The first time that I traveled to Patagonia was in 1995. I spoke very little Spanish and all that I new about this immense area was that there were big trout and huge mountains there. On my trip I was awestruck by the geographic beauty and the warmth of the Chilean and Argentine people. That feeling has never left me. And yes, the trout were big too.
Since then I have returned many times and have grown to love this remote corner of the world and it’s people to whom laughter and kindness come both easily and naturally. Patagonia is a wild, remote land. Life here is not easy, yet it is this rugged beauty that attracts travelers from all over the world to enjoy the mountains, rivers, lakes and cultures that comprise this diverse area.
The Chilean Patagonia is home to one of the last intact temperate rain forests in the world. While most the ancient forests of British Columbia, Alaska and our Northwest coast have fallen to the chainsaw, only a few places remain in the world with vast tracts of these ecologically diverse rain forests. These include New Zealands’ South Island, the West Cape of Tasmania and of course, Southern Chile.
Rising up to 8000 feet from the Pacific Ocean are countless unnamed and unclimbed peaks, hundreds of glaciers and numerous unspoiled yet inhabited valleys, which are home to the most friendly and honest people that one could imagine. The few roads in the area are gravel and often quite rough. The narrow width of Chile, defined by the Pacific Ocean to the West and the rugged Andes mountains to the East, creates a rain shadow effect, and in less than 100 miles it is possible to go from one of the wettest and most inhospitable coasts in the world to the dry, high desert of Argentina. The Valle Bonito is located only 10 miles from Argentina on the rain shadow transition zone of the Andes. The Argentine side is not only much drier it is sparsely wooded and this open grass country is where some of the tastiest beef in the world is grown. Here, the rugged mountainous country gives way to the seemingly endless pampas that cover a large portion of Argentine Patagonia.
Geographically and culturally diverse, Chile contains the driest desert in the world, miles of pristine coastline, the fertile farmlands of the Lakes District, a world class wine growing region, fiords, volcanoes, glaciers, icecaps, huge rivers and some of the most pristine and un violated forests in the world. The people that live in these areas reflect the diversity of the country in their dress, mannerisms, food, art and culture.
Patagonia is very young in terms of human settlement.The first “colonos” or pioneers in the area came by boat from the ocean and by horse from Northern Argentina less than 80 years ago. Many of them are still alive today.
The town of Futaleufu received it’s first road access from Chile in the 1980’s and electricity was finally brought there in the early 1990’s. While modernity’s certainly do exist, the lifestyles of the locals reflect an interesting combination of both the new and the old ways. Ox carts with wooden wheels still haul goods to and from town while the local kids play computer games with high speed internet access. Horseback is still the preferred method of travel for many and the sight of locals with their woolen ponchos, goat skin chaps and groomed animals paints a beautiful picture on the landscape. Most families have their own gardens and livestock and live in a sustainable fashion, heating and cooking with wood, drinking from the rivers and lakes and enjoying the simple pleasures of life centered around their families.
While the rest of the world exists at an ever accelerating pace, Patagonia remains kicked back and proud to be so.
In terms of travel, Chile has recently been voted as the safest country in Latin America to visit. Like anywhere, you need to pay attention and use safe travel practices in the big cities, but in the Patagonia of Chile, crime is very rare and the Chileans do their best to welcome visitors and make them feel at home.
Patagonia offers many activities for the adventurous vacationer. For the fly fishing enthusiast, Chile’s side of Patagonia offers a wonderful variety of angling opportunities, without the crowds like you find on most of North America’s best waters. It is in our opinion, the ultimate outdoor playground, and we hope that you will join us on one of our trips here. Despite all the compelling geographic and cultural reasons to visit Patagonia there is another reason that is much harder to put a finger on. It is the feeling of this incredible place, that once experienced will never leave you.