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Published: January 4th 2014
PUERTO CHACABUCO, CHILE--Wednesday, December 4, 2013
45 degrees with scattered showers.
Puerto Chacabuco is located at the head of the Aisén (sometimes Aysen) Fjord and is the main port of the region. The Aisén Fjord, formed by a glacier, is about 70 km (42 miles) long and provided access to the port. Until 1991, the main port was Puerto Aisén, four miles upstream on the Aisén River, which silted up with the eruption of the Mount Hudson volcano and erosion from heavy logging in the mountains.
Before we left home, I had contacted a guide through an organization called “Tours by Locals” and Valerie had contacted 2 couples from the “Cruise Critic” website to make the van load complete and the fee divide among 6. To prevent anyone being left behind, we all agreed to meet in the lounge at 7:30 and exit to the tender all together. This worked perfectly and we took the tender and met the guide and driver on the pier.
After loading up, we drove the four miles along the Aisen River, through the old port, and then turned into the Simpson River Valley. This drive
turned out to be one of the most beautifully scenic trips that we have ever taken. All along both sides of the road were spikes of purple, yellow, white, and pink lupines in full bloom. Under the lupines were yellow buttercups and this was set against majestic mountain peaks (some snow covered at 6,000 feet), rushing streams, and tumbling waterfalls. Blooming Spanish broom and the red fire tree also added color with white daisies here and there for counter-point. We were all spell bound for the 38 miles of driving the two lane Carretera Austral (built in 1976) wandering road to the city of Coyhaique.
We made a number of stops on the way up. First, we stopped along the river for a photo-op at a double falls across the river. Then we stopped to look at the Casada Le Virgen. We stopped to take pictures of a field of llamas that were really shaggy and in different colors than just white. After crossing part of the Andes, we stopped at the Alto Baguales to overlook the city of Coyhaique situated at 1,476 feet.
Just as we approached the city outskirts, we dropped straight down a dirt road
to a bridge over the river to look back at the mountain face to see an Indian’s profile formed by the rocks. Of course as with all such places, there is a legend of an Indian Princess and an Indian man and a leap off the top that goes with this rock formation.
In the city of Coyhaique we stopped at a statue of a very Basque looking sheepherder wearing a beret with his dog beside him. We then found the plaza and were let out for lunch and shopping at places nearby with instructions to meet at the nearby bronze statue of an Indian woman and child, in an hour and twenty minutes. We headed straight to the nearest restaurant, called Ricer Café, and Valerie and I had a traditional (according to our guide) lunch of steak sandwiches with tomato and avocado on a long homemade ciabatta-like bun. They were really good and we should have split one between the two of us as one was so huge we each only finished a third.
After lunch, Valerie and I split up with her walking across the plaza/park to look at some murals on the other side and
for me to wander through the craft shops. Soon, we all piled back into the van and headed back the way we came. Since I was in the front seat of the van, I was able to see two Blacked-faced Ibis fly across the road in front of us. Valerie sitting in one of the middle seats was blocked from the seeing them.
This time, since the big buses had been long gone, we stopped and paid $2.00 each at the Rio Simpson Museum of Natural Resources that is part of the 98,844 acre Simpson River Reserve. The small building housed a tired or poorly taxidermied group of birds and animals indigenous to the region and some maps and other displays. After looking inside, we then walked around looking at the different kinds of trees that were identified with wooden signs. The path took us along the river and there we looked across it to another man/Indian profile on a rock cliff. No maiden/warrior story to go with this one apparently. Along the way, I saw a bright green hummingbird, but it was really too quick to ID.
We drove through the main part of the town of
Puerto Aysen and looked at the shops and buildings. Nothing stands out here--just a small town. When we came to the riverside we stopped to take a group picture and another one with the driver and guide set against the Patagonian “Golden Gate Bridge.” A really good day was had by all!!
Really, really rough night with strong winds rocking us back and forth in the open Pacific Ocean.
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