Our next port stop was Puerto Chacabuco. This is a small port town with a population of about 1,500. It is considered the gateway to Patagonia. It’s only been in existence, in its current location (the port) since the 1960’s. Prior to that the port was located a ways up river (I have pictures below), and it made it very difficult to bring supplies to the little town at the port called Puerto Aysen.
A bit of history - when Pinochet, after the military coup of Chile, came into power, he turned Chacabuco into a concentration camp for over a year. It held over 1,800 “prisoners”, including doctors, artists, writers and professors.
This area is still difficult to get to - one must either fly from Santiago or Puerto Montt or take a twice-weekly ferry from Puerto Montt which takes 24 hours if all goes well. Many times, the condition of the ocean/waters slows the ferry down and it can take up to 35 hours! Supplies are brought in on the ferry.
Once in Puerto Chacabuco, there is a highway road that takes you out to Argentina or south down through Patagonia.
In all of Patagonia, there are only 100,000 people. Patagonia is a very large area.
Today, a small group of us took a private tour of the area surrounding Chacabuco and Aysen. It was a good tour to see the beautiful land of northern Patagonia as well as experience some of the culture. We drove toward Aysen and stopped off at the “old” port (pictures below). Then we drove out through the Simpson River Valley which provided gorgeous vistas of farmland and soaring green mountains. We also stopped at the National Reserve for a little bit, and watched the river amble on by. We visited a small waterfall, which reminded me of some of the nice waterfalls we have near home, but it was peaceful there and I enjoyed the stop.
We drove quite a ways out into the valleys and towards the mountains. The scenery is lovely and it is very awe-inspiring to look up at these ring of tall mountains. Around midday, we turned around and headed back towards Chacabuco. We were to have an Asado al palo lunch at a campo (country house) in Pangal. It is a privately owned farmstead where the family relies entirely on it’s cattle and gardens for their food. The family was very welcoming and we had lunch in their quincho (wooden barbecue house), which was built to roast meat and have get togethers. Asado al Palo is a Patagonian tradition - it is lamb roasted over embers on an open fire. They also served delicious empanadas, which is what I ate instead, because I always feel sad for the poor little lambs that get slaughtered for our eating pleasure. I did have a taste of it, however, after a couple of glasses of wine, and to me it tasted like pork, not lamb. But what do I know.
The pisco sours and red wines flowed during our meal, and soon everyone was laughing and smiling. The family’s daughter and son-in-law (?) performed some local cultural dancing for us and even managed to get some of us up on the dance floor with them. Now that was a hoot!
After lunch we drove back to the ship and said our goodbyes to Puerto Chacabuco. All in all, it was a lovely day.
Here are some pictures of our day:
First views of the Patagonian countryside
This is the "old" port
I dub this "cat on a hot tin roof"
The road out to the Simpson River area
Standing by the river
This is the bridge to nowhere... or somewhere far away
These were Nalca plants. HUGE leaves!!!
View of the family farm
This is a cool tree. They are indigenous to Chile. Do I know the name? Nope a doodle!
Family farm views.
Part of the family's homestead
They have a few alpacas.
This one wanted to know just what the hell I was doing, taking a picture!
The greeters and also they danced! Those would be the famous pisco sours on the tray!
Lamb, cooking. OY!
Here the couple is, dancing. They were quite good.
Here are my empanadas.
Time to leave --- oooh, a storm is coming! And it did rain!
Bridge to cross over back to the road, from the farm.
I loved this flowering bush. Practiced using my macro setting on my camera too.
Some final views
Some more dancing photos
Good night Puerto Chacabuco. This was taken about 9:30 PM as we sailed away towards the fjords