a list of places that I would love to visit when we retire
- or win the lottery, and after Christiane Thill contacted
me recently I have definitely added the Cochamo Valley to
Christiane Thill, Lex Fautsch and their young daughter, Hannah
live and work on their horse ranch, Campo Aventura in the
outback of the Cochamo area of Northern Patagonia in Chile,
South America. They specialise in offering exclusive riding
holidays catering for small groups of riders. They use a Chilean
horse bred locally in the mountains, it is not the typical
creolo, but a mixture of various types, well able to cope
with the terrain from the Pacific up into the Andes.
Visitors travel the legendary 300-year-old Gaucho Trail through
primordial Alerce jungle into Chile’s well-kept, natural
secret - the Cochamo valley, which covers over 250,000 hectares
of native valdivian rainforest surrounded by mountains, lakes,
waterfalls and rivers. These areas of wilderness and Valdivian
rainforest exist in only five locations throughout the world
and 50% of these are found in Chile.
Due to its isolation it is one of the last temperate rainforests
in existence, and the remote and picturesque village of Cochamo,
is now accessible by a gravel road, which was only built ten
In the past only missionaries and bandits travelled to the
Cochamo valley for trade and migration, or escape. Since the
1700s, it has been the path for Jesuits migrating over the
Andes from Argentina. A hundred years later, an ox trail was
built to bring Argentinean meat down to the Pacific and some
fish up to Argentina. In 1902, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance
Kid, America's famous outlaw pair, brought their cattle to
the Cochamo slaughterhouse along this trail.
Travelling to this area, rich in natural beauty, is like travelling
back in time. The colourful wood-shingled houses contrast
with the amazing blue, sometimes turquoise, estuary waterfront
and snowy topped volcanoes in the background. Following the
estuary you reach the river Cochamo whose crystal clear water
is rich in fish such as rainbow and brown trout, and salmon.
Southern Chile is a fly-fishing utopia.
Further on the road becomes an unmarked route leading into
the U-shaped glacial valley of Cochamo and this is the 'Gaucho
Trail'. It is an unforgettable experience to ride upstream
through this fascinating unspoilt landscape. Today only 'Huasos',
typical Chilean cowboys, all of Indian origin, cross this
way twice a year on strong Andean horses, driving their cows
up and down the mountains. The trail is heavily wooded, and
for much of the day the horses walk through canopied fern
jungles. Open pasture allows brief gallops where you are surrounded
by waterfalls which are over a hundred metres high, glacier-capped
mountains, whilst birds such as hummingbirds, parrots and
condors watch you with interest.
You'll see no sign of human presence, as fewer than 300 tourists
visit each year. With an average rainfall of 3m from May to
September, human settlements have never flourished in this
narrow 50km-long valley of a million acres of wilderness,
which links Chile and Argentina. So you'll be able to enjoy
the solitude of this paradise of crystalline rivers and waterfalls
in South America's well preserved temperate rainforest.
After a one day ride the spectacular La Junta valley is reached,
this valley is also known as the “Yosemite of South
America”, it is a magical place surrounded by enormous
granite domes and amazing waterfalls. After having slept well
in a rustic mountain lodge enjoying mod. cons such as a wood-fired
shower and comfortable accommodation, meals include 'asado'
a typical Chilean barbecue which is prepared by a Chilean
family. The second day takes you through the ancient wonder
of the Alerce forest. Alerces are giant trees, about 40m high,
which can live as long as 4,000 years. Alerces are only found
in Chile, where they were awarded protected status in 1976
as a national monument.
Access to this untouched region is arranged by Campo Aventura,
a small operation of eco-tourism who run two lodges in the
valley, the Riverside Lodge at the Cochamo river and the Mountain
Lodge up in La Junta both have amazing views and easy access
to swimming and fishing at their private, wild, sandy beaches.
At Riverside Lodge full board is available including fine
vegetarian cuisine as well as child care and laundry service.
Campo Aventura organise fully equipped horse rides from 1
to 4-day trails, but also (4 times a year) they embark on
a real expedition of 10 days riding from the Pacific Ocean
across the Andes following the whole trail used in the past
by the Indians, Missionaries and the notorious outlaw duo.
However, apart from the conveniences of a well-planned tour,
the real joy of Cochamo is for what you don't see. There are
no motorised vehicles in the valley, nor electricity, a dream
of times past. Far from modern tourist Mecca's, an expedition
into the Andes is a highlight during your discovery of Chile,
as your visit allows you to enjoy the unspoilt beauty of the
native forest, rivers, mountains and waterfalls knowing that
you are helping to conserve one of the most important areas
of specific bio-diversity on earth.
Activities: Campo Aventura can be reached
by bus, rental car or private transfer and offers the four-day
Patagonia Pioneer Trail for riders and non-riders. The trip
is fully equipped including horses, multilingual guides, accommodation
and meals. (Private transfer from Puerto Montt airport can
be arranged by request) details of the 10-day trail rides
on request, contact the address below.
When to travel: from springtime to autumn - 1st of
October to 15th of May is the best period for exploring Chile,
especially the Lake District in the South.
Vaccinations: No vaccinations are required
to enter Chile.
What to bring: A pair of lightweight hiking
boots and a pair of sandals make a good combination, waterproofed
raingear as well as light fleece wear are useful. Buying films
in Chile is more expensive, so bring plenty with you, if you
don't have a digital camera.
More information by www.campo-aventura.com
or send an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org address:
San Bernardo 318,
Puerto Varas, X Region, Chile,
tel/fax: +065 23 29 10