepared for rapid changes. If you encounter a day with extreme wind or heavy storms, consider remaining on the lagoon side of the mountain with your tent pitched until the conditions improve. If you are already descending and are hit with strong gusts, (as often happens when crossing mountain passes), squat down to make your profile as small as possible and cover your head and ears. Take advantage of the time between gusts to progress slowly and carefully, until you reach the tree line and are out of the open.

TRAVELERS’ TIPS The landscapes of the Cerro Castillo Reserve are completely different under winter’s deep blanket of snow and the adventure moves to the ice and snow. Trekking boots and poles are exchanged for ice axes, crampons, snowshoes or backcountry skis, as adventure lovers take advantage of the abundant amount of snow and ice in the reserve, especially in the Ibañéz Pass. The annual Ice Fest is held in this area, with events including “tele” or backcountry skiing, snowboarding, and ice climbing. Amateur and expert climbers from Chile and abroad, gather in the pass to scale the frozen Bombacha Waterfall, which is approximately 50 meters high and five meters across. Average winter temperatures are -13 °C in the day and -30 °C at night, so it’s just a matter of hours before the waterfall freezes and a demanding wall of ice forms. so spectacular, we swear you won’t want to leave. The mountain seems so close you can almost touch it and provides a perfect contrast for the turquoise lagoon as you listen to the sound of ice sliding down the mountain and shattering into the water. The trail continues along the rocky terrain to a vantage point that (on a cloudless day), shows the entire Ibañéz Valley, all the way to General Carrera Lake and Argentina. You’ve really got to see it to believe it. Next, you’ll cross the saddle of Cerro Castillo (1,600 m), and begin a slow descent back to the forest and the Porteadores Camp, accompanied by impressive views of Cerro Palo.

Day 4- Porteadores Camp - Villa Cerro Castillo (10 km). The descent to Villa


Cerro Castillo begins by bordering the edge of the Parada River Canyon, where you’ll have excellent panoramic views of the Ibañéz River and Valley. You’ll exit the reserve walking through a typical Patagonian ranch, amongst grazing sheep and cows, and then hike back to town along a rural road.

OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: Backpacking. »»Start: Cerro Castillo National serve, Las Horquetas Sector.

Re-

»»Finish: Villa Cerro Castillo. »»Distance: 43 Km. »»Duration: Four Days – three

nights, according to this itinerary. The trek can range from three to six days.

»»Seasonality: December to March »»Special Considerations: The trail has

There are several regional companies that offer this trek. It is important to choose a guide with significant experience working in the reserve, good equipment, practice hiking in adverse weather conditions, and training in first aid and search and rescue. Some options include:

Cristian Solis, Expediciones GeoSur – Coyhaique: Simón Bolívar 521; (067) 2221990 - (09) 92648671; www.geosurexpediciones.com; cristian@geosurexpediciones.com Cristian Vidal and Mary Brys, Senderos Patagonia - Villa Cerro Castillo: Carretera Austral s/n; Km 100; (09) 62057166 - (09) 62244725; senderospatagonia@ gmail.com Hugo Castañeda, Alma Patagónica Expediciones – Coyhaique: Ignacio Serrano 621; (09) 76183588; cont ac to @ almapat agonic a .cl; www.almapatagonica.cl Manuel Medina, Aventura Tehuelche – Coyhaique: Pimpinela 723; (09) 84118736; aventuratehuelche@gmail.com; www.aventuratehuelche.cl

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several technical areas, including two mountain passes. There are stream crossings and areas where you’ll hike over rock scree. Not all the sections along the trail are well marked. Campsite infrastructure includes rustic latrines and fire rings. You need to carry all necessary equipment to be self-sufficient. We recommend technical trekking equipment: a 4 season tent, layered technical clothing (rain gear, gaiters, etc.), trekking poles, a personal first aid kit, a gas stove for cooking and enough food for extra days, in case of a change of plans. Don’t forget gloves, brimmed and wool hats, sunglasses and sunscreen.

»»Reservations:

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REACH THE TOWERS OF CERRO CASTILLO IN GAUCHO STYLE

The jagged ice covered peaks of Cerro Castillo are one of the most awe-inspiring sites in the Region of Aysén. This great horseback ride gets you up close to the base of the towers where the panoramic views of the Ibáñez River Valley are unsurpassed; from here you’ll walk toward its hanging glaciers and amazing turquoise lagoon. Cerro Castillo National Reserve is one of Aysen’s icons; renowned for great hiking, stunning scenery, amazing forests, turquoise waters, hanging glaciers and above all, tremendous towers that call out to the best mountaineers worldwide.

You don’t have to mountain climb or hike a lot to explore Cerro Castillo’s marvels. There are horse trips to some of the most beautiful areas in this “don’t miss” National Reserve and you don’t need to be a proficient rider or even have prior experience on horseback. You just need to have an adventurous spirit, average levels of physical fitness and a good pair of hiking shoes for the short, but relatively steep hike at the end of the ride. You’ll saddle up in the gaucho town of Villa Cerro Castillo, situated 110 km south of Coyhaique, at the base of the Reserve. We recommend that you stop in town to have a bite at one of the local restaurants or explore the shops; it’s an interesting place to chat with locals and hear their stories about the mountain and its many adventures.

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The Villa is filled with gaucho heritage and their horse treks are based on these same traditions. The classic route is offered daily by most operators and includes a six-hour combination of horseback riding and hiking to the Cerro Castillo Glacier Lagoon at the base of the spirals and towers. The adventure leaves from the Villa along an old tropero (cattle-herder) route and gradually climbs the mountain’s slopes winding through a private farm. The trails are narrow, so you should always be alert to the terrain, your horse, and your


NOTE How to choose the correct horse guide: Before choosing your operator, we recommend checking out their farms and facilities, first hand. Here are four important criteria to choosing a good horse guide in Cerro Castillo and other sectors throughout Patagonia:

»»Registration:

Focus on the horseback riding providers who are registered as Adventure Tourism Operators with Sernatur; www.sernatur.cl.

»»Condition and health of the hors-

es: How can you tell the difference? Observe the horses at the operator’s facility. Generally, the space between the ribs should not be very noticeable, the hooves should be shod and the hair should be bright and smooth. Ask your provider how many trips each horse does in one day. If they answer more than one, check them out a little more carefully.

»»Quality of the guides: A good op-

erator should have horse guides who are adults, with the ability to provide first aid and a minimum of 5 years working with horses and with clients who have a variety of different experience levels. Furthermore, it’s important that guides should be able to clearly communicate with their clients in their native language.

