Saturday, 19 November 2016

Aiken del Sur Nature Park

Events of Friday, 18th November (continued)

In the earlier post here, I described our journey from the ship to the Aiken del Sur Nature Park. The information issued in the ship’s daily programme of events ‘Chronicles’ waxed quite lyrical about the attractions of the nature park we were to visit:-
The natural beauty of the Aiken del Sur includes Riesco Lake, waterfalls, indigenous perennial forests, caducifoliae, humid variety ferns, moss and litchen; prairies of myrtle and turf mingled with wild fuschia and calafate shrubbery; as well as macal and mallines or swamps. Breath-taking views of the lake, hills and nearby mountains as well as the chance to spot some of the local birds such as the “chucao” and “hueta” are also amongst the attractions.
According to a local information board, the 250-hectare Aiken del Sur Nature Park and the Hotel Loberias in Puerto Chacabuco are privately owned by Detroit Chile S.A. who state that they are committed to “respect the ecological guidelines and legistlation concerning the Park’s existence, as well as to take any steps required to reforest damaged areas for the joy of future generations.”

The size of the groups meant that we set off in a long crocodile which was less than ideal when our guide was trying to make explanations but it was, nonetheless, a very pleasant walk. The rain held off, the area was (unlike the ship) protected from the wind and later in the morning a warming sun appeared.

Almost immediately, our trail led us over a broad stream, the Estero El Salto, via a substantial steel bridge. We then continued on a circuitous gravel path threaded through the larger trees heading generally north-west, staying fairly near to the east bank of the stream.

One of the most prolific plants was the Giant Rhubarb, with leaves up to one metre across. The stem is edible but better in the younger plant, otherwise the oxalic acid content increases.

Aiken del Sur Nature Park: Giant Rhubarb dwarfs our charming guide.

In places there were large bushes of Chilco (Fuchsia magellanica), with bright red flowers dangling and some striking examples of the Firebush tree, with myriad bright red flowers.

Aiken del Sur Nature Park: Chilco (Fuchsia magellanica).

The largest tree in the forest was the Tepa, with a trunk two or three feet diameter in mature specimens. The most distinctive tree was the Arrayan (Luma apiculata). This develops multiple trunks with a smooth brown bark often rubbed away to show a grey, almost white trunk.

Aiken del Sur Nature Park: Arrayan (Luma apiculata).

Eventually we crossed back to the west bank of the Estero El Salto by another steel bridge just below an impressive waterfall, 22 m high, provided with two viewing platforms near the base of the falls.

Aiken del Sur Nature Park: Salto Barba del Viejo, 22m high waterfall.

Our trail finished at a large, modern, wood-built assembly hall called a ‘Quincho’ where there were drinks and a snack to the accompaniment of “local folkloric music”. A number of whole sides of lamb, hung vertically, were being slowly cooked above a wood-fuelled firepit in the centre of the building. Large windows gave panoramic views of the mountains and Lake Riesco.

Aiken del Sur Nature Park: 'Silver Explorer' Guests enjoying “local folkloric music” at the 'Quincho'.

I decided to follow the zig-zag path to the lakeside which involved a large number of wooden steps but the peace and tranquillity made the effort worthwhile.

Aiken del Sur Nature Park: Lake Riesco.

I returned to the ‘Quincho’ in time to watch Ray, the “Videogrpher”, demonstrating his photographic drone but he had to cut the flight short because of low battery on the drone. Then it was time to board the waiting tour bus for our return to the passenger terminal at Puerto Chacabuco.

As we boarded the Zodiac for the return to our ships, I noticed a large new Chilean Navy Rigid Inflatable Boat mounted on an 8-wheel trailer. Moored at the dock was an odd-looking vessel ‘Biomasa IX’ whose function I couldn’t readily discern. Another puzzle was what looked like some sort of a bulk materials handling conveyor which seemed to discharge into a large flexible hose which disappeared underwater near a pontoon with a small machinery house and what may have been the other end of the large flexible hose. I suspect all these curiosities may be related to handling wood chips for energy generation (once ‘flavour of the month’ for sustainable generation but now going out of fashion).

Puerto Chacabuco: Arriving back at the attractive passenger terminal to return to our ship.

Back on board

The morning’s activity had left me with a healthy appetite for buffet lunch in the restaurant. There were two lectures during the afternoon but, instead, I tried to record my impressions of the morning whilst the memory was fresh. But I found time for civilised afternoon tea in the Panorama Lounge where there was also a rather odd trivia quiz on ‘Beards’. At 18:45, there was the usual Expedition Team Recap and Briefing in the theatre. Then I joined Graham and Julie from Australia and two American guests for an enjoyable dinner.

Related Posts

Next post describing this trip: Cruising Chilean Fjords.
All posts describing this trip: Chilean Fjords.

