The moment I pull the brand new inca hat with pink accents over my ears, my holiday has started. We have taken a break from the work to explore a bit of Patagonia for a couple of days. In Coyhaique the rain is pouring down, but soon we are high and dry in a car that is driving to the south.
The road to Puerto Río Tranquilo (see the map below) winds its way through the valley; every bend holds a new view. The freshly fallen snow is like icing sugar on the mountains. Higher up it forms white plains that light up when the sun shines on them. We see a lot of forest with lenga, a native tree species, as well as pine trees planted in places where the forest has been felled or burned in the past. Low hanging clouds glide like a thin veil along the hilltops. A fast-flowing stream is making its way next to the road.
It turns out that hitchhiking is an excellent way to travel in this area. However few cars pass by on some roads, we never have to wait long for a ride. At Puerto Río Tranquilo we visit the two attractions: The marble caves and the glacier. On the way we see parrots, condors and hummingbirds.
Then we travel back and stay for a few days at Villa Cerra Castillo. We’ve asked around for a cheap hostel and have found the hospedaje of señora Yenifer. To all appearances it looks like a shed made from corrugated iron, but it appears to be a completely self-sufficient holiday home with a stove, a fast Internet connection and the best shower we have had so far in Chile.
Freddy makes a day trip into the mountains. We also visit 3000 year old hand prints made with red paint on the rock. Such drawings have been found at many different sites in this valley (Valle Ibañez). The museum explains that people moved from the pampas to the valley probably 6000 years ago. Up to now, the purpose of these paintings is not clear. It could be part of a ritual, for example the rite of passage to adulthood. There are too many of them for it to have been just a random hobby.
A final lift from a lady who makes a detour especially for us, brings us back at the farm. The impression that stays with me is the wild and unspoiled nature, with the majestic mountains towering over the landscape. As a human being I immediately feel part of a powerful whole that I cannot dominate but that is my home. I can imagine how the people who left their handprints attributed personalities to the rocks, the river and the forest.
Next week we will say goodbye to Patagonia and make our way to the next destination: The island of Chiloé. We will keep you informed!