»»Adequate

guide’s instructions. The higher you ride, the more panoramic (and incredible) your view of the Ibáñez River Valley. After about an hour of riding you’ll encounter the El Bosque Stream, which you will follow until you reach the National Reserve’s boundary. Here you’ll will leave your horses and continue on foot. It’s a one-hour trek that follows a series of switchbacks climbing up the rock scree of the

Here, you’ll stop for photos, a rest, and a light snack, before finishing walking back down to your waiting horses and completing the circuit back to Villa Cerro Castillo. We suggest working with guides who offer a traditional Patagonia-style asado al palo at the end of the ride. Many have beautiful camping areas or quinchos where you can relax and chow down while sharing stories, photos, and experiences with your guides and the

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Equipment: It’s important that your provider has suitable equipment that is in good condition, such as the saddles, reins, half-chaps, blankets, radios and first-aid kit.

Reserve to a height of 1,500 meters. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with unforgettable views in all directions; at your back you can see the entire Ibáñez River valley, all the way to Lago General Carrera and on a clear day, to Argentina. In front, you can see every detail of the mountain, its basalt spires touching the sky and its glacier toppling down from the peaks. From here, the trail flattens out for the final stretch, ending at an overlook of the vividly turquoise Cerro Castillo Glacier Lagoon, formed by glacial melt and colored by sediments carried down from the tips of the spires.

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rest of the group.

while riding through remote backcountry wilderness, untouched by the modern world. You’ll also have the opportunity to stretch your legs, hiking up to a hanging glacier so remote, they haven’t even given it a name.

Looking for a horse trip that’s a little less usual? If you want a horse trip that’s a little less routine, there are many other routes that explore the Cerro Castillo Sector. For example, Senderos Patagonia, located at the end of the pavement along the Carretera Austral, offers these options:

uuIbáñez

River Route: This three hour horse trip follows the Ibáñez River and Valley along the base of Cerro Castillo. Excellent photo opportunities!

uuRivers

to Mountains Expedition, Torres de Avellano sector: This is a three day, two night trip, passing through local farms and gaucho outposts in the remote valleys between Cerro Castillo and Lago General Carrera. You’ll share traditional rural customs like drinking yerba mate and cooking beside the fire,

OVERVIEW

»»Activity

»»Start: Villa Cerro Castillo. »»End: Villa Cerro Castillo. »»Distance: Approximately 10 Km. »»Duration: Six hours, round trip. »»Seasonality: December – March »»Special Considerations: For half

Type: Horseback riding and hiking in Cerro Castillo

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day horseback rides, personal equipment should be carried in a small backpack, including base, insulating and waterproof layers, a fleece hat, sunglasses and sunblock, camera, personal medicines, and a bottle of water. We also suggest taking a snack for the hiking portion, though some operators will provide one if you ask in advance. Riding equipment like half-chaps and helmets are provided by most tour operators.

»»Reservations: In town there are var294

ious operators, each with distinctive circuits and standards:

• •

Al Galope la Araucaria (Felidor Sandoval) - Villa Cerro Castillo: Los pioneros 962; (09) 76611709; cabalgatacastillo@gmail.com; mcmarciacarrasco@gmail.com. Baqueanos de la Patagonia (Loreto y Claudio Sandoval) - Villa Cerro Castillo: Camino sector Arroyo el Bosque; (09) 65136226 - 78988550; contacto@baqueanosdelapatagonia. cl. Cabalgata Aventura (Albanio Sandoval) – Sector Alto Puerto Ibáñez: Km 100, Camino Puerto Ibáñez; (09) 87459266 - 98787565; cabalgataventura@live.com. Cabalgata El Gauchito (Juan Villagran) - Villa Cerro Castillo: Fundo la Porfía; pelusita87@gmail.com. Senderos Patagonia (guía regional Cristian Vidal y Mary Brys) – Cerro Castillo: Carretera Austral s/n; (09) 62244725 - 82386972; senderospatagonia@gmail.com


A TREMENDOUS LEGACY AWAITS YOU IN VILLA CERRO CASTILLO

The tiny village of Cerro Castillo has a tremendous legacy to share, beginning more than 5,000 years ago with the indigenous Tehuelches who left their prints embedded in the rocks near town. Thousands of years later, settlers arrived full of dreams for building new lives at the base of these beautiful towers. Today, their descendants honor their rich gaucho legacy pioneering new adventures and heights. Villa Cerro Castillo is located at the base of one of the most majestic mountains of Patagonia. Each morning, villagers have the privilege of opening their doors and greeting their very own mountain with its rich green forests and enormous, snow-capped towers. Local legend says that if you stare long enough you will even be able to see the wise ancient face who watches over the town from the snow and rock.

Modern life in Villa Cerro Castillo is much more comfortable. Electricity, drinking water, the Carretera Austral, internet, telephones, and new opportunities to work in a tourism industry that is growing by leaps and bounds... These

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Many of the Villa’s inhabitants are descendants of pioneers who came to the area around a century ago, working with livestock companies that were established in AysÊn or looking for new opportunities. These settlers and their families had to be self-reliant, because in these years there were no roads, no stores, and definitely no cell phone coverage! The harsh Patagonian climate and rugged landscapes rule above all, and they had to be strong to survive. They worked extremely hard to build viable sheep and cattle ranches and to breed renowned mountain horses that were capable of supporting their work. Years later, they began to experiment and diversify their operations with the addition of goats. And through it all, they worked diligently to build a community, to obtain basic services, and to build a better life for their families.

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are only a few of the modern comforts that have arrived in this gaucho community. And while these comforts are welcomed, they put traditional ways of life at risk. For example, don’t be surprised if you see a rider on horseback in full gaucho attire, herding cattle with his sheepdogs while checking out his Facebook on his smart-phone in the middle of the Carretera Austral! The important thing is that despite the changes, the people of Cerro Castillo continue to connect their lives with farming, following the cycles and rhythms of the seasons, maintaining a lifestyle connected to the land, learning and teaching the gaucho ways of life. They cherish their heritage and fight to keep their traditions alive, sharing their stories with pride. You’ll find this evident in the sculptures throughout town, like the gaucho drinking yerba mate next to the playground, and the first pioneer with his sheepdog in the entrance; both faithful reflections of Cerro Castillo and its culture and values.

An antique school becomes a modern museum Just moments from town you’ll discover another great example of how Villa Cerro Castillo is seeking to maintain its roots as

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it builds its future. Follow the Carretera Austral south and take the first turn to the left after the bridge over the Ibañéz River. Drive for approximately one km to the site of Villa Cerro Castillo’s first school, which has recently been restored and recognized as a National Monument. This impressive two-story building was built by the Villa’s settlers in 1955 and operated for 16 years. Its original construction used traditional materials and building techniques. For example, its outer walls were made of brick, the floor and rafters hand hewn with axes from enormous tree trunks, and the spectacular roof was constructed with “tejuela” wood shingles, each hand carved. After years of neglect, the school was recently restored and inaugurated in January 2014 as a museum. Today, you can tour this beautiful building which has a new future educating visitors about the colonization of the Ibañéz valley and the first inhabitants of the area, groups of hunters and gatherers who roamed and hunted in these

TRAVELERS’ TIPS When you visit the Old School Museum, don’t forget to walk out to the overlook and admire the landscape where you’ll have a panoramic view of Cerro Castillo, the Ibañéz River and even, the Hudson Volcano. And while you there, want to know a secret? While you may not see them, there are archaeologists and scientists working in the lower office, just below your feet, meters away! Seriously, right below you, how cool! This overlook is built on top of the offices and laboratories of the curators, archaeologists and scientists whose work is investigating the over 80 recorded sites of the original inhabitants of the area.


lands more than 5,000 years ago!

Follow the Tehuelches’ lasting imprints The Ibañéz River Valley is one of the most important archaeological settings in central Patagonia. Scientists have recorded approximately 80 archaeological sites within the Valley and almost half of them contain prehistoric art. There are vestiges of the Tehuelche culture in the entire General Carrera Lake basin, especially in this sector; however, most sites are yet unstudied and are not open to the public. So, the Paredón de las Manos site, located only 200 meters from the Old School Museum, is an excellent opportunity to get a bit closer to this ancient Patagonian culture and see the traces left by the Tehuelches. It’s a short walk from the Old School Museum to Paredón de las Manos site, a rock wall protected under an overhang, where you will find the hand prints of adults and children, dating back approximately 5,000 years before present-day. The Tehuelches’ artistic style was constantly evolving: the oldest paintings depicted hunting scenes of guanacos, such as the painting seen in Chile Chico. Later, as in these paintings, they began to depict hands, mixing positives (palms)

and negatives (outlines), as well as colors and sizes. In the later paintings they featured abstract figures. Often a single site featured a mixture of periods and styles. They painted with a mixture of dyes, including blood, which they put into their mouth and spit through a hollowed-out guanaco bone. Because of their careful choice of sites, most of their paintings are protected from the elements and have stood the test of time; in fact their biggest risk is from vandalism, which has tragically destroyed many sites and images!

OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: Historic tour of Vil-

la Cerro Castillo, the Old School National Historical Monument and Museum, and the Paredón de las Manos Archaeological Site.

»»Start: Villa Cerro Castillo. »»End: Villa Cerro Castillo. »»Distance: Approximately five meters.

kilo-

don’t leave the established trails in the Paredón de las Manos Archaeological Site. Flash photography is not permitted because the light is damaging to the paintings.

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»»Duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes. »»Seasonality: Year round »»Special Considerations: Please

»»Reservations:

No reservations required, however there is a small entrance fee for the Paredón de las Manos Archaeological Site.

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CELEBRATE SPRINGTIME IN PATAGONIA WITH A STALK OR TWO OF NALCA

Have you noticed a giant plant growing in the humid areas of the Region with long stems, or stalks, H-U-G-E umbrella-shaped leaves and crazy, red flowers that look like something straight out of the movie, Jurassic Park? They’re called nalca and their unique flavor makes them one of the favored traditions of spring. Nalca, also known as Pangue or Giant Patagonia Rhubarb, is an edible plant strongly rooted in the culture of Aysén, with gastronomic and medicinal traditions predating the modern era; reaching back to an earlier period when local inhabitants were even more closely linked with their natural environment. Each year in early spring, the nalca begin to sprout and by late November, deep dark green will fill the borders of the Carretera Austral, especially in the more humid areas. You’ll also find them bordering the coasts in Puerto Cisnes, Puerto Aysén, Puyuhuapi, Caleta Tortel and Puerto Yungay. The most common way to eat nalca in Aysén is in its natural form, without any preparation. Just peel the skin from the young stalks and enjoy; some locals will sprinkle a bit of salt, sugar or merquen, a traditional Mapuche condiment made from ground smoked chili peppers and corriander. Nalca is also used in a variety of recipes including salads, jams, preserves, ice creams, pastries and juices. There is even a version of Chile’s famous cocktail, the pisco sour, which is made with nalca rather than the typical lemon juice.

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The fibrous stalks of the nalca plant are used in most preparations, but the leaves are also used in various ways. In Melinka and Repollal Alto, the leaves are used in the preparation of smoked mussels and in curanto, a popular dish that was brought to the sector from Chiloe and enjoyed through the Guaitecas and in many other areas of the Region. In both of these preparations, the enormous leaves of the nalca are used to cover the ingredients, which are steamed or smoked underneath. Their giant mass helps keep the vapors and smoke from escaping, locking all of the delicious flavors inside. The nalca plant has many other interesting properties and uses; the leaves are boiled into a strong


RECIPE FOR CANNED NALCA IN LIGHT SYRUP (FOUR 1/2 QUART JARS) Preparing the nalca:

The syrup: »»Ingredients: • 2 cups of granulated sugar. • 4 cups of water. • 4 sterilized 1/2 quart canning jars (460 ml)

»»Preparation:

First, sterilize the canning jars. Within an hour of filling, you will need to sterilize the jars by placing them (empty) in a large

In a clean pot, heat the water and sugar to a boil, allowing the sugar to completely dissolve, then set aside to cool. Place the nalca slices (or cubes) in the jars in an organized manner so as to maximize the volume of fruit and incorporate the syrup (approximately 1 cup of liquid for each jar). Cover the jars and put them in a large pot with cold water (the water should completely cover the jars by at least 5 cm, heat the water and let it boil for 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool. Afterwards, remove the jars and store in a cool place. It’s time to enjoy! Don’t forget to save a few jars for those days when you are craving a bit of Patagonian Springtime.

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Before beginning, a word of advice… when working with nalca, you should use wooden or stainless steel utensils (knives, colanders, etc.), so as to avoid discoloring the stalks (the nalca becomes black when it comes in contact with other metals). First, peel the outer skin of the nalca stalk, removing the spines and the veins. Then, slice the nalca in thin discs (1cm) or chop it into small cubes, wash well with cold water, and drain in a colander.

pot and completely covering with water. Bring to a full, rolling boil and allow the jars to bath for at least 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and fill. Note: Do not boil the canning lids as this can harm their seal; add them to the hot water when the jars have finished boiling after you turn off the heat.

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concentrate and used as a natural dye for wool, and the root and the stem are used in homeopathic healing to clot blood, to wash wounds, to heal mouth and throat infections, and for stomach problems.

Señora Rosa Chacano, owner of Camping Los Ñires, located ten kilometers south of Villa Cerro Castillo, is one of the Region’s experts in the preparation of nalca. Situated in the midst of native forest and pure tranquility alongside the Carretera Austral, this oasis is a welcoming discovery for travelers who need to recharge their batteries with a good night’s sleep in a quiet camping area, be revitalized by a hot shower, or be energized with a hearty breakfast of fresh baked bread just out of the oven and, of course, her famous canned nalca, preserved in a light syrup. And that’s only the beginning of several more surprises: asados al palo in their cozy Fogón, hand-dyed and woven woolen crafts, fresh vegetables and fruits, and hiking to a Tehuelche rock-art site, hidden deep within their land. If you time your visit with the arrival of

spring, (October or November), you can accompany Don Eleuterio Calfullanca, Rosa’s husband, in the search for nalcas and afterward, assist Señora Rosa in the kitchen as she prepares her recipe for Canned Nalca in Light Syrup. Look for the most tender stalks available, ideally when the stalk has reached a good height but the leaves are still closed (like a closed umbrella). The best nalca can be found in damp places, swampy areas, or on the banks of streams and rivers, in sandy soils. Remember that Chile’s National Parks and Reserves prohibit the extraction of plants.

