I am posting this from the library in Coyhaique, Chile. This route has been sparsely populated and wild in a way that does not compare with anywhere else I have been. Being unplugged and electronically uncharged scratches the itch of simplifying life. I spend evenings listening to the impressive array of bird calls, the beloved Bandurria. Plentiful rivers with astonishing clarity and the locals who skillfully fish with just a can wrapped in fishing line are where I camp. Often just beyond an expensive camping area I find a beautiful, free spot.
When I first arrived, Chile and I didn´t really ¨get¨ one another. A kind person told me to have patience, that further South was special. When I arrived in Puerto Montt where he lives, I found him and told him I think he may be right. I could relate to the salty dog charm of Puerto Montt and of course with a local you scratch more than the surface. To wade in the Pacific Ocean again, where I bobbed around before I learned to walk, felt like the right way to ground myself before having my mind blown by nature.
I explored Lago Chapo and then took a short evening ferry ride from La Arena to Puelche where I camped on an abandoned school bus (that was a first) and in the morning rode to Hornopiren. Some people were charging to camp in their yard behind a chainlink fence but I camped on the beach despite their kids telling me the gulf would swallow me in the night. The 3 1/2 hour ferry ride via Fiordo Comavo was stunning. After a 10k ride to the next short ferry I arrived at Caleta Gonzalo and instantly the lush forest of Parque Pumalin pulled me in. I rode with a Porteño named Sebastian. He was pleasantly strange, like me. Now that I see dozens of cyclists a day, I have to tone down my excitement. It used to be so rare that I would cross paths with another, so a party would practically erupt.
La paciencia es un árbol de raíz amarga pero de frutos muy dulces.
Chaiten. This town evacuated it´s 4000 residents during the volcano eruption in 2008. After a massive mud/ash slide the Chilean government declared the town destroyed and uninhabitable.
I always wanted my entire trip to be by bike. Not to prove anything, this was just my vision;no bussing or hitching ever. I had taken a boat when required but I liked the idea that I had never taken a plane or other transportation from California to Patagonia. When I met other cyclists who bussed, secretly my respect-o-meter waned. Perhaps I was insecure about my abilities being doubted and when I hitched in Peru with a broken derailleur and then again in Argentina to meet a friend, I was eating my words. A tremendous respect has grown in me for anyone who is curious and sticks even a toe into the unknown, by whatever means. So often we find distractions to quiet our wild spirit that wants to get outdoors and be free.
In the last month on this 1,240 km (770 mi) route I have been immersed in a dreamscape of travelers, each with a lust for life and their own vision. Meeting Chilenos and Argentinos who spend their Summer hitching along the Carretera Austral and exploring the magnificent beauty of their country with an innocence that I feel I missed out on. It is what I imagine the 70s to have been like.
There is a common saying in Spanish ¨vale la pena¨ which is used to express if someting was worth one´s while. I have been taught by this trip that making moments or effort `worth it´ is completely in our hands. I am often infuriated by overly touristic places and traffic but if I let that hinder me, that would only be by my lack of imagination. This journey has taught me there is always a missing link in the fence, another path, a different way to seek and see.