Archive for October 13th, 2008


October 13

October 13, 2008

At eight thirty Tom shook me awake, clearing the image of a immaculately dressed Loki-type meddler from my half-awake dream, who was no doubt a product of the intense cold rising through the ground last night and the fact that we ran out of water yesterday evening. It was still rather frosty this morning, but we warmed our hands by packing up the tent from the foot of Monumento Nacional El Morado and got fuel from a “bowl” (the water bottle from yesterday cut in half) of a delicious granola cereal with real milk, a rarity in Centroamerica and Peru but apparently available in Chile. Yay for cows!

A bit before ten we walked up to our red-painted general store to get a cup of hotchocolate and a bottle of water from the humourous and blatantly goading proprietoress, only to find her gates disappointingly locked. Not having time to waste, we started off on our morning trek to the nearest town with public transport, a byproduct of leaving a popular weekender spot on a monday morning. We’d been primed for a two-hour, six-kilometre walk by the Conaf man at the national park yesterday, but having seen the road already, thought it’d probably be a little longer than that.

The walk was hardly a chore, though, as the road followed the path of the wild river we’d camped by last night, with snow inundated mountains to the right, left and in front. A few dicey waterfall floods made picking a route a bit difficult in places, though the worst of it, where the road was knee-deep in fast flowing water, was counter attacked by scaling a slippery, rocky slope and finding a place furtherup where the water ran deeper but less laterally. The worst injuries occurred were a boot wet up to the waterproof insert and no more, so we considered it a win overall.

We’d been advised earlier on that the carabineros (literally “riflemen”, though they actually perform a service somewhere in between park ranger and sheriff), plied the route more or less regularly, and that we had a hope of getting a lift with them as far as El Volcanes, where the collectivo taxis left for San Juan de Maipo, which is where we could catch our bus. It seemed our luck was out though, as the only vehicles that passed us on our route were a truckload of trucks, stirring the dust off the road and making it necessary to improvise poor dustmask measures using our hands, and two small cars that were depressingly full. As we spotted a town in the distance that we could only hope was El Volcanes, having already walked for two and a half hours with full packs and being a bit tired, our luck changed, and our half-hearted effort to flag down an old couple in a shiny but well-used 4WD ended in success. We climbed in to the back, Tom scoring a seat with a seatbelt, and me perching atop some sort ofbox covered in a padded tarpaulin.

We never learnt our benefactors’ names, but had a lovely, only partially mangled conversation in Spanish and English, with the woman’s English roughly matching Tom’s Spanish in quality, as the man drove with erratic use of the brakes. We’d told them we were going to Santiago today, and had requested to be dropped either at San Juan or El Volcanes, but they said it was no trouble to take us as far as a metro station in the city, as that was where they were going anyway. They ended up dropping us at the Escuela Militar station, the end of our subway line, where we walked stiflly out of the car (thanks to the lack of cool-down and odd leg angles for the duration of the ride), offerred to pay and were politely refused. Our weekending Santiagans had just saved us about two hours and ten dollars, which was utterly awesome.

After saying our goodbyes we made our way back to our new favourite hostel, collected and dumped our things, then headed back out to Mercado Persa Viovio, where Sara from last night had given us a hot tip for buying Antarctic supplies. We didn’t find much there, but stocked upon socks and succeeded in purchasing a camp stove and lightweight pot, having been made thoroughly jealous of those used last night and hoping to offset the costs with savings in accomodation. Not to mention that now, instead of taking heavy foodstuffs on our PN Torres del Paine trek, we can bring boxes of lightweight noodles and otherwise nutritious goodies upon which to sup.

Whilst we were out we picked up a barbecued meat stick (possibly pork) ending in a sausage and onion for dinner. My sausage didn’t appeal to me, so I donated it to an intently fossicking local stray, a giant chocolate-brown dog with the biggest nose and paws I’ve ever seen, who rather looked like he was part bear. He seemed very grateful and sat politely while we finished our meal, then followed us halfway to the station. There are so many beautiful strays in Santiago, not the mongrel dog types you get at home, but special dogs- purebreds, huge majestic dogs and the small yappy dogs you always always assume have an over-loving home. If I lived here, I think I’d have a large pack of hounds already, and growing by the day. I just want to take them home, give them a bath and a full meal, maybe a chew toy. I think I’m getting clucky.

We got back our sense of adventure today, and thought to lay low for the evening, and turned down a steak invitation from Paul and Brad, the slightly camp Sydneysider doctors who’d been around a few days before. Not before we swapped a few peanuts for a sllice of lemon meringe pie, though, and sat having a chat about a coffee bar pioneered in Santiago and called “coffee with legs”, the selling point of which is nude waitresses. They suggested we have a look, because the coffee is cheap and good, but I think I prefer my coffee with clothes.

The evening was spent reclining over a few glasses of wine, as they all to often are now that we’re once again in a country with a local wine region, and talking with Juan, part owner of the hostel, about his hurdles, hopes and aspirations for the future of his joint. A most amiable day, all in all.