Tag: Cochamo

Chile Wrap-Up

Oh Chile, where do we begin? You were an expensive place to hang out but you were totally worth it. We’ll be back again someday, that we do know. Here is a quick wrap-up of the loving, loathing and eating that went on in Chile (in no particular order).


  1. Ferry Ride at Torres del Paine

    Friends far away – Getting to hang with Drew and Francisco in Puerto Natales was definitely the highlight of this great land. We knew we were headed all the way down to see them before we even left the US, and there are not many places we can say that about in regards to our trip planning.

  2. Torres del Paine ferry ride – The day we had was unfair to the many before us who have endured rain, snow and wind in this park without seeing a damn thing. The views from the boat and the water color we traveled through were just unreal.
  3. Navimag Party Night – The night started with the adventurous backpackers posing for pictures in just their bathing suits in front of the glacier, and ended with Sarah salsa dancing with a local Chilean named Mauricio. In between, we bonded with our British roommates, met some Dartmouth lacrosse players and were entertained by a Dutch airline pilot that is surely too young to fly passenger planes.
  4. First view of Cochamo Valley – Arriving by horseback to a wide open clearing and being surrounded by gigantic granite walls that climbers dream about was indeed memorable.
  5. Vicente Perez Rosales National Park

    Ted’s birthday celebration – A great seafood dinner, and some drinks with new friends.

  6. Staying at Francisco’s house – This man has good taste. His house is great, his view is from a postcard, his puppy is adorable and he is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. We made ourselves at home.
  7. Walking along the shore of Vicente Perez Rosales National Park with our shoes off and feet in the water – Not your typical beach but a gorgeous shoreline along a fjord nonetheless.
  8. Rafting – Thanks to Gerardo and Adventures Within Reach, Ted and I got to kick off Ted’s birthday was a ½ day white-water rafting trip. We had a raft to ourselves (with a guide, of course) and had a hilariously wet time.
  9. Meeting inspiring people – Kurt and Armin have a pretty awesome thing going at Campo Aventura. A tourist operation in a foreign country may not be for everyone, but the point is that they had BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) and they went for it.
  10. Endless daylight – Okay, it doesn’t stay light all night like it does in Alaska and Northern Scandinavia but it stays light until after 10pm and brightens up again by 5am. We kept getting messed up with the time because the lighting outside did not reflect the time it said on our watches.


  1. Food on the Navimag – We have been spoiled with some amazing food on our trip but the food on the Navimag left something to be desired. Think cafeteria food.
  2. Rough Seas on the Navimag

    Big Wave night on the Navimag – I hate to be picking on the Navimag as we did thoroughly enjoy ourselves, however, the rolling waves on our second night at sea were intense and many people were miserable. We weren’t miserable, per se, but it wasn’t fun.

  3. First dorm bed experience – I thought being 30 and being married would somehow prevent us from sharing a dorm room on our travels however, I was wrong. The cost of stuff in Chile is not cheap and we opted for a dorm room at one of our hostels to save a little money (it would not be the last).
  4. Constant wind and cold – Particularly in the way southern part of Chile. We were there on the front end of their summer but you wouldn’t know it. I was walking around with my down jacket and my rain coat on top of it (as a wind-breaker) at all times.
  5. An unplanned long walk – We arrived in Chile by bus and having no Chilean pesos handy, we had to schlep our bags and our stuff for several miles from the highway to our hostel. At least Ted has an amazing sense of direction.


  1. Thanksgiving, Chilean-style

    Thanksgiving – We didn’t have turkey, but we did roast a bird (chicken). Drew whipped up an amazing gravy and some yams. We topped it off with mashed potatoes, green beans and rolls. Mmmm.

  2. Pisco Sours – Pisco Sours are a delicious cocktail served down here that we quite love. Peru thinks they invented Pisco Sours and Chile thinks they did. After drinking many in both countries, we’ve got to say that Chile has got our vote hands down.
  3. Amazing seafood dinner with Gerardo – Gerardo is the local Chilean that we met with several times and who owns the rafting company in town. We let him pick the restaurant and do the ordering and he hit the ball out of the park.
  4. Chino workin the dough

    Francisco’s Meal – Francisco was a busy man when we were down visiting him in Puerto Natales, but on one of the nights we were all around, he spoiled us with some delicious chile, fresh homemade bread and some of the best guacamole I’ve ever tasted.

  5. Homemade bread in Cochamo Valley – After our 5+ hour horseback ride into the Cochamo Valley, we were welcomed with fresh homemade bread for a snack. It was amazing. Our hostess proceeded to make more batches of fresh bread which we continued to eat for dinner and again for breakfast the next morning.

To see more of the great time we had here, check out our Best of Chile photos.

Gauchos and Gringos

Here’s a piece I wrote for World Nomads’ blog.  My take on our visit to Campo Aventura in the Cochamo valley.  Can you tell we both LOVED it there…

Original post can be found here, but I’ve pasted it below, as it’s one of my favorites.

Gauchos and Gringos – Keeping it Local in Chile’s Lake District

I’ve found some new travel role models.  I’m not talking road warriors on 2-year jaunts, or country counters that have topped 100.  No, I’m talking about a family that dropped everything and relocated their lives in an unfamiliar environment, doing unfamiliar work, and surrounded by an unfamiliar language.  Meet Kurt and Armin, American citizens who began their international careers in journalism and charities in South Africa.  After 10 years of the grind, they decided to quit their jobs, buy an eco-lodge and horse trek company, and move their family to the Chilean Lake District.  When they arrived 3 years ago, they spoke not a lick of Spanish, had never worked in tourism before, didn’t know anything about horses, and began homeschooling their two young sons just to add some extra challenge to the mix.  Many of their friends called them crazy.  I call them inspiring.

