Travel Story: Tales of Chile Chico
Shazam fellas! How are you? One of those stories in Patagonia!
It's been a while since the last storytelling post! Fingers are itching to attack the keyboard like a ninja master blaster. So, enough of ding-dongs introductions and blabbering around. Let's do it!
Following is a trial for what’s coming soon on a sexy book I’m compiling about the Patagonian adventure, whose partial chapters are on this blog page ― if you like today's text, ping on the comment and I’ll let you know when the full version is out.
On this post we’ll go back to Chile Chico, a teeny town located on the margins of the General Carrera lake in Chile. The story contains the platonic passion of a hitchhiker and moments of agony as he tries, without success, to hitch a ride out of that dusty nightmare. Enjoy!
Ah! If you want to appreciate what happened before this episode, check out the following post.
The arid and windy Chile Chico — witty name — didn’t provide a particular attraction other than catapulting me into the wild Carretera Austral. However, it doesn’t mean those glorious days weren’t completed with extraordinary events, most of which culminated into profund bonds that shifted the adventure goals.
The humble village seemed vigorous for its teeny size while I vagabonded around in diligent search of somewhere to spend the night. People strolled under the sun warmth and crowded the one-and-only supermarket. On the distance, I stagnated into a childish excitement when Juliana — a girl I had met briefly back in El Chaltén — appeared on the right in front.
First time I spotted Juliana near the river in El Chaltén; waved dark-brown hair arranged in a ponytail; round face and a subtle mole on the chin. She was sitting by the river devouring a book and sometimes stared into the horizon, then back to the book. Her silhouette looked like a mirage near the forest, something out of a fantasy story. The dream woman. Later I developed the guts to talk to her and, being close enough, the brown eyes and smile melted my brain and following words. Her independence to solo travel in Patagonia by far surpassed what is perceived as beauty. In a soft voice she politely refused an invitation to eat with Cyril and I on the mountain camp. Juliana was clearly into her own thing, maybe a self-discovery journey. On that occasion she disappeared… until Chile Chico.
― Heeey! ― She beamed and waved.
The sun made her even more astonishing, with the thin arms exposed and a summerish-style flowered dress flapping with the wind.
― No way! What a small world… ― I foolish said.
― Isn’t it… what are you doing? ― She asked.
Her broken Spanish, mixed with French and English, made the conversation clunky; not to say I am the awkward one.
― Wandering… not sure what to do…... you? ― I asked.
― Same… going to a campsite with a friend. Where are you staying? ― She asked.
― Staying.. am.. I have no idea… I’ve heard of guy who might have a garden or something. ― I said. Shit brain, be smarter. ― I thought.
― I see... well.. ― She said.
― So… ― I followed.
A brief second of silence more or less felt like minutes.
― The campsite is not expensive… I’ll wait my friend... if you want to come... ― She said.
― Yaa... I’m kinda broke.. choices are this guy’s place, Patagonia Activa I believe, or the outskirts somewhere… ― I said. Come on, invite her to some insane adventure! ― I screamed inside.
I didn't want to reveal my vagabond standard of living though.
― You gotta be crazy! ― She laughed.
I scratched my head and gently smiled back, but deep inside I wanted to invite her to go around the world on a boat or something. Before I could say anything, she interjected.
― Well…. friends and I will be there.. if you change your mind... ― She shrugged.
For a moment I wanted to sell my soul to pay for a damned campsite, just to know more about her life. What made her come to Patagonia? Alone? If ever I’ve had a dream partner, it was someone like her. Who else roams the world as independent and radiant as her? I knew damn well how tough it is to be out there; she must be one tough girl.
Those are hurtful regrets to swallow. At times our own priorities demand attention, it is what it is, ways of life. She left with a promise of meeting up for Mate... never saw her again.
January 30th, 2017. For a moment I felt guilty for not putting more effort to meet Juliana again. On the other hand, the feeling clearly never represented anything but a mere childish platonic passion. At long last, grand adventures on the Carretera Austral and a wearisome day of rides awaited. Except not.
The unpretentious comune surprised me with a queue of backpackers on the sidewalk at the only westbound exit. Here we go again… another day stuck, eating dust by a gravel road. ― I thought. Queued by the road, a couple from France and two girls from Chile, then me.
