Punta Arenas English Magazine
Magallanes Territory, Chile
Page:  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Some Account of a Trip up the River Aysen [1907]

[Note: The first part of this report has not been found; punctuation added for readability; en español]

... very large and fine vegetable garden, the Colonists houses, Store, Carpenter's and Blacksmith's shops, and a sawmill driven by a water-wheel. The next day – Sunday – we did not start early as to tell the truth I was very tired, but at 4 P.M. we started on horses kindly lent us by Mr. Dun and at 7.45 as we did not see the house we were bound to, we camped out in a lovely sheltered spot. At 4 A.M. we were dressed, and once more ready for the road, which we took after having a cup of coffee; we reached Coy Aike Alto at 8 o'clock and had our breakfast there; we then had to go across country where there were no tracks and so we did not reach Mr. Richard's house until 7 P.M. and we very much appreciated the kind welcome extended to us by him.

On our way I forgot to say that we came across an ostrich's nest on the high pampa, and we carried seven of the 12 eggs with us so that we had a really good ostrich egg omelet at Mr. Richard's. I must stay for a moment to give some description of Richard's house. Imagine us 500 miles from anywhere, time 9:00 P.M., locale, a mud hut, roofed with grass, with rafters of trees cut from the forest, a large old-fashioned open hearth with a couple of ostrich hounds stretched out in front of the fire, a rough bench made of a slab of a tree supported on [...] pieces of branches with a piece of woolbaling as a cover and stuffed with wool to make it as inviting as possible to men coming off a long ride. Seated on the said stool, Mr. Richards the patron and Mr. Lundberg; on the right hand side of the fire stands Mr. Antonio Zonzzia, in an old Panama hat, a coat which has evidently been put on in honour of the visitors – and a pair of riding breeches that will not stand detailing, manipulating a splendid Edison Phonograph with all the latest improvements; in the background a couple of Paysanos, (you must not call them Indians up there) who have evidently been attracted by the music.

On the left of the fire your humble servant, sitting in an armchair made of a flour barrel cut down, endeavouring to place on record some idea of the scene. The room itself is peculiar, in front of the door there is a raised bed, composed of skins of ostriches, guanacos and foxes, on which a large guanaco hound is lying; close to him a couple of fowls quietly roost. The walls are adorned with all manner of advertisements and pictures from the illustrated papers, there is a general litter of horse gear all over the place, and stretched in every direction overhead are pieces of cord or hide, from which hang a miscellaneous collection such a towels, cups, sheep's intestines, ponchos, strips of leather, pieces of meat, shears, cayundas, wire etc. etc. whilst stuck into the thatch overhead is a spade handle which has evidently been put there to come in useful some time.

On a shelf alongside me there is a rattle of pannikins, ostrich eggs, plates, pickles, cooked meat, wine glasses, tea, fresh milk, fork and spoons etc. Knives there are none as each man takes his own knife out of his boot, or wherever he keeps it, wipes it on his pants, and proceeds to cut his meat, with it. Between the pantry – as this shelf may be called – and the door there is another bench on which stand a very bent enamelled wash-basin, and a galvanized iron bucket which has seen better days and a large piece of blue soap: this is the family washing place, and above there is a small cracked oval mirror and two combs, not over clean but which are hospitably placed at the convenience of all guests. The door of the house is open all day and all night for the sake of fresh air and light.

It struck me as being so very incongruous to have amidst these surroundings airs from the latest operas, and the newest London songs. But I cannot conclude without saying that although picturesque and peculiar in some ways, there is the most hearty welcome for all Britishers from Mr. Richards & his nephew Don Antonio, and I for one shall never forget the kindness shewn to me in this rough but hospitable house.

The next day we both felt the need of a rest, and in the afternoon Mr. Lundberg made an arrangement with a settler up the valley to hire his bullocks to go to Puerto Dun to bring up the carts with Mrs. Lundberg, and I found a peon who was going to Rio Huemules looking for work. I suggested that I should go with him and it was so arranged. We started the next day at 8 o'clock and after a long day's ride arrived at Rio Huemules. The Camp hereabouts is very beautiful, but unfortunately there are such things as Lions and Winters. If it were not for these two the place would be ideal. Mr. Brooks was very pleased to see me, but not more so than I was to see him. I very quickly fell into the ways of the place. All hands in bed by 8 P.M. & up at 3.30. Meals were Coffee at 4 A.M., Breakfast 9–10, 2.30 tea, & 6 o'clock dinner or supper & then bed again. A fine, healthy life but perhaps it might pall after a time.

