Monthly Archives: January 2004

el vez has left the building

santiago was a blur…
mainly because i landed, allowed myself to be thoroughly processed, and bolted through the taxi-wallers toward the blue bus my co-pilot had told me of.
that got me out of the airport and to the outskirts of santiago where i immediately caught a bus south to oh god where… where… victoria? that looks close enough to where i want to be… the volcano lonquimay…
kind of thought the bus would have dropped me off in town, but no, the side of the freeway it was to be. now where?
only one person is nearby so i declare proudly: “perdoname! estoy perdido!”. this elicited a broad toothy smile and the muddy english reply: “wahair jew owon too beee”. my idoamtically murdurous equal. que bueno. he walked me to the town center and i found a hospedaje across from the bus station… an absolute never never from my backpacking days, but whatever… was a small small town and EVERYthing was across from the bus station. including the mercado where i loaded up on well more than 6 days worth of lightweight dehydrated madness and bullion cubes… guaranteed salty whateverness to add to the instant everythingelseness.
the next morning’s bus was filled with highschool kids on some sort of group trip to the great outdoors with such survivalist gear as boomboxes, guitars and was that really a mirrored disco ball stuffed in that backpack? they sang the entire way, and unlike american kids, they sung in tune and they knew all the words. i explained to the girl next to me as best i could that the same scenario in america would elicit the only tunes that everyone would know the words to… christmas carols or tv theme songs. she couldn´t have been a less attentive. caring audience.
my first trek was 6 days around volcano longuimay… by far the most adventurous ass-kicking trek íve done… not the inherent difficulty of the terrain or weather, i’m just used to have better marked trails… ie: trails marked AT ALL. when there was an obvious path, there were markers everywhere, when there was no discernable path, there were also no markers… i lost my shit with unbridled motherfucking glee (?) everytime i lost the trail/found another that could possibly be construed as trail-like and then found a marker out of nowhere… what a terrific game!… if the days weren’t long here, i’d have lost that terrific game for sure… part of my handicap was my supersized pack and all it’s stuffings. for my next trek i’m ditching half my gear… some tossing away outright, and some stowing til i return… the next one is 4 days around lake huerquehue and it is meant to be well-travelled… this one looked as though i was the first one to travel it since some govenment park bureau deemed it a trail…
have you ever seen kilometers of undulating lava field? its really neat to look at, its really not neat to scramble over…sharp lava stone boulder scrambling… í’d rather take my chances at a bin laden support rally… luckily i never lost my footing given the unending opportunities to do so… but really it was such drudgery… up and over the next rise surely will be the end (times at least 89)… i had more than 3 hours of that… you might imagine how dispiriting it can become… if you can than double it and add blisters… and put it at the end of a day already fatigued by missing and overgrown trails. forgot to mention, i wasn’t exactly where i was supposed to be. i should have been a few hundred meters higher, but the last seen marker… the one that pushed me from downhill in the forest directly out into the lava had no arrow on it pointing back upward towards-ish where i had just come…. i later found out that was the intent… the road to hell is paved with intentions and lava rock.
that was on my 3rd day and would have broken me had it not ended in a beautiful valley basin at the end of the lava beneath two waterfalls all to myself… i could poop right out in the open…LOVELY…
saw NO ONE for 4 days and then i run into a dutch couple… figures… they’re everywhere… must be that they don’t have enough country of their own…they started the trail 2 hours after me and were camped on the 4th day 2 hours ahead of me. the guy was carrying a daypack and wearing denims, t-shirt, fleece and overjacket… and me with 30 kilos of overpacking… i’ve never felt less studly in my life. i may as well have had a winnebego strapped to my back.
walked with them for a bit til i decided to take a dip in the river. i really was holding them back, but it was nice to have walking partners for a bit.

i wish i could post the pictures for day 5. maybe eventually i’ll get the chance, but the most stunning thing were areas of submerged forest along the northeast edge of that very same lava field. words fail me too, but to see a mighty araucunia tree completely submerged in a crystal-clear pool is truly something other worldy. the end of that same day i again lost the trail and behaved as though i’d won the lottery when i found the rare elusive marker… a shame no one was around to witness my happy dance… with full pack it was cirque du soleil material…really…
but big fat so what that i found the trail when at the end of it was 1500 vertical feet of scree to overcome… i mean, i saw it coming, but hoped fervently that there really was a golden escalator that i somehow managed to overlook through sweaty, dirt-caked eyelids. what a plod. a slow, meandering, slothful push… poco a poco and then a few steps back… and my pack is too big… and too full of useless crap that was never meant to be sloughed along up and over any old indescriminant pass… my mind went places though… and that was cool and though there was no golden escalator, there was a silver lining… the opposite side was exACTly the same… which when coupled with gravity made for an exceedingly rapid, pillowy descent…
the end of the day found me back at my first night’s campsite… the one i had patiently and carefully selected, now covered… sorry, sprayed with wet, grassy horse poop. i spent too long pondering what exactly constituted the laxative… then found another spot… washed up a bit and then lay back in the meadow to watch my favorite afterhiking channel… the disipating cloud network…
only, the clouds never disipated… they grew thicker, and greyer and forboding and then… yep. rain. i was so ready the next morning to declare a rain holiday, but the little adventure gremlin that pushes me so often from my confort zone yanked me from the tent by my toes and before i knew it i had packed up and was ready to go with a water-heavier pack… then the rain stopped, the clouds parted and before i had stepped foot to trail, was basking in late-morning sun. the gremlin had so wanted to see me inconvenienced… not this time.
arrived back to an empty ranger station… no fanfare… no chance for me to give my earnest two-cents on trail maintenance and blah blah blah… end of trek one. sat by the side of the road a bit until a bus came along… exactly the one i wanted… onward to temuco…
am really happy to be here and especially to have my first trek behind me. i’ve shed quite a few office-cultivated pounds already and am browner than most chileanos. than most chili peppers? than most chili’s restaurant patrons?
something about the rough edges of the semi third world appeals to me. a bit more gritty and real. not to many cars… just exhaust choking buses and black smoke-billowing lada taxis…
endnote: saw some people at the bus stand in a curacautin eating something weird… well, it was weird… some part of the corn cob, looked like corn but not really, mixed with apricot juice and dried apricot. had to try it… it was surprisingly good… its called mote a huesillo which roughly translates to: child spilled juice in his veggies. roughly.