Nice to be back in Chile.
Almost two years since visiting southern Chile and Argentina and this time we’re focusing on different geographic areas for certain.
The longest stay (seven nights) would be at The Cliffs Preserve….a more or less “long shot,” since there is very little information available, at least over the Internet. Just a few "professional" reviews and they were probably free.
We paid our own way….so we’re not indebted to anyone.
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Friends and associates often ask, “How do you find these places and why do you go there?” A question certainly applicable in regards to The Cliffs Preserve.
The Cliffs Preserve is roughly 5,000 miles from our home (that being South Florida). An overnight flight of 8.5+ hours to Santiago….easy at immigrations (we had our reciprocal entrance fee stamp from the previous trip…so no waiting in line to pay another but $131.00 in cash, if from the US…no fee if you are a resident of Tibet).
It’s not a bad deal…it’s good for life…not your life, the life of your passport.
Customs is a breeze….the little brown security dog in the tailor-made uniform didn’t take a second sniff at our bags…but did show interest in the gaggle of backpackers and their “stuff” arriving on another flight.
The airport in Santiago SCL (Arturo Merino Benítez) is actually a pleasure as international airports go…modernized and expanded in the late 1990s and updated runways (seems like there were all sorts of complications with the new runway…had to be completely torn up, rebuilt and resurfaced) recently completed in 2007.
It is a relative easy experience to arrive on an international flight (whether you managed to grab some sleep or not) and transition to the domestic terminal.
Catching a connecting flight out of Santiago and fly into Puerto Montt…about two hours or slightly more depending on whether you are using LAN or SKY Airlines. Then there is a smiling face waiting to meet, greet and escort you to The Cliffs Preserve (apparently it doesn’t matter how later you arrive….we took the last flight on SKY which arrived almost 45 minutes late…but there stood Roberto). Now add another one and one half hours of driving on rough roads (the last half an hour is over unpaved roads)….and you arrive at The Cliffs Preserve.
¡Bienvenidos a Amigos!
Think about an eight thousand acres private preserve as your back yard and six miles of Pacific Ocean with uninhabited and unblemished beaches as your front yard. Think about being surrounded by a surreal temperate rainforest rich in exotic vegetation and unique and very rare wildlife (ever see a Pudú, the smallest deer in the world, only about 18 inches high…but wait a minute…didn’t we see those little Dik-diks in Kenya….they were small…about 12 inches high…and I guess the guide said they were dwarf antelopes…never can keep those sort of details straight)…anyway, keep your eyes alert at sunset and stand quietly in the shadows and maybe you will see one.
Listen to those birds….they are happy….why not?
If there was such a Paradise….would you really want to share it with a crowd? Would your feel cramped if there were only six lodging structures total? Would you be willing to share Paradise with a maximum of 20 guests (but we only saw six others)….with a choice of junior suites, villas suites or entire ocean front grand villas?
Would it please you to have access to your own wood burning hot tub (and someone to heat it up anytime you asked)…with views of breakers rolling on shore from Pacific ….how about those star filled heavens at night and a clear view of the Southern Cross?
Should Paradise offer activities? Hike on more than 20 miles of well marked trails…..paddling a sea kayak in a well protected cove and observing colonies of Sea Lions or possibly Humboldt or Magellan Penguins…or straddle a Criolle (Chile’s distinctive spirited horse) and ride a trail or amble through the surf on a deserted beach?
Is it really possible to go fly fishing in some of the most challenging waters in the Southern Hemisphere…and expect to catch brown and rainbow trout on your first outing? Your guide will make certain you have great success and even photographs to brag about when your return home.
Of course, you could just go to the spa and enjoy massages and/or herbal wraps!
Meal time? How about two private chefs devoted to offering freshly prepared culinary delights…..including organically grown vegetables (yep, they have their own garden on property) and a wide assortment of freshly caught sea food (the kitchen staff makes daily trips to a local village and make their first selections directly from the Piscadores.
