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Black Sheep FREE Volume 1 Issue 1 Dec 2005 [email protected] The Puerto Natales Organizer HOTELS RESTAURANTS HOSTELS GUIDES CULTURE MAPS TRAVEL ADVENTURES History of Patagonia The last thousand years in a nutshell WATCHING THE FIRE BURN The story behind last season’s Torres del Paine fire 10 Years of NOLS in Natales Cover photo by Diego Araya C. Leather & Wind A report from the field page 14

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  • Black SheepFREEVolume 1 Issue 1 Dec 2005 [email protected]

    T h e P u e r t o N a t a l e s O r g a n i z e r


    History of PatagoniaThe last thousand years in a nutshell

    WATCHING THE FIRE BURNThe story behind last seasons Torres del Paine fire

    10 Years ofNOLS in Natales

    Cover photo by Diego Araya C.

    Leather & WindA report from the fieldpage 14

  • Published by Southern Cross Ltda.Black Sheep The Puerto Natales Organizer

    Puerto Natales, Patagonia, [email protected] 5661412239

    Production Editor Ad Design: Rustyn Matthias MesdagBuisness Director Advertising Manager: Pilar Irribarra

    Lead Staff Reporter Photographer Distribution: Hermann KlassenCopy Editor: Julia Gauvin & E. Blair Stone

    The Black Sheep is a independently and locally owned rag, inpsired by life in Puerto Natales, Chile. The heart of Patagonia. A big, warm, wooly thanks go

    out to all the black sheep who helped make this paper possible.

    Welcome to Puerto Natales, Chile

    Cover photo by Diego Araya C.www.wildpatagonia.cl

    [email protected] 2


    Table of Contentspage 2 ...............Important Phone Numbers Letter from the Editor

    page 3 ...................................All the Answers The top 30 questions of Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine

    page 4 ...............................A Look at the Past History of the peoplepage 5 ...................................Coming Events

    page 6 ...................................Patagonia 101

    page 8 ..........................International Forum Letters and comments from travelers in Patagoniapage 9 ............................ NOLS in Patagonia 10 years and going strongpage 10 ..................................Bus Schedules Bus times for the gringo trail page 11 ...........................................Opinions

    page 12 .....................................Local to-dos Short ideas for Natalespage 13..................................Patagonia Five World-class animalspage 14 ...............................From the Saddle A report from the field

    page 16 ...........................Puerto Natales Map

    Letter from the Editor The letter from the editor is an interesting thing. Its the moment when I get to write whatever I see fit.

    Sort of my own little freedom of expression. Being that this is the first issue, I was thinking about the

    mission statement, or maybe a Introducing the Black Sheep! speech... I dont think so. Not this time.Right now, what is really going through my mind? The paper? Patagonia in general? My new home I have found here in Natales? No, not really. Maybe pondering what might be going through the heads of all the international travelers out there, reading this, forming an opinion about the region, the town or even this paper? No, not that either. What I am really thinking about is my path. What brought me here? What decisions I made know-ingly or unknowingly, that landed me in a funky old building, running a hostel, a guide service and now a english newspaper... in PATAGONIA! I look at my two young boys, Noah who is 6, and Finn who is 3. Now, we all live, work, and play in Patagonia. These two boys will grow up in a international forum, with travellers from all over the world telling stories from where they came from, where they are going and where they hope to land. They will hear a vast mix of foriegn acsents and where to find them on a

    world map. They will learn Spanish with no accent and understand Chile in a way, that I as an adult, am already too late for. I will always be from Salem, Oregon, no matter how long I live here in Chile. But those boys, already on theyre third continent and third launguage (the third being Dutch), wow... thier possibilities and understanding of the modern world are endless. So why did I choose to write about my boys? Well, because they are my boys. Any parent will under-stand. No matter what happens in the future, Im sure Ill save a copy of the first issue of the Black

    Sheep, always remembering those years in Chile with my family. I want them to look back at this 20 year old, ratty paper from Southern Chile and know I was thinking about them. Who knows where they will be by then. They will probably end up as CIA agents... great. Or maybe permanate back-packers (a bit like thier Dad). You know the type, living and working in differnt countries, owning only whats in there backpack and the big satisfied smile on thier face. (Being a devout Anti-bush-ist, I am

    hoping for the latter of the two options.) Noah, Finn... If I could pass you guys advice, it would be not to take this whole game too seriously. Your choices are half chance... and so are everybody elses. CIA agent or dreadlocked hippy, focus on the tools you have and master them. Life will do the rest. Who knows where youll end up, Rustyn Mesdag -black sheep editor

    Phone NumbersPuerto Natales, Chile

    Police 132Fire 133Ambulance 131Hospital P.Arenas 205000Hospital P.Natales 411582Maritime Resue 137Areal Rescue 137CONAF 130Navimag P.Arenas 244400Navimag P.Montt 432300Lan Chile 6005262000Sky Airlines 6006002828DAP 223340

  • Carlos Bories 430 Phone 410999

    traditional Chilean lamb asados, grilled meats, seafood and shellfish.

    Experience Chile...

    Located across from Plaza de Armas

    Specializing in...


