What I Learned from Three Weeks Camping in Chile

I love the pace of camping; time slows down and the subtleties of nature demand your full attention. Its rare to find those far-off places with just enough access to get you there while preserving the rural culture and agrarian economy.

chile travel

Camping for three weeks in remote coastal Chile transported me to ranch life and an ancient pace. The raw land we stayed on was completely off the grid with no road access. Getting on and off the property took a proper 4-wheel drive vehicle, or a horse. Nothing came easy and we worked for everything we needed and enjoyed. 

chile campingWe had a perfectly shaded kitchen under the Boldo Tree, from which we picked leaves to accent our yerbe mate. Outdoor living in Chile is free of mosquitos and predatory wildlife. That's the easy part.

chile campingWe ran 200 meters of pipe from the natural spring which produced crystal clean water. By the late afternoon, we were able to enjoy hot showers from the sun heating the water in the pipes. It was pure luxury. 

Josh worked on land projects all day and I cooked our meals on one propane backpacking stove while keeping a steady flow of hot water for yerbe mate, hand washed laundry and cleaned dishes. 

Our first project was to get running water to our camp site. This took two full days of hauling materials, building a mini dam with the help of a couple of local guys, and finally 8 hours of outdoor work in consistent misty rain. The result was a basic outdoor shower that spouted beautiful, natural spring water and it was pure luxury. 

african beach towel
Our 100% cotton African Beach Towel was essential on this trip. 

chile campingThe beginnings of our glorious outdoor shower. Pure luxury.

chile beach
Lulled to sleep by crashing waves, rising to their stillness.  

surf poncho changing ponchoPoncho life and ranch life is pretty synonymous for us.

Our free time filled up with visits from neighboring land owners who came to check on their cattle, horses, crops, and bees. Bulls pulling carts came and went delivering heavy loads of supplies.

surf poncho changing poncho rural chile

rural chile

Throughout the three weeks, we got to know the neighbors and community. They invited us over for dinner and home made wine, and we got a peek into how they lived and worked. They toiled on the land by day and relished their harvest at meal time. 

They showed us the land’s secret treats from the sweet jammy fruit of the nondescript ice plant blossoms to the intense raw meat of a piure, a unique shellfish only found in Chile and Peru. 

Every day was work, and every moment was appreciated.

chilean cowboysThese two cowboys Juan Chomorro and Ruperto Munõz are best of friends, telling tall tales to and about each other all day. chilean cowboys
Everyone in Chile goes by a nickname. If you're in, you hear the story behind their nickname. Josh is called Yochua and I'm simply, the Chinita.

The next major project was building a small shack. This took multiple days of complicated deliveries to our hidden location, and plenty of hard labor. The locals who helped us build it whistled while they worked and napped in the shaded brambles at lunch time. They chuckled at Josh's serious work style. Every day was work, but we had a goal to achieve.

surf poncho changing ponchoI wrapped my African Beach Towel around my shoulders after it dried from my morning shower.

Andrés, our builder worked fast, but always with a smile on his face - he and his 2 man team.

In the end we had our beautiful and simple shack. On our last weekend there, the neighbors invited us to their annual Cabalgata, where cowboys from the area gather for a ride down the coast to show off their riding styles and party into the night. It was quite the affair; the mayor was there. People didn't make a fuss about the only gringo and chinita at the party. 

This big annual event takes the Munõz family months to prepare but they can claim ownership of the areas main event of the year. 

chilean cowboys surf poncho changing poncho

We took a mid week break to Termas de Chillan to visit one of the many rivers of Chile. It was decadence to sleep on a real bed after so many nights of camping. 

surf poncho changing poncho

So what did I learn? Life is work. Be it physical work, spiritual, mental or emotional work, work towards facing your biggest fears, charging that wave, sitting in the pain of stepping out of your comfort zone, finding your life's purpose.

If you're not working hard at life, you're not embracing all of the beauty and joy that life can offer. You're not exercising your free will to make shit happen, to truly live the life you're meant to live. But the other side of work is real bliss. 

The Mapuche are the indigenous warriors who are members of the original inhabitants of Chile. They successfully resisted both the Incan soldiers and then the Spanish conquistadores and remained an unconquered indigenous nation until the late 1800's.  

Speaking of work, these are some of our favorite places opened by friends who had the courage and vision to build something special. 

Coco at Chiringuito

Chris and Dana of La Joya

Leo and Gabby of La Mano