OVERVIEW »»Activity Type: Collection of native plants, gastronomy and rural farm life.

»»Start: Camping Los Ñires. »»End: Camping Los Ñires or in your own home, when you’re nostalgic for a bit of Aysén.

»»Distance: You can find nalca alongside the Carretera Austral near Camping Los Ñires.

»»Duration: 1 hour of preparation. »»Seasonality: October - November,

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but you can visit Señora Rosa and Don Eleuterio Calfullanca year round.

»»Special Considerations:

You don’t need to collect a lot of nalca for this recipe. One or two stalks is sufficient.

»»Reservations:

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You can contact Señora Rosa in Camping Los Ñires: El Manso Sector, 10 km south of Villa Cerro Castillo; (09) 92165009 - 92936679; rosachacano@hotmail. com.


EXPLORE THE UNDISCOVERED LANDSCAPES OF THE ARDILLAS ROUTE

This 45 km country road connecting Villa Cerro Castillo and Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez, is one of the best kept secrets of the Chelenko Area. Grab your camera and a fishing pole and head to the beautiful landscapes of the Ardillas Route for a great 1/2 day of car or bike touring. Even after the Sendero de Chile Foundation (www.senderodechile.cl), elected this route as one of the sections of its national trail for exploring Chile, it’s still an undiscovered gem: most travelers have no idea of its existence and until now, it hasn’t been emphasized on maps. Pristine, beautiful and rarely crowded, the Ardillas is an ideal route to travel by bicycle or car, with incredible panoramic views of the Cerro Castillo range, access to three beautiful lakes, the possibility of visiting rural farms and cabanas, and the Salto de Ibañéz, a true whitewater spectacle near where the Ibáñez River joins the Levicán Peninsula.

From Villa Cerro Castillo you take the Carretera Austral toward the south.

Returning to the Carretera, you’ll continue south approximately six km from the crossing for the Paredón de las Manos, to Route X-723, which travels through the Claro Las Ardillas Sector, also known as Alto Río Ibañéz. The road is narrow, steep and

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Pass over the Chacono Bridge where you’ll catch glimpses of the Ibañéz River as it forms a narrow tunnel between walls of rock, flowing with tremendous force toward the Salto de Ibañéz, a famous waterfall near Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez. Five hundred meters further south, you can take a short break and visit one of the most important archaeological sites in the region: the Paredón de las Manos, a 35 m high rock wall under the protection of an overhang where you’ll find rock paintings dating back approximately 5,000 years. The paintings were formed by Tehuelche adults and children, who used a mixture of natural dyes, mostly in red, to paint “outlines”, or negatives of their hands; they put the paint into their mouth and blew it onto the rock through a hollowed-out guanaco bone.

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OVERVIEW »»Activity Type: Car or bike touring on scenic secondary roads.

»»Start: Villa Cerro Castillo. »»End: Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez. »»Distance: 45 km. »»Duration: 3 - 5 hours, including stops, or several days for those who fall in love with this area!

»»Seasonality:

Year round, depending on weather conditions and the road.

»»Special Considerations: Drive with

caution on the roads and use first and second gears up large grades. There are no mechanics or service stations along the route, so make sure you are auto-efficient and don’t forget to take a picnic!

»»Reservations:

Self-guided activity. Does not require reservations.

winding in this first stage, climbing through mature lenga forests. After 2.5 km, you will pass a traditional farm house along the right side, which marks the entrance to Las Ardillas Lake, one of the many great spots for taking photos.

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The route continues, passing through deep forests, open fields, and the shorelines of several lagoons before arriving at Tamango Lake, one of the main highlights of the route, especially on a clear day. This site is perfect for fishing or a picnic and THE spot to take that panoramic you’ve been waiting for of the entire Cerro Castillo mountain range. On clear and windless days, you can even capture this impressive mountain reflected in the waters of the lake. It will be hard to tear yourself away from these views, not to mention the lake shore! And if you just can’t, don’t worry! There are some great cabanas located right on the beach, where you can stay as long as you like, enjoying the views, testing your fishing skills, or visiting some of the private Tehuelche sites that are sprinkled

TRAVELERS’ TIPS If you want to stay in the area for a longer period of time, you can contact the Lago Tamango Cabanas, Alto Río Ibáñez Sector s/n, 19 km from Villa Cerro Castillo; (09) 99193708 – 93195627 - 98136634; email: info@ lagotamango.com; www.lagotamango.com. There are two cabanas that can accommodate up to 11 people and a quincho for barbecues. throughout this sector (Lago Tamango Cabanas, www.lagotamango.com).

And this is just the beginning of the route! The road continues along cascading streams, waterfalls and lenga forests for another 7.5 km until you reach the farm called El Franco, home of Oclidia Sandoval, a local settler and artisan, whose friends call Señora Tati. Here you can access the great fly-fishing waters of Laparent Lake or visit the Señora Tati along the shores of Redonda Lagoon; both are equally great places to relax and enjoy the Patagonian landscape. From here, the road begins to gradually descend, following the course of the Claro River, known for its crystal clear waters. You’ll drive approximately 11 Km before reaching the intersection marking the road to the Peninsula Levicán (right), and to Puerto Ibáñez (left). Continue left, until you reconnect with the same river that you crossed over at the beginning of the route, this time at the Salto del Ibañéz. The Salto is a HUGE waterfall that plunges down over enormous boulders in three successive drops, crashing into the Ibañéz River delta near the Levicán Peninsula sector of General Carrera Lake. Excellent photographs are guaranteed here, but don’t forget to protect your camera from the wind and spray of the water! From here, it’s another five kilometers to reach the village of Puerto Ibáñez.