    0Black Sheep he daily questions

    How far is it to the park from here?From Natales, by bus, it takes about 2.5 to 3.0 hours.What time do the buses leave in the morning?Most of the buses pick up betwen 7am and 8am.How much does camping cost in the park?Camping cost 3.500 pesos per person, not per tent.Which ones are the free campings?Free camping are Los Guardas, Italiano, Britnico, Japones, Seron, Coron, Los Perros and Paso.At time do the stores open in the morning

    Dont count on the stores being open before 9:30am, even thenWhat about mid day?Between 12 and 3 you might as

    well nap too.Where can I buy food for the park?There are three bigger supermarkets in town, the Magno located one block south from The big penguin,, The Don Bosco and Super Mix.are both one the main streets or Baquedano and Bulnes. Whats the weather going to be like for the

    next few days?Haha! This one we just put in for fun!How cold does it get at night in the park?In the summer, not quite

    freezing at night, but it can still get close sometimes.How much does the catmeran to Pehoe cost in the park?Catarmeran cost 10.000 pesos per person, oneway.How do I contact the parks Search and Rescue if something happens?There is no Search and Rescue in the park. so I pay a enterance cost AND pay to camp?Yep.What are winters like here?Calm, blue, clear, freezing and beautiful.Is there food sold in the park?You can eat in the hot meals in the refugios. As far as buying camp food, you can find some staples at the bigger refugios, but its more cost effective to buy all your food in town.Why is there so much garbage

    on the beach?That a very good question.Can I cook in the refugios?In the nicer, bigger refugios you can usually find a gas stove to uuse, but no real kitchen facilities.Can you drink the water in the park?You bet! Best water in the world. Just make sure its fresh run off, no lake water or anything down stream from a camp or refugio.

    Frequently asked questionsThe top 30 Puerto Natales backpacker queries

    Anything important we left out?

    Let us know ... [email protected]


    december 2005 page 3

    ...you found that warm, secret, cozy, spot that you were looking


    Bulnes 299 Puerto Natales, Chile

    Phone 056 61 412239



  • 09

    The spirit of pioneersMarcela Suazo


    El MaritimoPedro Montt 214 phone 414994

    ...dinner by the sea. 18

    Kooch; el creador de la Patagonia

    Entre los ms hermosos relatos pertenecientes a la cosmovisin del pueblo Anikenk o Tehuelche (pueblo nmade, cazador y recolector que habitaba la regin a la llegada de los Europeos junto con los kaweskar y yamanas de los canales australes y los Selknam de Tierra del Fuego), se encuentra el relato de la creacin de la Patagonia por manos de Kooch, al cual se debera la existencia de sus inconfundibles elementos... el mar, la luz, el sol, el viento, las nubes y la vida sobre la tierra... este relato nos habla tambin de la cercana relacin de este pueblo con la Patagonia vasta y diversa, dependiendo para su subsistencia de los recursos naturales, animales y vegetales aqu existentes.

    ...Dicen los antiguos que hace muchsimo tiempo no haba tierra, ni mar, ni sol..... Solamente exista la densa y hmeda oscuridad de las tinieblas...En medio de ella viva, eterno Koch. Nadie sabe por que, un da Koch, que siempre haba estado bastado a si mismo, se sinti muy solo y se puso a llorar, lloro tantas lagrimas, durante tanto tiempo que con su llanto formo el mar, el inmenso ocano donde la vista se pierde... Cuando Koch se dio cuenta de que el agua creca y que estaba a punto de cubrirlo todo, dejo de llorar y suspiro. Y ese suspiro tan hondo fue el primer viento, que empez a soplar constantemente, abrindose paso entre la niebla y la oscuridad, as Kooch creo la luz...Algunos dicen que fue as, por los empujones del viento, que la niebla se disipo, otros creen que en la oscuridad, Kooch levanto el brazo y con su gesto hizo un enorme tajo en las tinieblas. Dicen tambin que el giro de su mano origino una chispa, y que esa chispa se convirti en el sol, Xleshen, como llamaban los tehuelches al gran astro, el cual se levanto sobre el mar e ilumino ese paisaje magnifico.A su vez, Xaleshen formo las nubes, que de all en masa se

    [email protected] 4


    The human presence in these remote lands repeats the thirst for adventure that has guided human beings since their origin.The first tribes of hunters that occupied these territories arrived 12.000 years ago. Only 6.000 years ago, the Kaweshkar canoers, along with the Aonikenk (ancient dwellers

    of the plains), initiated the permanence and continuity of man in this corner of the planet.

    Soon after, the arrival of the Spanish captain Juan Ladrilleros (1557-58) marked

    the discovery of the zone and much later the German pioneer Hermann Eberhard (1892-93) initiated the colonization the area.Even later the arrival of many Chilean people from the island of Chilo put their seal of identity on this area called Patagonia.

    The Yamanas

    The Yamanas or Yaghans, known as the canoeist of the Beagle, were the southernmost inhabitants in the world. They lived along the edges of the Beagle Channel, as well as neighbouring channels, as far south as Cape Horn. They were adapted to living on the coast, hunting southern sea lions for their principal source of food because of their high fat content.

    The Slknam

    The Slknam or Onas inhabited the steppes in the north and the woods in the south of Tierra del Fuego. Their way of life was very similar to that of the Aonikenk, although they never used horses. They hunted guanaco, wild birds and rodents. They lived in circular huts made of tree trunks covered with leather and sticks. The Slknam were tall, formidable, and more aggressive in character than the other aboriginals. They died out having been displaced from their lands or eliminated by the colonists who

    cleared the land in order to set up farms.