My pictures

Where necessary, clicking on an image above will display an 'uncropped' view or, alternately, my pictures from this (and earlier) trips may be selected, viewed or downloaded, in various sizes, from the albums listed:-
Pictures of Aiken del Sur Nature Park are here.
Pictures of Puerto Chacabuco are here.
All my pictures of Chile can be found in the collection Chile.

[Pictures added: 13-Jan-2017]

Puerto Chacabuco

Events of Friday, 18th November

The land of South America, of course, tapers as you go south. Chile occupies a relatively narrow ‘sliver’ of territory extending inland from the West Coast into the Andes mountains which run through South America like a backbone. Argentina occupies the land from the Andes mountains to the east coast.

After our visit to Chiloe Island on the 17th November, my ship, ‘Silversea Explorer’, continued south. There is a complex string of islands off the west coast, which allowed us to cruise down the channels between the islands and the mainland, enjoying much smoother water. The coast of the mainland is perforated by the estuaries of various rivers which descend from the mountains, called fjords, in a similar manner to the coast of Norway.

We sailed south throughout the night and anchored at the head of the Aysen Fjord a little before 8.00 a.m., as I was finishing breakfast in the restaurant. We were overlooking a port area called Puerto Chacabuco. Until 1960, the port for this area was 15 kilometres north-east at the important town of Puerto Aysen. The Chilean earthquake that year destroyed much of the port facilities and town. The town was rebuilt but permanent changes in levels resulting from the earthquake made it impractical to reconstruct the port on the original site. A new port was constructed at Puerto Chacabuco, connected to Puerto Aysen by a decent road.

From the windswept observation deck, I surveyed the bay we'd anchored in. Off to our left, the elegant lines of the rusting remains of a substantial beached steamship – the ‘Vina’- were visible. Otherwise, the vessels, port facilities and associated buildings were modern. To our left large passenger ferry in a striking livery of orange, white and blue operated by Havier Austral lay at anchor. Also to our left was a large, modern steel-framed building I took to be engineering workshops marked ‘Oxxean’ (probably the port operators and presumably pronounced ‘OCEAN’). On the hard standing next to this building or moored at the adjacent quay were a number of smaller vessels. In the background, there was an extensive tank farm.

Puerto Chacabuco.

In front of us was a large, modern passenger and vehicle ferry in the red and white livery of Navimag. I’d spotted the Navimag ship in the distance the previous afternoon when, like us, it was heading south.

Puerto Chacabuco, Chile: NAVIMAG passenger and vehicle ferry 'Eden'.

At the dock to our right lay a cargo vessel with two large self-loading/unloading cranes. Further round the bay was a group of smaller launches, vehicle ferries and unidentified craft. In addition, close to our anchorage was a medium-size container ship, 'Copihue', also at anchor. Off on the far right I could also see a fish farm, probably producing Atlantic Salmon. All-in-all, quite an impressive port. At about 8.30 a.m., Zodiacs started to take guests from the ship ashore.

Puerto Chacabuco, Chile: 'Silver Explorer' and, in the background, cargo ship 'Copihue' at anchor, viewed from the 'Zodiac' taking us ashore.

We landed at a modern, floating steel landing stage (covered with anti-slip matting) which led to a new and attractive wooden terminal building marked ‘OXXEAN’. Backpacks were subject to X-ray and inspection by the Agricultural and Livestock Service within the terminal building but I only had my camera with me, which was waved through. Three tour buses were lined up outside the terminal to take us to the Aiken del Sur Nature Park.

We drove away from the port in convoy past an industrial area, a school, a Fire Station and an area of housing.

Leaving Puerto Chacabuco by coach.

The coaches took the road towards Puerto Aysen but, after 4 km, we turned right onto an unmetalled road which we carefully bumped along for 5.5 km to reach the entrance to the Aiken del Sur Nature Park. The coaches parked at the Visitor Centre at the starting point of our nature trail. We were offered the choice of a “moderate” or “more challenging” trail. Almost everyone opted for the latter, at around 2 km in length and 2 hours duration. We were divided into two groups of around 30 for the longer trail and a third group for the short trail, each with a guide from the Nature Park and members of the ship’s expedition crew.

Aiken del Sur Nature Park Visitor Centre.

Related Posts

Next post describing this trip: Aiken del Sur Nature Park.
All posts describing this trip: Chilean Fjords.

My pictures

Where necessary, clicking on an image above will display an 'uncropped' view or, alternately, my pictures from this (and earlier) trips may be selected, viewed or downloaded, in various sizes, from the albums listed:-
Pictures of Puerto Chacabuco are here.
Pictures of Aiken del Sur Nature Park are here.
Pictures aboard 'Silver Explorer' are here.
All my pictures of Chile can be found in the collection Chile.