Some 43 kilometers north of Punta Arenas on Ruta 9, a gravel road loops northwest along Seno Otway to Seno Skyring and Estancia Río Verde, which has made the transition from a shipshape sheep farm to a model municipality of exquisitely maintained public buildings in the Magellanic style. Note the manicured gardens surrounding the Escuela Básica, the local boarding school.
Off to a good start, in one wing of the boarding school, the Museo Comunal Río Verde has exhibits on local history, natural history (taxidermy), ethnology, and local and regional literature. Hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily; admission costs US$1.
Unfortunately, only foundations remain of the recently created Municipalidad, which burned to the ground a couple years back and destroyed some museum exhibits; municipal offices have since moved to the former Hostería Río Verde, 90 kilometers from Punta Arenas and six kilometers south of the estancia.
Across from the former hostería, a ferry shuttles vehicles and passengers to Isla Riesco. (Warning: It’s free to the island but costs US$30 to get your vehicle back to the mainland.) Nearby, Paola Vizzani González’s Escultura Monumental, a beached concrete-and-driftwood whale, honors the region’s early colonists. Also nearby, Hito El Vapor marks the final resting place of the steamer Los Amigos, which carried coal to outlying farms before running aground in a storm.
The loop road rejoins Ruta 9 at Villa Tehuelches, a roadside hamlet about 90 kilometers from Punta Arenas. This makes a good alternative route north or south for both motorists and mountain bikers.
The Chilean-Uruguayan Estancia Río Verde (Km 98 Norte, tel. 061/311123 or 061/311131, jmma [at] entelchile [dot] net, US$70/90 s/d) offers stylish accommodations (one suite has a sunny tower with sea and pampas views), day tours that can include horseback riding and fishing, and asados, lunches, and tea in its restaurant. Open November to March, a bargain by estancia standards, it also has gracious English-speaking ownership.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition