Río Puelo and Lago Azul, Cochamó, Chile

December 26, 2005 - January 14, 2006 


Located in northern Patagonia and the southern lake region of southern Chile, Cochamó County (Comuna) has only been settled for about 100 years. The primary activity in the area is livestock and dairy farming, selling products in Puerto Montt, about 100-150 kms away. Now that a road has been built, the tourists will come. To arrive in the town of Puelo, a bus leaves from Pto. Montt twice daily, stopping in Pto. Varas, Ensenada, Ralún and Cochamó. The ride along the shore of the Reloncaví Estuary is scenic and colorful. At the end of a long ride, I found a comfortable room for the night in Río Puelo, in a family home.


At noon the next day, I caught the first bus to go up the Río Puelo Valley to Llanada Grande. The bus delivered the passengers to the ferry at Lake Tagua Tagua. The ferry accomodates people, horses, and cars.

A small vehicle met us at the other end of the lake, and about 20 passengers squeezed into the furgón designed for 8-10 people. Only three of us were tourists. The others seemed to be residents of the area and knew each other. What I could see beyond arms and legs was a gorgeous scenery of forest, river, and mountains. Just after Llanada Grande (see map, above) the furgón let me off at the Eliecer crossing, a farm from where I would hike about 90 minutes to Lago Azul.

At the lake, two Austrians and I met Cristián who took us across Lago Azul in an outboard boat. The color of the lake is a deep blue that I have not seen elsewhere.


The 20-minute crossing brought us to a family farm, the only one on this spectacular lake. The Austrians continued to hike to the next lake, Lago Las Rocas, while I took off my boots and joined the host family of four on the porch to get acquainted. A Chilean couple and young daughter were camping on the farm, while I took a room in the house. We all took meals together in the kitchen, where the sturdy wood stove was the center of activity.

Enjoying the excellent food and hospitality of the Gallardo-Eggers family

The farm house was built in the early 20th century, and now has a rebuilt interior. Quantities of domestic animals and wild birds filled the land and sky around the farm. Horses, cows, sheep, goats and pigs roamed freely, as did chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese. And there was always a dog and cat to greet. A field was fenced and reserved for growing natural grasses, to provide hay for the horses. It is cut only once each year, a sufficient supply for the next year. Wild bandurrias and cauquenes often dominated the soundscape. After a storm a large flock of green parrots screeched through the valley.

Turn around, and this is the opposite view. Lovely.


Lago Azul

Fernando, Lago Azul

Río Cascada

Fernando took me out for the day on horseback. We crossed three mountain ridges to reach the Puelo River at the Pasarela (bridge) near the community of Primer Corral. We passed through thickly forested country on muddy and dusty trails that connect remote farms, returning home after eight hours in the saddle. The river connects Puelo Lake in Argentina with the town of Puelo in Chile.

Pasarela over the Río Puelo

Río Puelo flows north to the Estuario Reloncaví

No tractors here


With Miguel, as I prepare to leave Lago Azul and ride to the Argentine border

Cristián guides me to Lago Inferior and the Argentine border. After 3.5 hours riding, the Chilean border official offered some very welcome pasta and sopapilla. Cristián returned home with the horses while I hired a boat to take me across the lake, then up Río Turbio to Lago Puelo. Finding Argentine tourists with cars presented mild culture shock, after several days in the Chilean Andes.

El Bolsón, Argentina, on the trail to the Cabeza del Indio, overlooking the spectacular valley of Río Azul

Río Azul, near El Bolsón, with Lago Puelo in the background

Back in Chile after a short visit to Argentina, here is a favorite place to visit on a sunny day,
Saltos de Petrohue with a view of Osorno Volcano

Here is a most innovative website of Cochamó in English. 

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