Puerto Eulogio Sánchez is a tiny town located in a sector formerly known as the Malvinas. This sector, comprising the lands between Puerto Alarcón, Puerto Sánchez and Bahía Murta, was one of the first inner peninsulas of the General Carrera Lake basis to be populated. Its first inhabitants migrated around the Levicán Peninsula near Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez and settled here in the mid-twenties.
A few decades later, geologists from the company that operated the nearby mine in Puerto Cristal found an important copper deposit, named Las Chivas, in the sector where Sánchez is located; in subsequent years other deposits were discovered, including El Pelao, El Toro and Olguita. These findings provoked a new era for the sector when, in 1950, the mining company constructed camps and an official port for shipment of the ore. They renamed the whole sector Puerto Eulogio Sánchez, in memory of the president of the company, engineer and pilot Eulogio Sánchez Errázuriz. The deposits produced a large quantity of minerals in their early decades of operation and the tiny settlement became a bustling and prosperous small town during these golden years, similar to many other villages along the General Carrera Basin which also became mining centers. The mining around the lake generated significant revenues for the companies, and for Chile, motivating a massive influx of workers for these small towns.
As you arrive in town and take a brief look around, try and imagine this era, when there were so many people that they had four soccer teams. Local players got bored playing the same teams each week so they formed a league with the teams in nearby villages like Puerto Cristal. Eventually there were teams from the villages all around the lake, and the coveted Copa del Lago championship tournament (that still exists) was born.
In addition to playing soccer every Sunday, the majority of the workers also went to casinos to gamble, playing traditional games like Truco and Taba. There were also family activities, like the celebrations that took place each year on Miner’s Day. The company would donate lambs for a giant asado al palo and the families would prepare the salads.
But the glory days didn’t last very long.
By 1960 the original mining company had claimed bankruptcy and abandoned Puerto Sánchez. A new State backed entity assumed the operations but by the 1980s, they too had disappeared, replaced by the State run Development Corporation, Corfo. During these decades, most workers left Puerto Sánchez in search of better options for their families. In 1992, the Chilean company CalaAisen, owned by the Walker Prieto family, purchased the entire village, including the mine. In the years following, they donated lands in town to 17 of the original families who continue to live in town.
In the last decade, the small destination town of Puerto Sánchez has begun to gradually change; the Walker Prieto family has restored some of the older buildings and torn down others and the municipality has made major improvements to the roads and streets. All good signs for tourism! The original sector of Puerto Sánchez, a paradise filled with sandy beaches, open fields and beautiful forests, is being rediscovered by travelers who, like the first settlers, are enamored with its natural beauty and ready for adventure.
Are you ready to get to know this lakeside town?
Until just a few years ago, the only access to the village was by boat, crossing General Carrera Lake from Puerto Tranquilo, but in 2000, a road was built, connecting the town to Bahía Murta via a beautiful (but awe-inspiring) 25 km journey. When you leave Murta, the road immediately begins a series of upward curves, which provide panoramic views of the valleys, the lake and the snow-capped mountains. We know the views are fantastic but don’t let yourself get too distracted, especially in the “La Candonga Sector”, because the route is narrow and perched high up on the side of a huge cliff where there’s not much between you and the lake, far below, except a lot of fresh air. Yikes!
Once you’ve tackled the steep curves in the beginning of this scenic route, it levels off, passing through beautiful sections of high mountain forests before gradually dipping back down into the Sánchez Valley. As you make your way toward the lake, the horizon is filled with the beautiful Panichini Islands. Two kilometers before reaching town, you’ll pass over a bridge, where, on the other side, there is a perfect place to stop for views of the valley’s rural farms and meadows, the turquoise backdrop of General Carrera, and the Panichini Islands, with their marble caverns, appearing as beautiful mounds of green and white. What better greeting than this?
Now, the adventure changes from its focus on the natural beauty to a mixture of history, nature and contemplation. As you arrive in town, you’ll likely feel like you’ve stepped back in time about 70 years. The town will transport you to another era as you explore what’s left of the original mining company infrastructure, the location of the original docks, slagheaps, storage facilities and houses. Moving towards the center of town, you’ll come across the school, fire department, rural health post, and the brand new houses of the some twenty families that still live here. There are a couple of stores where you can buy snacks and other essential elements. Puerto Sánchez is clearly returning to a simpler time; yet in many ways, it is becoming more modern; the streets have been renovated, there are new decorative street signs and markers, and a modern electricity and sewer system.
The town’s beach is near perfect with great views of Lago General Carrera and the Panichini Islands a mere 20 minutes away, by kayak (five, in boat). The main island is actually private property, but kayaking its perimeter is a great adventure, bringing you close to some of the lesser-known marble caves, in the Chelenko Area. It is a great opportunity to see raw, organic marble, in its natural state, before it is removed, polished, and set into the floors and walls of the world’s luxurious buildings.
If you want to know a little more about the mining history of the area, you can visit the Mining History Museum of Puerto Sánchez, which is operated by Don Abraham Gallardo, who worked as one of the original miners and now manages the museum, located in the building that formerly housed the town’s larger grocery story, that was called the “ECA”. Just ask for Don Abraham in town and he will kindly open and guide you through the museum.