Saturday, February 5, 2011
I spent a couple days in Coyhaique, taking one day to go by bus to Puerto Chacabu to eat fish and photograph abandoned boats in the harbor. On the way I met a backpacker from Santiago who I had an interesting conversation with using an i phone translation AP. I must get an i phone! Next stop was Cochrane, and early the next morning I was on my way again hitchhiking to Caleta Tortel, the hanging village. Caleta Tortel is a very old village with houses built on the steep hillsides that drop directly into the ocean. There are no roads and the village is accessed by a series of boardwalks. The weather here is horrible, windy and rainy all the time with the wind blowing straight through the flimsy wood walls of the buildings. Perched as it is over the water, it is a place that should be charming but I could not actually wait to get away the next morning. Perhaps I was sick of the cold and rain, or maybe I found the impermanence of the place unsettling, but overall it was a bit of a depressing place to be, so it was with relief that I found myself early the next morning out on the road again with my thumb in the air.
There are no roads and the whole town is reached by a series of boardwalks built over the water or steeply climbing up the hills.
Nothing is built to last in Caleta Tortel and the elements quickly take their toll on the flimsy wood construction. I liked the flowered sheet hanging in the window of this home.
An old boardwalk goes into ruin.
Hats hang in front of the window of a tourist shop that seems to be abandoned.
Puerto Chacabu, near Coyhaique.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
I was confused about the bus schedule leaving Chaiten, and so finally decided to hitchhike. Soon I was on my way in a Chilean police car. That evening I finally reached the strange, silent little town of La Hunta. All the hostals have matching wooden signs out front, and all are closed. Door after door I knock until finally one opens for me. Next I go in search of food and it is the same story. Finally in one resturant a women opens the door. "No food here but I will take you" she tells me and then drives me to her mothers house, who fed me a meal of carne, potatoe salad, and crepes for desert. Next morning I am headed to puyuhuapi, but change my mind at the last minute to go instead to Villa Amengual, where there is a big festival with a rodeo and concert. The town is unindated with Chilean travelers and I make the first use of my tent, setting it up in the yard of someone's house with 100 others. The rodeo starts that afternoon. It is mostly talk, with the announcer going on for 10 minutes and then finally a guy gets on a poor horse and tries to stay on for 8 seconds. This goes on for hours. Later that night is the concert, a popular Chilean band who fuses modern with traditional sounds and instruments. Next morning I join the hordes of other hitchhikers leaving the town. Traveling solo, I quickly secure my first of 4 rides that finally bring me to Coyhaique where I spend two days relaxing and preparing for the rest of my journey south.
Monday, January 17, 2011
As I was waiting to board the ferry, I learned that Chaiten was badly damaged by a huge volcanic blast from a mountain that had previously been unknown as a volcano. The people where just begining to return, and water and power was being restored but barely. And, oh yes, the volcano was still smoking. And so what do I decide to do? Jump off the boat and on a bus and flee as fast as possible? No, instead I volunteered for three days to help a group of scientists with an ongoing study that is looking at the rate of recovery of the badly damaged forests in the area. At this time, the study is looking only at insects (larger animals have not begun to return yet) and my job for the next three days is to help set up pitfall traps, essentially plastic cups filled with antifreeze (to preserve the unlucky insects) and set level with the ground under a protective board covering. The traps were set up in areas representative of various levels of damage, plus undamaged rainforest as a control. I struggled over massive tree falls and densly foliated undamaged rainforest, was serenaded by a huge variety of birds, bitten by hoards of biting flies, photographed stunning flowers, and had my blood sucked by a leech. The highlight was climbing through undamaged rainforest up a steep hill to where a tree grew up and out from the hill in such a way that you could walk out on it and be eye level with the canopy and the birds. All together it was another fabulous unplanned exerience, and part of what continues to draw me to traveling in the way that I do.
Arrival on the ferry to Chaiten
The mountain on the right is not the volcano, but the shape of the mountain looks a bit suspicious considering.
Massive destruction of previously dense rainforest
On the third summer, life is returning and the brightness of the green is amazing as it fights its way through thick grey ash.
A close up of the flowers growing up the tree in the top photo. Trees that are sheared of their branches become a home to fresh vines and actually begin to grow fresh branches.
Bamboo starts to grow new shoots
Mosses and lichens find small niches to begin growing
Destruction of homes around the water, where ash floods inundated them
Still people return to Chaiten and begin to rebuild their lives.
The volcano looms overhead, still smoking as a reminder and a warning
Friday, January 7, 2011
After a bit of time off from traveling I planned an escape from the cold Alaska winter by flying into summertime in Patagonia. All together I will spend one and a half months in Chile and ten days in Bolivia. I arrived in Santiago, which is a very nice city, but not caring for cities, I rushed off in a southernly direction. A very comfortable night bus brought me to my first stopping point, Puerta Varas, where I spent two days relaxing, socializing, and planning the next step of the journey. The most popular way to Southern Patagonia from there is a 48 hour bus ride which takes a route through Argentina. However, I was very intriqued by the less traveled route which combines ferrys, buses, hitchhiking, and finally even walking across the border at Villa O Higgons, the most southernly place you can get to in Chile before the roads end and subsequently reconnect through Argentina in the southern Patagonia of all the photos. I was a bit nervous about trying this route, as I heard it is difficult and you can get stuck for days, and I also knew if I tried it that I would need to find a tent. As luck would have it I ran into two Italian guys at the hostel that evening who not only encouraged me to try it, but where also looking to offload their tent. I then needed to wait one more day to get the ferry which would take me to my first stop along the route, Chaiten. And so finally I was on my way to new adventure.