Chile's 11th Region
02.07.2012 - 02.20.2012
Its been a little over two weeks since I was last able to update the blog, so there is lots to say and many pictures to share! Luckily we are staying at a hostel with free and very fast internet in the big city of Coyhaique.
We left Cochrane for our adventure to Valle Chacobuco. We got a tip on how to walk there from town, which ended up being a three day hike. We started in the Reserva National Tomango and headed north, off trail for a bit, and then down to Lagunas Altas, which is the proposed future Patagonia National Park operated by Conservacion Patagonia.
We were so happy to arrive at this viewpoint and see the lakes after our off trail adventure through a beautiful lenga forest. We climbed up onto the nearest high point and got spectacular views of Lagunas Altas and Valle Chacobuco below.
While we were sitting there a gorgeous condor flew very close to us. Luckily I had the camera ready!
We decended into the valley after spending a night at the lakes and saw so many guanaco.
When we arrived in the valley we were pleasantly surprised to find free camping with hot showers! We met a group of American college students who were doing an inventory of the grasslands in the valley. They were doing one of the first scientific studies of the area and documenting the plants that they found. But of course, it is difficult to identify plants with out guide books and keys. But their study sounds exciting and hopefully will help the park measure the transition that the ecology makes after ending the intense grazing that was recently occuring there. The students were so excited and it was fun to feed off their energy!
We also had some time to make our first backcountry bread there in the campground. SOO yummy and filling and so much fun to make.
We left Valle Chacobuco the next day and headed out to the Caraterra Austral again. We caught sight of a beautiful rainbow over the confluence of the Rio Baker and Rio Chacobuco. The Rio Baker is one of the rivers that has a dam proposed. Like all of the lakes and rivers, the blue of the river is an incredible color.
From there we made our way to Puerto Guadal, a tiny gaucho (Patagonian cowboy) town about 8 km off of the Caraterra Austral. Mauricio at the eco camp in Villa O'Higgins suggested that we check out another eco camp and hostel there called Un Destino No Turistico (a non touristy destination). It was such a wonderful place and definitley not touristy. Our hosts there, Marcelo and Rosia were warm and welcoming and living a permaculture life there on the hill above Lago General Carrerra. We were able to do a tour of their place and learned a lot of interesting ideas, like how to construct a solar shower and how to bake bread with a solar oven. The best tip we learned there was how to make a 'Hay Box.' It is a really simple idea that helps to save gas when cooking. Basically when you are cooking something that takes a long time to cook, like potatoes or rice, you bring your pot to a boil on the stove and then wrap in a towel and place it in the Hay Box for about one or two hours depending on what you are cooking. The Hay Box can be as simple as a cardboard box with blankets in it or if you are camping in a sleeping bag. We tried both and it has been really great. We are going to make one for our kitchen as soon as we get settled in Portland. We were also lucky that the second night we stayed there we were able to have the entire hostel to ourselves. It was really peaceful and relaxing after our hiking and traveling. Here are some photos of the hostel and the view from the common area.
The other fun thing we got to do in Puerto Guadal was go to the local summer festival/rodeo/horse race. We were the only gringos there and felt like we really got a flavor for the Patagonian way of life. Asado (barbacue), carrera de caballos (horse races), and town gathering.
Puerto Guadal from above
Our next stop was just across the lake (well it is the second biggest lake in South America, so it was a few hours driving away) in Puerto Rio Tranquilo to see the famous Capillas de Marmol (Chapels of Marble). It was a fun boat ride with big waves and high wind out to see the caves that have been erroded away by the lake. This first picture is of a rock feature that looks like dog's profile...see it?
From Puerto Rio Tranquilo we quickly made our way out of town to Villa Cerro Castillo. There wasnt much to do there except see the capillas and hike. And we were still not ready to hike yet since we were getting ready to do a four day trek around the huge mountain Cerro Castillo in a couple days. Villa Cerro Castillo is a tiny town on the Carraterra that has not blown up with tourism yet. Here is a typical scene: horse, chickens, dog, truck.
Before our trek we explored around town and saw a local archeaological site where there were rock paintings from the Tehuelche Indians from about 3000 years ago. They are hand prints both positive and negative images that were made with a paint made of blood, fat, and rock minerals.
We also saw the old school house that was used by students in the entire region. They would travel for days to get to the school and stay for about two weeks every year. Pretty amazing to think about only having two weeks of school per year.
Then we headed out for our trek around Cerro Castillo. It was a hard hike with lots of tallus to climb, but it was incredibly beautiful and worthwhile. Here is a view down to Villa Cerro Castillo and out all the way to the Lago General Carrera.
Us on top of the tallus hill finally with views all around.
Alpine flower still in bloom
The glaciers of Cerro Castillo and the lake just below the peak
Del at the top of the Paso de Penon and the view into the valley beyond
D chillin in our amazing little tent as we sheltered ourselves from the daily rainstorm
The sendero (trail) is the main section of a new trail that an organization is trying to construct in Chile called the Sendero de Chile, which will hopefully one day streatch along the entire country north to south. It was a priviledge to be able to hike it. Although we werent as lucky with the weather as we hiked and didnt catch a glimpse of the top of the mountain until we were walking back to town. But we got a good one anyway!
Yesterday we made it to the capital of Aysen, Coyhaique. We are momentarily stuck as large protests have shut down transportation and fuel supply to the entire region. The people of the land are standing up to the corporate greed and letting their voices be heard. More power to them. Even if it has made our travel plans a little trickier we are in support of their cause, one of which is the sin repressas (no dams) movement. Here is one of many bilboards we have seen in the region.