Where the Carretera Austral (Ruta 7) meets Chileâs Ruta 240, the westward road goes to Puerto AysÃ©n and Puerto Chacabuco. Heading eastward on Ruta 240, the road passes by Reserva Nacional RÃo Simpson and just one kilometer (0.6 mi) further is the waterfall Cascada de la Virgen, with a grotto dedicated to the Virgen de Lourdes. Another four kilometers (2.4 mi) on is the shrine Gruta de San SebastiÃ¡n, the destination of a pilgrimmage every January 20. Just as far beyond is another one of AysÃ©n's spectacular cataracts, Cascada El Velo de la Novia. Ruta 240 then enters TÃºnel El FarellÃ³n, emerging before Planta EÃ³lica Alto Baguales, three 45-meter (148 ft) tall wind turbines with 47-meter (154 ft) long blades that since November 2001 have been generating two megawatts per year. The highway then winds 11 kilometers (6.6 mi) down to Coyhaique, the capital of Chileâs XI RegiÃ³n AysÃ©n del General Carlos IbÃ¡Ã±ez del Campo, or more simply called RegiÃ³n de AysÃ©n (also spelled AisÃ©n), since 1974.
Coyhaique is a wayfaring station for travelers following the Carretera Austral. This is the only place along the main highway where all services â banks, currency exchange, Internet, gasoline, bicycle parts â are available. It is also a fairly inexpensive place to stay while waiting to fly out of Balmaceda airport, 55 kilometers (33 mi) east, or catching the ferry from Puerto Chacabuco, 79 kilometers (48 mi) to the west.
The city has long been a resting spot for people traveling through the region. The original people (pueblo originario) stayed here to hunt guanaco and rhea (choique) with spears, arrows and boleadoras, a weapon made of three balls attached to sinew, that was thrown to wrap around the preyâs legs. In the latter half of the 19th century, Mapuche arrived in the zone, fleeing Rocaâs CampaÃ±a del Desierto, the ethnic cleansing campaign of Argentinaâs Patagonia. As a culture, the AÃ³nikenk, also called Tehuelche, disappeared from the region by 1905. By that time, huge livestock farms began operating in the RÃo Coyhaique valley. La Sociedad Industrial de AisÃ©n, dedicated to sheep farming, was established in 1906 in this area, then known as Pampa del Corral, and soon became the most important company in region. Juan Carrasco Noches capitalized on the rising trade industry by building the first lodging house in 1926. Soon more settlers came: Huasos from the central zone of Chile, Chilotes from ChiloÃ© and gauchos from Argentina. On October 12, 1929, the village of Baquedano was officially founded. Later its name was changed to Coyhaique: âThere where there are lagoons.â Livestock companies began pulling out in the 1930s, but this didnât affect Coyhaiqueâs importance. It continued to be a major city on the Puerto AysÃ©n â Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina, trade route. In the 1980s, the north leg of the Carretera Austral arrived in the city, with all the economic implications of a major road connection.
Today Coyhaique is a pleasant pause in your journey on the Carretera Austral. The city has a series of monuments acknowledging its cultural mix, as well as the strong Argentine influences. Mate is faithfully drunk between old friends, and to welcome new ones. On the street corners along Avenida Prat and Calle Condell are green stone mosaics of fauna typical of the zone, like trout, huemul (a kind of deer), bandurria (an ibis-like bird), as well as a horseback rider and a man poling a boat. Three major nature reserves lie around the city: the RÃo Simpson and Coyhaique National Reserves and Monumento Natural Dos Lagunas. Puma sightings have increased in the parks in recent years, indicating that the population is rebounding, though no one knows exactly why. The rivers and lakes near Coyhaique teem with fish, making the area an angler's paradise.
(Altitude: 310 meters / 1,017 feet, Population: 42,000, Phone Code: 067)
Other places nearby Coyhaique: Cochrane, Villa O'Higgins, Puerto Bertrand, Palena, Reserva Nacional RÃo Simpson, Chile Chico , BahÃa Murta, Reserva Nacional JeÃnemeni, Puerto Cisnes and Villa Cerro Castillo.
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