September 18, 2015 - Puerto Eden

The history of Puerto Eden is linked to the Indians Alacaluf, one of the last ethnic groups somehow survived to the arrival of the "whites". In the 30s, the Chilean Air Force built in an area very close to the current Porto Eden a supply base for postal seaplanes operating on the route Puerto Montt - Punta Arenas.

The activities of the base attracted the last Alacaluf living in the area but, unfortunately, their culture could only succumb once exposed to a sedentary lifestyle, totally depending on the whites. The sanitary conditions began to worsen and there was a drastic drop in fertility and a significant increase in child mortality. The Alacaluf had lived for centuries in harmony with the environment in spite of the harsh climate, living especially on hunting and fishing. As in many other cases the contact between these cultures and our structured "civilization" was devastating. The "loberos”, the seal hunters mostly British or North Americans, were carriers of new business for the Alacaluf, exchanging precious skins with food, tools and especially alcohol but were at the same time the major cause of their genocide.

The Alacaluf began to exchange "nutria" and "coipo" skins with blankets and ponchos definitively not suitable for use in humid climates so pneumonia, before completely unknown, became a major cause of death. In 1969 a government project that aimed to revitalize the Southern region, gave birth to the current Puerto Eden and some houses were built to accommodate 43 Alacaluf survived.

Today Puerto Eden is undoubtedly the human settlement more isolated in the region. The ferry that goes 2 times a week is the only contact with the outside world which stopps only long enough to disembark / embark cargo or passengers.

We anchor 20 meters from the shore, right in front of the small village. Once launched the dinghy we reach the base of the Armada to present our documents. Located about a mile from the town, the base is made up of a series of white buildings with wooden blue roofs, very well kept and certainly recently built.

We approach the building used to serve the public, easily recognizable by the large flagpole a few meters away from the entrance. Inside we find a tropical temperature and a cute sailor welcoming us in short sleeves. Our "zarpe", which authorizes us to sail between Puerto Chacabuco and Puerto Natales, clearly indicates that no other port is allowed except for reasons of force majeure. Our reason of force majeure for the unexpected stop is the purchase of fuel. The reason why we did not include Puerto Eden as a stop on our itinerary, is related to the request of the Port rights by the Chilean authorities. Strictly speaking, vessels above the 25 gross tons are subject to the "Reception y Despacio" charge, whenever docking at a Chilean port.

Foreign vessels, if below this size only pay once, which is the first landing in a Chilean port. Unfortunately for us, Angelique II makes 29 tons of gross tonnage. Fortunately not all the authorities remember this rule and very often besides their tonnage, to foreign yachts this tax is applied only once.

Upon our arrival on Easter Island, our first Chilean port, the authorities there ask payment of this fee and mistakenly told us it would be a one-time fee. As a matter of fact, in all other ports we visited such as Quellon and Puerto Montt the authorities did not ask any additional payment so we assumed that everything was in order.

On our second stop to Puerto Quellon, however, a zealous sailor of the administration of the Armada asked us to pay additional US$ 120 for the rights of “Reception Y Despacio”. I would like to underline that in all these ports, we have always remained at anchor and no service has never been provided by port authorities !!

Moreover, for various reasons, it was not possible to pay the fee before our departure from Quellon, so we were told to clear the bill at our next port, Puerto Chacabuco. But in Chacabuco, in the days before our departure, the computers of the Armada were not able to issue their invoices so we set off again without paying. Now we will see what will happen in Puerto Natales!!

After the formalities at the Armada we returned to the boat to take with us Valentina and finally land in Puerto Eden. The village, about thirty buildings, spread along the coast of a small bay enclosed by two promontories, where a walk on stilts made entirely by wooden boards, is the only street (pedestrian) of the village. ]At the main pier two Carabineros were intent on emptying a garbage bin which, however, did not stop them to welcome us with great courtesy. I asked them where I could buy fuel and readily they referred me to Don Juan Navero, living in the house with the red roof just ahead. Knocked on the door, a big man in his seventies of northern European origins opens us and, with the usual captivating smile, tells us that he would have served us straight  away.

In a shack a few meters away from his home, Don Juan store large 200-liter plastic drums that come from Puerto Natales. The fuel sells at 1,100 pesos per liter compared to an average price in the country of about 700.

He join us few minutes later, wearing two or three thick handmade wool sweaters, black pants with the zipper down, a pair of boots with loosed strings and a wool cap, strictly pandant with the top sweater. He has a lot of Mastro Geppetto (Pinocchio father), especially the nose, a little bulbous, totally red at the tip like the rest of his chubby cheeks and as Mastro Geppetto, despite his size, he oozes tenderness from every pore.

With a small electric pump he fills our eight 30 liters gerry cans, meanwhile reassuring us on the good quality of the fuel. Accomplished this mission we spend the rest of the afternoon hanging out, at least me and Ray because Valentina goes wild with her camera, hunting the local beautiful cats, apparently outnumbering the humans here in the only street of Puerto Eden.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015 By Giamba