    The Kawskar

    The Kawskar. called the Alacalufes by the Spanish, lived spread out in small groups that traveled, via canoe, through the channels of the Archipelago. They inhabited the area stretching from the

    Golfo de Penas (Gulf of Pains) to the Brecknock Peninsula, a very damp and rainy area with abundant vegetation. They hunted sea lions, otters and birds, as well as fished and collected shellfish and molluscs. They would take advantage of the meat and skin of any whale beached by the low tides. They built their canoes with pieces of cut bark tied together with vegetable fibers and sealed with a mixture of earth, clay, and roots. Their huts were made with wooden poles which were covered with sea lions skin.

    The Aonikenk

    The Aonikenk or Patagones inhabited the steppe from the River Santa Cruz in Argentina in the north to the Straight of Magellan in the south. They spent their time hunting rhea (and) and other birds, as well as the guanaco whose meat they ate and skin they used for clothing. Their homes were made using leather and wooden poles. All of the group participated in the hunt for guanaco and rheas. The women carried the tools and helped to strengthen the fencing used to isolate the animals so that they could be attacked by the men with Boleadoras and bows an arrows.

  • Welcome to the Historical Municipal Museum of Puerto Natales

    The origin of this museum dates back to the 25th of April, 1990 when the first collection for the museum was organized on the iniciative of the Carabineros de Chile ( Policemen of Chile) as well as the valuable collaboration of the neighbors of Puerto Natales. The same year of its creation, it became the responsability of the Illustrious

    Museum Hours Monday to Friday 8:00 - 19:00 Saturday 10:00-13:00 and 15:00 20:00

    Entry Fee ( national currency )International $ 1000National adult visitors $ 500Children up to 12 years old free of charge

    285 Bulnes Street phone (56-61) 411263 or 411129 annex 148e-mail museonat23mail.cl

    december 2005 page 5

    Coming EventsDecember 2005 January 2006

    Post coming events for free! email to [email protected]

    December 1First issue Black Sheep released to the


    December 8 Immacu-late Conception officially observed.

    Focus is on the Virgen de lo Vasquez

    whose shrine is located between San-

    tiago and Valparaiso. Thousands of Pil-

    grims walk as far as 50k to pay homage

    to her, many covering the final five or

    six kilometers barefoot or even on their

    knees as an act of penance. This event

    draws additional tens of thousands of

    spectators to simply witness this un-

    common display of religious intensity.

    December 11 Presi-dential Elections Three finalists are in

    the last weeks of campaigning to re-

    place Chiles moderate socialist Presi-

    dent Ricardo Lagos, who will end his

    constitutionally mandated single five

    year term. Governments and their con-

    stituencies thoughout the Americas are

    particularly enthralled with this race as

    the leader in the polls is a woman, Mi-

    chelle Bachelet.

    December 13 The Municipality of Puerto Natales will

    be holding a day of games and activi-

    ties for the children of the surround-

    ing areas.

    December 20-24Christmas celebrations to be held in

    the two main plazas of Natales.

    Christmas Day On the 24th, offices tend to function for a

    half day only, but shops are generally

    open until as late as 8pm. The 25th is

    not an official holiday.

    December 26-30Shoreline Festival - Music on the

    beach. Celebrations to begin in the


    New Years Day On the 31st, offices tend to function for a

    half day only, but shops remain open

    until as late as 8pm. Then the party


    Para solicitar su aviso publicitario llame al

    fono 412239

    Reservations: [email protected]




    X (



    ) 2













    Hostel oRo Fueguino Fagnano 356 Punta aRenas - CHile

    Barros Arana 233, Puerto NatalesPatagonia, Chile

    Phone / Fax [email protected] 04

    Mmmmm...Handmade Chocolate

    Gourmet EspressoReal Hot Chocolate

  • Patagonia. The name alone quickens the pulse and sets the imagination in motion. Patagonia. It has been a place of adventure, trial and discovery for hundreds of years. A truly unique region, Patagonia has both an astounding environment and an equally engaging history. Dictated mostly by the accumulation, movement and ablation of ice, Patagonia boasts some of the worlds most sculpted landscapes. From the Torres Del Paine to Los Cuernos Mt. Fitzroy and Cerro Torre, huge granite towers shroud the area in an air of grandeur.

    Dramatic fjords divide the west coast of Patagonia into an array of inlets and islands created by the cutting power of glacial melt. Patagonias latitude between 39 and 55 degrees

    south, combined with the cold temperatures influenced by the Humboldt Current off of Chiles coast, have caused Patagonia to develop the largest ice sheets in the southern hemisphere today outside of Antarctica. These ice sheets dominated the landscape periodically for thousands of years and their consequent movement has chiseled out the finer features of the region. The stark natural beauty of the area, combined with the unrelenting weather, has made this place famous around the globe. It is a place in which to truly observe the awesome power of nature.

    The dramatic scenery found in this region of the world is coupled with an equally interesting history. The names of the early explorers of Patagonia read like a whos who of the international mountaineering community. From the famous English explorers H.W. Tillman and Eric Shipton, to the Italians Toni Egger and Cesare Maestri, and countless others, Patagonia has drawn some of the biggest names in climbing to its unique, isolated landscape.

