BEHIND THE LENS
CALETA TORTEL, CHILE BEHIND THE LENS OF SOLE NIEMANN
The Chilean architect and photographer Sole Niemann is passionate about travel. Based in Santiago de Chile, she was born with a love for discovering other cultures. In fact, she assures that it began the day she took her first international flight at just a few months old.
Since then, she has not stopped exploring the world. In 2018, she moved to Rome, Italy, and created an Instagram account to share her adventures around the planet, both past and present. She wanted to create a travel journal- because she feels that memory is fragile- and to inspire others, because she believes that images take us back to moments thought to have been gone forever.
Can you briefly tell us about Caleta Tortel? What brought you here?
Caleta Tortel was one of the many stops I made on my journey along the Carretera Austral, which begins in Puerto Montt and goes to Villa O’Higgins. This road is still under construction and is expected to reach the southernmost town in Chile, Puerto Williams, connecting the entire Chilean Patagonia.
Despite its remote location and small size, in recent years, it has become a must-stop for those who travel to this region. It is distinguished for being located in the middle of beautiful fjords. Due to its rugged geography, it does not have streets, but walkways and stairs made of wood cypress from the Guaitecas. Since all the locals know each other, a tourist does not go unnoticed, however, it allows for an opportunity to greet the people that you come across on the road, and if you speak Spanish, start a conversation with a tortelino.
What does Caleta Tortel smell like?
A sea breeze, forest humidity and firewood.
What does it taste like?
Salty air and fried pastries.
Best discovery while on the trip?
Just walking and walking, not staying on the main path, climbing hidden stairs that take you to the best observation points of the town and the environment.
If you had to choose one favorite thing about the town, what would it be?
At the end of the main path there is a footbridge that rises over a wetland and ends in a small covered plaza. From there, you have a very good view of the fjords, on one side, and towards Caleta Tortel with the ice fields behind it, on the other.
What was your first impression of the city?
It’s incredible that, despite their isolation, they have managed to consolidate a town and a community through their walkways.
If Caleta Tortel had a soundtrack, what songs would be included?
Olalla by Blanco White.
Taro by alt-J.
Stay Alive by José González.
Minimum by Charlie Cunningham.
Misty for Caamp.
Anchor by Novo Amor.
Movement by Hozier.
When you travel to Caleta Tortel, you cannot miss _________.
Spending the night camping on the platforms in one of the two campsites that exist. I’ve never felt so cold in my life, but it’s worth it to wake up and enjoy the morning alone with the locals.
A typical food or drink?
Calzones rotos (ripped panties). While it doesn’t have a very appetizing name, it is a sweet, deep-fried dough, sprinkled with sugar. It is made on cold days and is perfect to eat at Caleta Tortel. If you ask a local, they can guide you to the house of a lady who cooks them every day.
Something everyone should know before visiting?
The road is hard and long from Cochrane, if you don’t have your own car. The alternatives are small buses that go to town, but to secure your seat, you must reserve the day before.
What is the most special and unique thing about the city, something you haven’t seen anywhere else?
It is a 100% pedestrian town, unless you have a boat, of course. Even so, part of your tour will be on foot.
Completo italiano: Chilean hot dog with avocado, tomato and mayonnaise.
Al tiro: Right away.
Cachar: To understand something.
Weon/a: Boy/girl, but be careful, depending on the context, it can also be an insult.
Bebida: Drink or cocktail.
Pucha: An expression of disappointment.
Anything else you would like to add?
The best way to visit Caleta Tortel is along the Carretera Austral. Due to the difficulty in getting there, it is easier as part of a longer journey. If you don’t have much time, instead of starting from Puerto Montt, you can fly to Coyhaique and rent a car or get around by bus.
What do you define as beauty?
Authenticity, whether personal or in a place. It is what is natural and proper. The minute you appear to be something you are not, that beauty will gradually disappear.