Day 3: We woke up at Irvin’s a bit sore from sharing the tiny bed that sinks in the middle, and certainly in part from 2 long days of horseback riding. Seeing the location by daylight, however, was illuminating. Though the small house was similar to how it looked by candlelight, the scenery around it was a pleasant surprise, as it was on hill overlooking the lake. Once Fabian returned from a ride to the neighbors to buy some bread, the four us had breakfast, I helped Fabian remove a big splinter from his hand (thank you big tree from night before) we packed a lunch of sandwiches, and set off on a hike. Irvin led us through his enormous property and beyond. We saw a waterfall, enormous trees (including one that was hollow at the base and likely housed a wild boar, an abandoned cow corral at the top of the mountain, several streams, views of the lake and also fields of charred trees from the fire 40 years ago. It was great!
Later in the day, we rode onto our next location and took a shorter route than planned to ensure we would get there before dark – we had had enough evening adventures at this point. We were also a bit desperate for running water and the promise of a real shower! Most of the day was a basic ride, but I do remember well Raj and I galloping at full speed into a large green clearing with a river on one side that and racing each other up the gentle hills. After a few days, we were both so much more comfortable with the speed! My hat flew off as we let the horses really go for it , and watching Raj manage as if he’d been raised a cowboy is a sight I will remember when we are old and gray! If only I had a picture for the rest of you!
Our hosts, Elena and Edermo, were incredibly sweet, and also lived on one of the most picturesque properties we have ever seen. Not only did they have large green pastures, but they were directly at the mouth of the river with a swinging bridge (a very terrifying bridge with several holes that we had to walk our horses over one at a time the next day) and they were close enough to town to have some more modern conveniences. Fabian had promised us a shower but we were shocked to find that we actually had our very own cabin that Edermo had built himself. This gorgeous cabin had a full bathroom, kitchen, fireplace, electricity, a sleeping loft and was built around a tree giving it the sense of a luxurious tree-house. It was also immaculately clean, which was another fabulous bonus. The food was again fantastic and fresh and abundant and our hosts introduced us to the traditional customs of drinking Yerba Matte. They also gave us beer and wine! We have to admit that we weren’t exactly roughing it as this place! I could easily live there without feeling deprived of anything except a refrigerator and a washing machine – it was absolutely lovely.
Day 4: The next day was beautiful and since we only had a 4 hour ride to the next location, we took it easy in the morning. We enjoyed chatting with our hosts (who didn’t speak English but spoke slow enough for me to catch most of it), skipping rocks in the river, watching Edermo prune his apple and cherry trees, and playing with their dog, Corvata. It was perfect! We also took a walk/hike to see one of the Futaleufu river’s biggest rapids – Devil’s Throat; it is actually considered impassable and from what we saw, I for one can understand why.
When we arrived at the next home, the first thing that greeted us was an adorable 6 month old puppy and his dad. He was sort of a spazz, like Guinness ,and we instantly adored him. We joked with his owner, Magdalena, that we wanted to take him with us – she did not approve. Magdalena and Marciel had a very nice home, also on a lake, with electricity, running water in the kitchen, and even a washing machine. Oddly, though, they did not have a bathroom, and instead utilized an outhouse. It certainly wasn’t the first place we had stayed without a toilet, but it was an odd contrast to their other amenities. Also, the outhouse was “decorated” with pictures from magazines – mainly of women’s underwear ads and product ads. It was strange for sure.
Before dinner, Fabian took us for a walk and we found an interesting boat to take out on the lake for sunset. It was a row boat/pontoon boat that looked more like a square piece from the dock. Along the way to the dock, we also picked up another puppy, presumably the sibling of Magdalena’s. So, Fabian, Raj and I took turns rowing (mostly in teams) and we had a nice time on the very quiet water. They had a Chilean BBQ prepared for dinner when we returned along with salad and wine. Somehow, Raj ended up coaxing me into reading Fabian’s palm, and then Marciel and Magdalena’s as well with Fabian translating. I was surprised at how easily it came to me after so long and they seemed slightly unnerved by the accuracy of a few things I said.
