Rugged Wilderness and Alternative Lodging: Kom Che Ñi Ruka and Licán Ray
Searching for an outside-of-the-box hotel experience? Wave goodbye to the city and join the indigenous Chilean Mapuche community at the Kom Che Ñi Ruka. Just miles away Licán Ray offers a less-traveled mountain-water view.
For those searching for an outside-of-the-box hotel experience near Chile’s blue-mountain Lake District, wave goodbye to the city and join the indigenous Chilean Mapuche community at the Kom Che Ñi Ruka: Casa de Todo.
Kom Che Ñi Ruka: Casa de Todo
Giant-round huts with a grass roofs, called Rukas, frequently house local Mapuche communities. The Ruka style inspired the architecture at the three-story Kom Che Ñi Ruka. This wooden doom, peaking out of the grass like it’s Groundhog Day, invites travelers and wedding parties to stay for under $30 a night.
A carved-Mapuche word plaques each door. One reads: “Chaura,” which is an evergreen-berry shrub gathered from the area. Inside, a pair of bunk beds tuck into each room of the arching-upstairs hallways. The rooms open up to a balcony overlooking the common area filled with knotty wood beams squaring off simple chairs and tables. Juan Carlos, a Mapuche administrator for the Kom Che Ñi Ruka, calls the twin rooms downstairs the “VIP area” because they share one bathroom.
The Catholic University of Chile owns the structure encircling about 20 yards in diameter. The neighboring volcanoes also flavor the design, originally executed in 1998. A series of windows pour down the entrance like glass lava. Windows cover half of the wall in the back of the building showing off the backyard vegetable garden.
Beside the Kom Che Ñi Ruka, 40 Mapuche belonging to ten families live on the surrounding farms. They make up a sliver of the about 1.5 million Mapuche in Chile. Here, they continue to harvest fruits, vegetables and wheat as they have done for thousands of years. Visitors can pass by the local families while hiking down the dirt and gravel driveway.
About 50 visitors stop in at the Kom Che Ñi Ruka every month according to Carlos. It can accommodate – provided no one wants a long shower - up to 65 people at once.
The building originally served as an events center for the local Mapuche communities. They traveled to take agricultural classes and would get some shut eye before trekking back in the morning. Classes let out permanently after funding migrated to less-affluent countries when Chile gained its “upper-middle economy” status according to The World Bank.
Travelers would be wise to come soon because the space might one day close it’s doors to tourists. Ideally, Carlos envisions the space as an artisanal market for the ten Mapuche families to sell their goods to the nearby college.
According to Carlos, “There is a stigma that the Mapuche are living off government handouts. That’s not true. Here they just want to farm and make a living. They don’t ask for more.”
Carlos would also like to restart the agricultural education at the Kom Che Ñi Ruka “We would do more by teaching them to fish than giving them some meals,” he said.
Just miles away from the Kom Che Ñi Ruka, the rustic 3,000-person town of Licán Ray sits on the Calafquén Lake offering a less-traveled mountain-water view. Scattered trees grow all the way up to the water line on the beach covered in dark-brown lava-tinted sand. Swimmers and paddleboat riders - mostly local during the preseason – come together after work to cool off in the fresh water.
The vistas here deliver the same rugged beauty as you’ll find in the tourist hotspot, Pucón, about 50 miles north, but Licán Ray dodges the onslaught of vacationers during January and February. As a trade off, you won’t find a wide array of sushi restaurants to choose from or casinos and clubs for partying into the wee hours. If you have a less-commercialize concept of paradise, the lakeside wilderness of Licán Ray won’t disappoint.