Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Tortel: An Unexpected Gem

All things that are good in life require some sort of hardship right???  Well despite the "Odyssey" required to arrive in Tortel, we were not disappointed.
Remember when I talked about the landscape like this:

Water and Rock

And This:

Water and Rock
 And This:

Rock and Water

Well given those images you would assume it's impossible for any sort of community to survive in this area.  Tortel is not only surviving, it's thriving.  This quaint village of about 500 people is a maze of boardwalks and stairs with well-kept homes nestled in between.

Tortel is Cute!  (Gary... not so much)

In fact, the boardwalks are the secret to how they’ve managed to create a village in this environment.   There are no areas flat enough to build roads and any footpaths would be quickly washed away let alone impossible to keep from becoming a boggy mess.  Homes are built above and over the land, not on it so there is no need to clear or level anything.

Who needs flat ground when you can build on platforms

The single road comes in well above the village so everything you need to live on requires it to be carried down at least 200m of stairs to the waters edge where you can either wheelbarrow it along the various 7 km of boardwalks or cheat and catch a water taxi to the closest point of your home.  This includes the materials (wood, windows appliance etc) needed to build your home.

Sea Rover set up for Patagonia with Tortel in the background.
The single road to town ends at the top of that hill!

We think there is a thriving history of industrious individuals who sustain their living expenses by carrying your stuff for you.  In fact they've built a shrine for them...

Everything needed to live here is carried on their backs

We haven't (and won’t be able to) spent enough time here to discover what keeps people busy here but at a glance it seems to cater to the few tourists who are adventurous enough to get here.  

Great carvers live here

There are various artisanal carving shops who seem to do excellent work and a few small stores and "restaurants".  Given the very short tourist season here we expect there is more to this place but alas, the south is calling and we must move on.  

Public art in Tortel

At a minimum there must be a fairly good number of people employed to keep the many many kilometers of wooden boardwalks from reverting back to the landscape the came from.

The boardwalks here must require constant maintenance

For the naturalists in our audience, you’ll be pleased to know you can find the worlds largest bee here.  This web page here lists them as extremely rare and almost extinct but we found them all over.

Bombus dahlbomii.  A very big bee!

You can also find hummingbirds the size of crows (ok only 9 inches tall)...  But they were too fast for us to get a good picture for proof… 

If you ever find yourself in the south of Chile, take the detour and visit this place.  You won’t be disappointed….  Unless you are looking for diesel and then despite what the guide book says, you are out of luck.
Don't forget to grab a map when you arrive...  Its easy to get lost here.

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