Coyhaique

My main task here in Coyhaique is to try to lock down a job over the phone in my hotel room. I’ve checked into an $80 a night hotel simply to have access to a phone because I can’t figure out any other way – around here there don’t seem to be those kind of shops with “international calling” offered like you see in other parts of Latin America.

With a few phone calls lined up for the evening I spend a lot of the day preparing, going back over some of the notes from work I’ve done in the past and doing some homework on the companies. I also take a couple hours to have another look around for open positions and fire out an email or two for those.

I’ve also got several errands to do here like buying a new pair of boots, a pair of warm gloves, getting some cash (first in hand since Edgar spotted me the $100), finding a laundromat, real edge-of-your-seat-stuff. Walking around town, I’d say isn’t terribly scenic itself but the mountains in every direction are nice.

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Come evening most things go well and I’m feeling great about the prospects so I go and grab some wine, spend the rest of the evening chilling and listening to tunes.

In the morning I sleep in until cleaner wakes me up. They’re kicking me out, a busload just arrived and they need my room. Fine by me. I pack up and head around the corner and down a few blocks to a line of hostels and start asking prices. They’re all really nice but they’re also all 30,000 pesos a pop (about $50). I’m going to go find out about a bus, hopefully it’s only one night, I’ll spring for one.

I go on a bus hunt. The first bus out of here towards Cochrane isn’t for another two days, unfortunately. I spend most of the remaining day just strolling around town, checking out cafes and restaurants. Overall a pretty chill day.

The next morning I look for a new place. It takes a while but I find a little guesthouse with rooms for about $15. It’s run by a little old lady whose Spanish I have a REALLY hard time understanding, her accent is so thick – I understand enough to get that she has relatives in Canada though (complete with Canadian memorabilia on the wall) and that next week she’s starting an English course at the college here in town. The place is nice and cozy and for the most part I’ve got it to myself.

With a whole day to burn I decide I should see the outskirts here. There are some “excursion” shops around but they’re extortionate (i.e. $300+ for a two-day trek) and I also look into a car rental place that’s offering 4×4 Hiluxes. They want $140 for me to take one out for the afternoon. Forget that. To hell with it, I’ll just walk. I look toward some nice-looking green hills and microwave towers (cause towers = roads, likely dirt roads with little traffic) and go.

Before long I hit a significant obstacle:

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Looks like there’s a bridge upstream though so I head toward it:

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A road heads down into the ravine and sure enough, over a bridge. I climb back out of the ravine and pass by a “cerveceria”, a little microbrewery. It’s closed right now, still early in the day, but I take note of it for the return trip.

Pretty sure this road doesn’t go anywhere anytime soon, because although there’s a fair amount of traffic I’m soon offered a ride by a guy in a pick-up then five minutes later by a car full of teenagers, wondering where I’m going. This will happen three or four more times over the next hour.

I walk for twenty minutes or so until a fork in the road, a dirt track to the left and pavement to the right. Strangely most of the traffic seems to be going down the dirt track, but I’m going to assume that anything nearby will probably be on the pavement, so I head right. Signs indicate the airport’s ahead, and at a second fork I head down another small ravine and across a bridge into a small village that, apparently, is called “Altos del MacKay”??

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All of the few roads here turn to dirt and narrow up quickly though, look like they just head out to farms in every direction, so I turn back and walk back to the first fork and head down the dirt road. Trucks are bombing down it, kicking course gravel up into the air in their wake, so I take out the headphones so I can hear them coming and jump across the ditches when they’re coming in hot.

The airport is to my right side, separated from the road by a flimsy-looking fence. I hear traffic behind me and I move to the side to avoid the gravel but then I hear it slowing down. Over my shoulder I see a carabinero truck roll up with the lights flashing. Am I actually getting pulled over for walking down a road?

Yup, I am. The coppers give me hard “WTF” looks and demand to know what I’m doing out here. The beginning of First Blood flashes through my mind. I try to explain that I’m just out for a walk and that I’m a tourist and they don’t seem to believe me. I point to the mountains and show them my camera and they seem convinced and drive off.

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I have to assume there’s not much else of regular-person-interest out this way or else I wouldn’t be getting the third degree for taking a walk, so I turn around and head back towards town. The cerveceria’s open now though! It’s a small place called Tropera, about half a dozen beers on tap and burgers and sandwiches served from the kitchen.

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The place is pretty sweet. I try the porter and it’s fantastic, maybe the best beer I’ve had on this trip. They have an American brown ale that’s great too. I sample most of the flavours and get a few pints of my favourites. The burger’s pretty killer too. R2-D2 on the bar, Zep and Floyd on the stereo, and check out the keg-sinks:

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All the bar staff have shirts with the lat/long coordinates of the cerveceria on them. I notice the latitude is 45-point-something south. I started this trip at 45 degrees north… so that’s half of the world covered, latitudinally speaking. Neat.

The guys who work there are all pretty cool too, horsing around and engaging in classic Latin American ticklefights behind the bar. One guy speaks English really well and he says if I want to walk somewhere I should head to the national reserve on the other side of town, there are several 3-4 hour treks out there and it’s just a short cab ride away. Sounds like a plan, except that I’m hoping to get out of here in the morning.

I walk back to town with a nice buzz and a belly full of burger and take a nap when I get back to the guesthouse. When I get up I go for another walk, but rather than head back to Tropera I hit up a little Mexican place with a great beer selection. Their enchiladas are mediocre but the beer’s great, especially one dark beer called Caiquen with a rather dapper-looking duck on the bottle, sporting a beret and a scarf.

Back at the guesthouse I check my email and it looks like what I assumed was a slam-dunk the other night isn’t actually 100% set in stone. Damn. I need to make some contingency plans fast. I decide to scrap the bus to Cochrane tomorrow (even though I already bought the ticket) and get back on the wire to hit up some more potential employers.

In the morning I do just that, and not much of anything else. In the early afternoon I look up from my laptop to see a kid standing in open door, grinning at me. “Hola”, I say. “Hola”, he responds, just standing there smiling. … He starts asking me questions like where I’m from, how old I am (he tells me he’s 11), things like that. He walks into my room and half-leans on my bed. Awkward silence. The lady who runs the place walks by and kind of laughs at him and pulls him out of there – must be her grandson or something?

I can’t believe I’m burning another day of the trip mostly staring at the computer, but there it is. Gotta do what you gotta do, and I’m actually starting to get anxious about not having a job 100% lined up, to the point where it’s seriously distracting me from the trip. At least I do get some stuff fired off. I take a break to hit the town again for a while and score an amazing steak sandwich but otherwise the day’s pretty nondescript. The next bus is two days away so tomorrow I’m going to make a point of getting out to the national reserve in the hills that the Tropera guys told me about.

PS: Check out the sweet name of this locksmith:

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