Jul 15, 2018

Unusual Names of Places in Southern Patagonia

Wild Nature in Southern Patagonia, Chile.
A view of the wild geography, Chilean Patagonia
Patagonia was and has always been a place on the planet very difficult to reach and colonize, even to this day, with all the development in the areas of Technology and Communications, Construction, Connectivity, etc. It is a vast territory of great scenic beauty where the American Continent ends, of a rugged geography, full of islands, fjords and channels, and an inhospitable climate that especially during the harsh Winter does not give respite, making it difficult to reach and settle. We have to imagine the adversities experienced by the first settlers and their families who came to the region, without having any kind of advance, much less technology.

Separate chapter and a special recognition to the natives of the region, Yaganes, Selknam, Tehuelches and Kaweskar who provided only with their wisdom, rustic elements and weapons were able to survive for thousands of years and win the battle to a nature and climate even more inhospitable than the one we know today. However, they could not win another battle even harder: facing an unknown civilization. But that is another issue. For now, as a demonstration of how hard it was for the first Chilean and European immigrants to arrive and settle in this corner of the Planet, here is the list with some names given to certain places, according to the experiences they were living. All these names refer to the Southern Patagonia.

Some strange terms of the Patagonian Toponymy

"Gulf of Sorrows" (Golfo de Penas)

Ship of the Chilean Navy near the Golfo de Penas.
A boat of the Chilean Navy in the vicinity of the Golfo de Penas

     Geographical accident located in the Pacific Ocean in the XI Region of Aysen, between Cabo Mogotes on the South and Cabo Tres Montes on the North. Its name is the perfect description to explain the mood of travelers by sea that even today cross the dreaded passage. The photo shows a boat of the Chilean Navy going to the aid of a stranded vessel in the area of the Golfo de Penas (Gulf of Sorrows).

"Tortuous Passage" (Paso Tortuoso)

Paso Tortuoso is the main sea route through inland waters of the Magallanes Region, where the tidal currents reach up to seven knots due to the meeting of two streams, Strait of Magellan and Jeronimo Channel.

“Shipwreck Point” (Punta Naufragio)

Located in inland waters of the Province of Ultima Esperanza.

“Last Hope” (Ultima Esperanza)

Name given to one of the four Provinces that constitute the Region of Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica. It is a remote area but full of great tourist attractions, highlighted worldwide.

“Port Famine” (Puerto del Hambre)

Located 56 km. South of Punta Arenas. Its name recalls the first European attempt in 1584 to colonize what is now the Chilean Patagonia on the Northern shore of the Strait of Magellan. Officially founded with the name of Rey Don Felipe, its population formed by just over 300 men, women and children dies almost all decimated by the disease, the harsh climate and especially hunger. Only 2 survivors were picked up, one in 1587 by the English corsair Thomas Cavendish and the other in 1590 by the English ship The Delight.

“Useless Bay” (Bahia Inutil)

Large bay on the western coast of Tierra del Fuego Island. Phillip Parker King, a hydrographer and explorer who became Rear Admiral of the Royal Navy, called the bay in this way to show that the inlet offered no advantage to sailors.

“Desolate Bay” (Bahia Desolada)

100 miles W of Puerto Williams, area near Cape Horn. It is a bay of open and dangerous waters, where there are no repairs, hit by the strong wind typical of the area.

“Despised Lake” (Lago Despreciado)

Small lake located next to Lake Deseado ("Desired Lake"), Island of Tierra del Fuego, an area world famous for sport fishing lovers.

“Obstruction Inlet” (Seno Obstruccion)

Sound located 45 Km. S. of Puerto Natales, in an area known as the Southern Channels.

“Cape Froward” (Cabo Froward)

A very important geographical location because it is the southernmost point of the continental shelf of the Americas. It was called Froward in 1587 by the English corsair Thomas Cavendish due to its extremely hostile climate, with strong winds, rains and swells.

“Desolation Island” (Isla Desolacion)

Mountainous and rugged, this island belongs to the Archipelago of Tierra del Fuego. Due to the lack of resources, it has remained almost uninhabited, until the 19th century it was visited by the Kaweskar natives, now almost extinct.

"Deception Island" (Isla Decepcion)

Specifically located in the Antarctic continent, Archipelago of the South Shetland. Its name in Spanish comes from an erroneous translation of the original name Deception Island, chosen by the whaling captain, explorer and co-discoverer of the Antarctic Continent Nathaniel Palmer, seeing that the alleged island was really a ring of land around a submerged Volcano.

"Bitter Lake" (Laguna Amarga)

Small superficial lake very close to the famous Torres del Paine National Park. Its name is due to the bitter taste of the waters as a result of the high PH. 