Campo Aventura is situated in one of the most beautiful valleys of Chile’s Lake District.  Known as the Yosemite of Chile, the Cochamo Valley is filled with a lush green rainforest below, surrounded by stunning granite walls above.  The valley carries with it a rich history of the gaucho (Patagonian cowboy) culture as a former cattle and trade route between Chile and Argentina.  Campo Aventura operates two lodges – one at the base of the valley, and one situated 16km up in the high country – as well as a horse and trekking tour connecting the lodges and surrounding regions.

View from the lower Cochamo

Kurt and Armin inherited Campo Aventura as a functioning business, but with some serious challenges.  First off, they purchased the business right before the travel industry’s bottom fell out with the global economic meltdown.  That same year, Chile experienced one of its worst earthquakes in history, causing a mass cancellation of most pleasure travel to the country.  But their biggest challenges were in their own backyard.  The previous owner had done very little to integrate, liaise with, and support the local community, and many people (employees first and foremost) harbored deep-seeded animosity towards the company and its management.

Gringos on Horses

Three years later, Campo Aventura has weathered the economic storm, but more importantly, they’ve revamped the company’s approach to responsible tourism with a primary focus on community support and development.  Before they had the money to do so, Kurt and Armin invested in their staff, building new homes for on-site workers.  They hired more gauchos to lead trips, tend horses, and maintain their 100+ acre properties.  They have invested in environmental rehabilitation and conservation projects up and down the valley, ensuring that materials and workforce are sourced throughout the community.  Campo Aventura is now the largest private employer in Cochamo, and aside from the owners and 1 guide, all staff was born and raised in the valley.

Cochamo Valley

River Crossing

Cochamo has been called one of Chile’s best kept natural secrets, and after visiting, I couldn’t agree more.  But beyond the spectacular scenery, Cochamo is also one of the country’s best kept cultural secrets.  The traditional gaucho culture is nearly extinct, and the laid-back, peaceful Chilean campo lifestyle is hard to find on the tourist path.  If you go visit my new role models, you can experience Chile at its finest, while helping to support the best kind of responsible travel – tourism focused on people.

About the Author: Ted Martens

Ted’s journey into the travel and tourism industry started the summer after a two-month backpacking trip throughout Europe ignited a life-long passion for international travel. With a master’s degree in Tourism Development, Ted has focused his efforts on helping non-profit Sustainable Travel International promote responsible tourism across the globe as their Director of Outreach & Development. After working too hard for the past 5 years, he is on the road again, escaping the office for some field research… is the responsible travel movement taking seed across the globe, or not?

People Are Fascinating

Want to hear a cool story? Ted and I got to stay at this great little spot just a couple hours down the road from Puerto Varas, Chile, that is run by an amazing couple named Kurt and Armin. Kurt is from California’s Bay Area and Armin is originally from India (though she’s spent a big chunk of her life in the US).  Together they moved to South Africa where they lived and worked for nearly 10 years – Kurt for the Boston Globe as their South African correspondent and Armin in the NGO world. They also have two sons that were born in South Africa.

One day they decided they wanted to do something completely different.  Like COMPLETELY different. They started researching places that they could buy and operate as a B&B or some kind of tourist operation. After a bit of searching and one site visit each, they found themselves with an amazingly beautiful plot of land along the Cochamo River AND another fabulous spot up in the Cochamo Valley. They are now the owners and operators of Campo Aventura which provides accommodation, meals, and horseback riding trips between their two properties and beyond.

View from the lower property

They have been in Chile for 3 years now and have never looked back. Though neither of them were ‘horse’ people or had experience in the tourism industry, you’d never know it. Every family member does a bit everything, including the little guys (who are 11 and 13, I believe) who help with the horses and assist the gauchos (Chilean cowboys) as needed. Though no one spoke Spanish when they arrived, Armin and Kurt have now mastered it enough to engage the local community and mend some broken bridges left from the previous owners. Their boys are fluent in Chilean cowboy slang.

Gringos on horses

Ted and I had the amazing opportunity to stay with Kurt and Armin in the Cochamo Valley and highly recommend that others do the same (Adventures Within Reach sends trips here)! We spent our first night on the property near the river and loved everything from exploring the area to eating a delicious home-cooked meal with other travelers.

The next day we headed up into the valley with Kurt leading the way on horseback. The trail was intense – lots of mud, rock, narrow passages, low branches and stream crossings. The horses were incredible. We rode for over 5 hours to a clearing surrounded by the most immense and impressive granite walls. In fact, the area is known as the Yosemite of Chile. Their other property is nestled against the big walls, and is a pretty idyllic place to spend time.

Riding up the Cochamo Valley

Cochamo Valley

Big Granite Walls

I could go on and on about how much we loved this place and our time here. We are so happy to have met Kurt and Armin and we can’t thank them enough for their hospitality and generosity. It is inspirational to know people who had a wild and crazy dream and just went for it. We told them that if they ever need someone to run the place for bit, to be sure to give us a call!

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