Day 5: The next morning over breakfast we tried to teach Magdalena a bit of English, as she is trying to learn for business purposes. We then were just chilling out and watching TV and ended up watching the movie, The Firm, while Magdalena cooked us a pack lunch to take on our journey. When we stopped a few hours later to eat at the Condor Nest (a small cabin owned by Expediciones Chile that is used for honeymoons and overflow), we found that lunch consisted of spaghetti, rolls and salad, complete with oil and vinegar and cheese and tomato sauce and real plates; Fabian must have been exhausted from carrying all of it on his backpack!
Just as it was getting dark, we arrived at our final hacienda. Benedicto and his partner were just finishing up dinner and lighting their single gas lamp. They were used to working with tourists and were very patient with communication – they even preferred Fabian not help so that I would be forced to practice more. Despite being only 12 km from town, they live about 99% off their land; as far as we could tell, the only foods they purchase are rice, oil and Nescafe. They have an entire potato patch, two huge greenhouses and other gardens. They make their own butter, jams, teas, cider and vinegar. Additionally, they have cattle, chickens, pigs, rabbits, ducks, goats and sheep. They spool their own yarn from the sheep’s wool and then make ponchos, bags, slippers, etc. to sell in town. So, during the summer months they work with tourists and during the cold winter, they hole up and weave, weave, weave. It was truly fascinating.
After dinner, Raj and Fabian had a chess rematch. There wasn’t anything else to do after that, so Raj and I decided to check out the night sky (it had been cloudy on all the previous nights). When we went outside, the sky took our breath away. We could clearly see the milky way, Orion’s belt, the Big Dipper, and I suspect we could have seen any other particular star in the sky had we been looking. It was the most stars we have ever seen, no doubt about it. We were mesmerized at the reality of how many are really out there that we miss throughout our lives.
Day 6: We woke up the next morning to the sound of ducks engaged in some form of a world war – it was ridiculously loud! We were also completely freezing and getting our first sight of the house in daylight, we understood why; there was not only zero insulation, but there were huge gaps in the walls and floorboard exposing the ground and the outdoors. We marveled at how the couple manage to survive the winters there since we were so cold and it was technically the end of summer.
After breakfast, they took us on a tour of their gardens and property. We also got to meet their rabbits and 9 piglets! Then Fabian took us on another hike – this one was very steep and we ended up on the river in a lovely spot. Raj and Fabian talked about movies (did I mention before that they talked about movies for the entire 6 days?) on the beach, and I explored the boulders and rocks by the water and meditated for about 20 minutes. We finally, and reluctantly, began our journey back up the hill which required two breaks to catch our breath!
After 6 days of riding, we felt surprisingly great. Raj’s knees hurt a bit, and my butt was definitely sore, but otherwise, we had no trouble whatsoever. About an hour before we reached town I realized that my bum was indeed sore enough that I’d like a break, so the timing couldn’t have been better. Raj and I had been fantasizing about a long hot shower at the Lodge and then curling up in bed to begin writing this blog or maybe watch a movie on our laptop, but that was not to be. After unloading at Fabian’s barn, the three of us were walking back to the Lodge and ran into everyone else staying there as they piled into a van to go to a BBQ outside of town. We literally threw our bags behind the reception desk and piled into the van – we didn’t even have a chance to go to the bathroom or wash our hands! So, our trip ended in a field, with a bonfire roasting a lamb and a bunch of adrenalin-junkie kayakers. At least the previous weeks of eating meat had prepared me for this style of cooking!
The next morning Fabian accompanied us on the 2 hour journey to the airport in Palena, and we said goodbye to our new friend. We are hoping to get to see him again – perhaps in the States, as he wants to travel through soon. It is daunting to think of what we could show him that would possibly compare to all that we experienced with him! In any case, our weeklong adventure was truly wonderful and we highly recommend such an experience to all of you. If you can go to Chile, you have to make time for something like this – the combination of cultural immersion, beautiful scenery and exploration certainly left lasting marks on us. We’ll be happy to return with you and repeat the experience anytime!