La Junta, Chile
For the last couple of weeks since I’ve been in Chile I’ve been moving along the Carretera Austral. The carretera is the main route from Chile Chico to the northern part of the Aysén region. It’s become a popular spot for Israelis to hitch on their gap year after their military service and they seem to be the only backpackers you meet in this part of the world.
My card arrived on Wednesday afternoon and Alan and I made plans to leave Coyhaique first thing Thursday morning to warmer weather in the north. Before leaving Herminia was in one of her warm and charming moods and gave Alan and I gifts for the road; a sleeping bag for me and a coat for Alan.
Buses in this part of the world are pricey and few and far between so Alan and I joined the flow of hitching Israelis. Before we were even able to walk out of town Alan pulled a ride and our spirits were high as we were cruising northwest towards Puerto Aisén. We were dropped twenty kilometers outside of Puerto Aisén at a crossing to head north. The rain and cold couldn’t keep our spirits down when within fifteen minutes of being dropped we riding in a gold Ford Explorer with the heat blasting and Elvis wooing Alan in the back seat.
Our ride was going as far north as Mañiguales and at the pace we were picking up rides we figured to be in Argentina by the next day. Once in Mañiguales we saw it as nothing more than a few houses and a couple stores on the side of a river. The town is so small that I couldn’t even find it on google maps. Nothing to keep us from putting this town behind us except the lack of cars going further north out of town.
An hour passed and we hadn’t moved. Two hours then turned to four which then turned to five and we had nothing to show for it except cold feet and red cheeks. We checked into a hospedaje for the night feeling cold and dejected. Without much else to do Alan and I drank most of a bottle of Pisco and then hit the town bar to chat up the two less than attractive bar maids until 3:30 am.
|From Patagonia Chile 2011-03
Tired and a bit hung-over we were back on the asphalt with our thumbs in the air having the same bad luck. People come to the town but don’t ever seem to leave it. Every car that enters the town from the south stops in town and then heads back south again. We had another four hours of the stinging wind before a bus pulled into town going 266 km north to La Junta.
It wasn’t until an hour outside of Mañiguales that I understood why it was so hard to get a ride north. Things in this part turn real remote, real fast. The plant life encroaches and the road changes to gravel as it winds its way through dense pine and fern forests clinging to the side of mountains fed by the innumerable numbers of waterfalls in the area. Plant leaves as wide as I am tall forbid entrance into the surrounding forest and the cloud clover lies just above the tree tops destroying any hope you might have at seeing a blue sky or any hint of the existence of a sun.
In La Junta Alan and I find our way to the outskirts of town and pitch our tents in a cow pasture ever so carefully avoiding the presents left for us by it’s inhabitants. The next morning greeted us with a steady downpour of rain and cows mooing us off their grazing land. Not wanting to just sit in a tent all day we packed up in the rain and checked into another hospedaje to dry off and find out how we can get out of this town. Like Mañiguales it’s hard to hitch in this town and the next bus going anywhere north of here doesn’t leave for another two days at 6:00 am.
I’ve never been in a region that is so hard to get out of. Once your here your stuck and leaving is a long journey that will put your patience to the test. At the same time camping is easy and I like the fact that it’s free. More camping throughout Chile and Argentina is in my future. That sleeping bag Herminia passed along should get plenty of use.