Traveling around the region of Aysén involves long days on the road. Not so long ago, those days were spent on horseback and food was carried in saddlebags and eaten under a tree, at the side of a river, or perhaps, in a remote mountain post. Today it is very likely that your mode of transportation has wheels, but the distances are equally long, especially when the road borders giant General Carrera Lake.
Have you remembered snacks for the road?
Lago General Carrera, known locally as Chelenko, is SO big that it generates winds and weather all on its own, resulting in various micro climates along its shores, where crops grow as if they were in the fertile valleys of California or central Chile. We propose that before traveling between the towns of Puerto Ibáñez and Chile Chico, you take a few minutes to visit the gardens, greenhouses and markets of the zone in search of the raw material for a 100% fresh, natural and delicious picnic.
Your search for culinary treasure starts in the rich soils of Puerto Ibáñez.
Here, the magical micro climate produces all kinds of fruits, vegetables and herbs, despite being in the middle of Patagonia. Start with a visit to Las Paramelas (09) 99813498, a local farm where talent and love for the land is clearly demonstrated by the owners, Juana Vega and Ulysses Pereda. Head toward the airfield to reach this organic oasis where you will find the hand-crafted greenhouses, filled with fresh aromas of herbs and vegetables that grow abundantly, thanks to the lush Río Ibañéz valley and to years of experimentation and experience. Señora Juana is an expert with the medicinal herbs of Patagonia and in her boutique you can learn which herbs will brew the best teas for what ails you, whether it’s sore muscles, a head cold, or insomnia. Out back in Don Ulysses workshop, you can find other artisan crafts including hand-made wicker baskets (perfect for holding your picnic supplies) and gaucho style knives, made using traditional techniques and materials of the region.
Continue your gastronomical tour by heading to La Granja Municipal de la Agrupación de Horticultores, a community farm located on Carlos Soza Street, (067) 2423365. This community project uses innovative heating techniques for greenhouses, resulting in delicious products including corn and tomatoes that can only be found in this part of Patagonia. End your harvest on this side of the lake, by visiting the other orchards and greenhouses located along the main road entering Puerto Ibáñez, just before the center of town.
With your gastronomic loot in hand, it is time to enjoy!
Sailing aboard the new ferry “Tehuelche”, you can cross the bright turquoise blue waters of Chelenko in only a few hours, feeling the power of these waters with waves that will make you feel like you are at sea. When you get tired of taking photos and begin to get hungry, it is time to prepare your “tabla”, the Argentine version of a picnic, also known as a “picoteo”. Open your new wicker basket, draw out your gaucho knife, and garner all your culinary creativity. In Argentina, the popular way to serve a picnic is on wooden cutting board but Puerto Ibáñez offers an option a thousand times more interesting and authentic, one of the hand-made clay serving trays made by the local craftsmen in town, using the clay that is collected from the shores of the Ibáñez River. There is no written rule for preparing your tabla, it all depends on the tastes of your group and the local treasures that you’ve discovered. Once armed, the idea is to share with your entire group, enjoying a simple meal, family style, while you sail across General Carrera.
Chile Chico, located on the south bank of Lago General Carrera, is known as the “City of the Sun”.
Its pleasant temperatures and abundant sunny days produce some of the sweetest cherries, peaches, apricots and pears in the world. Yes, the world! Several countries in Europe and Asia import cherries produced in Chile Chico and we are confident that you, too, are going to love them!
If you would enjoy the opportunity to walk around the farms and pick your own treasures right off the trees, head a few kilometers out of town to the Bahía Jara valley, located 17 km to the west of Chile Chico on the way to Puerto Guadal. Here, amongst photogenic landscapes, the women of the Womens’ Agricultural Club of Bahia Jara maintain family farms, orchards and greenhouses where they produce delicious fruits, jams, preserves, cheeses, herbs, crafts, and much more. You can visit them, tour the orchards and greenhouses, and take away some of their delicious goodies to enjoy during your time on this side of the lake.