we're okay… way

lago huerquehue, phonetically enhanced in the title for easier digestion, provided the location for trek number 2.
arrived too late in the day to begin the trail as planned so i had to camp by the lakeside below the ranger staion… it sounded okay in theory, the whole lakeside thing, but regimented camping, even in an idyllic setting, isn’t what i came here for… granted, i really, secretly, deep down inside wanted to share nature with several groups of kids on holiday playing battle of the bands with their shitty shitty boomboxes in a valley so acoustically attuned that one could hear squirrels on the other side of the lake belching out the alphabet and then giggling over it… so what i’m getting at is that i didn’t sleep so good that night… i finally got to sleep as the sun was coming up, but was soon awoken by the abuela in the campsite beside me reciting mathematic flash cards with her granddaughter… they were really sweet, so how could i get angry? oh yeah, i hadn’t slept… was irritable climbing out of my tent, but melted when the grandmother gave me a sweet smile followed by a sweeter buenos dias… okay… won’t stay mad at the world today… best get hiking.
wasn’t my favorite day… the kind of hiking that wears me out pretty quickly…hot, uphill, too much patagonian sun and humidty radiating from the scrub along the trail… whine whine whine… it was the last bit down a very steep, exposed, no-longer vegetated, dry, dusty trail that sank the hike for me… but far down below, back in the forest, the grassy plateau that lay before me at the end of the day compensated the drudgery nicely… set between two flowing streams, it was the perfect place to camp… nice to lay back in a grass after a long day of walking and let my body slowly melt into the meadow
in total i had filled and drank my 1.6 liter bottle 6 times that day… serious hydration issues… one thing contributing to my overheating was that the dying sunburnt skin from my first trek was trapping the sweat beneath, forming a nice bubbling pox-like mass across my arms and legs… my cooling system just wasn’t working like it should… i’ll spare the details, but it was really interesting in a freakish way
day two was quite a bit more relaxed ambling through forest slowly upward before another steep descent down exposed slopes… took a side trail down to laguna verde for a much needed swim… nice to have a small lake all to yourself… that is, if tábanos aren’t factored in
tábanos are big slothfull bloodsucking flies… imagine a common housefly, double it’s size, give it a blood-sucking mosquito-like fang, and then give them the reflexive instinct of a doorknob… thats a tábano… the bad part is that they swarm en mass, they seem to coordinate their attacks at the least opportune moments (shoelacing, for example, becomes a contact sport) and it really stings when they get their chance to dig in for el menú del dia… the good part is they are slow enough to smack dead with even the least dexterous flailing limb and that upon landing they take their time sorting out their gear before the drilling begins. i have left a trail of tábano coprses in my wake, secure in the knowlege that i keep the lizard population well-fed. tábano guts also make for an effective sunscreen… so it would seem.
so i shared the lake with many tábanos… but they let me swim in peace before giving me the chance to diminish their numbers as i hit the trail again.