The weather whilst I was at the Rio Huemules was very fine, but plenty of wind all day and all night: it seemed to me to be a persistent westerly wind. I enjoyed my stay very much, and on two occasions went out after lions, or pumas as we should call them in England, but we had no luck, for although we found their tracks we never got sight or smell of them. It was very annoying, as they came in and got our sheep & we could get no traces of them in the morning. I think that this was partly due to our not having good lion dogs, as the scent in these strong winds does not lie long enough for an ordinary dog to follow it with any certainty. One of the things that surprised me most in the Rio Huemules was the great quantity of wild flowers, and the strawberries: not the kind we have in Punta Arenas, but real wild strawberries, the place was full of the blossoms, and you could not walk without treading on them. Mr. Brooks assures me that in parts you can sit down and gather a pint without moving; they are very large, many of them the size of a walnut.

The house at the Rio Huemules is primitive in the extreme, being made of logs stuck in the ground close together and the chinks stuffed with moss, and roofed with 8 sheets of 9' iron so that the inside dimensions are easily calculated more or less 16' x 9'; in which small space there are 4 bunks, and nearly the whole of one side is taken up with an immense chimney, which has to be so large because it is made of slabs of wood, and if there were not plenty of space the house might take fire. There is the beginning of a very nice garden at Rio Huemules, and the beds are irrigated with little tiny canals taken round them from the stream close by.

On the evening of December 3rd, we tied up two horses so that we could make an early start and on December 4th at 3.30 we were up and after seeing that the horses were alright we went down to the river for our morning bath, on returning some half hour later we were surprised to see only one horse, the other had got away; we at once sent a man after him but it was not until 6 o'clock that he was brought back and we were able to make a start, having in the meanwhile put our things together & had coffee. After an hour's ride we came to a shed where there was a canvas boat belonging to the Limits Commission, this we inspected and found to be in good order. At noon we arrived at the upper end of Laguna Blanca & called to see a man who had some good hounds for lion hunting we had been told – I should call them more of a lurcher than a hound – here I parted from Mr. Brooks, he remaining to do a deal for one of them and I proceeded on my way back to the Rio Mayo which I reached at 5.30 after 11½ hours journey through an uninteresting country.

The following day I left early with my two horses which had remained at Rio Mayo for a week's rest, I got to Coy Aike Alto before noon, here I rested for an hour in the hut that was built for the carters as no one lives there, and then pushed on, but my horses were such poor animals that I had to leave one on the track at 4 p.m. and the other I had to tow for the last five miles. As it was I reached Coy Aike Bajo at 8.10 p.m, Any camp man who knows me will be sure to say that I rode too fast but the distance is 21 leagues and I took 14 hours and 10 minutes to do it, so it does not seem to me that I unduly pressed the horses. I remained at Coy Aike Bajo for some days fishing in the Aysen which abounds with small trout; the greater part of this time it was very wet & then we went down to Puerto Dun. The ride down the famous road was an extraordinary one, as the mud and rain were something that a person must experience to believe. Suffice it to say that I do not think I am overstating the case when I say that if I were to strike an average depth for the mud the whole 61 miles I should say 8 to 9 inches.

After one day at Puerto Dun we proceeded to Chacabuco Cove where we lived for seven days in a galpon waiting for the steamer to come and fetch us; and this same Chacabuco Cove is not by any means a lively spot to stay at in the best of weather, as there is no dry place for the sole of one's foot except the 30 or 40 feet of the jetty; and during the time I was there it was Rain, Rain, Rain, all day and every day, which does not add to the joys of waiting in a galpon situated in a Patagonian forest. Despite the rain however we made one or two excursions into the forest, and at last a small steamer called the Imperial came along, and she informed us that the Alm had passed Southward some days and the Westfold Northward also, so I decided to take passage in her to Puerto Montt.

The Imperial was a small steamer of some 60 tons and had no accommodation, the hold was full of peons returning, and as there was no place to lie down, I had to get a plank and support the ends on two buckets to keep it off the wet deck, then lay my poncho on the 10 inch plank & lay down with my macintosh to cover me; & I can tell anyone who has not tried it that they must lie pretty quiet if they are sleeping on a 10 inch plank and do not want to fall off; myself, I was not quiet enough to do it and several times came off on the wet deck. After 6 days of considerable roughing it, we reached Calbuco where we found the Lebu of the South American Line & took passage in her to Corral which we reached on 27th December. I left for Punta Arenas in the Thuringia on the last day of the old year and arrived on January 4th, thus ending a very pleasant and instructive trip.

C. A. M.   [Charles Amherst Milward, 1859—1928]