    With serious climbing expeditions dating back to at

    least 1914, it took some years before the monster towers of Patagonia were climbed. The 1950s may have been the biggest decade for Patagonian exploration and climbing. In 1952, the famous Mt. Fitzroy saw its first ascent by Lionel Terray and Guido Magnone.

    Famed English explorer H.W. Tillman completed the first traverse of the South Patagonia Ice field in 27 days in 1955 to 1956, covering 60 kilometers. Eric Shipton, another notable Englishman, completed three large expeditions to the area in 1958, collecting a large number of plant species from remote areas. 1959 saw the now controversial first ascent of Cerro Torre by Italians Cesare Maestri and Toni Egger. Egger died in an avalanche after reportedly reaching the summit. Maestri claimed that the camera was taken away with Egger. Although Eggers body was found in subsequent

    years, no camera or any other evidence of their reaching the summit has ever been produced. With well over 20 attempts to repeat this route, no one to this day has been able to conquer the upper north face, adding to the doubt surrounding the first ascent. Also in 1959, Shipton

    completed another expedition near the southern ice field, rediscovering the Lautaro volcano, which had been forgotten for 30 years.

    Subsequent years saw more and more exploration and first ascents by Shipton and his peers. Patagonia has now become an international destination for any serious climber looking for

    long alpine routes. The weather is most often the limiting factor of the climbs. First ascents are still being seen every year, not only on new routes on previously summited peaks, but also on peaks that have never before been climbed. The development of Patagonia as a testing ground for up-and-coming climbers will be interesting to watch in the years to come, as more and more routes are added to climbers tick lists.

    The climbing history of Patagonia, however, is only a small part of the regions

    Patagonia 101 by Jon Shea

    [email protected] 6

    photo by Rodrigo Fuica


    Phone 412239Bulnes 299Pto.Natales

    Lunch dinner drinksRestoBar


  • erratic rock IIThe hosteling alternative for couples.

    25.000 CLP FOR TWO

    OPENING JANUARY 1, 2006 Puerto Natales, Chile

    Everything for couples...



    M.Balmaceda 722 [email protected]

    All privat

    e bathroo


    phone 61414611 Barros Aranas 111


    identity. First reached by Westerners in the 1520s, Patagonia has always been a place of adventure and wild imagination. Magellans famous circumnavigation of the globe brought Patagonia into contact with the rest of the world. Magellans crew, the few that survived anyhow, would spread the fame of the Pataghones, or the big-feet. The Patagonian giants, taller than a galleon, clad with animal skins and speaking in strange tongues, were sought after for many years by any sailor coming through the straights near Tierra del Fuego. In reality, however, pre-contact times saw four major tribes of indigenous people inhabiting this region. The Aonikenk, the Kaweskar, the Yamana and the Selknam lived in the different regions of

    Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego. Unfortunately paralleling the story of North American native tribes, these indigenous people also faced constant relocation to various reservations, as well as epidemic diseases that severely reduced their populations. Some early anthropological studies, however, were able to document the elaborate ceremonial lives of some of these tribes.

    Another famous expedition to come to Patagonia was headed by an ambitious captain of the British navy. Robert Fitzroy took two trips to Patagonia aboard the Beagle. Although Fitzroy played a large role in the surveying of much of Patagonia and in the development of modern day meteorology, the Beagle is perhaps most well known for its second journey, when a young man named Charles Darwin

    For Black Sheep advertising call

    412239 or [email protected]


    december 2005 page 7

    photo by Rodrigo Fuica

  • Torri del PaineChe cosa fare in pochi giorni?

    Nel cuore della provincia dellUltima Speranza e lontano circa 150 chilometri della cittadina di Puerto Natales, capitale della provincia, si trova il Parco Nazionale delle Torri del Paine, i tre famosi pilastri hanno dato il nome al parco, queste maestose montagne di granito si ergono quasi verticalmente per pi di 2000 metri sulla steppa

    della Patagonia.Il parco considerato un classico del suo genere per la possibilit di vedere da vicino quelle montagne spettacolari che rimangono un mito per i alpinisti di tutto il mondo. Inoltre la possibilita di osservare paesaggi indimenticabili e la emozione intensissime per il contatto con animali inusuali alle vostre latitudini.

    Il Parco Nazionale delle Torri del Paine fu istituito nel 1959 dal governo cileno originariamente per

    proteggerlo dell uso agricolo indiscriminato operato dai pascoli in quota di pecore e mucche per quasi un secolo prima della creazione del parco. Fortunatamente, la politica di tutela ambientale degli ultimi anni ha dato alcuni importanti risultati e la zona del Paine sta lentamente superando le conseguenze dell sfruttamento eccessivo.

    Nel 1978 il parco fu dichiarato dallUNESCO come reserva della Biosfera, formando parte dei principali ecosistema del mondo. Il parco rappresenta un patrimonio di biodiversit che merita di essere conosciuto, amato e conservato per le future generazioni.

    Che cosa fare?www.yakexpediciones.cl

    Small groups for active travellers.