SEÑORA TATI’S SECRET REMEDY: FARM-RAISED CHICKEN AND POLENTA CAZUELA

Señora Oclidia Sandoval (Tati), a settler and artisan of the Claro Las Ardillas Sector, shares her secret Cazuela recipe that combines savory, farm-raised chicken, polenta, and delicious ingredients from her garden. The result? A hearty, flavorful soup capable of curing whatever ails you and filling you with wholesome energy, even on the coldest of Patagonia’s days. Between the waterfalls, lenga forests and unpredictable waters of Laparent Lake, adventurers exploring the Ardillas Route might encounter a very pleasant surprise: the perfect prescription for a tired body and a weary soul. Oclidia Sandoval, known fondly as Señora “Tati”, is one of the remaining gauchas of the Region who still practices traditional-style hospitality so, it’s not uncommon that weary travelers are invited into the house to warm themselves beside the wood-burning stove and try one of her culinary masterpieces, like farm-raised chicken and polenta Cazuela. Tati lives on the El Franco Farm, about halfway along the Ardillas Route, along the shores of the Redonda Lagoon. Although she doesn’t work in tourism, she has always shown Patagonia-style hospitality to weary travelers who are hiking or biking through the area and stumble upon her farm and the delicious foods she so fondly prepares.

But what exactly is her secret?

And, there is another vital element that accompanies Señora Tati when she is preparing this comforting Cazuela. Stop and listen to the sounds of the farm, a peaceful silence where the only interruptions are the song-

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Let’s start with the chickens, which have never been treated with chemicals or fed artificial foods to fatten them. They are freerange, eating from the farmland and drinking crystal clear water. There are no cages here; only a large coop for nights, to help protect them from foxes and other predators. Next we could list the organic vegetables, or the crystal clear Patagonia water – virtually all of the ingredients in this delicious Cazuela are natural and fresh.

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RECIPE FOR FARM-RAISED CHICKEN & POLENTA CAZUELA (6 PORTIONS) To feed six people, gather the following ingredients and find yourself a wood-burning stove heated with lenga wood:

»»Ingredients: • 1 medium onion, • • • • • • • • • CHELENKO AREA 304

• • •

sliced in large strips 3 large carrots, sliced 4 cloves of garlic, diced finely (but not minced!) 1/2 of a small green chili pepper, diced finely 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil 1/2 teaspoon of cumin 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper 1/4teaspoon of merquén (a traditional Mapuche condiment made from ground smoked chili peppers and coriander) 1 tablespoon of oregano One whole, farm-raised chicken, divided into six portions 1/4 of a small red or green pepper, diced finely 6 potatoes “cazueleras”, which means that they should fit in the palm of your hand 1 cup of polenta (in Aysén, this is often called chuchoca) Water Salt Cilantro or parsley

• • • »»Preparation:

In a large pot, add the onion, carrots,

garlic, green chili pepper, vegetable oil, cumin, pepper, merquen and oregano and sauté for a few moments. Add the chicken, salt (to taste) and the green or red pepper over this base of vegetables and spices. Stir to blend and saute a few minutes more to brown the chicken. Following the advice of our specialist, you should now cover the pot and shake it a bit to blend the flavors. Lower the heat and wait for the chicken to change colors, stirring the mixture to keep it from sticking or burning. Add a cup of boiling water over the mixture and simmer for another 5 minutes before adding more boiling water to cover the chicken and vegetables completely. Once the carrots are al dente, add the potatoes, more salt if needed and return to a medium heat to cook the ingredients well. When the Cazuela is almost ready, dissolve the polenta in a glass jar filled with cold water to keep it from becoming lumpy, and then, slowly add it over the soup, stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for around 10 minutes before serving. Ladle into individual bowls with portions of all ingredients and top with chopped cilantro or parsley - the smell will be irresistible! For true Patagonia style, you’ll want to serve your Cazuela with tortas fritas and fresh lettuce, picked from the garden and served with a dressing of vegetable oil, fresh lemon juice and salt - ¡Buen provecho! Let’s eat!


birds and the whispering of the wind. Gaze at the landscape around you dominated by massive rock walls that cascade down to the shores of the calm waters of the lagoon. After you’ve spent a few minutes to relish this calm and magnificent place, will you understand the true “secret” of why Señora Tati’s cooking is filled with love and passion.

OVERVIEW »»Activity: Gastronomy - Recipe for

making traditional chicken Cazuela.

»»Start: The best place to start is at

a farm in Patagonia but, if needed, you can find versions of these ingredients in any store or supermarket, both in Patagonia or in your own city.

»»End: With a houseful of happy faces and satisfied bellies.

»»Duration: Approximately 1 hour. »»Season: All year long, but it’s perfect for a cold, rainy day.

»»Special considerations: Try to obtain farm-raised chicken. The flavor is completely different!

»»Reservations:

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If you’re passing through this zone, you can visit Señora Tati at her farm, El Franco, 18 km before Puerto Ibáñez, near Laparent Lake and the Redonda Lagoon. In addition to being a great cook, she also knits hats, sweaters, and blankets for the foot of the bed, all from natural lamb’s wool.

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IN EL MAITENAL, THERE’S ENOUGH ROCK FOR EVERYONE!

Rock climbing in Patagonia is a treat for anyone who enjoys this sport, one of the most intimate ways to connect with nature. And at the end of the day, get ready to enjoy a cold, home-brewed beer, a Patagonian asado and great conversation amongst other climbers once you’ve completed your day of climbing. Lilian Henríquez and Gerard Dallman are a Chilean-German couple who arrived in the area with the desire to begin a new life based on sustainable tourism. This is what led them to build their climbing center, equipped with more than 40 climbing routes on the rock walls that surround their farm. With the amount of routes and the hospitality of Lili and Gerard, this awesome refuge for climbers is not to be missed. Some of the visitors to El Maitenal are experts looking to set new routes; others are recently joining the climbing world, but all agree that the feeling of reaching the top and taking a look around at the incredible panorama of forests, mountains, the Patagonian steppe, and the Levicán Peninsula, is almost indescribable. Many climbers return to explore new routes, proclaiming that El Maitenal has created one of the best equipped climbing areas in all of Aysén.

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The routes vary in difficulty, ranging from grades 5.7 and .12c, so be assured, there is a sufficient challenge for climbers of all levels. There are 30 to 35 set single pitch routes, with lengths not exceeding more than 20 meters or 9 bolts. Gerard and Lili have a file of each route’s topo that continues to grow with the addition of new challenges in this recently discovered climber’s paradise in Patagonia. To get there from Coyhaique, you need to take the Carretera Austral south and bear left towards Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez. Travel approximately 115 km, until you reach the intersection for the Levicán Peninsula, (2 km before the center of town). From this intersection, go 5 km and STOP (briefly), because you’ll find yourself face to face with the Salto de Ibáñez, where the Ibáñez River powers its way through boulders, creating a huge


waterfall that drops into two tributaries. Once you’re finished with your photo break, continue along this route for two kilometers more to the intersection for the Claro Las Ardillas Sector (right) and the Levicán Peninsula (left). Head left toward Levicán and in another 3 km, turn right into the El Maitenal Farm. The second gate is well marked with the name of the farm indicating that you’ve finally arrived at Lili and Gerard’s place.

TRAVELERS’ TIPS If you need gear, check out Suray Montaña in Coyhaique, Calle Prat #269; (67) 2234088; info.suraymontana@gmail.com.

