Sometimes you end up staying in a place much longer than you expect. The guide books can overlook gems, dismiss them into insignificance for not being quite as polished as “the next must see”. Mistake.
On our travels we’ve had the time to wander around – a privilege I know some don’t have. To kick stones and laze away the hour hand in a place can make you realise how glad you were that for some reason or other you decided to pull over, to make the place your home – at least for a few days.
We had that experience in Cochrane; a sleepy little town in Chilean Patagonia – on the banks of the Baker River and with a Ruta 7 tailing away in north and southernly directions. The first lesson here is that first impressions should not always be followed or indeed are correct. On arriving, the pump attendant at the petrol station was rude, the only card machine in town refused to accept both worlds best known brands and the camp site we had earmarked looked dire. However there was a rather nice VW camper van parked in the main square – we should have realised then there was some zen here.
As it came to pass we spent nearly a week in little old Cochrane but we would have never thought it in those first hours. We found a great little campsite near the main square, had Gemma’s birthday celebrations (mint choc chip ice cream and all) and just had a really chilled out time. There are no bars or restaurants really to speak off – but that was fine; maybe because we’d come from a busy festival it suited our mood. Days seem to pass with the sounding of the end of work siren (yes this exists) and the falling of the sun behind the surrounding hills.
We managed to buy annual passes for all chile’s amazing national parks from the local office; somewhat of a pot at the end of the rainbow – often talked about but little found. We proudly used this for the first time in the lightly visited but extremely friendly and beautiful Tamango National Reserve.
I reflect that if we’d stormed through Cochrane in a mardy at its slap-round-the-head-welcome we’d have missed this beautiful national park on its door step but tucked away. We had a magical time there.
A friendly campsite by a lake greeted us and we wandered through the hillsides finding glimpses of very rare and very secretive South Andean ‘Huemul’ Deer, taking dips in ice cold streams whose waters were clearer than that from the tap and watched butterflies come to rest on fresh mint which scented the air. This was idyllic.
Sitting listening to desert island discs and cooking up dinner by an open fire as the sun faded away and the stars came to play I wondered what delights we miss when we wander by, take a quick negative view or listen to a guide books averagivity (I know that not a word but I like it). I’m glad we didn’t miss Cochrane it was much more than we ever expected.