    5661411835 14

    Beste Black Sheep,

    10 maanden geleden liet ik een druilerig Nederland achter me, op weg naar het einde van de wereld. Een Groningse in Patagonisch Chili.... en het is eigenlijk helemaal niet moeilijk om je hier thuis te voelen. Dezelfde paardebloemen in de tuin, dezelfde lange avonden, dezelfde frisse lentedagen, wisselende wolkenluchten, tuinkabouter terreur, lounge cafeetjes, collectes rond etenstijd, chileense wijnen en dezelfde drie uur om in de bewoonde wereld te komen. De vis is hier goedkoper, en het fruit misschin iets minder exotisch dan bij de toko op de hoek, dat is waar, maar als je lang genoeg in Nateles bent, ga je bijna geloven dat de Don Bosco beter is dan Albert Heijn. Is Natales dus gewoon Groningen zonder AH to go? Of is Nederland stiekem Patagoni in een notendop...? in een notendop...? in een notendop...?Het antwoord is natuurlijk nee, het gras is namelijk wel degelijk een andere kleur groen aan dit uiteinde van de wereld. Het water blauwer, de bergen ruiger (tja....) de weg naar Paine via Cerro Castillo net iets inspirerender dan Den Haag via Almere Haven.


    [email protected] 8






    Located across from the other Plaza...


    erratic rock


    Nel Parco Torres del Paine, una valida alternativa al giro del Paine, la cosiddetta W, che si pu completare, se si hanno buone gambe, in soli quattro giorni. Il primo giorno si pu salire fino al rifugio Cileno (2 ore da Campeggio Las torres), dal quale si pu, sempre in giornata, andare e tornare al mirador delle Torri del Paine (4 ore). Il secondo

  • Ten Years of NOLS in NatalesBlair Stone

    The typical travel constraints of time and money leave most travelers with a tick-list of things to accomplish on their travels to the end of the Earth. Trekking in Torres del Paine National Park, walking on Glacier Grey, or paddling in Seno Ultima Esperanza are a few options for those with limited time to experience the wildness of this place. But Patagonia, in all of its vastness, offers even more for those who want to further their skills in the mountains or along the coast, to learn what is needed to travel safely beyond the trails and into the heart of wild places.

    From the glaciated Cordillera to the coastal temperate rainforest, Patagonia has attracted explorers and adventurers for centuries. For these same reasons of location,

    exploration, and experiential learning, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) created a Patagonia program in Puerto Natales in 1996. The

    National Outdoor Leadership School, founded in the United States in 1965, is a non-profit educational organization whose goal is to give people the skills to comfortably and responsibly lead others in the backcountry.

    Here in Natales, NOLS has become a part of a wide-reaching community of schools, guiding

    agencies, businesses and government projects who share the same commitment

    to education and conservation. Nearly ten years later, NOLS courses in this region of Patagonia are still just as exploratory as the first course in 1996.

    With courses in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, India, Australia and New Zealand, NOLS has established programs that range from two week, skill-specific courses to three-month semesters. From sailing courses in Baja Mexico to mountaineering expeditions in the Patagonian Ice Fields, NOLS students are

    given the tools to create solid technical and leadership skills, sound environmental ethics, and valuable experience in expeditionary living.

    In Patagonia, NOLS operates

    courses in both English and Spanish. Departing from Puerto Natales, the Patagonia Semester

    runs twice a year and consist of 80 continuous days in the field. Taught in English, these courses include Sea Kayaking, Mountaineering, and Small Group Expedition sections. In conjunction with the Wilderness Medicine Institute, NOLS also

    Departing from Puerto Natales, the Patagonia Semester runs twice a year and consists of 80 continuous days in the field.


    Ten years of NOLS in Natalesby E. Blair Stone


    december 2005 page 9


    photo by Phil Schnieder

  • The nautical route to Torres del Paine.


    [email protected] 10

    The one that started it all.

    Regular Bus Natales - Torres del Paine

    JB 412824 [email protected] 7.30 / 14.00Gomez 4157007.30 / 14.00

    Regreso (return) Torres del Paine - Natales

    JBAdministracion 13.00/18.30Pudeto 14.00/19.00Laguna Amarga 15.00/20.00

    GomezAdministracion 13.00/18.15Pudeto 14.00/19.00Laguna Amarga 15.00/19.45


    BUS FERNANDEZ 411111 www.busesfernandez.com

    NATALES TO PUNTA ARENAS 7.15 9.0013.00

    Local Bus Schedules

  • This past season, the negligence of one camper using a stove started a huge environmental catastrophe in the Torres del Paine National Park.

    Since it was declared to be a Reserve of the Biosphere by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1978, the Chilean Torres del Paine National Park has suffered several environmental disasters, but two fires in particular caused more irreparable damage than anything else. One was a colossal fire that in 1985 converted incredible old beech forests into ashes. Those forests will never be back to the way they were.

    The other disaster is the fire that started on February 17, 2005. It burned unique meadows, valleys, and woods that are the essence of the Patagonian wildlife and landscape. The fire began on a Thursday afternoon. During the first 48 hours, the firefighting consisted of sending in two dozen teenagers, armed only with shovels, and with out any logistic assistance.

    Miraculously, in those first three days, there was no wind (an occurrence that is very uncommon at that time of the year). The lack of wind could have been a key element to controlling the damage, but as there was no serious and sophisticated firefighting methods being used, the lack of wind didnt help; it only gave the impression that the fire was going out. However, all of us who love our homeland and have been here for some years knew better.

