Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Santiago to Valdivia

Uff, once again we kept putting off the blog and now there is so much to tell...
Let's start at the begining, go until the end and then stop.
We tried to leave Santiago for four days. The first day we met up with Armando. He is the crazy Irish-Argentinian whom we met back in Cusco. Over a glass of beer in his office an idea was born to travel together. We decided to go to Argentina, down highway 40 and cross back into Chile at Pino Hachado. Good. He had some work to finish so we waited for him for one day. The next day we agreed on leaving at 2pm, but it did not happen. We walked out of the house at 4:30, missed the last bus to take us out of the metropolis and the only thing we could possibly do was to buy beer and come back to the house we just left. Armando knew of a party happening a few blocks away, so we went there and finished the night at 4 in the morning. The next morning the awakening was hard but we managed heroicaly and were hitching out of Los Andes that afternoon. The first truck stopped in under 20 minutes and took the three of us over the beatiful snow-covered pass into Argentina. We camped outside of Portillo with a camp fire and a beautiful starry sky above us.It took us 5 hours to get a lift next morning though, and even that for mere 50 kilometers until the highway 10. The traffic was speeding by at 120 km/h. In addition, a passing thunder cloud dispersed a good measure of hail above our heads and we had to seek shelter in a road-side chapel. We were expelled from there half an hour later by a pious owner of a near-by business. ¨This building is for praying and not for hanging around in!¨ he said.Ok, we relocated to the near-by gas station and waited out the rest of the storm there. It was too late to travel by then so we made a tour of the surrounding area and located an abandonned church, in which we camped for the night.
It was drizzling in the morning, but the sky cleared later on and we were out on the shoulder again, but nobody would stop. We became bored with the scene and walked to the next on-ramp, some kilometers away. As soon as we installed ourselves there, a truck went by, with a strangely familiar passenger inside. He had his nose and palms of his hands pressed to the side window as he went by. ¨Jonathan!¨ It was him indeed, our travelling companion from Peru and Equador. We got a ride shortly after this ¨encounter¨, and then another one in rapid succesion, which deposited us at the entrance of Malargue. It was late at night and the place for getting off could not have been picked better. We saw in front of us a perfectly half built and then abandonned shell of a would-be hotel. The inside was remarkably clean and we did not even had to put up the tent, but spread our bed-rolls out on the second floor. In the morning we located the super-market, had breakfast and walked to the end of town.
There was very little traffic. After standing there for some hours and seeing no suitable vehicles to take all three of us, we decided to split up. As soon as we walked 200 m past Armando, we got a ride. The energies were changed and we continued our journey, meeting funny truck-drivers, sharing meals with them, camping in unexpected places and witnessing gorgeous landscapes and sunsets. Armando got a lift 5 hours after us and travelled very fast, covering the distance until Las Lajas in two days. It took us four days.
The driver who brought us to Las Lajas invited us to stay in his house, which we surely did. Carlos and his wife Carina were great hosts, we drank mate, ate asado and stayed up late for three days.On the third day Jonathan came to town as well and was also welcomed to the house. We talked late into the night with him. In the few months since we last saw each other, this guy has been to Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Buenos Aires and back to the cordillera. Wow.
In the morning our paths went in different directions: Jonathan went further south to Bariloche and we crossed back into Chile. A traditional group photo and Jonathan gets a ride in a few minutes, leaving us steeping in black envy on the opposite side of the road, waiting for our ride for hours.
We are in Valdivia now. The forests around here look identical to the ones in Canada, until you look closely: it is made up of entirely different species! We went to the botanical garden this morning and spend some hours walking amidst big strange-to-us trees that looked almost like spruces, cedars and poplars, but... different! We are very happy to be in the forested lands once again.