I’m in the south of Chile for an adventure travel conference, the Adventure Travel World Summit. It’s a fantastic event with people from around the world representing cool adventure travel products. Part of the deal is a pre-trip, which I took to Easter Island. More on that soon, I promise. The other trip was billed as a Day of Adventure. I didn’t think there was time to see the Andes so I opted for a cultural program and a short hike near the Pacific Ocean southwest of Puerto Montt, an area that doesn’t get much tourism.
The hiking was wonderful, but I really loved meeting with Ester Vargas al Tamirano, who lives on a hillside farm near the mouth of the Rio Maullin. It was a great tour organized by Birds Chile, hiking along a beautiful peninsula with superb views of the ocean and massive cliffs with diving birds and barking sea lions. Along the way we stopped in for what we thought was coffee and a cookie or some cake with Ester. Birds Chile stopped at her home once with some Chilean hikers but they had never brought travel journalists and adventure travel people from around the world.
Ester came out and hugged all of us and welcomed us to her modest home, where she surprised us with not only cookies but homemade pan amasado and wonderfully crispy churrasca bread (I think I have both right, but forgive me if I’m wrong). Her husband died six years ago and she lives alone on a pastoral bit of hillside with a herd of about 40 sheep.
Her sons are in Puerto Montt and have tried convincing her to move, but she won’t budge from her idyllic setting an hour from her boys. They did buy her a TV and she’s got a generator, but she grills her bread over an indoor stove/fireplace and seems pretty content with her sheep and her wool-knitting.
Her food was lovely and her smiles and hospitality even more warming. The views in the area are superb, but I think I’ll remember Ester long after I’ve forgotten the sea lions and the wind and the cliffs.