Sustainable Tourism

 



First local sustainability gathering in Alto Biobío

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Photos: Felipe ZanottiPhotos: Felipe Zanotti 

 

By Ana Vallejos
Translated by Dawn Penso

 

Between mountains and white waters, on November 9 and 10 Alto Biobío had their first meeting for local sustainability in an event organized by several local businesses and the regional tourism office Sernatur Biobío. Together, the twelve hosts bestowed the magic and warmth of their services to deliver the very best in tourism, sports, and culture of this region.
 
Geoturismo Chile, Ruta Manque, Ruta Pewenche, Cabañas Mapulhue, Kallaqui Mile Pewenche, WhiteWater Biobío, Las Montañas Hosterías y Pizzería, La Envidia Pub Restorant, Kula Walmey, Yaganes Eco Adventures and Travel Mapu; together with representatives from Sernatur, Chile’s national park service, the governmental sports ministry, press and experts, shared their knowledge and experiences during these two days to address the new challenges of reactivating tourism in the post-pandemic future.
 
The purpose of the event was to generate spaces for integration and dialogue around sustainability and local economy and facilitate the creation of networks in instances of trust, enjoyment, and interchange of experiences. One of the principal considerations of the conversation was the necessity to brainstorm and organize tourism and be able to dream of and jointly direct the future of the Alto Biobio destination, which has experienced a decline in interest both nationally and internationally.
 
And it is not only for its landscape that this territory stands out – its steep mountains, the native forest that hangs from its slopes and its rivers that are ideal for white water sports - but also the rich Mapuche Pewenche culture, which is preserved in this sector, recognized for its worldview linked to nature. This is a region that offers experiences and knowledge linked closely to the land, a culture that can shed light on what a sustainable relationship with the environment looks like.
 
The meeting program was dynamic and emphasized the enjoyment of each of the experiences offered by the local businesses and organizations. After a few words of welcome, we went straight to the honey harvesting room of Kallaqui Mile Pewenche, where we enjoyed a breakfast starring local preparations such as honey, katutos, tortillas, sopaipillas and pebre de digueñes (a hot sauce with mushrooms). There, Carmen Muñoz, secretary for the Pewenche beekeeper association, also told us about their growth as an organization.

 

 

 

Photos: Felipe ZanottiPhotos: Felipe Zanotti


“At the beginning, we were three or four and today we are twenty-one,” said Carmen. She says they have gone from needing external trainers to having their own expert trainers. "We want to contribute to keeping bees over time, because in addition to honey, they help pollinate native trees and the medicinal herbs we use.” In the future, they hope to build a sales room and offer excursions to tourists.
 
The adrenaline and scenic beauty of rafting on the Biobío River valley was the perfect way to break the ice. Rafts, kayaks and duckys (individual inflatable boats) were used by all participants. Geoturismo Chile, WhiteWater Biobío and Yaganes Eco Adventures hosted this activity, which was for many their first foray into the power of this legendary river. Claudio Vasquez, from Yaganes Eco Adventures, commented on the outing: "It is very important to create this network of local support, since we are all doing basically the same thing in one way or another, which is taking care of the environment for the enjoyment of future generations."
 
Lunch was in the hands of the historic pub-restaurant La Envidia, the first-ever restaurant in Ralco, inaugurated 35 years ago. Its owner, Mrs. Zunilda, tells us that she sees tourism as an opportunity to generate development opportunities for the local community.

 

 

 

Photos: Felipe ZanottiPhotos: Felipe Zanotti

 
 
During the afternoon discussions, Paulo Urrutia, director of Geotourism Chile, highlighted the role of co-management and involving the residents of the area, the public sector and the private sector, as a necessity to guarantee the sustainability of tourist destinations and local quality of life. He highlighted the role of civil society organizations as a bridge that facilitates communication and organization of collective actions. For his part, Miguel Torres, a Gedetur consultant, discussed the possibility of using tourism as a tool for resistance and revindication of local values, especially in a place like Alto Biobío, where 80% of the population is Pewenche. In addition, through a dynamic and participatory workshop, he demonstrated how a world can be created from a single resource, adding value for both the community and the tourist experience.
 
