First I want to say that no matter how long this post might be, words cannot describe the beauty that I have seen.
It is January 18. I have arrived yesterday in a small town called Esquel, about 80 Km away from the Chilian border. The town is very quiet, surrounded by giant mountain ranges, and beautiful scenery. I am staying in a tent with Natali in a camping site, just one block away from the casino. Hopefully the wheather will clear tomorow, and we could finaly make our way into Chile.
We took a bus, on the 19th, to a town nearer to the border called Trevelin, from there we made our way into Chile by foot, and finaly camped for the night on a river -bed just across the border.
The walk across was very pleasant, despite the fact that the wind almost blew us from our feet. The scenery, again, is absolutly incredible. Mountains, lakes, rivers, and only one road in and out.
The next day, we woke up quite late, not hurrying anywhere, and started our way toward a small, in-between town, called Futalefu. There, we resuplied, ate the most delicious bannana's, and continued on our way. We caught a ride with five chillian's, who were so nice, that they re-aranged their pick-up truck for us. We rode for over four hours with them in the back of the truck. At first it was fun, seeing everything, and feeling the wind on our faces. But after a few hours it got colder and colder as we went higher into the mountains. Our asses went numb, and it was dificult to speak, because our lips froze too. It was both an exiting, and freezing experience. We stopped at one point, near a river so blue, it makes blue look shy. Our destination today was a town called Chaiten. Chaiten is north of Futalefu, and to the west of it. It rests right on the pacific ocean. This was my first time seeing the pacific, and we arrived aprox. At 9 PM and decided to make our camp just outside of town. Chaiten resides next to an active volcano, that devastated the town on May 2nd, 2008. Today the town is mostly coverd in mud, and all the houses, that are made of wood, stand just barely. Still, it was a must see place, even though it wasn't our direction, which is due south of here, to El Calafate. The general feeling of the place is mostly depressing. It's very grey, cold, and abandoned, and few people still live there.
The next day we woke up at 8 AM, and started our way down south again, back where we came from, to a place called El Amarillo. We caught a ride with a guy named Juan, in a giant semi-trailer, that took us all the way, 40-50 km back to Santa Lucia. Today our destination was a town called La Junta. We didn't make it. It hasn't stopped raining since we left Chaiten in the morning. We started to leave Sta. Lucia, and tried our luck with hitchhiking again, but our luck didn't hold. After I tripped, fell into a stream, and got completly soaked, we decided to call it a day. We looked for a good place to park for the Shabat, and found an abandoned (I hope) barn. We went inside to investigate, and found nobody inside. All the signs pointed towards abandoned, and so we decided that this was a once in a lifetime oportunity to sleep in an abandoned, filthy barn. We set up camp on the top floor, cooked, and waited for the rain to stop. It didn't, and we had to wait until morning to keep on moving.
Now, I know that I said that the Caraterra Austral is a county. I was wrong. It's a way, a route, much like the "Hotze Israel". The route goes from north to south, passes through many towns and villages. Many people travel there, because it is so famous for it's beautiful scenery. Nearly every ride we hitched, the people that took us were ones that are seeing the Caraterra for the first time, and were stopping at every chance they got to photogragh everything they could.
The next day, on saturday morning, we began our way toward La Junta again. With the sun on our backs, the wet pants hung on my Muchila, and past experiences of the days before, when people were still nice, we started to walk. And walk. And walk. We walked for a few hours, because nobody picked us up. Natali started to get exausted, and began to lose hope of catching a ride. While resting on the side of the rode, finaly, Mr. Murphey decided to show up. Just as our coffee was ready, a young couple with their baby, stopped and picked us up precisely to where we needed to go. We resuplied in La Junta, and went on with them, to Puyuhuapi (try to say that 3 times in a row). The ride with them was just over a 100 miles, and it took us a few hours to get there. Puyuhuapi was our last stop for the day. We refilled some batteries in the tourist office, pissed off the lady there, and went to the lake to find a good, leech-less, place to camp.
In the morning when we woke up, we packed everything up again, and made our way back to the main road. Not 3 minutes have passed, and the first car that went by picked us up. A young Chillian couple, on a mission for the Chillian government, were also on their way to the Hanging Glacier. Near Puyuhuapi, about 20 km south, there is a national reserve. In it there is a giant mountain range, that you can either take a boat ride in the lake towards it and be much closer to the glacier (but where's the fun in that?), or walk all the way up, for over an hour and a half, in a slippery slope, that takes you to a view point across from the glacier, just above the valley below. What you see is beyond words, and the pictures don't even come close to what you actualy see. The glacier is caught between two mountains, and giant waterfalls pour to the valley below, and from there to the lake. On the way up we spoke to the couple that picked us up, and discovered that what they do is travel the country by van, see the most beautiful things, film them, and everything is government-paid. When the girl asked my name, I said my name is Bar. She asked me what it means, and I explained that in hebrew it means something wild, like a wild flower, or animal, or even fruit. Then she told me how to say it in spanish, "Salvaje". I like it. I might change my name to it.