the end of the day opened into a valley of numerous hotsprings. the property containing the most thermal sources was also the least developed and i was able to set up camp alongside the rio blanca (at termas rio blanca) where the family had arranged stones to create pools of differing intensity. there was a concreted tub that was very hot, a shallower pool that was medio caliente and then yet another which had two streams flowing through… one from the termas and one from the river. it was in this pool that i spent the final hours of the day… laying against a large rock in the shallows… a constant tug-of-war between cold and caliente while the final day’s sun radiated warmth upon me from between the gaps in the trees across the river… it was in this moment of bliss that i decided not to follow the trek as planned, which would have me repeat the first two days in reverse, but instead, follow a seldom-used dirt road to the town of reigolill where i was told i could get a bus back to pucón for the night…
at some point i finally had enough of utopian weightlessness ( more accurately, my fingers had shrivelled to octegenarian levels ) so i dragged myself heavily from the pool and headed back up to my camp. i forgot to mention that camp was a cherry orchard. the family had gathered beneath one of the larger trees and i could see beyond the ladder propped against the tree that one of the children was filling basket upon basket full of cherries and then lowering them down by rope… against a sunset sky it was a beatiful old-world sight. a moment where i could only be a spectator while i really wanted to flop on the ground with them and eat cherries and tell cherry tales and sing cherry songs and trade cherry confit recipes… the mother lulled me toward this stupid fantasy offering me a huge bagfull, which i readily accepted and which she readily charged me for… did you all hear that bubble pop? it jaded the moment a bit, but only a bit… 300 pesos (50 cents) is hardly upsetting…
so i fell asleep that night with a bellyfull, still with plenty left over for breakfast on the trail as i walked, spitting seeds and stems along the river creating a tree-lined avenue for future generations…(that stupid oldschool johnny appleseed cherry fantasy again… i must let go… i must…)
and so my 3rd day diversion was the longest 18km i have ever walked… it took me through some beautiful terrain… i only saw 5 or 6 cars the entire day and each of them stopped to offer me a lift… even if they were going the other way, and all shook their heads incredulously when i told them me prefiero a caminar… and nearly all used a similar combination of the words “gringo”and “whatEVER”… my last kilometer was a neverending 2 km down a valley’s flat dusty road… at some point i saw an elderly man beneath a shady tree by the side of the road as i heard invisible children screaming and playing down by the river. my throat was so dry that when i approached to speak he replied, “yo no comprendo” i got a laugh from him by saying that i didn’t understand me either, so i tried again to ask him if reigolill was far… only another 400 meters he said and then asked where i began my day… though it remained unspoken, i could see in his eyes that he too was saying yet one more combination of the words “gringo” and “whatEVER”. he also told me that i had missed the one and only bus that passes through town… at 7 AM… 400 meters further along indeed was the sleepy god-forsaken dustpatch of reigolill… the population, less than 20 if you don’t include the fire department staff (which doubles the count), seemed like a crew that had either been born there without the ability to conceive a broader world, or that had come to escape happiness, for whatever strange reason a person might seek that out. the comatose shopkeeper pulled the cold drink i had selected from my hands offering me a much warmer container he declared to be más frio… get me the fuck out of here…
i downed the liter of juice a bit too quickly and noticed that a fruit truck parked in the town’s only shade was preparing to leave. i hit them up for a lift and the driver pondered it a bit too long before agreeing to take me to the nearest town, some 30 km away, where i could catch a bus to pucón. i don’t think he spoke spanish. i know he thought he spoke spanish, but i didn’t hear spanish and i certainly couldn’t read even one obvious communication of body language… must have been one of those born in the dust. only 5 km down the road, he stopped to do business by an open meadow where a group of tehuelche indians were assembled for a 3 day horse-racing event. we stayed there for an hour before the driver thoughtfully arranged for someone else to drive me to curarrehue. my new driver was friendlier… so friendly that he stopped for each and every stranger on the side of the road… at one point it was to attempt push-starting a tractor… 6 of us couldn’t do it so he applogized to the stranded group as he smoked their last cigarette and we drove off eventually picking up another 4 strays. a collectivo in curarrehue, which again stopped for any and all who needed transport (the way things go in such a remote localle), got me back to pucón for the night.
in pucón the woman at the hospedaje was surprised to find that i was american because i spoke spanish.
but i don’t speak spanish that well.
i know, she said in english, but you really tried…
pucón is a charming enough resort town set upon a lake, but chilean tourists are as annoying as the american flavor and there were many of those as well, me included i suppose… i like to believe i’m not one of THEM…
back in temuco the next day i relaxed, did laundry, internetted, bought a ticket to bariloche, argentina for my next trek: the nahuel huapi traverse… started reading bruce chatwin’s In Patagonia… i know, such an obvious and dorky thing to do, but having regional context makes the book so much more alluring… i don’t think i could ever have enjoyed it so much without the experiential context…
enough
thats if for now
shall post the next bit within a few days
those with knowledge of the special “button” can access my most amusing annecdote yet… you know where to click…