Acercando al Fin del Mundo
Monday 3 December 2007 - Monday 10 December 2007
An update from Kam´s Southern adventures!
I left my beloved Viña del Mar last Monday night on a "semi-cama" cush bus bound for the South. I somehow managed to pack 20 days of life into the backpacking backpack I got just for the occasion... and was pretty proud of myself. Cash, clothing, chocolate, conditioner... that pretty much defines the contents of the bag. Multiplied by like eight hundred thousand and you can imagine the weight I´ve been carrying around on my shoulders, all in the name of not having to repeat the same shirt too many times in my photos!
I arrived in Puerto Montt on the overnight bus about 12 hours later and took the first bus-ferry combo I could find to the Isla Grande de Chiloé and its entrance city of Ancud. This part of the country is known for its clouds and rain most of the year, but these upcoming months (summer...!!) are supposed to be a respite.
Well, as the bus pulled into the station, the drizzle was starting to pound a little harder, and a few minutes later I decided to wait in the bus station myself for the pouring rain the let up a bit. Apparently I had to walk about 7 blocks to catch the bus that would take me to Chepu, a rural community where I would be living on a cheese farm (!!!) for a few days with a Chilean family.
So I waited in the station, waited waited waited. I´m not really in a hurry these days, so I didn´t mind. Then I see out of my peripheral vision 2 people that just HAD to be gringos... so I first don´t even pay them any attention, but upon closer inspection realize that they were Andrew R. and Rachel! So I jump over to them, and they were totally surprised to see me, just having returned north from Torres del Paine themselves. They were at the bus stop waiting for John and Semira.
Long story short, I find out that the bus to Chepu only runs 4 times a week and not on Tuesdays, so it ended up being good fortune running into that bunch because I stayed with them in Ancud overnight. We went out for some excellent group meals, including for the famed curanto, a seafood, potato, bread, hot mess cooked in the ground (and tasty!). John and Andrew were so intrigued by the Agroturismo program in Chepu that they decided to ditch their travel buddies and come with me! So the next day we squeezed onto the heaviest seeming micro I´ve ever ridden on from Ancud to Chepu (which is actually a sector, not a pueblo). Passengers had stowed huge bags of flour and what not up on the roof, up with our huge travelling backpacks.
Everyone on the bus seemed to be looking at us... and one woman was nice enough to give up some space on a seat for me to sit down. I asked, "¿Todos ya se conocen aquí?" and she said yes, they all already know each other, and I said, "Ah, entonces nos destacamos muchísimo..." We end up making it to our stop, Cruce de las Huachas, where Armando Pérez, the owner of the farm, came to pick us up and taking us to the beautiful, huge farmhouse of him and his wife, Sonia.
John and Andrew ended up staying just a few nights on the farm as they had to get back to Viña, but together we milked cows (and got splattered with green cow poop), made cheese, ate enough food so that even Andrew and John said they were full (!!!), learned how to play with a deck of 40 cards (a game called "Escoba" (Broom)), saw a play, and climbed up a jungle-ish nearly 80° (according to my estimates...) hill along an absolutely beautiful Pacific Ocean beach.
Once they had left, I got to know the family even more, probably more so than I got to know my family in Viña (John concurred). I visited Sonia´s (the other owner) father´s grave in the countryside cemetery, played with the grandkids, walked to neighbors´houses, made bread and empanadas, and just generally had an excellent time next to the wood-burning stove.
[ left, me trying my hand at milking . . . right, Javier the 11 year-old expert ]
[ J-Bird . . . K-Bird . . . J-Bird ]
I finally left Chepu this morning and made my way south on the island through Castro all the way to Chonchi, where I had been excited to stay in the hostel called Esmeralda by the Sea. When I arrived, it turned out there was plenty of space for me and, BONUS, SWEDISH PEOPLE TO TALK WITH ME ABOUT NORWAY!! We just took a daytrip to Isla Lemuy just off the coast here, and it was quite beautiful.
SO... now the plan is forego the Chaiten/Parque Pumalín circuit and instead stay in Chonchi maybe 2 nights and head north again through Puerto Montt and stay near Frutillar/Puerto Octay and then near Valdivia and then near Pucón (though I´m generally anti- such touristy destinations...). And I´m looking to stay in more rural homestays. I barely practice any Español in these hostels what with all Europeans and Canadians and Aussies and what not...
Pésimo, Kam, pésimo...
PD No need to worry: I have taken many many photos but as I am using a hostel computer it may be awhile before they get up. Just close your eyes, squat down towards the ground, reach out and imagine grabbing some warm cow teats, and inhale that rich aroma of hay, milk vapor, and cow poop splattering in the background.