In Patagonia, the Andes mountains get lower and the valleys wider. You wouldn’t believe me if you flew from Puerto Montt because all you see during the flight is rocky peaks loaded with snow. I mean, loads of snow in a never-ending sight of white. During the 1-hour journey you wonder two things:
- What the heck was I thinking?
- Where is the pilot going to land this thing?
EDIT: I took the above photos from my flight back to PUerto Montt, after I posted. However, I took them ESPECIALLY for this post because the breathtaking nature of this beauty needs to be shared.
As the plane descends, the landscape changes abruptly. Rocks turn into bushy vegetation and heights become lower, wider valleys cracked by strips of water. The aircraft turns and turns, it continues descending, it pulls out the wheels. You can see how the wing caresses a nearby hill. And then we land in the “city” of Balmaceda, only a couple of kilometres away from the border with Argentina. Amazing. Another hour or so to Coyhaique along curvy roads makes me a little dizzy but glad when I get to the hotel. “Coyhaique is a small place” everyone in Osorno, Temuco, and Valdivia had told me. WHAT?! Small is some squares, but this is a a medium-size town. With 60,000 inhabitants, Coihayque is the capital city of the Region of Aysén. But I measure towns size on the number of schools they have. In my walking around I have spotted three schools which occupy full blocks. That is not “small”.
In the Aysen region you can do many things. I could not do any of them. At this time of the year (late June, early July), tourism operators do not work because the influx of people is almost null. All guests in my hotel came for work, like me. Some tours are offered during the weekends if enough people sign up, but I could not get enough for the Marble Chapels in Carrera Lake to the south. On regular months, this costs about U$S 90 but if the guides took me alone, it would have been U$S 400. That’s how much I spent in lodging this week! Of course, I did not go, but I promise I will.
One of the things I love about Coyhaique (and something I have noticed in southern Chile) is that people are nice. I mean, really nice. Everyone is willing to help you, to talk, to give you a hand. Also, because this is a fairly small city (not small-small, but just enough), people know each other so when I wanted to find someone, shop attendants, waiters, clerks, and librarians could point which direction to go. Moreover, some people phoned people I needed to talk to right in front of me. Others would give a discount rate in their books because they said I was nice. That is nice.
If you wonder where Coyhaique is, this is its exact location. I don’t know much of the longitude, but the latitude is pretty south. However, if you compare it with the northern hemisphere, it does not look so terrible and it may seem I am exaggerating: Yet, the southern hemisphere is quite different because continents other than Antarctica reach only . If you think about it, the southernmost cities in the globe are So, I am quite south. Not the super south like Punta Arenas or Ushuaia, but quite south.