Posted by: Talie Morrison | December 26, 2009

Parque Pumalin and Cochamo

In my efforts to explore Chile and see some really great places (while not going too far from Santiago,  as I wait for my new passport…), I wanted to get to Parque Pumalin.   This is a park that was privately purchased by an American Douglas Tompkins and his wife, Kris,  and then turned over to the Chilean Parque Association…  Bruce and Laurie said it is beautiful and GREEN and a “must see” while I was down here!   So I took the bus from Pucon to Puerto Montt.   From there I took another bus to Hornopirin, which is just north of the Northern part of Parque Pumalin.

Looks like it could be Teocalli Street in Crested Butte 🙂

Once I was in Hornopirin though, I found out that the only way to get to this part of the  park was by boat – and I am too early for the season and boat is’t running yet….  so I decided to go down to Chaiten which is just South of the Southern part of the park.  From Hornopirin, I took the ferry boat to a little place called Ayacara.   So the boat took me across the water, let me off in Poyo.   Luckily there was a little bus which met the ferry (as I didn’t have a clue how I would get from Poyo to Ayacara, which is probably a distance of about 30 kilometers).   I asked the bus driver if he went to Ayacaca and he said yes.    So off we went, until he stopped in the middle of a road, and motioned to me that we were in Ayacara – It wasn’t even a wide spot in the road – it was just road…

Here we are in Ayacara!!!! Time to get off the bus.....

So I grabbed my pack and got off the bus – thinking, “What do I do now???”   I found a little shelter and locked my pack to a bench, and started walking to find something – anything – anybody???  Ok, so I wanted to get “off the beaten track” – I have certainly suceeded in THAT!!!     So I found a building that had some people working in it (a good sign), and asked them where the ferry office was, and where a place to stay (camping??) was.   So they turned me over to “the boss”, who drove me to the ferry office – a house off the road a bit (no signs or anything…) where I could buy a ticket for the ferry.   This was Wednesday afternoon, and the next ferry was scheduled for midnight on Thursday, unless I wanted to wait for about 4 more days…  Then my savior (“the boss”)  took me to a “pension” where I booked a night’s lodging along with 3 meals a day (for a day and a half) ( there weren’t any restaurants, hotels, grocerys or nada in this little place).  Yep, I am off the beaten track!

Ferry Station at Ayacara - boat was supposed to be there at Midnight, finally got there at 3:45 am!

But at least now I have a ticket for the ferry to get me to Chaiten …   Well the “midnight” ferry finally shows up at 3:45 am — oofta it was a long night for sure!    And I finally got to Chaiten …   This time the boat was met by a wonderful local guide named Nicholas (Chaiturs).  Then I  find out that when the Chaiten Volcano errupted in May of 2008, it really did a number on Parque Pumalin and then caused flooding in the townof Chaiten.

Area is still pretty devistated even since May of 2008

The volcano didn’t have lava per se, but the dense ash that fell covered everything including the river, which then built up and flowed over the ash and flooded the town.   There is something going on with the Chilean Government and that area, because according to Nicolas the Government won’t declare it a disaster area (even though 400 homes were lost), and the government wants all the locals to leave the Chaiten area and relocate close by in Santa Barbara (that’s not California!).    Of course, most of the locals are definitely not interested in relocating and just want to salvage their town – which is a hard thing to do without governmet help and money….   Interesting….     

With Dan, Laura and Nicolas

 I met some new friends and we took a tour with Nicholas (to as close as we could get to the Volcano) and Pumalin Parque (which isn’t very green anymore!) and then to some hot springs.

 (Ah-h-h-h!!!)   I had the choice of taking a ferry the next morning, or waiting for another 4-5 days till the next ferry….   So it ended up being a short trip down to Chaiten, but I did at least get there!

Now, with my new friends Nicolas and Laura from Santiago, and Dan from the US, I took the ferry back to Puerto Montt and then took a bus up to Puerto Varas.     Puerto Varas is not as big as Puerto Montt and a bit quieter and more my style!   Nicolas gave me the name of a hostel: Mi Casa – it was a bit hard to find, but run by a really wonderful lady named Ruth.   I ended up staying with Ruth for 3 nights while doing some hiking and exploring in the area.   The last evening, as I was trying to decide if I should just simply go back to Santiago and wait for my passport or where else to go, I met  “guide in training” Philipe who was also staying at Mi Casa.   He was going out to a place called Cochamo where he would be spending 4 months at Refugio Cochomo and he said I could come out there with him.    I walked into town (about 9 pm) so I could look it up on the internet, and decided to go with him.   The next morning it was a 2 hour bus ride, and then a 45 minute van ride, and then a 5 hour hike to get to the Refugio…   

Refugio Cochamo

  AWESOME.   This place is like Yosemite without all the tourists!  Large granite mountains!    The Refugio building is incredible since it all had to be either made on site or carried in on horseback!   And the couple who run it (and own it) are also incredible – Daniel (from Reno, Nevada) and his wife Silvie (from Chile) and their 4 year old son, Zen.   I got a chance to use up some of my “grandma energy”!!

Unfortunately, it rained the whole time I was there – so I didn´t get out hiking as much as I would have liked – but did get out for a couple of hours to see some waterfalls – with all the rain the waterfalls were awesome!   

Lots of rain makes great waterfalls!

  Of course also with all the rain, the trail, which was pretty muddy to start with coming in, was really going to be a bog going out!    Luckily I had booked one of the local horse outfitters to take me out on horseback!   Another couple who I met in the Refugio (Susie and Bastian) were booked to go out on horses also.   It was very nice letting the horse do the slogging in the mud instead of me!    But since I haven’t been on a horse for about 20 years, my body couldn’t figure out what hit it!!!   Susie and Subastian have also joined me for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Puerto Varas with Ruth at Mi Casa.   A great way to celebrate the holiday.   Ruth put on a wonderful feast and celebration for all of us staying in her hostel!   She is a wonderful host!  

Letting the horse walk in the mud instead of me!

Christmas Eve grilling at Mi Casa

Hiking in Petrohue (outside Puerto Varas)

Silvie and Daniel at Refugio Cochamo

Saltos (waterfalls) at Petrohue

How long has it been since I?ve been on a horse????

 Now I have a booking on the night bus, Super Cama, to get me to Santiago on the night of the 26th.   We’ll see how well these night buses are – but I’ve heard great things about them.   Monday, the 28th, I should be able to pick up my new passport…  wish me luck!



  1. Hi Talie, As usual, a wonderful message! It was one of the best Christmas gifts I received! Certainly better than the diamond snowflake charm I wanted, but did not get! Anyway, I am glad you are enjoying Chile. We could lnot fly into Chaiten last year because of the Volcano and flew instead to Las Palomas, then 2 1/2 hour drive to Martin Pescador, our fishing lodge. It is lovely and on the River Yelcho. I think I wrote you all this. Hope you get the the museum in Santiago. It is also really one of the best museums we have seen, for a foreigh museum, not like the Louvre or the Hermatage, but a neat museum.

    Merry ChristmaS AND hAppy New Year to you too! Love, Jane

  2. oh hurray Talie! I love all the pics and how your trip just unfolds day to day.

    Love you!

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