    The following Monday evening, the wind returned, and Patagonia became a living hell.

    On Monday, 56 hours after the fire was declared, the local authorities finally performed the first aircraft flyover, and had a proper assessment of the real situation.

    Of course, the conclusion was pretty obvious by that time.

    Now, some explanations are being given for the lack of technical and professional firefighting deployment to

    control the fire, but the main reason is that there are no resources for it.

    It is incredible to hear this argument, considering the fact that it was only two years ago that the Chilean government was showing the whole world this countrys preparedness and high degree of coordination and mobilization when, in less than 48 hours, 300 fully-equipped soldiers were deployed to Haiti. The deployment included vehicles, portable hospitals, food, water treatment plants, ammunitions, and much more. Equipment was sent to the other side of

    t h e

    world to contribute to the humanitarian cause.

    Although the capacity for Chile to react strongly to emergencies exists, the problem lies in its priorities. The Chilean government has to understand that the environmental cause is not only a topic to talk about in the international forums; it has to be a national priority. If Chile wants to been taken seriously by the international community, it has to show, with proof, that its priorities are in the right place.

    Clearly, the lack of reaction time shows that for the Chilean government, the protection of the environment is not yet an issue. Its resources need to be spent usefully, and not in useless environmental bureaucracy, in which endless amounts of money can be spent. This has to be changed by us, the people. The Chilean voters and taxpayers, together with the international public opinion, have to put their priorities straight. If the people lead, the leaders will follow.

    Torres del Paine fire by Max Salas iOpinion

    Invisible FearEveryone who has gotten

    ready to set off on a trip has, before

    leaving, run through a checklist either

    mentally or physically.e dont want tophysically.e dont want to. e dont want to

    forget anything that will be necessary

    during those days, weeks or months

    in which we are away, especially once

    we have crossed foreign borders.

    Despite our best efforts to remember

    everything, there exists an invisible

    fear to which we dont generally pay

    much attention.

    At the moment of departure,

    we are bound intimately to our luggage.

    I have a friend who always reminds me

    that the most danger that we may face on

    a trip is related to our own expectations

    and what we hope to find, hope

    to see, hope to

    make and hope

    to experience on

    our trip, and that

    it can become, in

    a way, our worst


    e move

    with big packs on

    our backs. e have

    images of National

    Geographic and

    prejudices of every

    kind in our minds, and we hear other

    voices from other visitors ringing in

    our ears, saying, do this, dont do

    this, this activity is a waste of time,

    and this place isnt worth it, but this

    other place is.

    ith all of

    these warnings in our

    minds, we dont allow

    ourselves to really

    connect with the reality

    of the place, preventing

    the experience

    from touching and

    transforming us, with

    respect and humility to

    those who are around us.

    This kills the chance to

    enrich ourselves with the experience of

    what we find in our steps. A destination

    is never just a place. It is a new way to

    see new things and to see the world.

    If we really want to cross the

    border, we must be aware of this fear

    and allow ourselves to be open, free,

    and flexible. In this way, maybe at

    the end of our journey, we can answer

    questions about our journey by saying

    that we walked in the town, stayed

    longer than we planned, played with

    children, spoke with older people, had

    coffee alone, spent hours sitting on a

    train thinking about how life goes by,

    found love, thought about settling

    down, and dreamed about coming back.

    In this way, we will have converted the

    invisible fear into visible experiences,

    real and unforgetable.

    december 2005 page 11

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    Guided and unguided


    Every time you visit a different country, one question almost always comes to your mind: Whats the food like there?

    Well, in Chile, the food is not very sophisticated, but it is definitely delicious. There are a wide variety of meats, including lamb, pork, beef, fish, shellfish, and poultry. If youre lucky enough, youll taste guanaco, andu, boar, or deer. Of course, youll find these dishes in non-traditional restaurants or at

    family houses or hostels.

    Youll also find good and strong drinks. The Chileans have a pisco culture, which means that we are very keen on making drinks based on pisco.

    Since many lodges offer communal kitchens, we suggest that you prepare and try your own pisco sour.

    Here is a recipe for this tempting drink:

    Pisco SourYou need 3 parts of pisco

    Waiting for a bus to Calafate? Need to kill a few hours before heading to Punta Arenas? If you are looking for a way to spend a nice half day in Natales, go on a two hour hike up Cerro Dorotea. Grab a local taxi and ask them to take you to Mirador Dorotea. Its a fifteen minute taxi ride and youll find yourself on the southern side of Dorotea. Pay the woman about 3000 pesos to cross her property and head off down the trail. The trail is really well marked and takes you through the forest and up to the top of the east facing cliffs that overlook Puerto Natales. From the view point you get a great view of Natales and Seno Ultima Esparanza. On a clear day, the view of the Paine Massif is stunning.

    A Half Day on Dorotea


    Tourist Booking Center and personal transportation specialists.

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    Paine Grande Mountain Lodge & Paine Grande CampingAlongside Lago Pehoe with great views of the Paine Mountains.

    Lodge, camping, restaurant, cooking

    facilities, bar, hot showers.

    Book Exchange

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    The Patagonian 5by oso de Oregon

    Most of us are familiar with Africas famous big 5: The buffalo, elephant, rhinoceros, lion and leopard. However, few are familiar with the Patagonian 5 (probably because I just came up with it to get published).

