Thursday, December 28, 2017

Capillas de Mármol

The Capillas de Mármol, or Marble Chapels, is a group of mineral formations of calcium carbonate located on several small islands in Lago (Lake) General Carrera, near the town of Puerto Tranquilo in the Region of Aysén in central Patagonia, Chile.

Many tour operators in Tranquilo offer a 90-minute tour by boat of the Capillas. Note the color of the lake water, the milky hue indicating water from nearby glaciers. The lake is the second largest in south America (after Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia) and is shared with Argentina, where the name changes to Lago Buenos Aires. Its surface covers 714 square miles (1850 sq. km.) and has a maximum depth of 2789 feet (850m). I first saw this lake from the air in 1965 and was so impressed by its size and especially its color that I determined to return some day. This was my third visit to the lake.

Lago General Carrera / Buenos Aires Feb. 1965

Over millennia the wave action in the lake caused erosion of the escarpment into myriad formations.

Some of the caves are so large that our boat enters and we can touch the walls

The fellow tourists are not seasick, but are impressed with the view under the water.

The roof of the capilla

And now the tour takes us to the small island called the Marble Cathedral.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Glaciar San Rafael, Patagonia Chilena

A day trip to the largest glacier in the Chilean northern ice field was arranged with Destino Patagonia in Puerto Tranquilo, on the shore of General Carrera Lake in the Aysén Region of central Patagonia. A vehicle took several of us tourists to Bahía Exploradora to begin the expedition. We were 13 tourists, the captain, and guide on a fast moving covered boat which traveled through the fjords to arrive at the Laguna San Rafael, where the glacier empties.

There are hundreds of icebergs which calve off this rapidly melting glacier.

And here is the glacier. It covers 293 square miles (760 km2) and is said to be moving at the rate of 55 feet (17 m) per day. According to a BBC news report, "In recent years, the glaciers of the Northern Patagonian Icecap have been melting rapidly as a result of global warming, and the San Rafael Glacier has mirrored this retreat."

The captain grabs some blocks of ice near the glacier for the ancient Chilean custom of serving whiskey and millenary ice to the tourists. He chose a block that had a natural depression where the whiskey could be poured and drunk. 

A fellow tourist demonstrates the technique while our guide pours.

The difficulty was getting the whiskey in the mouth while the ice was melting in the hands. 

Bottoms up!

The return trip through the fjords

There are waterfalls everywhere, rushing down steep mountains as we drive back to town.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Coyhaique, Chile

Panorama of the countryside around Coyhaique, a city of about 70,000 inhabitants in Chilean Patagonia. It was founded in 1929 at the confluence of the Simpson and Coyhaique Rivers. The highway, Carretera Austral, was built in 1980, linking it to the rest of the country. I first visited the town in early 1965, when there were only 4,000 inhabitants. I arrived by ship at the nearby port of Aysén. I was teaching in the Peace Corps further north in Valdivia.

Puerto Aysén, but this is not the ship I arrived on!

Coyhaique in 1965

I met these boys while walking on the road toward Argentina. They offered me a horse to return with them to town, as they doubled up on the two remaining saddles. The first photo above looks down on this road, now paved and lined with many homes and farms, almost 53 years later.

I hired a car and driver/guide to explore the gorgeous country around 6 Lagunas and the Simpson Valley, which I last visited in 2002. This is one of my favorite areas in Chilean Patagonia. Livestock ranching is about the only activity, as the soil is very shallow and doesn't support growing crops.

It's springtime and the lupines are blooming throughout the region.

Farm landscape near Lago Frío