Explorer’s Corner: A Journey in Cochamo, Chile

Even the incredible pictures that I saw on Facebook and the great stories I heard from travelers had no chance at properly preparing me for the magnificence I was about to see and experience in the Cochamó Valley.  It is beyond description, the only way to really appreciate it is to go there.  It all began with a gray rocky beach where we plunged our kayaks into the emerald green waters of the Rio Cochamó.  We had a beautiful sunny day outside of Puerto Varas, Chile, which allowed us to see volcano and mountaintops outlining the landscape.  We paddled all day on the beautiful fjord de Reloncaví passing horses, lush green lands and towering mountains.  After a stop for lunch we paddled straight for the town of Cochamó accompanied by curious seals and porpoises swimming along side of us.
When Ko Kayak dropped us off at Campo Aventura’s Riverside Lodge in Cochamó, Isabel, our kayak guide, whispered to us that we were about to experience something very special.  In only moments we would learn she was exactly right.  Kurt and Armin, who own Campo, greeted us with warm smiles and invited us to afternoon tea.  Because I am allergic to wheat, Jordan and Tara had arranged for them to make all wheat-free meals and snacks.  Right away we felt we were welcomed into a home next to a rushing river with warm Alerce wood buildings, and vibrant hydrangeas setting the scene. 

After a wonderful night by the river we packed up to hit the Cochamó Trail on horseback and ride 20 kilometers upstream to our next destination, the sister outback lodge on a mountainside in La Junta Valley.  Cochelo, a strapping gaucho, led our group up the rugged majestic path through one of the last remaining temperate rainforests in the world.  We crossed rivers and wove through the vegetation that can only be best described as resembling the landscape in Avatar; every turn was breathtaking.  It was incredible to imagine we were tracing the steps of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid. 

When we made our final river crossing we came through the gateway of trees to a vast green pasture surrounded by jagged snow-capped mountains spitting icy waterfalls.  We rode through the grazing lambs and horses towards the wood buildings where we dismounted our powerful horses and met Tatiana, Horacio, and their son Andreas who live at the mountain lodge and tend to all the cooking, horses, and surrounding property.  On the menu for our first dinner…a proper asado (a tasty Chilean version of a barbeque)!

We spent the next few days at the Mountain Lodge appreciating how refreshing the lifestyle is there.  Although there is no electricity at the lodge, you barely notice it.  The sun does not set until nearly 10 pm in summer, and what is more charming than candlelight?  Because of the dramatic landscape, they are able to make use of gravity to provide running water, while the wood-burning stove that Tatiana prepares meals on, heats a water tank for hot showers.  Tatiana made amazing (wheat-free!) meals on the only style stove/oven she has known.  She told us she has cooked on a wood stove since she was eight-years-old.  It was hard to believe that the delicious food did not require complex technology.  

Each day, with lunch packed, we journeyed out on hikes.  One hike led us to the top of a mountain called Trinidad.  We climbed through towering trees that were thousands of years old, crossed streams with water so clear you had to look twice to confirm it was really water, and scaled rocks to admire La Junta Valley.  We trekked further to the Laguna at the top for lunch and admired the vista around us, what is often referred to as the Yosemite of South America.

After a long hike, there is nothing more refreshing than taking a plunge down the natural waterslide only steps from the lodge.  It is an organically carved waterslide, and the rocks are so smooth, it seems as though it is intentional that they are used as a slide.  The water is chilly, but it is definitely worth it; we enjoyed it so much we went back each subsequent day.

The morning we were set to depart the Mountain Lodge was a difficult one.  We were leaving behind the refreshing waters in the rivers and waterfalls, lush forests, and warm accommodations; we were yearning to stay at least another night.  A little sad, but filled with great memories, we waved goodbye and set off on the trail with our trusty horses.  It was a life-changing trip to be so immersed in the Chilean lifestyle and witness such amazing sites.  We cannot thank Jordan and Tara enough for sharing this Patagonian treasure with us. 

By Guest Author: Jennifer Vandemoer Mitchell
Note: this itinerary is part of the Northern Patagonia Odyssey – for more photos, information, and detailed itinerary click here.