    Though they are not as big or dangerous as their counterparts in Africa, the P5 prove to be just as unique and even harder to observe (except for the Guanacos!). A lot of luck is needed to observe all of the 5 in the park. Hopefully, the descriptions that follow will help

    trekkers in Torres del Paine find, or be aware of what to look for and where to look for them.

    GUANACO: A South American cameloid relative of the llama and the alpaca. Sleek and strong, with brownish-white bodies and long necks. They are found in the steppe areas of Laguna Amarga, Laguna Azul, on the drive from the entrance to

    Lago Pehoe, and Laguna Verde. Guanacos feed on grasses, lichen and shrubs. They need once a year and give birth to their chulengos between November and February.

    HUEMUL: The Huemul or Andian deer is a small, compact deer, measuring just 1.5 meters in length. They can be found on the road between Administration and Hosteria Grey, near Western Bomelsies, around Lago Grey, and along the pingo tram. The Huemul is on the

    The Patagonia Fiveby Oso de Oregon

    10december 2005 page 13


  • For the amateur equine-lover, a horseback trip through Chilean Patagonia may seem daunting, but given the right group of guides, it can be an experience of a lifetime! Recently I had the chance to accompany a group of Chile Nativo guides, gauchos from Estanica Guido, and two local women working on a video about Patagonia, to scout a new horse pack trip near the Torres del Paine Park.

    We arrived late in the night under a brilliant full moon to our warmly lit Estancia and a c c o m m o d a t i o n , Lodge Cerro Guido. After unloading the gear we gathered around a cozy fire, snacked on appetizers and drank Pisco sours while waiting to meet our hosts. The newly renovated Estancia has country elegance and comfortable accommodations, not to mention delicious local cuisine. After dinner and a last view of the stars, our group headed off to a soft bed and a good sleep; our last taste of civilization before heading out for five days of exploring the wilds of Patagonia along the Chile/Argentine border.

    Its May and the Lenga leaves (Nothofogus family) are making their brilliant color change from deep green to fiery red. The weather has started to turn colder and we might have a chance of snow. We wake up early and after a hearty breakfast we met our horses. We brought along two pack horses for our food and gear. Im thrilled with my horse, a speckled grey gelding named Benedicto Torres; we become quick

    companions. The sky threatens rain, but holds as we make our way across a mixture of steppe and hills covered in wind-twisted trees and low lying bushes toward Estancia Las Chinas.

    Along the way, we stop for a picnic lunch at a small deserted puesto, a rustic hut that the gauchos use while moving the animals. We experience real pampering when our lunch is spread before us. Smoked salmon and cream cheese, avocados, homemade bread and hot soup ease the chill and prepare us for the afternoon. We push ourselves to

    get back into the saddle knowing that we have quite a bit more riding ahead of us to make it to camp before nightfall.

    We can see it in the distance, a welcoming curl of smoke rising from the Estancia las Chinas housethere will be new gauchos to meet, fresh baked bread, hot coffee and friendly conversation. As I know from previous horseback trips in Patagonia, there is no more humble and welcoming a man than the gaucho in his hut. We stride through the gate and the sheep dogs bark excitedly at the new arrivals. We are welcomed by the gaucho known as Metallico, for his metallic voice; he is a heavy set man in his 60s.

    His easy gaucho air is friendly and welcoming. We are directed to set up our tents in the back pasture. The horses graze around us and you can hear their soft murmurs in the night. Sleep comes fast and deep after a long day in the saddle and a face full of Patagonian extremes.

    The following day we head into a river cut valley, our destination the puesto Las Chinas. The ride has some great sections, perfect for cantering and winding our way through neneo and Calafate bushes. Every once in a while, one of the group will race to the top of an overlook and bring back a report of the areas ahead. Finally we arrive to our puesto; after miles

    of pastureland it was like arriving to a castle. We all set about to our tasks to make our new space more comfortable. There was wood to be gathered, a fire to be made, hot water to boil for mate (yerba mate is a bitter tea from Paraguay that is drank from a gourd through a metal straw, very typical in this part of Chilean Patagonia) and the horses to unsaddle and put to pasture. Our duties pass the time quickly and it feels good

    to be living and exper iencing e s t a n c i a life. Later in the day the gauchos arrive with the rest of our supplies. We welcomed them with a hearty dinner of roasted lamb, hot coffee and warm h o m e m a d e bread. That night in this rustic hut, candles and h e a d l a m p s our ambient l i g h t i n g , s u r r o u n d e d

    by new friends united in adventure and good spirit, we drank simple red wine, told stories and played games to pass the time. Outside, the wind whipped around the puesto, but we were warm inside, not another soul for miles.

