Greetings, dear friends, from Coyhaique (Coy-eye-key), Chile.
We left Argentina behind on Wednesday, after a successful couple of days heading north up the trusty Route 40. On Monday, we had our first taste of the dusty and vast wilderness of the western ribbon of Argentina: hundreds of kilometres of nothing but shrubs, rocks, and the occasional llama-like guanaco.
By evening, we had reached the small oasis of Gobernador Gregores, hanging out for so long in the cosy cafe at the local petrol station that we struck up a friendship with the waitress, Margoth, and spent a wonderful evening with her and her husband and daughter.
Despite the lack of traffic travelling between these remote outposts, we gradually wove our way towards the border, and celebrated with a relatively short day’s hitch over the border into Chile Chico. After a minor panic on Jo’s part at our guide book’s warning that the following section required three days’ supplies due to continuing lack of road use, we had relatively little trouble securing a ride with Walter to Cochrane, wending our way along the second largest lake in South America as we drove. We had been planning to go on to Caleta Tortel, a unique village connected only by floating walkways, but we were intercepted by Sergio, his wife Alicia, their son Mauricio and friend Lenin, heading to their utterly secluded lakehouse retreat by Lago Chacabuco. We stayed with them for one night, drinking in the silence.
Our drive with Walter had taken us past a fairly large swathe of recently scorched earth, obviously the result of a forest fire, and we stopped for a while to watch a helicopter bomb the periphery with water.
We wouldn’t have thought much more about it, but Sergio was something of a two-way radio enthusiast, and we received regular updates about the fire’s progress. There was no risk of it heading our way to the lakehouse, but nonetheless it was a little disconcerting to see the clouds on the horizon reflecting the flames after the sun had set.
Many a firefighting crew passed us as we were heading out of Cochrane – clearly the work was continuing.
Not to be put off by our initial windswept night´s camping in week one, the tent had its second outing in Cochrane on Friday night. The temperature was better than before, the wind insignificant, and the tent proved waterproof in the temporary rain. However, apparently there was no requirement for ‘quiet hour’ for the local stray dogs, and the multitudinous chickens had a ‘roost off’ for about three hours straight. The tent has been firmly packed away again.
Points of cultural assimilation this week:
– Ripio – unpaved/gravelly – as in ‘this road will ripio your car windscreen, and any attempts to think normal thoughts, to shreds.
– When agreeing to spend 24 hours with a Chilean family, do not expect to understand more than 13% of what is spoken. Of that, be aware that 90% of what you think you have understood, you haven’t.
– The ‘four seasons in one day’ summary of Patagonian climate is absolutely true. Yesterday we experienced a cool Spring breeze, bright sunshine, settling snow and horizontal rain.
Total number of lifts: 14
Week Two distance travelled: 1313km
Total distance travelled: 2633km