Anyway, continuing our way, we kept on travelling with them for a couple more hours, then they dropped us off, and we were picked up by this nice Chillian lady for the rest of the way we had today. She took us to a city called Coyhaique (pronounced like something I can't really write). There we found an organized camping site, so that we could finaly take a shower, after a few days of starting to smell a little bit sour.
When we woke up on monday morning, we went for a short walk around the city center, and then back to the camping site. There we packed up our things again, and headed out of the city. It took us hours and hours to catch a ride and even that was a short one. After that, we caught another ride that brought us closer to our final destination for the day, Villa Castillo (pronounced Viya Castiyo). Because no-one wanted to stop for us for most of the day, we walked alot. In between hitchhikes we walked for miles and miles. Mostly because of me, because I can't stand staying in one place, and Natali had no choice but to walk also. After a long walk in the afternoon, she began to lose hope again, until by chance, a small minivan with a friend of her's in it stopped. Apparently, it was an organized bus ride to a small town I can't remember the name of. Natali insisted we take the bus. It was 5000 pesos per peson. We bargained with the driver, and managed to bring him down to less than 2000 each. Eventualy the bus dropped us off 8 km away from Villa Castillo, so we started to walk again. About 3 km from town, a Chillian man on vacation, stopped and picked us up. We stopped in Castillo, in a small diner, that is actualy two old busses connected together, to drink coffe with him that he payed for! He was a very kind, nice man. While drinking coffee we talked and he said that he's driving that night to Puerto Tranqillo (pronounced Tranqiyo. Tranquillo=Tranquility, Tranquill), which is 120 km away from where we were, and was our next stop, that we thought to make only on the next day, because of what we heard that there is to see and do in Villa Castillo. By the way, Castillo is Castle. In the vicinity of the town there is a giant montain, that it's top is shaped like a castle. We wanted to climb the mountain on the next day and only after that continue on our way. We didn't want to pass the chance of the ride, neither offend James (the man that picked us up) so we went on with him to Puerto Tranquillo. All the way there we listned to Rock n' Roll music of old, and finaly, after three and half hours, when we arived, he gave us some beer that he had with him in the car. Of course, we accepted and drank with him until it was finaly time to part on our seperate ways. We didn't have the energy to look for a proper place to camp, so we set up camp behind the tourist office in town.
The next day we went to the tourist office and they told us about some marble caves they have in the area. We payed 5000 pesos each, took a short boat ride to the caves, and realized it wasn't worth the money paid. The lake itself was very beautiful, but to pay 5000 pesos to see something for only a half hour, and not that special at that, was just not worth it. After the boat ride we started to leave Puerto Tranquillo by foot, and ended up walking for three hours, and waiting for four more before someone eventually picked us up. It was a very hard, tiring day. The ride that did pick us up, took us to the next town called Puerto Guadal. It rests on another lake-bed, and very quiet. Puerto Guadal is the last town before the border town Chile Chico. So there, we met ten other Israelis who were waiting for a ride that didn't come. We sat with them for over an hour, drank my coffee that I brought from home, and finaly said goodbye and continued on foot out of town to find a place to camp for the night. A small tip for you campers who are reading this, before opening your tent, test the ground that you are about to sleep on. I found an amazing, empty field to set up camp in, but I didn't lie down to see if the ground was level. I found my self sleeping in an impossible angle, and woke up during the night after I rolled on top of Natali while sleeping.
The next day again was very difficult to find a ride. Nobody seemed to want to pick us up, and we, again, walked for hours until, finding some shade, we stopped to rest. For over three hours we waited until a Chillian buisinessman picked us up for over 60 miles and had to drop us off in the middle of nowhere. We waited for another hour until we were picked up by a Chillian family, that took us all the way to the border town, Chile Chico. There we walked to the edge of town, hitched a ride with a nice, toothless Chillian construction worker and his son, all the way to the Chillian side of the border. From there we walked to the Argentinian side and caught another ride to the end of our hitchhiking journey (for now), to an Argentinian border town called Los Antigos. There we saw most of the Israelis we met on the way. We joined with another Israeli named Alon, and made camp in an organized camping site, just outside of town. We cooked, showered and went to sleep "early" so that we could wake up early and take a bus, down south, to a city called El Chalten.
"The Caraterra," says the Hitchhikers guide to Chile, "is big. Really big. You just won't believe how hugely, vastly, mindboglengly big it is. And so on....". While hitchhiking you always need to remember, "Don't Panic", and you always have to know where your Towel is.