Homesteading in Hornopirén

I bet you all thought I was going to do it again – start up a blog and then forget about it a month later! Not this time, my friends, I’ve just been out having too much fun and not enough wifi. So pardon me for the lack of updates on here, but I’m back in Puerto Varas for a few days and ready to get some work done!

It has been quite the wild ride this past month. We spent ten days camping on the lovely farm in Hornopiren, we got real intimate with some of the oldest trees in the world, we explored a bit of the late Doug Tompkins’ life, aaaaand we acquired a new dog friend on the island of Chiloe. pink sky mtn
We started off from Puerto Montt a month ago, heading down Ruta 7, more commonly known as the Carretera Austral. This beautiful road provides access to some of the best-kept secrets of Patagonia, and we plan on driving the whole thing (eventually). But for the time being, we have succeeded in going the short yet magical bit to Hornopirén.

The Hornopirén Homestead
Just a short three hour drive from Puerto Montt, including a fun little ferry ride across a stunning blue estuary, is the property that started this whole trip. For a little back-story: on the night Alex and I met, I had mentioned my time living in Chile, and he brought up that him and some friends were looking to buy some property in Chile. (In fact, that was his whole ploy to get me to join him at his house for dinner – “to talk about Chile.”) That wouldn’t be the first time he said he was going do some crazy feat and I didn’t believe him, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Anyhow, it really did end up happening. Along with 9 other fellas from around the world, they purchased a decent sized plot of land outside of Hornopirén, right next to the National Park. Being the wild men that they are, only one of the guys had actually seen this property before purchasing, but that one fella had a vision for a magical place, and what a magical place it is indeed.

*It’d be a dishonor not to mention whom these boys actually are: Ben and Luke, some dear gents who run the Turtle Island Ecology Center near Fort Collins, Colorado, are the inspiration behind the Hornopirén project. Their idea is to create an ecovillage for people to come enjoy and learn about the ecology and history of the region while helping to restore the native forest of the area that was destroyed hundreds of years ago. They have an incredible collective of people surrounding them in their efforts, and I am so happy to have had the pleasure to stay and learn from them. Along with Ben and Luke, I must mention the rest of the stellar crew who were there upon our arrival, kickin’ ass: Tyler, aka Tiddy, Heinrich, and Kev – you boys rock!
*It’d be a dishonor not to mention whom these boys actually are: Ben and Luke, some dear gents who run the Turtle Island Ecology Center near Fort Collins, Colorado, are the inspiration behind the Hornopirén project. Their idea is to create an ecovillage for people to come enjoy and learn about the ecology and history of the region while helping to restore the native forest of the area that was destroyed hundreds of years ago. They have an incredible collective of people surrounding them in their efforts, and I am so happy to have had the pleasure to stay and learn from them. Along with Ben and Luke, I must mention the rest of the stellar crew who were there upon our arrival, kickin’ ass: Tyler, aka Tiddy, Heinrich, and Kev – you boys rock!

We arrived to the “farm,” as they call it, without knowing much of what to expect. Turns out, there’s a cute little old house, and the boys (see photo above*) have been hard at work making it into a home. There is no electricity, and the only running water is the frigid cold stuff they piped over from a nearby stream, but by golly it is lovely. There’s a large loft for people to put up hammocks or lay down a mattress, and there’s one little bedroom, at the time occupied by Lore and her two oh-so-entertaining girls. The boys had built shelves for a small pantry, and crafted tables and benches for both a kitchen and a living space. I now realized why one of the only requests they had from us to bring was a futon. Something with cushioning.

The compost toilet with the best view of any compost toilet in the world.
The compost toilet with the best view of any compost toilet in the world.

Alex and I set up our tent in the little nook next the house – of course no one decided to tell us until later that the windows above us were where the boys had been taking their midnight leaks… But enough rain had washed away any lingering smells, and let’s be honest, we were setting up for a week and a half of homesteading without showers, we really didn’t care.

We settled in to the “homesteading” life: waking up late, drinking mate on the porch, and pretending we were adults by talking politics and whatnot, and continuing that into the night, changing mate for cheap red wine. Thanks to the lovely Lore, I learned how to make empanadas over the fire, along with many other things – our pizza was probably the best. We spent a lot of time on the porch, true to Ben’s goal – all he wanted to do after working so hard to get this place, was to just come down here, sit on the porch, and listen to reggae. #hardlife.

Lore cookin' up something tasty in our "kitchen"
Lore cookin’ up something tasty in our “kitchen”

When we couldn’t handle our own stink anymore (this came much faster for myself versus the boys who hadn’t had a warm shower in over a month…) it was down to the river we went. They cut a small path through the jungle that drops down into the river, and in you go to the freezing cold river. This may not have been so much of a cleaning process, but more of a take-your-breath-away and wake-your-ass-up experience, but it got the job done.

Of course, we weren’t relying entirely on ourselves – the only thing we foraged were the wild blackberries growing ten feet from the house, and the only wild game we ate were the fish that Luke and the neighbor caught. After all, the town was only a 20 minute drive away. And as Heinrich exclaimed when we arrived, we had a car! Like a real car with 4 wheels and an engine and all! (Heinrich may have been spending a bit too much time relying on his bicycle, he forgot what a vehicle was…) So we spent some afternoons running to town for groceries [read: wine], and the occasional fútbol match with some cold beers.

Camilla also got recruited to go pick up who knows how many kilos of mariscos that Luke and the neighbor had pulled up from the sea. We had the pleasure of enjoying an incredible dinner in the traditional Chilote style called a curanto – normally a hole dug into the ground and filled with muscles, potatoes, and meat, and covered with giant nalca (Chilean rhubarb) leaves and steamed. Not wanting to dig a giant whole in the middle of the property, we cooked it in a large pan over the fire. Delicious!

Top photo: the mountain of mariscos; Bottom photo: Luke prepping the curanto
Top photo: the mountain of mariscos; Bottom photo: Luke prepping the curanto

Hornopirén itself is a quiet little town that is essentially the entrance to the wild Chilean Patagonia. The town offers everything you need to get stocked up and stoked about heading farther south. As an added benefit, the area has top-notch fishing, fantastic fjord exploring opportunities, and all of the jungle you could want to explore. Eventually, the boys hope to turn their property into a small ecovillage for visitors to come camp, fish, and adventure. If I have learned anything in the past few weeks, it’s that when this group of guys get their mind and heart set on something, it will come true, so we all have that to look forward to!

Alex frolicking in the fields near the inlet in downtown Hornopirén
Alex frolicking in the fields near the inlet in downtown Hornopirén

0 thoughts on “Homesteading in Hornopirén

Leave a Reply