Wednesday, February 27

Patagonia 5: Puerto Chacabuco - Soft Scrapple

For details, click on any image...
It's 291 nautical miles from Montt to our second
stop at  Chacabuco south through the Golf of Corcovado.
It's about a day and a half by ship between the red pins.
Puerto Chacabuco is a relatively new port city. In 1991 a savage wilderness fire and the eruption of nearby Mount Hudson volcano silted the Aisén river and blocked access to Puerto Aisén which caused the construction of a new port in the sleepy village of Chacabuco some 10 miles south of Aisén. Transition's fattening up Chacabuco and its population of 1,243. 

However, the town's location along the far side of the Aisén river is magnificent. 

At sunrise on Tuesday 1/22/19 we awoke to this view from our balcony on the
ship's port side with Chacabuco visible (below) from the starboard.
Daytime temperatures dropped about fifteen degrees, on average from Santiago mid-day 90 degrees to Puerto Montt and another ten degrees in Puerto Chacabuco. The town's weather is wet much of the year, but in mid-summer-January that still left us wearing heavy jackets over long sleeves in the port's morning which we ditched by late afternoon.

Joe & Mary Mayberry, Gib & Marti Armstrong and
 my wife Rita model Chacabuco January mid-summer fashions.
BTW, that's our Norwegian  Sun anchored to the right.

On the other side of the river from the image above, Chacabuco sits
 in a river valley and is beginning to sprawl as a result of
its replacement of Aisén in 1991 as the region's major port. 

And what's to do in Chacabuco? Well, just about nothing. So we engaged an old VW bus-like ride to visit the new National Simpson River Park.

As you can see, the topography is rugged and mountainous.
Our bus had an ancient low gear which left us expecting to push.
The trip did reveal the life style of people living along rural Route 240 as well as structures in both Chacabuco and Aisén.

Generally the people are NOT poor. Rather they live in tidy, secure, and comfortable structures in a rocky countryside dotted by small livestock farms. NOTE the canted metal roofs in all of the structures above. Why? Tons of snow of course. Note also the lack of foundation shrubbery which is always destroyed by the collapse of snow upon them from those roofs. This is a challenging place in winter.

 The last President of Chilé kicked off an expensive (and not overwhelmingly popular) series of national parks. One of the newest is the Parque National Rio Simpson. Which features, well, some wild flowers and the Simpson River. 

The Simpson's a nice mountain river, and well, ho-hum. Perhaps if you are a Saudi
this is inspiring. And certainly to fly fishers it's inspirational. I'm neither. Seen one river,
seen 'em all? Well no, but this one is pretty average even within its mountainous setting.

The trip up to the park though wound cooly through valleys alongside a rushing stream fed by waterfalls dropping from the peaked walls of the old Pioneer Trail.

Note, just to the right of the base of the lower waterfall. See the guy? I left him there 
to put the height of these glacial fed falls in perspective. Rain  returned as  I teetered
atop the two-lane highway bridge's  railing to grab this shot above the stream. 
In the very center of the port sits Radio Chacabuco there on the right. It was hidden behind a few downtrodden  
shops but worth the effort. See the dirt road? What you can't see well in this painting without blowing it up is the line of new  construction there between the mountain base and the field at the road's end. 
A Levittown development's happening there with perhaps a hundred homes going up. Chacapuco's about to change as its expanding port juices economic activity. This image captures the transition right before it happens. And, of course it's just the painting to bring country life to a chi-chi Santiago, New York, Lancaster, Atlanta, or Viennese up-market condo, right?

Chacabuco caused one of us to wonder if this is where you flee to escape the rest of the world. Near-antarctic winters are intense and even the summer's are challenging. But the farms and port apparently create jobs and incomes sufficient to live snugly with the weather, volcanos, and earthquakes. It's not hard scrapple, no... but definitely soft scrapple. 


Cedric said...

Your posts have had me poring over maps and satellite images of Southern Chili and Patagonia. The intricacies of the coastline are wonderful, more so perhaps, than even Norway. It's like elaborate lacework partly submerged in water. As I have said before, I like your images and the way you have rendered them. From anyone else, they would be snapshots, from you they are as intricate and elaborate as the country they portray. Far more immersive and pleasing to the eye.
That townships exist in such seemingly remote parts of the world fascinates me. Whenever I have come across such places, I cannot help but wonder how I would fare living in such an environment. I have the strongest attraction for such remoteness but I fear I may be romanticising it a bit. In any case, the want-to-be hermit in me finds the idea quite appealing :)

Ted said...

The Patagonia which I saw Cedric is remote from very large population concentrations. And its transport infrastructure's far less deep than in those areas. Also thinner are the service/governmental/medical and energy distribution elements of infrastructure. However, in terms of infrastructure per 10,000 it is surprisingly strong. While roads are far fewer per mile, the roads that exist are well maintained and adequate to the demands of the populations. What we take for granted in developed areas are the micro structures that allow vehicles to dependably forge creeks and rivers -all of those tiny bridges which high population areas take for granted. Those developments will follow the growth of educated populations. And the people we met in the small towns like say, Chacabuco are better educated on average than their counterparts in other rural places in the world. They have satellite access to national and world media, cellular access is almost universal within a day's drive of most central places. People are well dressed, streets aren't filled with ragged children and those people I met are as literate and thoughtful as any I meet here in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania.

Mail boxes sit outside houses everywhere we wandered. Mass transit shelters sit every mile or so along the highways. Sophisticated medical centers are still concentrated where larger populations concentrate - however helicopter and air ambulances are normally available to those the local medical infrastructure cannot handle. I was impressed particularly with the contrast between both the lifestyles, housing, and articulateness of Patagonians versus the people I met in Uganda a couple of years ago. Safe water supplies are both abundant and accessible to apparently every home. This is a mountainous farming region... small farms, lumbering, and milling are mixing with light manufacturing and extraction industries. Perhaps there's a dramatic class structure there, but that was beyond my ability to investigate.

I was particularly impressed with what many consider a tiny thing. As I travelled Europe, Asia, and Africa - the universality of barred widows, security fences, and walls was noticeable to a U.S. citizen like me who lives here in the very center of a city and where neither my neighbors or myself look out through wrought iron bars or bullet proof windows. Yeah, in the larger cities of Northern Patagonia there are neighborhoods where businesses and homes are wrapped in razor wired barriers. Perhaps it is a combination of a homogeneous culture and the interdependent of rural people in a place of rugged weather that makes the difference. I would not dream of moving my family to Kampala... I'd be way to frightened for them and myself. Less so in rural Uganda. However Uganda, like many African nations is plagued by both tribal, sectarian, and political armies which exogenously create spontaneous uncertainties that simply don't exist in the south of Patagonia.

Remember, the bulk of the Patagonian population shares a majority of European genes and history. There are quite few indigenous peoples in that region. Perhaps diversity is a strength of many communities and areas (regardless of skin culture it's largely dominated by Spanish, German & Irish) world-wide, but the hard-scrabble world of Patagonia has fused together a shared homogeneous (non-diverse) culture which seems to have created a sense of common determination. That is probably the most important infrastructure I discovered on this trip.

Your romantics ain't entirely misguided.