In 2009, Chile Nativo Travel founder Gonzalo Fuenzalida traveled with friends, Flavio Haddad and Antonio Cardoso, along a 14-day horseback expedition from Bariloche, Argentina to Puerto Varas, Chile. The journey stretched across remarkable landscapes of pristine, untouched Patagonia, passing through a particularly special place – Rincón Bonito – a remote countryside of the Ventisquero Valley in the Puelo river basin of Cochamó located in the extreme north of Chilean Patagonia.
Sharing with the local residents along the way – whether a traditional asado or customary mate – was an integral part of the friends’ two-week journey. And it was during this time that Gonzalo, Flavio, and Antonio met a very special woman, Bernarda Alegría, or as most know her – Bernardita. A long-time resident of Rincón Bonito and Puelo, Bernardita shares a deep love for this unique region, its landscapes, silence, and solitude.
Surrounded by both Pumalín and Hornopirén National Parks, Rincón Bonito is considered a private conservation initiative offering incredible ecological value to the region and was the chosen destination for Chile Nativo’s 2022 end-of-season staff trip in May. This remote region of Patagonia offers impressive views of fjords, mountains, volcanoes, glaciers, lagoons, rivers, and ancient forests. When the Chile Nativo team arrived to Rincón Bonito in May 2022, the team was warmly received by Verónica Cuevas and Juan Cortes, a young couple of locals who work closely with the Rincón Bonito initiative, Rodrigo Condeza, a dedicated coordinator for the initiative, and local guide in Rincón Bonito, and Bernardita who was waiting patiently to welcome the Chile Nativo team upon their arrival. After 13 long years, Gonzalo and Bernardita reunited, taking the same photo that they had shared together back in 2009 in Rincón Bonito.
Rincón Bonito sits in the middle of the Ventisquero Valley, a glacial valley whose river of the same name flows west to east, winding 41km from its glacial source to its union with the Puelo River, the largest river in the district of Cochamó with a length of 120km. The Puelo River not only provides vital substance for the region’s forests and valleys, but also serves as a conduit for millions of microorganisms that are carried from the glaciers to the estuary, providing nutrients to species from all over the world. The Puelo River is part of the Temperate Rain Forests of the Southern Andes which was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2007. This means that Chile has a highly important corner of the world that is a vital pillar of science, sustainability, and conservation.
This fragment of the planet has been recognized by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) as one of the 200 key areas in international conservation and as one of the 25 most valuable and threatened eco-regions in the world, representing 0.9% of the humid temperate forests of the globe. Scientific studies support the importance of the Puelo River for ecosystems, which delivers food to many marine species such as the blue whale. For these reasons, the there has been argument by local residents and community members opposing any development or progress that implies the obstruction of the natural cycle that leads the river.
Bernardita, like many of the residents of Puelo and Rincón Bonito are the important protectors of the waters in this unique region who seek to protect the free flow of the Puelo River, which determines the life and livelihood of all ecosystems it runs through – not only the flora and fauna but also the people who live in harmony with this precious environment.
In 1999, the land was bought by Douglas Tompkins for the Pumalín project, requiring a great deal of restoration work to be done in order to make it honor its name “Rincón Bonito” (Beautiful Corner); and in 2013, Rincón Bonito was sold by Tompkins Conservation to two Chilean siblings Fernanda and José Claro, who began a new stage for this land and placed the land back in the care of the Chilean people. At that time, it was necessary to rebuild infrastructures and improve the airfield runway, which makes this area accessible by small planes. Old trails were opened to explore the countryside and its surroundings, and a totally self-sufficient mountain home and glamping shelters were built for visitors to enjoy. With patience and ingenuity, due to its remote location, the results seek to be in harmony with the environment, and little by little, tourism is transforming Rincón Bonito into an important economic activity thanks to its natural, authentic beauty of the landscape and culture. Visitors can experience a unique stay, caring for the environment and in turn, together with their visit, generate a balance of sustainable and low-impact development.
Research Statistics, Source: Corporación Puelo Patagonia, “Puelo, Reserva de Agua”
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