Cerro Castillo, Chilean Patagonia : a walk into the hills

In which we seemingly spend 24 hours on different trips…

Cerro Castillo
Sunrise at Cerro Castillo

Cerro Castillo in Chilean Patagonia is a striking set of rock spires, above a glacial lake. It is a 6km, 1200m trek to reach a ridge, affording grand views of the range, the first 4km of which can be done via horse. We got into the tiny three-block town that serves as a base for the peak mid afternoon, planning to make the trip the following day. Time and tide, and indeed weather and horses, wait for no man. So things took a turn for the spontaneous. The following internal narratives cover the ensuing twenty four hours. Turns out they were quite different experiences…

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Chaiten rodeo – small town fares are the same the world over(?)

In which we stumble into a small town rodeo and head-butt a cow…

Chaiten rodeo
Moments before head butting this cow. But I got the shot

Juan is nervous. Though his dad is with him, this is his first time. As he hands his soft broad brimmed chupalla hat to his sister and puts on the helmeted version he conspicuously makes the sign of the cross before him.

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Salmon in Chaiten, heading south on the carretera austral

In which we take up an unexpected offer…

Fresh salmon on the carretera austral
Preparing fine food on the road

“Do you want a salmon?”

A man in a yellow football shirt, jeans and sandals is standing in front of us. He is holding a black bin liner, which, given the shape of its sag clearly contains a large fish.

We are not in a fish mongers, nor by the docks. In fact we are outside a repurposed single coach from around 1975, parked, or possibly left, on what passes as the main street in a small coastal town called Chaiten, in northern Patagonia. The bus is now a cafe, of sorts, selling German cakes, obviously.

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The Chaiten volcano – surprise!

In which we hike to the 2008 volcanic crater rim…

Chaiten volcano crater


The last thing you’d expect to hear on the bleak, barren and sulphurous rim of a volcano crater it has taken three hours to reach is a baby crying.

Volcan Chaiten, until  May 2008 wasn’t volcan Chaiten at all. It was just another mountain. But then ‘SURPRISE’, it blew up. Over the course of four days this put 200 million cubic meter of material on the surrounding area after throwing it 20km into the sky.

Not all surprises are nice.

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