You can also take public transportation: Head to the bus terminal in Coyhaique, located on the corner of Magallanes and Lautaro, where you’ll find buses leaving regularly for Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez. If you contact Gerard prior to leaving, you can arrange for him to pick you up when you arrive in Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez (for a fee). We highly recommend arranging to have an asado al palo and some home-brewed beers, at the end of the day – Gerard’s beer, Dallman, is prepared using a recipe straight from Germany!

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OVERVIEW

»»Activity

Type: Rock climbing on dense, compact, conglomerate rock with many types of diverse holds, including crimps and pockets. All routes are a single pitch in length.

»»Start: Coyhaique or Puerto Ingeniero

reserve your spot: Gerald Dallman (09) 83892832 or Lilian Henríquez (09) 85327680; lijiger@hotmail.com. Climbing guides in the area include:

Ibáñez

»»End: El Maitenal Farm »»Distance: From Coyhaique,

it’s approximately 125 km. From Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez, the farm is approximately 12 km.

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»»Duration:

1 day or however long you’d like to stay!

• •

»»Season:

Year-round, depending on the weather. The best months are September – May.

»»Special

Considerations: The majority of the routes have new bolts and chains, with single pitches no more than 20 meters. The central area of the farm is located approximately 10 minutes from the climbing area.

»»Reservations: Contact El Maitenal to

• •

Aventura Tehuelche – Coyhaique: Pimpinela 723; (09) 84118736; aventuratehuelche@gmail.com; www.aventuratehuelche.cl. Aventuraysen – Coyhaique: Road to El Claro s/n; Km 8; (09) 51193731; kabirbardi@hotmail. com; www.aventuraysen.com. Rumbo Patagón Limitada – Coyhaique: Camino Coyhaique Alto s/n, Km 10; (067) 2219710; (09) 99985637; info@rumbopatagon. com; www.coyhaiqueriverlodge. com. Marco Becerra – Coyhaique: Lautaro 798; (09)88251788; totekin7@gmail.com. Valeska Formantel – Coyhaique: Lautaro 798; (09) 91239376; vale. formantel@hotmail.com.


PLAY IN THE MUD WITH THE ARTISANS OF PUERTO IBÁÑEZ!

The village of Puerto Ingeniero Ibañéz is renowned for its talented artisans who hold the secrets to working with clay from the Levicán Peninsula, leather from local goat hides, and the ancient Tehuelche symbols that decorate their valleys. Keep your memories of this area alive by choosing your own piece of pottery or, better yet, join them in creating your own work of art. Father Antonio Ronchi is an integral person in the history of Aysén, with a legacy of helping local communities that stretches the entire length and width of the region. Puerto Ingeniero Ibañéz is no exception. In the 1970s, he worked with the women of this tiny pueblo to establish a new vocation that could contribute to the livelihood of their families. The group decided to develop a local pottery that would use materials from the natural environment.

Today, more than 25 years later, this traditional collection continues to be extremely popular and sought after, but the artisans of Puerto Ibañéz (which now include both women and men), have not rested on their laurels; they continue to innovate, with new molds and works, that are more modern and utilitarian, such as dinnerware and crockery,

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As they progressed with their art, they looked for new inspirations and Father Ronchi came to their assistance by bringing a renowned craftsman and designer, Pedro Isla, from Chillan, to help them create designs for their now famous pottery. During Don Pedro’s time in the community, the group defined their art’s character: decorative clay pieces called cacharros, which represent ancient urns and water pitchers. Don Pedro helped them incorporate additional local inspiration in their art, through the symbols from the ancient Tehuelches who roamed these valleys thousands of years ago, and the incorporation of skins from the goats raised in the area, to decorate the bases of the pieces. There are six cachorros in the “traditional collection” of Puerto Ibáñez: 1) the Caiquen Echado, 2) the Boleadora Criolla, 3) the Epulonco, 4) the Moyino, 5) the Caiquen Parado, and 6) the Boleadora Tehuelche.

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which incorporate the traditional designs but are coated with enamels and glazes for easy cleaning.

The workshops in Puerto Ibáñez include:

As you drive through Puerto Ibañéz along the main street, Father Antonio Ronchi Avenue, you’ll notice a large wooden sign displaying the location of many of the artisan workshops. You can walk the circuit between workshops and get to know the artists, who love to share their passion for their work and their latest creations. You can get a close-up view of the process of creating these handcrafts and even participate in part of the process, if you’d like. They will be happy to have you accompany them to the Levicán Peninsula, where they collect the clay and then return to their workshops to transform the raw material into the creamy mud that is used to fill the molds. You can also paint the design on your very own cacharro and then return later to collect your original work of art.

ARTESANÍA GLADYS (Diego Portales 453; Facebook: Artesania Gladys) Señora Gladys Alarcón has the fortitude and determination to load huge bags of clay, tan leather with her own hands, and measure out the exact lengths required for the manufacturing of her delicate cacharritos. Her talents with these pieces and her innovations with utilitarian ceramics have led to her being invited to conduct workshops in the Cultural Center of the Moneda in the Chilean capital. TALLER ARTE MANO (Luis Bolados 161) Señora Albertina “Betty” Chacano specializes in utilitarian and decorative ceramics in her workshop and learned from the masters, Pedro Isla and Bernardo Kelly. Her cacharritos are impeccable and the beauty and


originality of her dishes, ceramic glasses and vases, is equally impressive, each authentic works of art that can be used in everyday life. TALLER LAS MANOS (Luis Bolados 485; Hours: Monday – Saturday from 10:00 to 18:00; (09) 83668888; Facebook: Taller Las Manos de Marfa Aguila.) In the workshop of Señora Marfa Águila and Don Joel Vargas, you can see the entire artistic process for creating ceramics from beginning to end: preparation of the clay, filling of the molds, drying, painting, leather tanning and attachment. Joel was one of the first men in town to become an artisan in ceramics; today he and his wife focus full-time on their art, which has provided the means for affording higher education for their children. Joel has the same passion and mastery for his art as Marfa and is a great story-teller; together they are great teachers that will help you create your one-of-a-kind memory and souvenir.

ARTESANÍA MARINA (Carlos Soza 246) This is the workshop of Señora Eva Carrillo, a recognized local artisan who shares the teachings of her master, Pedro Isla, in the stories she recounts with visitors. Eva has represented the town of Puerto Ibáñez in national and international fairs. TALLER NUESTRA SEÑORA DEL TRABAJO (Padre Antonio Ronchi 359) Founded by Father Ronchi, this workshop was created with the lofty goal of increasing the household income for the 50 members who were involved in the original group. Today there are six women in charge of the workshop; in addition to pottery, they also offer beautiful leather and wool pieces.

OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: “Hands-on” tour of

the ceramics workshops in Puerto Ingeniero Ibañéz.

pending on your chosen route.

»»Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes, approximately.

