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Patagonia

Life at Basecamp

Life at Basecamp

Text and Photos by Annie Johnson, College of Saint Benedict

We’ve made it! Although we haven’t been in Chile for very long yet, the anticipated basecamp/home of Cochrane has been on our minds since we first found out we were apart of the Round River Conservation Studies program. We left Cerro Castillo on January 18th and made the beautiful drive down to Cochrane. Along the way, we stopped at a historical Chilean school and the confluence of the Baker River and Neff River. At the school, we were able to practice our Spanish as we walked through the school exhibits, learning all about Southern Chile’s history and culture. It just so happened that right down the road from the school was a very historical site where handprints from an indigenous community can be seen on the rock faces. We were all in awe as we looked up at the various sized and colored handprints, thinking of a people long gone whose memories have lived on.

Two handprints from the Paradon de los Manos. The Tehuelche people used a mix of natural dyes and ganaco fats to leave their mark over 3,000 years ago.

Another stop we made was at the confluence of the Baker River and Neff River. To say the least, this was spectacular. These two huge bodies of water rushed together, mixing their different shades of blue, to form one winding river. We stayed and watched for a while, mesmerized by the power and force of the water.

Team Aguila stands before the roaring Salto of the Baker River. Photo by Adam Spencer

The astoundingly clear blue Baker River drains Lago General Carrera, the second-largest lake in South America. The waters are fed by rainfall and snowmelt, and sediments filter out long before the river takes its waters away. In stark contrast, the milky-grey waters of the Neff River are fed by the nearby Neff Glacier and the sedimental glacial flour pushed along by that ice river upstream. At the Confluencia, these rivers collide, and the Baker continues as a milky-blue compromise. Photo by Adam Spencer

After these wondrous stops, we arrived in Cochrane and drove our way to basecamp, just a little ways outside of town. The moment we walked into our quincho, we felt at home. And home it has been! Team Aguila jumped into action with cooking, swimming, learning, reading, sleeping and much more. We cruised the town to do a little grocery shopping, connect to the internet and talk to those back home, and hang out with the local puppies.

Our time at basecamp has allowed us to have more classes and really learn about the different places where we will be doing conservation work. One of the most influential classes we had was when we talked about conservation on a very personal level. In our environmental narratives class, we discussed a powerful quotation from Plenty Coups, a Crow Indian chief: “When the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground, and they could not lift them up again. After this nothing happened.” Our instructors asked us to think about our own “buffalos.” What would break our hearts if we lost it? The work we are doing down here needs to be personal and real if we intend to make a positive impact on the conservation of Patagonia.

After several days to settle into life at basecamp, we doubled in our ranks as Team Condor joined us for the second half of our stay here. Double the people and double the fun!!

AnnMarie Backstom, Aaron Richards, and Alli Summerly play in a box while waiting for dinner

Basecamp has been filled with much laughter and shenanigans, especially since it was Fernando’s birthday on Tuesday. For his birthday, we made oven-roasted homemade pizza, some savory sautéed vegetables, dangerously divine deviled eggs, carrot cake and brigadero (a Brazilian chocolate dish made by Samara). It was a joyous night of good company, conversation, dancing, and a rainbow to top it off.

RRCS Instructors and Fernando celebrate his birthday rainbow!

We continued to explore the town of Cochrane, take classes, and eat delicious food. We even went kayaking on the Cochrane River! It is safe to say that all of us thoroughly enjoyed this micro-adventure and were in complete awe of the beauty that surrounded us. We stopped for lunch and hiked past some waterfalls to a pinch in the Cochrane River where we basked in the sun and did a little swimming.

Harris Hayman holds the glories of Patagonian waterfalls in his outstretched arms

Our time at basecamp has been wonderful. We are all excited to start our next adventure to San Lorenzo, an area that may provide a Glacier Calluqueo sighting. Goodbye for now!

Team Condor says goodbye as Team Aguila departs for San Lorenzo. Photo by Fernando Iglesias

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