On the second day, transported by the local operator Travel Mapu, we headed to Ruka Manque. Home of the Vita family located in the community of Pitril, they received us with a breakfast of hearty sopaipillas and fruit juices, a greeting in Chedungun and a conversation about how caring for nature is inherent to their Pewenche culture.
 
In every activity they do, they hope that "those who come here not only take away the experience of a beautiful trek or horseback ride, but also learn something about our culture that is kept alive," says Boris Vita. For his brother Héctor, tourism has helped them develop a job opportunity that allows them to stay at home while maintaining their culture in contact with nature. The Vita brothers took us for a dip in a forest stream and invited us to respectfully introduce ourselves to the Ngen of the waterfall or traitraiko, before we took a photo or refreshed ourselves in the waters.
 
Halfway back, in a plain where cows and horses were sheltered, Pía Weber, an environmental lawyer, explained to us an emerging proposal on the rights of nature that resonates in different parts of the world and now in Chile, in the new constitution. She showed us some cases where specific rivers have been declared subjects of rights, such as the Atrato River in Colombia and Whanganui in New Zealand; and cases of other constitutions where the rights of nature have been included in a general way, such as in Ecuador and Bolivia. She challenged us to consider the importance of thinking about the rights of nature as a way of rethinking the relationship that we establish as humanity with nature through legal frameworks that guarantee its conservation. 

 

 

 

Photos: Felipe ZanottiPhotos: Felipe Zanotti


In the community of Kallaqui, we were taken by surprise by the energy of the new generations of river enthusiasts. Geoturismo Chile, together with the local rafting guides and families of Kallaqui, run a kayaking school for the children and youth of the community. They promote activities that connect them with the river, while creating friendships, and at the same time opening the doors for these new generations to be able to visualize possible future employment around the river, thereby curbing the migration of young people to other places. Simón González, a local rafting tour owner, commented that he sees in this school new leadership around a healthy and active lifestyle. Natalia Villegas, director of Sernatur Biobio, said she was impressed by this type of initiative that promotes sport, culture and connection with nature, with the possibility of training future local guides.
 
The last stop was the journey through the museum, where we observed an ample variety of objects utilized by the Pewenche culture such as maps of the communities and the family names linked to them. “This is a living museum,” commented our host as she ushered us in, "that does not seek to give an account of what was, but of what this territory still is.” To see us off, we enjoyed an exquisite cocktail in Hostería y Pizzería Las Montañas. Carlos, the local administrator, told us about his gastronomical proposal, which includes several varieties of changle pizza, featuring mushrooms from the Chilean forest -- gastronomy and local, traditional products with a contemporary twist.
 
These were two days of intense energy in which the enterprising inhabitants of Alto Biobío showed the natural and human wealth that the community has to offer. The 1st Meeting for Local Sustainability in Alto Biobío was a bridge to connect us. Now, the invitation is to get to know and travel in a reflective and responsible way through this territory that overflows with warmth, affection and wild nature.
 
 
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Cajon del Maipo. Photo: Paulo UrrutiaCajon del Maipo. Photo: Paulo Urrutia

 

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Many probably think geology is completely foreign to their lives. But the truth is that virtually every element in our daily lives has something to do with this fascinating discipline. From the elements that make up the apparatus with which you read this very article, to the journey that makes the water before becoming your next beer, they depend on the geological conditions existing in the place from which they come. Fortunately, Earth's sciences are here to stay. To help celebate Latin American Geotourism Day, we want to tell you everything you need to know about a world seemingly straight out of the travel chronicles of the French writer Jules Verne.

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Cochamo Valley. Photo: Benjamín FuentesCochamo Valley. Photo: Benjamín Fuentes
 
 
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Translation by Rebecca Neal
 
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Translation by George Chambers
 
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