"Northern and Southern Ice Fields" (Campos de Hielos Norte y Sur)

Northern and Southern Ice Fields are two large extensions of Glaciers located in the Patagonian Andes. 85% in Chile and the rest in Argentina. The Northern Ice Field, with an extension of 4200 Km.2 is located in the Region of Aysen, has an approximate length of 120 km and a width between 50 and 70 km. The South Field lies situated in the Region of Magallanes, with an extension of 350 km long and an area of 16,800 km2 constituting the third largest extension of ice in the World after the Antarctic Continent and Greenland. This mass gives rise to a total of 49 Glaciers.

Jun 30, 2018

Yerba Loca Nature Sanctuary, Santiago de Chile

La Paloma Glacier, Santiago, Chile.
La Paloma Glacier, photo: www.geolugares.cl
    Yerba Loca is located very close to the capital of Chile, to be precise 25 km. away from Plaza San Enrique in the Commune of Lo Barnechea, foothills of the Andes Mountains, en route to the Winter Sports Centers. It was created in June 1973 and has an area of 39,000 hectares, of which more than 11,000 are under the protection of CONAF (National Forest Corporation). The Reserve extends from the Western summit of La Paloma to the top of El Plomo mountain. The altitude varies between 900 to 5500 meters, so the variety of Flora is very rich. As for wildlife, birds are predominant, especially raptors and to lesser degree you can see mammals and reptiles. The Sanctuary owes its name to the Yerba Loca Stream, which runs from La Paloma Glacier, at almost 4000 meters of altitude, on the other hand, according to the local tradition, the name Yerba Loca ("Crazy Grass"), would come from the strange and nervous reactions of the animals after grazing the abundant grass of the area. As for its waters, you should not drink from the stream, not even boiled because it has sulfates that cause intense stomach upset.
Because of its proximity to the city of Santiago, the beautiful mountain scenery and attractions it contains, the Reserve is included in several of the Tours around the capital of Chile.

Google Map 


Best Time to visit Yerba Loca

     Since this is an area at the foot of the Andes, in Winter the snow covers the entire park, for this reason it is recommended to make Randonnee Tours and admire its beautiful snowy landscapes, however the access is closed when you cannot move around. The best time to visit this Nature Sanctuary is from September to March (Spring - Summer season) when the landscape is shown at its best, which can be enjoyed with various outdoor activities such as horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking the trail, climbing the hills: La Paloma, Falso Altar and Altar.

How to get to the Protected Area 

      The first option is taking some of the Tours available, some of them are detailed below. Although the directions of how to get there are quite simple, there is no established public transport. A good option is to rent a Taxi service available at Plaza San Enrique, not far from the Natural Sanctuary. Those who go by their own means must take Las Condes Avenue until this road is renamed Camino a Farellones. You must continue until an area full of curves begins, at curve # 15 is the entrance to the Reserve. All this way is paved road. From the entrance to Villa Paulina facilities are 4 km of gravel.

Attractions of the Nature Sanctuary

Yerba Loca Nature Sanctuary, Chile.
Photo: www. fmdos.cl
    Among its facilities stands out Villa Paulina, 4 km from the entrance to the park, a service area with campings, bathrooms, "quinchos" (BBQ sheds) and recreational activities. Its main attractions are Casa de Piedra Carvajal, about 17 km from Villa Paulina. Casa de Piedra Carvajal is a strangely shaped rock formation, adapted since ancient times to be used as a rustic refuge for herders, a construction where native peoples would have inhabited since pre-Hispanic times. Glaciar La Paloma, one of the largest in the Central Andes of Chile. Formed during the last Glacial Period, La Paloma Glacier once covered most of the 20 km of the valley, although today it presents an important retreat. This excursion can be considered one of the must see for Nature lovers in the surroundings of Santiago. Las Cascadas, at the feet of  Falso Altar mountain, which in Winter are frozen, many people take the opportunity to climb them. Archeologically, the Reserve is also a very interesting site since at least 100 important sites have been found with traces that date from 6000 to 8000 years BC. A relevant finding occurred in 1954 when herders discovered the so-called  Momia del Cerro El Plomo ("Mummy of El Plomo Mountain)", today in the Museum of Natural History of Santiago.

