It´s amazing what drastic changes occur in a 3 hour bus ride on the Carretera Austral. We´ve made the jaunt from Caleta Tortel to Cochrane for a little weekend cultural festival and that means going from consistent rain to dry, dusty, sun-soaked days. From a seaside town of around 500 people on the delta of the Baker River to a metropolis of 3,000. From four computers with internet to at least four internet cafes. From cypress boardwalks to pickup trucks and cars. And what´s more, from a town in which nearly everyone seems to oppose the dams to a city where people are nearly dead-split on the subject. ENDESA has seemingly worked hard here to present their project as something that is going to happen, like it or not, and many of Cochrane´s residents see development and work in the future. We hope to delve into this divide much further as we interview more people.
Yesterday we met an eighty-something year old pioneer woman who recently rode on horseback several hundred kilometers to Coyhaique in a protest against the dams. The trip took nine days and 127 people participated. We saw the grand arrival to Coyhaique at the end of November and the goosebumps came back all over again when talking with this woman.
Yesterday we also got to see little kids riding bucking sheep around the rodeo ´half-moon´ and grown men lassoing and riding bucking bulls. Needless to say, empanadas abound.
The more time we spend on the road and lugging around our camera equipment the more people we find willing to help us along. Patagonia is a mystical place where things happen your way if you are well-intentioned. For example, the other morning we found ourselves on the point of missing our bus northward to the festival. We were facing a 45 minute walk with all of our gear through the boardwalks of Tortel from the beach campsite on one side of the town to the parking lot on the extreme opposite side of town. The bus was scheduled to leave in about 30 minutes. As panic was setting in a young Tortellino arrived on horseback to the beach. He greeted us and we explained our predicament. I took off with all I could carry and followed him in search of a boat to make our trip a million times easier. Sure enough he procured a boat with just enough gas and just enough space and we motored our way to the bus at it´s moment of departure. Good things happen here.
On Monday we will be making a trip to the Steffens Glacier, which is a decent boat ride from Tortel. The trip normally costs $300. A man we just met a couple days ago offered to take us for free.
Now I´d better get off the internet. All hasn´t gone smoothly on our journey and we´ve had our fair share of mini-disasters. Nonetheless, by pushing on we can be sure that we will just grow fonder of the Patagonia that we are getting to know so well and the people here will help us when we are down.
It may be a while before we can check back in. We will be hitting the road once more on bike on Tuesday and we´ll see where the road takes us. None of us know the route to Villa O'Higgins and few people have been able to tell us much about it. The grandest mystery of our journey will take place in the ensuing days. On we roll...