Monday, January 26, 2009

A Hacienda for Mellow & Type A Alike

In Chile’s little visit Aysen region, the Hacienda Tres Lagos couldn’t be more appropriately named. After all, the 18-room property sits among three magnificent lakes, each bearing a different blue or greenish hue: Lago Bertrand, Negro and General Carrera. After being picked up at the Balmaceda Airport, I found out it’s at least a five-hour journey to the doorstep of my accommodation. But the scenery of lakes, serrated peaks, wild horses, tumbling rivers and the eerie Bosque Muerto – an area of dead trees amongst thick volcanic ash – was plenty and pleasantly distracting. Once I set foot on the property and entered a lovely study with twin telescopes, I was immediately presented with a welcome pisco sour. A good way to wake up.

But, more than anything, what I soon noticed was the utter silence enveloping the hacienda. And I’m especially sensitive to this as a native New Yorker who falls asleep with the noises of a subway rumbling below the street. I walked to my luxe log bungalow and immediately wished I was spending a week here. Sliding glass doors opened to a porch with views of Lago Negro and far beyond are ice covered peaks. It was spacious, simple and comfortable with a soaring wood-beam ceiling, rough log walls, a wood burning stove and a bamboo rod for hanging clothes. It’s an interesting mix of the old and the new: sitting beside my bedside was an iPod docking station. And, though I was frustrated knowing I didn’t bring my iPod, no worries, I was told. Within moments they handed me one loaded with 175 songs, many were way better and more interesting than the ones I had at home.

The old and new theme is found also in the main house where I checked out an array of artifacts: the antique locks, old coffee grinder and mortar and pestle in the dining room and curious ceramic vessels in the study.

Aside from the placid atmosphere and yummy food (my first dinner was hearts of palm, grilled salmon and lemon meringue pie), I found the staff more than gracious and helpful. On the multitude of excursions they arrange and provide, they bring along a digital camera to take photos of the guests and then burn a CD for you; they also tote along binoculars – of course I forgot these as well. A bit chilly? Again, not to worry: they’ve got a wool poncho and a cowboy hat to lend you. Can’t figure out how to get the fire going in your wood burning stove? They are expert fire builders.

The next morning, I awoke to see horses grazing in front of my windows and the mountains were glowing with the rays of the rising sun. I could get used to this. Every meal had something regional to choose from: at dinner there was a steak topped with a fried egg; for breakfast it was homemade manjar, which is cooked milk with sugar, made into a paste and spread on bread. And then there’s the traditional asado in which a fresh lamb is cooked on a vertical spit in an open brick oven.

I found lakefront amenities galore, including a sauna, massage room and a Jacuzzi. Sure there was more peace and quiet than I was used to. But as a type A person, the Hacienda was my kind of place: they offered so many activities that you could easily spend more than a week here and never be bored -- horseback riding; a boat tour on Negro and Carrera lakes; fly fishing; whitewater rafting on Rio Baker; snorkeling Lake Negro; mountain biking; and several hikes up a mountain bearing fossils, through a valley where you could spy eagles, along lakefronts, to an old gold mine or a small hamlet. So many choices, so little time.

In a few days, I’ll post some of my activities while lodging at the Hacienda Tres Lagos.


Anonymous said...

I always thought Northern Patagonia and Torres del Paine could not be beat. Now I'm not so sure after looking at the Chile link!

J The Travel Authority said...

I really love the Aysen region because it seems more purely untouched compared to a lot of other places in Chile.

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