Get to know the route of the Telhueche people from the Cochamó Pass
This route is the expression of important historical and cultural processes of the Cochamó Pass. It seeks to place value and to take care of the archeological and historical heritage of the community. The most important Archeological sites are at the Torrentoso and Vidal Gormaz Lake, both are National Monuments.
The first people to go through this stretch of the mountain range were the Tehuelche people from the Patagonia. They were given the attributions of the cave paintings originated between 1300 and 700 years before the present (AP).
In the mid XIX century the first explorations began. Roberto Christie and Roberto Etchenleitner discovered the old Cochamó Pass in 1884. They were part of a Chilean frontiers and limits commission. They were the first white men to find them. The Indian chief Cacique Tehuelche Sinchel drove 1000 cattle through this pass from Chubut to Llanquihue.
At the end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century, Cochamó, especially this pass, were witnesses to the strong trade movement between Chile and Argentina, supported by the cattle and wood movement, mainly by the Frigorífica Cochamó and the Commercial Limited Company and Cattle Herding Chile-Argentina.
As a curious fact, the Cholila, Argentina area was settled down by famous North American bandits Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, who drove cattle for trading purposes through the mountain range pass of Cochamó.
A letter that was written by Cassidy (who called himself Santiago Ryan) stated that to arrive to Chile it was necessary to cross the mountain range which he thought was impossible to do until last summer when the Chilean government approved to open the road (the Cochamó road), so their intention was to arrive to Puerto Montt, Chile the next summer in 4 days, where before it was necessary to do this in two months through the old path.
During this time the first colonist settled in the mountain valleys developing a particular Cattle Driving culture taken from the cultural influences assimilated in the constant trips of moving cattle between Chile and Argentina.
This activity continues up to this day and it is part of the identity of the inhabitants of the land. The National Council of Culture and Art in 2013 together with Unesco, recognized the Cattle Drivers of El Leon Pass as Live Human Treasures being as how they bear the cattle driving tradition of the Cochamó Pass.
This touristic experience invites us to know and to travel through the old Cochamó Pass, through the mythical Los Andes Mountain Range, traveling through a thousand-year-old path that was used by the Tehuelche people and later by the cattle drivers keeping traces of pre-Columbian past.
Our journey through the Valdivian forest is full of surprises. As we begin to climb higher, we begin to see the endemic wildlife. If we are lucky, we can see a mountain monkey, a Chilote fox or a wild cat in its habitat, but undoubtedly the most impressive are the huge lenga forests and thousand-year-old larch trees (alerce) that have remained intact for more than 2,000 years. In the Arch area we can find some traces of a trade route that was built in 1900 by the Chile-Argentina Company.
The breathtaking beauty of the landscapes hidden in the pass of time, the presence of valleys of a glacial origin, and the retreat of these huge masses of ice, shape the geography that we know today after the last glaciation of approximately 14,500 years ago gave way to these picturesque mountain lakes, waterfalls, rivers and glaciers.
Our guides are the experienced local cattle drivers who have a deep knowledge of this mountainous region. They have made their lives from the Andean mountain range, sovereigns of the frontier.
We invite you to cross the mythical Andes Mountain Range through the old Cochamó pass, horseback riding with the cattle drivers, living a unique experience their style where you will learn about their work, how to set up a camp in the mountains, look for firewood, water and how to load a “pilchero” (a horse that carries the provisions). You will also be able to roast a lamb the Patagonia style and to fix mate (an herb drink) where the tasty stories of myths and bravery will be told.
He who is in a hurry in the Patagonia, loses his time.
|Day 1||Transfer from Puerto Varas – Bariloche, Argentina to El León Pass. The guide team will receive you and welcome you with the warmth of a roasted lamb on the stick and an overnight stay.|
|Day 2||This is where the big adventure begins, after a brief talk about security, you will be given a horse, with whom you need to have an affinity and complicity to overcome the obstacles that are on the road, riding towards the extreme south of the Vidal Gormáz Lake.|
|Day 3||After the first day of riding, the second day you will have won the trust and the affection of the horse. You will feel comfortable and enjoy the trip. We will border the Vidal Gormaz Lake and arrive at a big plateau. The route will pass you over the highest part of the Los Andes Mountain Range, at the Big Lake or the Lake of the Cattle Drivers. We will camp here.|
|Day 4||We will leave the Lake of the Cattle Drivers and go to the “Traitor” River, passing the Arch where it is possible to appreciate this natural wonder of great landscape beauty made up of a rock arch with a larch (alerce) tree above bypassing a waterfall framed in the thousand-year-old larch (alerce) forests of approximately 8,000 hectares.|
|Day 5||The final stretch will be to ride through the area known as “La Junta” known for being a rock climber’s paradise in South America. Later we will enter into the Cochamó valley to have a meal (pique gaucho) and finish off the day in the natural “Sun Hot Springs” closing off this unforgettable adventure.|
- We recommend you book in advance lodgings in Rio Puelo.