»»Seasonality: Year round. »»Special Considerations: The major-

ity of shops and workshops close between 13:00 - 16:00 hours for lunch.

»»Reservations: Self-guided activity.

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»»Start: Puerto Ingeniero Ibañéz »»End: Puerto Ingeniero Ibañéz »»Distance: Approximately 2 km, de-

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COWBOY UP WITH GAUCHOSTYLE RODEO IN PUERTO IBÁÑEZ

The “Festival de Jineteadas y Tradiciones”, is Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez’s traditional annual folk festival, where the central attraction is a gaucho-style rodeo, known as jineteada. You’ll also find plenty of folk music, local foods, crafts, and traditional games like “truco” and “taba”. The Argentine influences woven into the heritage of this frontier community come through loud and clear during this festival, especially when it comes to the jineteada. Consider this your invitation to attend the Festival de Jineteadas y Tradiciones of Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez, which takes place the third weekend in January each year. The main event is gaucho style rodeo, called jineteada, when brave riders attempt to stay on hot-tempered, untamed horses for as long as they can. Expert riders from Chile, Brazil and Argentina compete in the events, seeking the recognition of their peers and spectators, with the hope of being the best bronc rider of the event.

They show up in ALL their gaucho attire ready to show off their riding skills in this test of wills.

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Not all of them are able to hold on, but absolutely every attempt is a true display of skill and tenacity and a fascinating glimpse of this longtime tradition. The play-by-play action is described by Patagonian style sports casters, called “payadores”, who wittingly improvise music and poetic verse to recount the action of the riders as their horses buck and leap, celebrating their resilience if they manage to hold on for eight eternal seconds and condoling them if they fall. Their style of music is called Milonga and both riders and spectators love to watch them work.

There are lots of other traditions and customs celebrated during the festival. For example, you can count on a huge community asado, which is the equivalent of a


cook-out but in this case, lamb is spit-roasted over the coals of a bonfire. For a festival such as this, you can expect to see 15 or 20 lambs slowly cooking throughout the day. Waiting around nearby is a good idea because, as soon as the asado is ready, you can bet it will disappear!

The game of Truco originates traditionally from Valencia and is very popular in many South American countries, having arrived with the conquistadors. It is a game of speculation, lies, and betting that uses Spanish playing cards, and if you didn’t grow up playing, it is almost impossible to learn or understand. If you have the opportunity to watch people playing and check out the poker faces

When the day finally ends, the fiesta moves to the town’s school gym, where there’s a gigantic community dance that includes everyone (babies, kids, moms and dads and even grandparents are on the floor). You’ll get to listen to the rhythms of regional and national bands and learn local dances like chamamé, cumbia, paso doble, waltzes, and the Chilean national dance, la Cueca.

The Celebration Continues! Summer is a time of celebration throughout the region of Aysén, with festivals and celebrations almost every week. It’s an excellent opportunity to experience local culture celebrating small-town heritage. Some of the most popular festivals include:

uu“La

Trilla como lo hacía mi abuelo” is a pioneer festival in Puerto Ibáñez held the last week of February each year to honor traditional horse-powered methods for threshing and flour-making. It is organized by a group of locals and offers the opportunity to celebrate this pioneer custom, listen to excellent folk music, and try out traditional foods.

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Other activities include traditional rural farm games like “Taba” and “Truco”, which are popular among the gauchos because they provide opportunities to bet, cheat and lie. The game Taba has been played since the colonization of Aysén and during festivals, it is as popular as ever. It is sort of like horseshoes but instead, two players take turns tossing a cow’s knuckle bone (the taba) across the playing area. Points are awarded or deducted according to the way in which it falls. Spectators and players take part in the betting and there are all kinds of traditional customs and shouts. You can bet on yourself, for or against your opponent, or basically on any other aspect. But, you aren’t really playing if you aren’t betting, so pay attention and learn the chants!

and banter among the players, some of them are very funny!

uu“La

Fiesta del Arreo de Bahía Murta” revives the traditional customs of herders and wranglers in a festival which includes demonstrations of

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TRAVELERS’ TIPS If you want information on all the traditional festivals throughout the region, contact the National Council for Culture and Arts in Aysén (21 de Mayo, 574, Coyhaique www. cultura.gob.cl/region/aysén/; (067) 2214841), or visit the websites of the 10 municipalities. You can also request information from the Tourist Information Offices, located in each town. herding and castrating animals, sheep shearing, asados, and dances. Truco, Taba and Rayuela are some of the local betting games you’ll see and in typical Patagonian style, they continue the festival indoors at night at the town’s school gym, where musical groups liven up the dances.

uuIn Puerto Río Tranquilo the “Encuen-

tro de Acordeón y Guitarra”, held the second weekend in February each year, gathers regional artists to celebrate traditional music of Patagonia. As one of the first traditional festivals of the region (13+ years and running), it has a long history and a loyal following.

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OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: Celebrate a Patagonian folklore festival

»»Start: Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez »»End: Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez »»Distance: Puerto Ibáñez is located 117 km southeast of Coyhaique.

»»Activity Duration: 2 days. »»Seasonality: The festival is held on the third weekend in January each year.

»»Special

Considerations: During the traditional festivals, the small towns of Aysén become popular tourist destinations. It is important to book accommodations beforehand if possible.

»»Reservations:

For more information on the festivals of this area, contact the Municipality of Río Ibañéz, located in Carlos Sosa 161, Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez. Contact: (067) 2423216; info@rioibanez.cl; www.rioibanez.cl.


SEARCH THE SHORES OF CHELENKO FOR DELICIOUS PICNIC TREASURES

In your journey through the region of Aysén, you’ll encounter a part of the world that has not yet been discovered by the fast food chains. Here there is a much better option, thanks to the fertile lands and micro climates of Puerto Ibáñez and Chile Chico, which yield spectacular fruits, vegetables and herbs, perfect for a gourmet picnic to accompany your adventures. Traveling around the region of Aysén involves long days on the road. Not so long ago, those days were spent on horseback and food was carried in saddlebags and eaten under a tree, at the side of a river, or perhaps, in a remote mountain post. Today it is very likely that your mode of transportation has wheels, but the distances are equally long, especially when the road borders giant General Carrera Lake.

Have you remembered snacks for the road? Lago General Carrera, known locally as Chelenko, is SO big that it generates winds and weather all on its own, resulting in various micro climates along its shores, where crops grow as if they were in the fertile valleys of California or central Chile. We propose that before traveling between the towns of Puerto Ibáñez and Chile Chico, you take a few minutes to visit the gardens, greenhouses and markets of the zone in search of the raw material for a 100% fresh, natural and delicious picnic.

Here, the magical micro climate produces all kinds of fruits, vegetables and herbs, despite being in the middle of Patagonia. Start with a visit to Las Paramelas (09) 99813498, a local farm where talent and love for the land is clearly demonstrated by the owners, Juana Vega and Ulysses Pereda. Head toward the airfield to reach this organic oasis where you will find the hand-craft-

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Your search for culinary treasure starts in the rich soils of Puerto Ibáñez.

