Estancia Valle ‘Charcoal-buco’

Quite often we start a day of travelling not knowing where we are going to end up that evening. Neither of us imagined we would end this day rubbing shoulders with Kristine and Douglas Tompkins (and a former Chilean president) at the headquarters of their latest conservation project, Estancia Valle Chacabuco, outside Cochrane.

We had driven through the extremely remote Rodolfo Roballos Pass, from Argentina, with only guanacos and eagles for company, only to turn a corner and see a beautiful collection of new buildings. Constructed from local stone, surrounded by poplar trees and with two light aircraft on the front lawn, the estancia certainly made an impression. Over a spot of tea with the Tompkins’ pilot, we learnt about Estancia Valle Chacabuco and the Tompkins’ work:

Douglas Tompkins co-founded and ran two clothing companies, North Face and ESPRIT before leaving the business world in 1989, and dedicating himself to environmental activism and land conservation. Along with his wife, Kristine Tompkins, he has conserved over 2 million acres (8,100 km2) of wilderness in Chile, more than any other private individual. A pretty controversial character in Chile, at one time he owned land covering the entire width of Chile, effectively cutting the country in two.

However, on the face of it, the work they are doing is completely altruistic: purchasing large blocks of wilderness, setting up conservation projects and then working with the Chilean government to designate the land as national parks to guarantee their long-term conservation.

Tragically, a huge forest fire started whilst we were camping (nothing to do with us!) which devastated 5,000 acres of land in 48 hours. It would appear it was started by someone lighting a candle in a roadside shrine to the Patron Saint of Safe Travel, which was ironic considering that driving through the fire on the bike was some of the more extreme driving we’ve done.

DSCN3778 DSCN3785 DSCN3805 DSCN3801raging fire
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2 thoughts on “Estancia Valle ‘Charcoal-buco’

  1. Hey, great blog and photos, you guys! We enjoyed talking with you at the Estancia Valle Chacabuco, and are glad to see that you’re up North now in the cities rather than enjoying all the snow and rain that are a big part of the Patagonian winters in Chile. We left our ranch near Villa Cerro Castillo for Chicago at the end of April, and are already packing a container to bring stuff back in October. The weather is nice and cool in Chicago this summer, so we’re going rafting in the Grand Canyon at the end of the month (where it’s 110 degrees with no shade), then diving at Isla Mujeres (off Cancun) at the end of August. If you get that far north, come and meet us! We’re renting a studio so there’s room on the couch!
    Alice Hoffman & Lee Petersen

    • Hi Alice and Lee,

      Great to hear from you guys. We’re really pleased you enjoy the blog. It’s always a balance between keeping friends and family up to date with our adventures and making a record for ourselves. It was great meeting you both at Valle Chacabuco. We talk about our experience there regularly. It was a slightly surreal experience for us, having just come through the super remote Paso Rodolfo only to turn a corner and see the amazing estancia. Then we got chatting with the lovely guy who was the pilot. Then meeting you guys who gave us a fascinating insight into the project and, of course, your own campo project. We would love to know more about the work you have done on wind energy if possible. We’re very interested in sustainable design and would love to read any architect friendly research you may have access to, or articles you have written.

      It seems you are fond of adventures, with rafting in the Grand Canyon and diving off Cancun. We still haven’t decided what route to take north from Colombia, either some island hopping in the Caribbean or up through Central America. Either way we won’t be there in time to join you but thank you for the offer. Also, speaking of the Grand Canyon, we went to an extraordinary place in northern Argentina called Talampaya. Clearly not on the same scale as the GC but very beautiful with its vivid red stone.

      For now we’re heading into northern Chile, then through Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador before we hit Colombia. We have fallen in love with South America and often chat about how we could return in future for longer.

      Oh, before we go we need to say that we tried our hand at fly fishing in Bariloche, on the Limay River. We didn’t break any records for the fish we caught but we loved it and regretted not giving it a try earlier on our trip.

      Nick and Lucy

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