Know in detail the route:
The historical house with a binational yard: This house belongs to the Bahamonde Carrillo Family. It was built in 1930 with wood (cypress and larch). Half of the yard is in Argentina and the other half is in Chile.
El León Pass: This is located on the Manso River basin. The name was given to it because of the “mountain lions” that are abundant in this area. One of them hunted a calf belonging to “Motoco” who was the first cattle driver that crossed these lands with animals.
This place is located just a few meters from the border (International Pass Manso River) that connect Chile with Argentina.
León River: This was during the time when the territory was expanding in 1880. A Chilean cattle driver named Pedro “Motoco” Cárdenas from Rio Bueno was passing through these valleys driving cattle towards Argentina. He put up camp on the shores of the river. When he woke up, he checked his herd and realized that there was a calf missing. A little further on he found it dead. A mountain lion had hunted it. Since then the name of this place was called from this mysterious encounter “The Lion Pass” told by the disturbed cattle herder. Later the place began to be called this. Motoco finished his trip close to El Bolsón colonizing the New Valley where he settled down.
Río Manso Bridge: This bridge connects El León Pass with the Manso River.
The Lake of the Cattle Drivers: Picturesque mountain lake located at the highest point of the journey.
Vidal Gormáz Lake: Picturesque mountain lake located in a landscape of great beauty. A shelter of nature suspended in time. The colonists live there during the whole year practically disconnected with the world in a pure and natural environment. This place is ideal for sport fishing the Fontinalis trout.
Archeological sites of Cave Paintings: We can get a glimpse of the Tehuelche people lifestyle through the cave paintings. They would stamp their particular style in the mountain range of Chile and Argentina. The main route that the Tehuelche groups used to pass through the mountain range is from the Villegas, Foyel and Manso rivers in the Argentinian Patagonia (which have the main concentration of archeological sites) up to Manso river on the Chilean side and the Torrentoso and Correntoso rivers up to the southern shore of Vidal Gormaz Lake, to arrive at the Reloncaví Estuary through the Cochamó pass: today it is being used by the cattle drivers to move cattle.
The Arch: This is a natural arch made of rock where it descends abruptly on the river with the same name. The unevenness of more than 20 meters gives life to a waterfall. Inside the top of the arch starts a larch (alerce), giving life to a dreamy postcard.
Relics on the Chilean-Argentinian road: The Cochamó company built a road from Cochamó up to El Manso, Argentina between 1900 and 1902 to move the cattle better through the El Leon Pass during the summer months and part of the fall months. As you go through the cattle driving route you will find some relics of what might have been this great binational trade route. You will find some very old shelters, paths made with logs, remains of telegraphs and bridge sleepers in the rivers that have the highest water flow.
The ruins of the Cochamó Company: You can still find some ruins of what used to be the old company in Cochamó, lord houses, slaughterhouses, docks and a huge legacy for the cultural heritage of the community.
Log Path: The log paths are long extensions of paths build over the low and very humid paths to avoid having an unstable road for the animal movement.
La Junta: A huge concentration of North Patagonia basalt and summits of more than one thousand meters high. These summits receive thousands of rock climbers from around the world who are looking to live an experience of opening new routes on the Big Wall, the biggest one in South America.
Cochamó Valley: The jewel of this region with great historical importance is the Cochamó Valley. The retreat of the glaciers conspired in a sea and rock symphony, creating granite walls and spectacular rugs of over 30,000 hectares of Valdivian forest of very high value where the most important ones are the ulmo, mañío, coigüe and thousand-year-old larch trees.
Butch Cassidy: The famous North American bandit Butch Cassidy and his gang arrived at the Patagonia in 1901 after assaulting a bank in Nevada. They settled in Cholilla, very close to the mountain range on a 10,000-hectare piece of land owned by the Cochamó Company. They would pass through the Cattle Driving Route to trade their cattle with the company in 1905 selling their best cattle and then fleeing from these lands after committing bank robberies in the Patagonia banks.