HMI Gap: Exploring the community of Chile Chico

Spring Semester in Patagonia

On our last morning in Patagonia National Park, we savored the views of the mountains, dipped our feet in the river, and said goodbye to our neighboring cows before packing up camp and hiking out. We loaded our belongings into the bus and drove back to our base hostel in Chile Chico.

When we arrived at the hostel, we were happy to reunite with Chris and eat a big lunch of fresh fruits and vegetables. After spending the afternoon organizing and cleaning all of our expedition gear, we reached the moment we had all been waiting for – showers! We were all very happy to get cleaned up and spend some time to relax and contact home. That evening we had a pizza dinner and ended the day listening to music together outside.

HMI Gap vegetable farming in Chile ChicoThe next two days in Chile Chico we spent exploring local farms. The first day we weeded a vegetable garden and harvested cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce. After a morning of work, we toured the farm and were able to taste and purchase fresh, handmade cheese. Gloria, the farm owner, told us about life on the farm and some of the issues farmers face. It was a thought-provoking discussion, and we were very grateful that she let us into her home to explore the local way of life.

After returning from the farm, we held our “Super Bowl” re-enactment: We made a dinner of chili and nachos while we watched a recap of the game. It was nice to get a little taste of home and spend the night laughing and enjoying each other’s company.

After a delightful breakfast in the hostel prepared by a few members of the group, we drove to a cherry farm just outside town. We worked hard shoveling compost for our host, also named Gloria, to use on her farm. After shoveling we had a nice lunch break of sandwiches as well as preserved cherries from Gloria. They were so delicious we even drank the cherry juice from the jar! After lunch we went to the orchard to pick dried cherries. We all walked out of the orchard with cherry-purple mouths!

HMI Gap cherry picking in Chile Chico

Gloria gave us her perspective on life on a Chile Chico farm and some of the difficulties she faces, especially regarding water rights for irrigation. After another engaging discussion, we said our goodbyes and stopped at the beach on the way back to the hostel. We sat on the sand and talked to Kathy, the owner of our hostel who accompanied us to the farms, about her perspective on the growing tourism industry in Chile as well as the future of Patagonia National Park. We’ve been very grateful for the opportunities we had to expand our knowledge of the local issues and culture and practice Spanish along the way!

On our third day in town, we left with Luis, our bus driver, and Kathy to a overlook of an abandoned mine. Next to the mine is a stunning turquoise lake, although its color comes from the chemicals added by the mine into the water. It’s so contaminated that you would burn your skin if you immersed any part of yourself. The mine has been abandoned for two years now, ever since two men died in a mining accident there. Luis and Kathy took the time to explain to us the complicated dynamic between the mine, the town, and the environment. After that, Luis brought us to a cueva de las manos, an archaeological site with handprints from a traditional Tehuelche ritual. HMI Gap viewing Tehuelche hand prints, Chile ChicoWhile the site has not been dated yet, if it was used during the same period as the sites around it, it could be anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 years old. There are several other more famous sites near Chile Chico, but this one is currently not open to the public, so it was quite a treat to visit. We spent the rest of the afternoon prepping for our travel days to Futaleufu, stocking up on snacks and meals.

We left Chile Chico early in the morning on the ferry across Lago General Carrera, which we topped off with a bumpy seven-hour bus ride to the town of Puyuhuapi. At our hostel in Puyuhuapi, we ate a late dinner and slept well. The next morning we experienced quite a treat: The hostel provided a wonderful breakfast, including cookies and pastries, which was a nice taste of luxury.

After breakfast, we piled into the bus again and finished the last four hours to Futaleufu. We’re currently staying at Hostal Las Natalias, which is the largest hostel we’ve stayed in thus far, and we’ve already started getting to know all of the other visitors in this amazing place. Since arriving, we’ve been acquainting ourselves with the tiny town and preparing ourselves for our next trek out on Sunday.

We are very excited for our upcoming 5-day trek around Futaleufu and can’t wait to share all of our adventures!

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