Prior experiences proved that walking remained the worst choice. I tried anyway… for a few meters at least. After a right bend the crushing Patagonian winds discouraged the dumb intention of conquering a steep uphill; also, pick-up trucks with mine workers rushed up, sending rocks and dust far to the sides. I Won’t do this to myself… ― I thought. Accepting defeat, I returned to the queue as crestfallen as an abandoned puppy
― Did you give up? ― The chilean girl scoffed.
― What? walking? there’s no point, right? ― I smiled.
― Yeah… we are here for many hours now. ― She pointed.
― Tough… maybe I’ll just lay on my tent and try again tomorrow anyways… ― I said.
Between eating cookies and talking, the hours went by unnoticed and traffic stagnated. The scorching dust-rising sun gave way to a gelid sunset. At that point, it seemed coherent that hitchhiking in those conditions was impossible and another uncertain night laid ahead. The group formed for another night, another garden ― Melanie, Tania and an annoying puppy that insisted on invading our tents.
February 31st, 2017. The sun peeked behind the mountains when we moved our carcasses out of that dude’s garden ― at around eight-ish. If you want to secure the first-of-the-line spot, you gotta have the drive to get out of bed. Without a proper breakfast, the group marched for the Battle of the Spot as dogs barked behind the fences. Today is the day; confidence was high.
― I just hope there’s nobody there! ― Melanie said.
Finger crossed. A few more steps.
― We’ll see… ― I panted.
Never in life had I sprinted out of bed on such a brute manner, my body was still in bed while the brain focussed on moving.
― We are stuck here for two days already! ― Tania pointed.
A left turn around the block… nobody on the streets… and…
― Noooooooo! ― We shouted in unison.
Backpacks leaning against the lamp post. There they were, two enthusiastic thumb-lifters. How could they be inspired so early in the morning?
― Whaaat? Did you two sleep in here? ― I asked the couple.
― We had the same idea I guess! ― They laughed.
The old-west horror dream of Chile Chico never ended. Similar to dreams we have as kids, where you try to escape but strong forces bring you back to the beginning. Same people, same spot, same problem. For Christ Sake… I’m stuck here forever. ― I thought. The French couple soon appeared, incredulous at what they saw.
One hell of a morning standing on a damn sidewalk. One hour passed. Two… Three.. hunger embittered our souls.
― We are giving up… ― The French guy approached.
― What a nightmare! ― I agonized.
― Mira… there aren’t cars.... but there’s a ferry that crosses the lake early tomorrow… maybe it’s a last resort. ― Melanie said.
Her information sparked a confusion of ideas and rants until a gang formed ― enough is enough. The adventure south to O’Higgins went down the drain when the newly-formed group opted for the ferry trip, to a place called Cerro Castillo. Nothing substitutes the joy of a friendship on the road. Moreover, if leaving O’Higgins behind meant getting out of Chile Chico, I was in!
Tania and Melanie, the Chilean girls; Juliet and Louis, the French; and myself, the eccentric Brazilian. Each cooperated with a few Pesos and banded for a night on a campsite with a fireplace to cook a fair amount of a proper meal.
The group welcomed a few more exciting travellers who gathered around the fire, where an appetizing smell of toasted onion bread and Pollo wings twisted everyone’s guts. Not tuna fish with pasta, what a feast!
The laughter and stories continued until late at night, when the fellows retreated to their tents located under some trees at the back of the camp.Those who remained standing extinguished the still-burning logs and turned off the light where a heap of insects struggled. Once in total darkness, the infinite eye in the universe shone above our heads. I almost lost my balance staring up.
The cluster reached us bright as an immense multitude of stars, a dark blue glimpse of what lays 10.000 light-years away. Zipped inside the sleeping bag I thought about how mind-boggling the vastness of the universe is and how arrogant humans are to believe we are alone. Made me also realised that perhaps there must exist a place where our atoms live after we die. Or is there a God? Who knows... Before long I crashed. The next days promised to be epic.
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~Love ya all
Disclaimer: *The author of this post is a convict broke backpacker, who has travelled more than 10.000 km hitchhiking and more than 5.000 km cycling. Following him may cause severe problems of wanderlust and inquietud. You've been warned.****