Puerto Chacabuco, Chile and Patagonia



Today we went our separate ways:  Kal escorted a tour, Nina went out on a trip with friends from the ship. The day began overcast and drizzly at sea level, by the port on the Pacific of Puerto Chacabuco.  There is nothing that resembles a city within 50 miles; the nearest settlement, Aysen, more like a village, is about 15 miles away.  However, our guide told us that as we go up in elevation the weather will clear and become sunny.  We all hoped so…….

This area is in northern Patagonia, supposedly among the most verdant and dramatic areas of southern South America.  Driving through, it reminded me somewhat of the Colorado Rockies, although the mountains here were not as high. As many of these photos were taken through the tour bus window, you may see rain drops in the photos.  Now you know why….

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We passed through a mountain tunnel, which you can see here if you look carefully between the two light poles.  After we passed through here the weather DID get much sunnier and warmer..

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The mountains of Patagonia were formed by volcanic action. Here you can see the volcanic dark-colored rock that is unstable and slides down  the hillsides, necessitating constant road repairs in this part of Chile.

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We next passed a flat area where hay was grown.  The hay is baled in round rolls and then covered in white plastic to keep moisture out.  Note the 3 wind turbines in the distance.  Chile experimented with wind turbines in this area, but not enough wind was generated, so the idea died.

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The large green, flat area in the center of this photo is what is known here as an “estancia” or estate.  This one is about 14,000 acres and consists mainly of cattle ranching.  These estancias date from the time that the country needed populating, and people who settled the land were given large tracts to work. 

If you look closely at the foot of the mountains, you will see a city.  It has about 50,000 people and is the largest city in the area. It’s name is Coyhaique (pronounced coy-ah-kay)  That’s where we’re headed…..

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As you enter the center of Coyhaique you come to the Plaza of the Pioneers, a monument plaza to the early settlers of the area. Typical wagons and other effects used by them are on public display, as well as several scenes in cast cement portraying activities in the lives of early settlers in the area:

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In the Plaza de Armas of Coyhaique is a bust of General Bernardo O’Higgins (for some reason I can’t help chuckling when I read or hear that name), the first president of Chile who worked with Simon Bolivar to liberate Chile.  The inscription on the bust reads, “Life with honor or death with glory.”.

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After spending some time in the Plaza de Armas and surrounding crafts shops, we got back into the bus and headed out to the Rio Simpson Reserve. On the way we passed the Mate Monument.  Mate (pronounced “mah-tay”) is a national drink in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina

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and tastes (IMHO) simply awful – think of something like brewed sawdust shavings in hot water with the aftertaste of tobacco.  Mate is drunk in a round gourd-like vessel, which is often ornately decorated, and sipped through a silver or alpaca metal straw with a built-in filter to keep out the solid “stuff”. Last year in Uruguay we even saw mate holders made out of cow’s hooves : UGH! 

Picture this:  A guy in a hurry walks into a mate bar and says:  “Give me a mate and step on it!”

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But hey – we’re gringos, so we’re not going to pass judgment….so on to the Rio Simpson Reserve area.

The Rio Simpson in this area of Chile is considered by fly fishermen, we are told, to be the 4th best place in the world for fly fishing.  There must be some truth to this as there appeared to be a lot of English spoken in Coyhaique and a lot of American guys there, some of them with fishing gear.

As we near the Rio Simpson Reserve we pass a shrine 

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that’s located right next to a lovely double waterfall

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and then on to the Rio Simpson Nature Reserve.

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Of course the reserve exists to protect the flora and fauna and to educate visitors about the history and wildlife in the area.  Walking along the Rio Simpson awakened boyhood memories of walking with my father early in the morning along the Merced River at Yosemite Lodge in Yosemite National Park nearly 60 years ago. In that day and age Yosemite was nearly as pristine as Rio Simpson appears to be today, and the topography was strikingly similar.

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The rock in the photo is known to locals as Cheesecake rock because from another view the shape of the rock is supposed to resemble a cheesecake….whatever….

Here’s a view from earlier today of that same rock from a different angle.

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If you look at the first photo of this mountain you can see a portrait of a face on the right side .  See the hair, eyebrow, nose, lips and chin?  Meet the Man in  the Mountain.

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After taking leave of the Rio Simpson Reserve we retraced our steps as we headed back to Puerto Chacabuco and our ship at the port.  The following photos were taken from a moving bus, but you’ll get an idea of the landscape:

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Here’s a swamp we passed,


a snapshot of the village of Aysen, where most of the workers at Puerto Chacabuco live,

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and, as we are about to cross the Rio Aysen (Aysen River)

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we come to Chile’s Golden Gate Bridge,


the second largest suspension bridge in Chile.

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And with the snow-capped peaks of the Patagonian Alps in the background,

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we return to our ship

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at the end of another lovely day.

Tomorrow we being cruising the Chilean fjords and then —– on to Antarctica!




OK so here is my version of the day:

We spent it driving thru Patagonia and saw many of the same things Kal saw (the waterfall and shrine, the city of Aysen, which was how the local Spanish speakers pronounced the English words ICE END.  ICE ENDS was how this area, where the Northern Ice Sheet ends, was originally described by English explorers.. And we went to the Rio Simpson). We also spent time at a Hacienda, where we were treated to a BBQ and dancing!

At the Rio Simpson, we got to see fly fishermen! So since Kal runs off at the mouth and tells you tons of info about the place (just kidding, love the guy for doing this too!!!) Here is my version of Chacabuco, Chile in Pix.

Susan, the watercolorist and avid birdwatcher!!!!


Typical home in Patagonia


Fly fishing on the Rio Simpson


Walking to the Hacienda


As Susan (Bitsey) would say! The adult beverage of the day!!! Pisco Sours!!! Yum!


The Lamb was alive in the AM and now it’s LUNCH!!!!


The Dancers!




The Snow Covered Andes!



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