Patagonia is a vast region which is sparsely populated. The region has a rich cultural history but over time all of the native Patagonian tribes have become extinct and the main Patagonian culture which exists today is the Baqueano (Gaucho) culture. EcoCamp works to preserve the region’s cultural history and embrace the ongoing Baqueano culture. Read about Patagonia's human history.
There is relatively little unique cultural heritage in Torres del Paine, compared to say other regions in Chile. Natural heritage and geological assets are the main draw! The tradition of Baqueanos (Patagonian horsemen) still exists however, and EcoCamp hires Baqueanos for its horse riding trip.
The word ‘baqueano’ is usually just translated as cowboy, which is the closest equivalent outside of Chile, and like cowboys and ‘gauchos’, the baqueano did sometimes round up sheep and cattle, pursue and tame feral animals, and hunt for guanaco and ñandus to sell their skins and feathers, but the baqueano has always been a pathfinder first and foremost. Since the 1870s, skilled horsemen have headed deep into Patagonia to unveil the mysteries of the boundless and unknown expanse, often acting as guides for explorers arriving from Europe. Whilst industrialisation put an end to many traditional countryside professions, there is no machine on earth that could replicate the expertise and skill of the baqueano as a guide, and for that reason their culture is still very much alive and EcoCamp takes pride in hiring local Baqueanos to lead horse riding trips in and around the national park.
Once a year Hotel Las Torres (who own the land on which EcoCamp is located) host an Equestrian Endurance Race in which traditional Baqueanos compete alongside other horse riders. EcoCamp encourages its guests to wander down to the hotel, just 15 minutes from EcoCamp, to experience this equestrian culture first hand and see the traditions of the Baqueanos who have had such an important role in Patagonian history. Read more about Torres del Paine's Baqueanos
Aonikenk Cave Paintings
In addition to the Baqueano culture in Torres del Paine, EcoCamp makes it Wildlife Safari guests aware of the ancient rock painting tradition practiced by the ancient Aonikenk (Tehuelches or Patagones) natives in the park. The Aonikenk arrived in Torres del Paine in latter half of the first millennium and painted animals and symbols on rocks indicating what food was available in which areas of the park. They were nomadic hunter-gatherers and as they migrated north through Patagonia they saw the silhouette of a incredible rock formation in the distance and called it ‘Paine’, meaning ‘blue’ in their language (the predominant colour they saw in the distance). Unfortunately the Aonikenk tribe is completely extinct (most native tribes perished with the settlement of Europeans in the late 1880s) but their history of communication is fascinating to learn about and reflect on how the history of park inhabitants has evolved.
EcoCamp guides make every effort to talk about the park’s history and how EcoCamp’s domes are a tribute to the ancient Kaweskar tribe inhabitants who moved nomadically around the park.
The Kaweskars arrived by canoe in the 15th century and made no demands on natural resources as they travelled from place to place, setting up and dismantling their semi-circular huts built from simple materials, leaving no trace behind. To keep warm they lit fires inside the domes. EcoCamp is a tribute to the ancient Kaweskar dwellings and way of life and the essence of their dome homes has been kept by maintaining a simple nomadic design in the midst of natural surroundings. Just like the Kaweskars, EcoCamp respects nature’s well-being and aims to leaves no footprint behind in the wilderness. Read our itnerview with renowned Chilean ethno-linguist Oscar Aguilera Faúndez for his unique insight into the lives of Chilean Patagonia’s indigenous Kaweskar people.
Menu & decor at EcoCamp
All of EcoCamp’s furniture, decor and decorations are made in Chile, the majority in Patagonia. One of Ecocamp’s founders, Nani Astorga, hand selects the pieces of furniture for EcoCamp’s domes, buying from local vendors in Patagonia or from Cajon del Maipo in the Andes Mountains just next to Santiago. All pieces of furniture and decoration are made in typical mountain style using different wood and many native painting styles. Pictures of the native Kaweskar inhabitants are on show at EcoCamp and traditional Andean patterns are also used on decoration.
EcoCamp’s food is a mix of Chilean, Altiplanic, Patagonian and international food. The EcoCamp Patagonia fusion menu
includes typical ingredients from Chile which form staples for the native inhabitants, such as purple potatoes, quinoa, patasca from the Altiplano (a stew made from tripe, veal, potatoes, corn and peppers) and molasses made from the meaty sweet fruit found on northern Chile’s chañar trees.
EcoCamp provides the official ‘green accommodation’ option for the Patagonia International Marathon
which took place for the first time in 2012. The race ends at Las torres hotel, just a 15 minute walk from EcoCamp, and all participants enjoy a celebratory evening together at Las torres before being taken to EcoCamp to sleep. EcoCamp also hosts participants of the annual Equestrian Endurance Race, again organised by neighbouring hotel Las Torres. In addition EcoCamp collaborates with local triathlon Kallpamayu, providing vehicles, staff and radio communication.