Valle De Cochamo
By Abe Ramirez
After battling colds and fevers for a week in Puerto Varas, a small town located in the northern region of Patagonia I was off once again to explore the unknown and bike through 12,000 km of unpaved dirt roads alongside the Patagonia Forefront. I was at a crossroads on my route deciding between beginning the Caratera Austral or visiting Cochamo Valley, which is otherwise known as the Yosemite of South America
Being a Southern California boy I naturally felt inclined to see what Cochamo had to offer so I jetted 80k off my route to the first town I would begin my trek. I arrived mid day and stopped at a local coffee shop before disconnecting from the outside world for however long I could manage.
My plan was to walk a 60k circuit which normally takes 6-8 days so I packed as much food as I could fit and camped behind a soccer field awaiting the following morning. I woke up to a constant down pour of rain and for a second I thought I should wait until the weather improved but I convinced myself I would get wet and dirty anyway so there was no point in waiting. I walked 5km out of town, 8km through a dirt road leading to the trail head. There I was, 13km separated between myself and the valley. There was a sign of warning stating no one should enter past 4pm, it was 4:20 and thought nothing of it. I was off.
It was 8am the following morning and I woke up in a haze. I had made it to the valley around 11pm, 2 hours after sunset the previous night. I was dodging potholes, mudslides and furious rain as I made my way through the night to the valley. It was New Year’s Eve last night and I spent it asleep in my tent, too tired, wet and cold to celebrate.
I spent the next several days hiking and climbing the surrounding landscapes. I met a group of Chilean rock climbers who let me borrow their gear. They were fueled by mate and cigarettes, and myself, just mate. Mate is a tea commonly drank in Argentina and southern Chile, usually passed along as a social ritual. As the days passed I continued to make new friends as they invited me to join their itinerary. On the last day we hiked up to what is called the amphitheater. A 4-6 hour hike through the rain and mud to a 360 view of the granite slab like mountains replicating Yosemite. We had arrived to the mountain base in the sunset and set up our sleeping bags under a bent snapped rock wide enough to shelter 6 of us. It was a Refugio made by the local rock climbers which included a fire pit and two rain tarps to keep us dry. We gathered around the fire for warmth and slept under the rock until our decent the following morning.
I left Cochamo Valley feeling taller than the trees themselves. I had no expectations when I had arrived and to my surprise it was a perfect side adventure to my mischief down south. It’s hard to say what we might get ourselves into when we take that first step to the unknown but it is certain we will find an awe inspiring moment in that journey.
Abe started bicycling from Nicaragua 2 years ago. You can learn more about his journey by following him at @abe_ramirez_ or visiting his site here