We’d arranged for breakfast at 07:00, the 900 peso supplement for real coffee being essential. Raffaele from Birds Chile called for us at 07:30, he has an Italian father and grew up in Santiago but moved to Puerto Varas sixteen years ago where he lives with his wife and two young daughters.
He took us to three areas, the first being close to the town, the second a wetland area near Llanquihue and finishing in an area of Valdivian rain forest near Puerto Montt. The last is part of a national park but entry requires arranging for a park warden to drive there to open and close the access gate. Raffaele told us he’d never seen anyone else visiting. During the day we saw forty species, he was expert at spotting them by eye from a distance then training binoculars or his scope on them so we could get a good look. He also told us about the native plants in the rainforest including the slow growing alerce tree. In 1993 a specimen from Chile was found to be 3622 years old, making it the second oldest fully verified age for any living tree species. It’s now a protected species, the once widespread alerce forests having been cut down for timber or burned for agricultural clearance during the 19th and 20th centuries. The German settlers houses were constructed from alerce timber because of its weather resistance.
Raffaele also shared some insights into Chilean life. The state schools are of poor quality so anyone who can afford it chooses private schools which are expensive. Consequently children from poorer families have limited opportunities.