Chef John, more or less became our favorite, took great pleasure and care in preparing a typical Asado at the outdoor rotisserie and of course a traditional Mapuche Curanto (usually consisting of beef, lamb, pork, chicken, chorizo, potatoes, sweet potatoes and maybe some pumpkin stuffed with cheese….as well as whatever else might be available).
We had seen Chef John perform his magic during a televised episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Even Bourdain was impressed with the fresh and creative dishes John demonstrated.
Although Chef John’s appearance on the show was brief, we decided to take along a few kitchen ingredients (Moroccan saffron threads, Yellow Indian Woman heirloom beans, sun dried tomatoes, and a block of 70% cacao bittersweet Scharffen Berger http://www.scharffenberger.com/ baking chocolate) to share with him during our visit.
He was pleased and intrigured with the “gifts” and rewarded us handsomely with his culinary creations.
What is good food without complementing libations? At The Cliffs, this would include liberal amounts of fine Chilean wines (although the 2005 Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta, which received Wine Spectators #1 ranking on their 2008 list of exciting wines was not available, there were generous amount of Cuvée Alexandre 2007Cabernet Sauvignon) and a variety of Pisco Sours (you must be kidding….they actually added a dash of Merquen….so spicy and potent).
Ever sit around an open fireplace and share great conversations with new friends while sipping on an exotic Yerba Mate? Of course, you’ll stop chatting now and then to marvel at some of the most incredible sunsets! Does this sound like Paradise?
Even though some outdoor activities were weather dependant, the guides were available to assist and take on the challenges under most circumstances. We had anticipated the horseback riding opportunities and were not disappointed. Their stables were stocked with traditional Chilean Criollo. Although we are not hardcore equestrians, we do ride whenever possible and spending time in the saddle aboard a Chilean Criollo is always a treat. First look at the horse gives the impression them being “short” and possible not mature….such is not the case, since the breed has a characteristic low wither and short shins (giving them a low slung sport car look). They are sure-footed and tough as nails and perfect for some of the more challenging trails at The Cliffs. We found the stock well taken care of, the tack in top condition and the wranglers experienced and accommodating to any level of rider.
Excursions away from the lodge are pretty much wide open to whatever the guest request based upon guide availability….one afternoon we visited Quenuir a, Maulin Community primarily fisherman los piueros. We did manage to secure a huge supply of Piure, a unique filter-feeding bottom dweller native to Chile served raw with lemon juice, vegetable oil, chopped onion, cilantro and a pinch of salt….a big treat at dinner that evening for both guests and staff!
How about a staff that seems to want nothing more out of their lives than to satisfy your dreams and desires?
Is there really a place like this? Yes!
We discovered Paradise at The Cliffs Preserve at Patagonia less than two hours drive from the airport in Puerto Montt, Chile. It is truly the best that Northern Patagonia has to offer. If you are fortunate enough to visit The Cliffs Preserve….you will want to return! We Do!
Picking the right season for travel was a critical element when looking at The Cliffs Preserve. Heavy rainfall is a feature of the weather in Puerto Montt. It rains just about every month, but rainfall is more intense in June, July and August, with an annual average of 47 inches to 118 inches. Range of 40 to 70 degrees Dec, Jan, Feb considered the prime months.
The trip was a three week pleasure...loved the Atacama Desert and the time we spent in San Pedro de Atacama.
However, little can top spending an entire week riding horses, trekking in the forests, sea kayaking, floating in the hot tub watching the stars and making special meal requests to the highly motivated chefs at The Cliffs Preserve. Nice change of pace for us!
We hit several of our favorite vineyards day tripping out of Santiago (loved the full day in Casa Lapostolle...walking the vineyard and inspecting the vines, crawling around in the "library" inside the cava...tasting directly from the casks.....picking fresh vegetable in their garden and having them prepared and served on the terrace with four excellent pairings....finished off with a few sips of Grand Marnier Cent Cinquantenaire. You get the idea!
Glad we spent some time at Haras de Pirque...loved looking at the 50+ thoroughbreds and their wines have potential for the future (unusual for me to find Italian influences in Chilean wines).
So, when do we get another chance to return to Chile?