We are almost four weeks into our adventure which has included about 130 miles on bike and 6 days floating the biggest river in Chile. We`ve been living outside have all become more flexible and accustomed to the tempremental weather which has incuded rain and sun and using what we have to make it work. However, our feat seems minimal when compared to the people who live here.
We have been spending time with the most incredible people, true pioneers of Patagonia, people who have lived far removed from the rest of the world, who started settlements and ranches without any assistance and have done it! The Carretera Austral just reached Tortel 6 years ago and up until about 15 years ago there was no television, radio, running water or electricity. People arrived and left Tortel on boat; on the Baker river to go north and south through the fjord channels, and up until recently, without motors... It is the chillest little town where people say `hola`to every passerby on the cypress walkways and invite any soul in their kitchen for `mate` with such incredible warmth and genuine interest.
We went in search of various characters to talk with, only saying a first name to be pointed to the direction of their house, and then, as complete strangers they welcomed us in and offered us ´mate`. I learned alot in the interviews with these people, they are fervently proud of their lifestyle and their little town that they consider an extended family. Strong characters in Tortel.
On our last night of camping there, we spent the night around the campfire with some Tortellinos who just come into the big city from their ranches in the `campo`. We were cooking lentils and enjoying a break from the rain when we saw a boat of Patagons cruising past our campsite on the beach. We waved and before we knew it, we were sitting around the campfire laughing with these characters. They all work the land on the outskirts of the southern `campo de hielo`which is the southern ice camp in Patagonia. And, all being from Tortel, they were solid friends of different ages and interests, but Tortelinos nontheless. It wasn`t long before another Chilean arrived on his horse, and not too long before another group of gringos joined us.. We later found out that we were the first `gringos` that a few of the guys had ever met. At one point we had to run into town for provisions and so we jumped in the boat and headed toward town, a colorful collaboration of houses and smoking chimneys built up from the pistachio waters, against green ice capped mountains. The kid driving handed me the motor and I cruised us into the town, taking in the crisp, rain soaked air and just digging these young kindhearted friends.
We are headed back into Tortel this afternoon, this time by the bumpy Carretera Austral, and then hopefully catching a boat out to Steffens glacier in the morning. A CONAF park ranger has offered to help us out and get us on a boat so we will see! Then, we will head south on the mysterious route that will only get more isolated and where fewer people live. Should be an adventure... we`ll let you know.