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TRAVELERS’ TIPS The Womens’ Agricultural Club of Bahia Jara also sells its products in Chile Chico at an outdoor market, Wednesday mornings, on the south side of the supermarket, on the main street (Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins, 394). It’s a good opportunity to coordinate a visit to their farms and soak up the entrepreneurial spirit of these fearless women. ed greenhouses, filled with fresh aromas of herbs and vegetables that grow abundantly, thanks to the lush Río Ibañéz valley and to years of experimentation and experience. Señora Juana is an expert with the medicinal herbs of Patagonia and in her boutique you can learn which herbs will brew the best teas for what ails you, whether it’s sore muscles, a head cold, or insomnia. Out back in Don Ulysses workshop, you can find other artisan crafts including hand-made wicker baskets (perfect for holding your picnic supplies) and gaucho style knives, made using traditional techniques and materials of the region. Continue your gastronomical tour by heading to La Granja Municipal de la Agrupación de Horticultores, a community farm located on Carlos Soza Street, (067) 2423365. This community project uses innovative heat-

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ing techniques for greenhouses, resulting in delicious products including corn and tomatoes that can only be found in this part of Patagonia. End your harvest on this side of the lake, by visiting the other orchards and greenhouses located along the main road entering Puerto Ibáñez, just before the center of town.

With your gastronomic loot in hand, it is time to enjoy! Sailing aboard the new ferry “Tehuelche”, you can cross the bright turquoise blue waters of Chelenko in only a few hours, feeling the power of these waters with waves that will make you feel like you are at sea. When you get tired of taking photos and begin to get hungry, it is time to prepare your “tabla”, the Argentine version of a picnic, also known as a “picoteo”. Open your new wicker basket, draw out your gaucho knife, and garner all your culinary creativity. In Argentina, the popular way to serve a picnic is on wooden cutting board but Puerto Ibáñez offers an option a thousand times more interesting and authentic, one of the hand-made clay serving trays made by the local craftsmen in town, using the clay that is collected from the shores of the Ibáñez River. There is no


OVERVIEW

»»Activity Type: A search for decadent »»Reservations: treasures from the greenhouses, orchards and outdoor markets along the shores of Lago General Carrera.

»»Start: Puerto Ibáñez or Chile Chico. »»End: Chile Chico or Puerto Ibáñez »»Distance: The total length of the route is approximately 75 Km by bike or vehicle, with a two-hour ferry crossing of Lago General Carrera.

You’ll need reservations for the ferry, operated by the company, Sotramin. Tickets must be purchased in advance; they are not sold aboard the ship. You can view itineraries and purchase tickets Online: www.sotramin.cl. You can also buy tickets at their offices:

»»Duration: Approximately 5 - 6 hours,

»»Seasonality: Year round »»Special Considerations:

including the lake crossing.

Be sure to take sunscreen, sunglasses and clothing layers; the area is very sunny and windy, especially in summer.

written rule for preparing your tabla, it all depends on the tastes of your group and the local treasures that you’ve discovered. Once armed, the idea is to share with your entire group, enjoying a simple meal, family style, while you sail across General Carrera.

Chile Chico, located on the south bank of Lago General Carrera, is known as the “City of the Sun”.

If you would enjoy the opportunity to walk around the farms and pick your own treasures right off the trees, head a few kilometers out of town to the Bahía Jara valley, located 17 km to the west of Chile Chico on the way to Puerto Guadal. Here, amongst

photogenic landscapes, the women of the Womens’ Agricultural Club of Bahia Jara maintain family farms, orchards and greenhouses where they produce delicious fruits, jams, preserves, cheeses, herbs, crafts, and much more. You can visit them, tour the orchards and greenhouses, and take away some of their delicious goodies to enjoy during your time on this side of the lake.

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Its pleasant temperatures and abundant sunny days produce some of the sweetest cherries, peaches, apricots and pears in the world. Yes, the world! Several countries in Europe and Asia import cherries produced in Chile Chico and we are confident that you, too, are going to love them!

Baquedano 1198 - Coyhaique; (067) 2237958; coyhaique@sotramin.cl. Port Terminal, Chile Chico; (067) 2411003; chilechico@sotramin.cl. Port Terminal, Puerto Ibañéz, General Carrera 202, Waterfront; (067) 2526992; ptoibanez@sotramin.cl.

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A WALK THROUGH TIME IN CHILE CHICO, THE CITY OF SUN

The sunny streets of Chile Chico, located on the southern shore of Lago General Carrera, hold infinite memories of the times when this city was the trade and transportation epicenter of the whole southern area of Aysén. This small walk transports you from the modernity of today to Chile Chico’s first economic boom, when settlers arrived from various corners of the world, bringing their dreams, their culture and their work. Chile Chico is one of the oldest towns in the Aysén Region.

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There is evidence that nomadic Tehuelche and pre-Tehuelche hunter-gatherers inhabited the lands of and around Chile Chico as many as 10,000 years before present day. Its first Chilean inhabitants arrived in 1905, after hard years spent living in Argentina, during an era when these two countries had little tolerance of one and other. Hence they flocked to Chile Chico, where they found a micro climate similar to that in the central zone of Chile and suitable soils for agriculture and livestock. They began to settle and build a new life, however, despite finally being back in their homeland, their lives were not problem free. Little more than a decade had passed when, in 1917, their lives would again be marked by conflict and violence. In what history would term the “War of Chile Chico”, armed combat resulted between these settlers and the Chilean state when they were evicted from their homesteads, after being informed that the same lands on which they had settled had been awarded to a foreign interest as part of a large ranching concession. The settlers decided they didn’t want to relinquish the land to this group and there was a skirmish with the police, killing three settlers. This encounter caused such an uproar in Chilean society that the government was compelled to terminate the lease with the ranching company and formally recognize the presence of the area’s settlers. Thus, on May 21, 1929, Chile Chico was officially founded and soon after, constructed its first school and the initial homes of various settlers.


With this capability already installed, Chile Chico became the major intermediary for the mining and mineral exports of the 1940s and ‘50s, when this area became the most important in the country for the extraction of lead and zinc. During those years, the town experienced its first real “boom”. There was an explosion of hotels, restau-

rants, theaters, dance and sports clubs, all critical factors for meeting the social needs of this small, but cosmopolitan city that was becoming more and more representative of its name. Chile Chico was converting itself into a “Little Chile”, equally full of resources and culture. Unfortunately, progress in other sectors of the Region caught up with Chile Chico. Trails were being widened to the north and once the road between Puerto Aysén and Puerto Ingeniero Ibañéz was opened in 1958, Chile Chico’s role as a transportation hub soon diminished and the tiny city experienced a depression, which was soon worsened by the closing of the mines owned by the company,