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Feb 14, 2018

City of Antofagasta, Northern Chile

City of Antofagasta, North of Chile.
Photo: atacamaimmersion.com

     Antofagasta is a seaport of 361,000 inhabitants (the fifth most populous city in Chile according to the 2017 Census), capital of the homonymous region also known as "Second Region of Chile". The distance by land from Santiago is of 1368 Km. Because of the great mineral wealth that covers the entire area and for being one of the most important cities of the country, Antofagasta is called "La Perla del Norte" (The Pearl of the North). It should be noted that the nascent city was part of Bolivia, and after the 1904 Treaty of Peace and Friendship, Antofagasta became part of Chile. Its landscape is dominated by the Pacific Ocean and the immensity of the Atacama Desert, the driest in the World. Today, the economy is mainly based on the exploitation of various minerals, especially copper and a promising future for its large deposits of Lithium, one of the biggest in the World. It is important to point out that Antofagasta is the city with the highest per capita income in Chile, surpassing the US$ 25,000 (2017).

     How to get there: By Land: There is a good connectivity of roads with numerous Bus Lines either departing from Santiago or other nearby cities. The road system called "Autopistas de Antofagasta" covering the entire Region, is composed of Route 5 North (Pan-American Highway), Route 1, Route 26 and Route B 400. By Plane: Cerro Moreno International Airport is located 24 Km. North of the city. There are daily frequencies that connect with the cities of Santiago, Calama, La Serena and Iquique. "La Perla del Norte" is full of interesting places, here are the main points of tourist attraction in Antofagasta:

La Portada Natural Monument

"La Portada" Natural Monument in Antofagasta, North of Chile.
La Portada Natural Monument - Photo:  ahoranoticias.cl
     La Portada  (English: "The Gateway"), is the best known postcard of Antofagasta and one of the most popular in Chile. It is located 18 Km. North of the city through Route 1 and then a 2 Km. fork corresponding to Route B 446. It is a natural rock formation in the shape of an arch, as a result of the erosive action of the sea on the coast, surrounded by cliffs of 70 meters high. The arch is 43 m high, 23 m wide and 70 m long, very close to the seashore. The base made of volcanic rock is around 150 million years old and the arch formed by sedimentary rock has 2 million years old. The place is also ideal to observe a wide variety of Birds and Marine Fauna, but due to the aridity of the whole area the Flora is practically nonexistent. On the coast there is a viewpoint to safely observe this Natural Monument as well as a Hiking Trail, a Museum and a Restaurant. The access road is available all year round.

Plaza Colon

     Plaza Colon is one of the most representative places of Antofagasta. It is the main square of the city, a site full of history because it witnessed the landing of the Chilean troops in 1879 and keeps symbols of the foreign colonies that founded the region. One of them is The Clock Tower donated by the British Colony, installed in 1911 in the center of the square, in commemoration of the first centenary of the Independence of Chile. The monument was originally planned as a scale model of the Tower of the Houses of Parliament in Westminter, but the rules that regulated the constructions of that time prevented the total achievement of the primitive project (it was expressly forbidden that there was any construction that would exceed the Cathedral in height). Its chimes evoke the original Big Ben. Another of the symbols is the Kiosko de Retretas, also inaugurated in 1911, donated by the Croatian Colony in return for the friendship and affection of the former residents. There, every weekend, performed folk groups or military bands. At present, after having suffered serious damage by a strong earthquake in 2007, the Kiosko de Retretas is fully restored. The Statue to Spain and America, donated by the resident Spanish Community, represented by two female images at the top of the sculpture. This set is completed with a Condor holding the Chilean Coat of Arms and a Lion with the Spanish emblem.

Ruinas de Huanchaca

     Visiting for the first time the imposing stone construction of Ruins of Huanchaca, really impresses because of its appearance of abandoned Fortress of some extinct people. But in reality this National Historic Monument, the oldest construction in the city dating from 1888, is what remains of an old silver foundry, belonging to a former Bolivian mining company. The foundry definitively closed its doors in 1902, since then, more than 60 years elapsed until the facilities were transferred by the Government of Chile to the Universidad Catolica del Norte. In 1974 Huanchaca was declared a National Historic Monument. In 2007, with the creation of the Fundacion Ruinas de Huanchaca, integrated by the Universidad Catolica del Norte in partnership with Enjoy Antofagasta, the monument was officially included in a plan that considered its openness to people. Today, the ruins are located within the Parque Cultural Huanchaca, located at 01606 Angamos Avenue, in front of the Enjoy Antofagasta Casino, a Park which also includes the Museo Desierto de Atacama, a great cultural and tourist center of the Antofagasta Region.

Museo Regional de Antofagasta

     The non-profit institution Museum of Antofagasta, is a historical, archaeological and geological gallery located at 2786, Jose Manuel Balmaceda Av., Historical Quarter of the city. Created in 1964 under the aegis of the former Universidad del Norte, today, the Museum has 12 permanent rooms and an auditorium for traveling exhibitions, distributed in two buildings that formerly belonged to the Customs Offices and the Maritime Authority. The collection, grouped in the areas of Bioanthropology, Natural and Social Sciences, has around ten thousand cultural assets, including mineral, paleontological and archaeological samples related to pre-Hispanic cultures of the desert's coast.

     The Museum also includes an important photographic compilation, of around 1,500 images representing different aspects of Antofagasta's society in the middle of the 20th century. In addition, there are ethnographic components, works of art, objects and historical documents related to the urban and mining history of the Antofagasta Region, especially furniture, and an endless number of implements belonging to the daily life and tasks of the once flourishing Nitrate fields.

Balneario Municipal

"Balneario Municipal" Artificial Beach, Antofagasta, Chile.
Photo: Antofagasta Television
     The Balneario Municipal is a very popular artificial beach of Antofagasta, located in the southern part of the city, suitable for swimming and all the activities related to the marine environment. It is surrounded by green areas, restaurants and places of entertainment. The city itself has a rocky coastline, reason why this is one of the few beaches within its limits. Anyway other beaches suitable for swimming within the city are El Trocadero, Paraiso, soon La Chimba artificial beach and outside the city limits is located Balneario Juan Lopez.

Hornitos, Town and Beach

     Although located 90 km. North of Antofagasta, Hornitos is always mentioned as one of its important attractions for being one of the most beautiful beaches in northern Chile, a coastline of 5 Km. nestled at the feet of the coastal cliffs, typical of the region. It should be noted that Chile's beaches are not very warm because the temperatures are regulated by the Humboldt Cold Current, despite this, the name Hornitos ("Little Ovens") is due to the high temperatures that this part of northern Chile registers during the hottest months (25 to 28 degrees C). Contrary to his reputation of tourist town, until now (2018) Hornitos does not have basic services such as electric power and drinking water, services that the own residents self-provide by means of generators and water tanks, however there is an infrastructure to meet the requirements of visitors such as accommodation, food, recreation.

La "Mano del Desierto" ("The Hand of the Desert" sculpture)

The Hand of the Desert Monument, Atacama Desert, Chile.
Photo: panamericanahoteles.cl
     75 Km. South of the city, in the middle of the Atacama Desert and next to Route 5 (Pan-American Highway) is located this notable work of the Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrazabal. Today, the eleven-meter-high sculpture built with reinforced concrete, has become one of the tourist icons of the so-called "Second Region of Chile". Many are the interpretations that the travellers give to the monument and in fact, according to its author, it leaves it to the imagination of each visitor to the Hand of the Desert. A negative point is the constant cleaning and maintenance required by the sculpture as it is often scratched with graffiti.

Astronomical Tourism

     Undoubtedly, the North of Chile, constituted by the so-called "Norte Grande" (Big North) and the "Norte Chico" (Small North), are worldwide recognized as the best place to observe the firmament, for the clearness and purity of the sky. For this reason, several scientific organizations of global importance have chosen Chile to build their astronomical observatories. According to information provided by the digital newspaper www2.latercera.com, 40% of the facilities for astronomical observation in the World is concentrated in Chile, estimated to increase to 70% within the next 10 years.  The same newspaper www2.latercera.com adds that Astronomical Tourism is an activity that is growing, attracting more and more people, both Chileans and foreigners, and during the tours that last approximately three hours, tourists can observe stars , planets, constellations, galaxies, nebulae, the sun and the moon, through modern and powerful latest technology telescopes.  

     The largest number of observatories nationwide is located in the fourth Coquimbo Region, however Antofagasta stands out for the importance of its facilities such as Cerro Paranal or VLT (Very Large Telescope), 130 km south of the city, considered the largest installation of its kind worldwide, operated by the European Southern Observatory. Paranal has the most advanced facilities for astronomy, being the most productive observatory all over the World, based on its investigations, more than one scientific document per day is issued. Other very important observatories are ALMA (Atacama Large Millimiter Array), the largest Radio Telescope in the World, consisting of a group of 66 antennas or radio telescopes seven and twelve meters in diameter. On the top of Cerro Armazones (Armazones Mountain) will be located the ELT (Extremely Large Telescope), still under construction, which should become the largest optical observation center ever built. Several of the large scientific observatories accept visits by means of online booking systems but these must be done months in advance. However, in the local Tourism Agencies, you can hire tours to smaller observatories, but no less interesting such as Paniri Caur Chiu- Chiu, 35 Km. from the city of Calama; Ahlarkapin Astronomical Observatory, staffed by natives of the archaeological town of San Pedro de Atacama; the tour to Licanantay Ethno-Astronomical Observatory, also in San Pedro de Atacama; the Qatachilla Astronomical Tour in the Atacama Desert, 80 km South of the city, etc., etc. 

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