    The following day we headed toward our next puesto, La Rosada and the Argentine border. The unmarked route was new for the group except to the gauchos. It proved to be a challenging day, filled with exciting river crossings, steep descents and a precarious march through a long slippery section of river. Ill never forget one section called the valley of the moon, a desert like expanse of mountains and hills, stripped of vegetation from the harsh winds and extreme temperatures; colors of chocolate brown and steel gray with a contrasting silver sky. It was so beautiful it took my breath away. As we crossed

    this unforgettable expanse, the cold was so intense and uncomfortable we pushed on quickly, with hopes to return someday to take in this beauty again. The trail led back down into the river valley, the sun

    came out to warm our bodies and we stopped for a hot soup and fueled up for the rest of the journey. Not long after the river section ended we

    could hear the bellows of cows from the distance and our spirits lifted knowing that La Rosada was very close. The narrow valley opened into a green grassy field filled with Argentine cows that had crossed the open border. Our inner cowboy awakened and with a whoop and a holler we chased the cows back over the border. One little calf so overwhelmed by the excitement staggered around like a drunk and fell in a heap on the ground. Diego and Angelo, two of the Chile Nativo guides, raced over to the calf to see if they could save it by stroking the poor beast to calm it down. It quickly recovered, jumped to its feet and raced back to its panicked mother.

    La Rosada is a secluded puesto used by gauchos for the summer time grazing of their cows. Its the type of place you want to spend some time to soak in its natural beauty. On a clear night its the perfect place to lie down in the pasture and stare up at the stars next to a campfire. About a 15 minute walk from the puesto I reached a sign post and the limit between Chile and Argentina. Its a good photo opportunity as well as a chance to feel the remoteness of this location. Upon our arrival, the guides turned our puesto into a cozy home; in a flash the place was tidy, there was a fire blazing in the

    Magallenic stove and we were all rehashing our day over a hot delicious meal.

    Its the second to last day, and were back in the saddle again and on the return toward civilization. We have not seen another person for 2 days. Our group has really bonded over the trip. The advantage of horseback riding is the time you get to spend chatting with your companions and time to contemplate life.

    Many conversations and opinions were shared between the group both on and off horse. Its been a beautiful trip and there is still more to come.

    Outside, the wind whipped around the puesto, but we were warm inside, not another soul for miles.

    A very different Patagonia

    NaturalDriedFruitBaquedano 443Puerto Natales

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    by Rebecca Armstrong

  • Our ride followed a two-track road that winds its way back toward the national park. The sections to come where ideal for cantering the horses and fulfilling c o w b o y fantasies of old black and white movies from our childhood. Just about the time we were all ready for a rest and a meal, we arrived to the puesto La Porfiada, which t r a n s l a t e s as stubborn person. The gauchos living in this hut were out with their animals, but typical to Patagonia g a u c h o h o s p i t a l i t y , a stranger is always welcome to come into the puesto, warm t h e m s e l v e s by a fire, help themselves to mate and food, and when you leave, you are expected to clean and restock the hut as you found it. For our luck there was a pan full of freshly made tortas (fried bread and a local specialty). Once again the guides set out a spread of food to be admired; several days of riding and no stores to be found and we still ate like royalty. There was smoked turkey, various cheeses, and sliced tomatoes. Angelo taught me how to serve and prepare mate in the traditional way and Julia filmed some shots of the puesto and our lunch while we relaxed in the warm hut, visiting with our hosts who had returned to greet us. Eventually we gathered our belongings and remounted, with the winter light, we needed to push on to make it to our next destination, Laguna Azul.

    Just as the sun was setting we arrived to Estancia Laguna Azul which sits on the edge of the Torres del Paine national park and has a privileged view of the

    T o w e r s . Our arrival is greeted with a r o u n d s of hand shaking and slaps on the backs from our guides. As in most e v e r y estancia we visited, they s e e m e d to be known and welcomed, and so were we. We have spent an extra day getting to Laguna Azul and we need to send word back to the family of

    Julia and to the Chile Nativo office that we are doing fine and will be arriving one day later. Gonzalo, Angelo and I ride off quickly on our horses toward the park ranger station with hopes to catch the ranger before he makes his daily 8 pm radio contact with the other ranger stations and the outside world. We ride

    off at a fast gallop to catch the last remaining bit of light. We arrive to a deserted station, but luckily Gonzalo is a good friend with the ranger and enters into the house with

    confidence to use the radio. Our path of return is dark, there isnt much moon this evening, but the stars are radiating in the sky. I am secretly nervous well cross a puma in the night, but its not a realistic fear and I set my mind to enjoy this rare opportunity to ride by horseback at night. We arrive back to the estancia house tired and cold to find that Diego, Julia and Javiera have set up all the tents

    and sleeping bags, what a team!

    Our last day of riding takes us past a series of Estancias, Tercera and Segunda, before we reach Cerro Guido again. Our group is a bit smaller. Angelo and Javiera took advantage of our proximity to the Park to return to work. We sadly sad our good-byes, having spent a few amazing days united in adventure. The rest of us continue on and we are joined by a few gauchos we met at Laguna Azul as they head our way to check on some fences. As we ride again through the pampas (steppe), we frighten various groups of guanacos and and. Above us soar the majestic Andean Condor and we even catch sight of a Black-chested eagle. From our perch atop the horses, we can see the land stretch out before us and all the treasure it holds; it feels like we are on a wildlife safari. We reach the Estancia Guido once again, 5 days later, tired and a little dusty, but content and satisfied with a trip well run and a journey fully shared. The wind has picked up again, just in time as we step out of our saddles for the last time, lead our equine companions into the barn and gather our gear to head to a warm shower and real bed. Thanks to everyone in the group for an amazing experience.

    ...the cold was so intense and uncomfortable, we

    pushed on quickly.

    page 15


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