Rio Verde and Isla Riesco - big trip - diary - chile - march 2003

Could have someone's eye out with that!

Estancia Rio Verde

Tuesday 11 - Wednesday 12 March

We noticed on the map that there is a gravel road which branches off the main way to Punta Arenas and passes along the coast. As dusk neared we took this route and arrived at Rio Verde which was once a large sheep farm founded by a Scotsman early last century. The the buildings now house a small community of 20 residents and the sheep are farmed on a smaller scale. The locals told us it was no problem to camp there and as we were about to break out the stove Ana Maria invited us to her house for some tea.

The old farm admin building now houses the government offices for the county as it were and the big mansion house is now the museum and school with a hospital beside it. Remote places like this qualify for free gas and electricity, the latter of which comes from a diesel generator, and the hardy residents enjoy slightly higher than average wages.


Shearing shed

Sheared sheep

Our host turned out to be an informative guide to the local area, telling us about the history of the farm and showing us around the small museum. We also found out that there is a ferry which crosses the short stretch over to Isla Riesco, Ana-Maria being a closet off-road driving fan recommended we check out the route Cabo Leon at the northern end of the island.

One of many river crossings

Old fishing boat

Dead trees

Don't eat these or you're sure to return

Old shed

On the way to Cabo Leon

The morning dawned a bit dark and blustery but we caught the 10am ferry and headed west 50kms along to the end of the coastal gravel road. The weather cleared as we progressed around the island, passing the gates of various estancias. After an hour the gravel road disappeared leaving only some wheel tracks to follow through the fields, along the stone beaches and across various rivers.

Cabo Leon

Ours is not the first landy to get here

Self sufficient lifestyle

Fresh salmon drying beside the range

Regional es la que manda!

The ferry back

Arriving at Cabo Leon we thought the place was deserted, but as we were checking out an old landy Moses appeared biblically and invited us for a tasty lunch of seafood soup. The estancia is self sufficient with solar panel and a (disconnected) water wheel to charge batteries for the radio, as well as plentiful salmon in the rivers. The area is owned by Greenpeace, who occasionally send people there to study the flora and fauna. Moses looks after them as well as making wooden chairs and generally looking after the place. He has been living here for 3 years by himself, with a visit to his mother in Puerto Montt once a year at Christmas. We noticed a couple of pictures of dorises cut out of a clothes catalogue and stuck on the wall in the kitchen, so thought he might appreciate the present of a beer poster given to us in Venezuela!

Click to see a wicked VIDEO of the landy crossing this river (1.3Mb)

We headed back to catch the 5pm ferry to the mainland before making it to Punta Arenas by nightfall, interrupted slightly by a puncture. After a quick meal and a go on the internet we went to the nearby national park to camp, only to find the gates locked. Finding some trees which afforded limited shelter from the biting wind and icy rain we opened the tent for another cold night.

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