The farmhouse was cozy but the blankets were itchy, uncomfortable things, reminiscent of the awful grey blanket I got in Boy Scouts (I’m assuming these were universal – I couldn’t imagine using one outside of a survival situation). Sometime in the middle of the night I stripped the bed down and threw on my sleeping bag. I was up in time for breakfast but I fell back to sleep immediately afterward and didn’t get on the road until almost noon.
Damn nice day out but wow, the heat hits me fast. Before long I’m hoping for some of the rain I ran into the day before. I slather up with sunscreen but as I’m standing still I’m swarmed by these bugs, I don’t know what they’re called but holy shit they were evil little bastards. They looked like some kind of unholy hybrid of a horsefly, a hornet and a beetle, and were bigger than any horsefly I’ve ever seen. They were mostly black but with bright orange stripes on their sides – I couldn’t see a stinger but I find a good rule of thumb with insects is that if it’s got bright colors or stripes, it’s probably going to hurt like a bitch when it does whatever it’s gonna do. They were aggressive (they seemed to come right at my eyes or my mouth) but fortunately they were slow and I was able to kill them without too much trouble.
I was sweating like a mofo – I later found my backsweat had gone right through my pack and soaked a lot of my “clean” clothes – so I took one of the first chances I could to get off the road around the seven km mark at a little cafe. It was run by a family who had lived in Australia for years and still has family over there, in the Sydney area. They told me the bugs do bite and they do hurt like hell but they’re not venomous or anything, something I was a little concerned about. I get a coffee and a plate of watermelon and they ask about my trip, they’re kind of blown away that I’d been on the road so long and were stoked to hear about where I’d been. There’s an Argentinian family having lunch there and they get into the conversation as well, everyone making recommendations about where I should head next with the assistance of a tourist map on the wall. I’m there for almost an hour and by the time I get up to go everyone has their cameras out, they all want pictures with me, struck me as kind of funny but I can’t say I’ve met many friendlier people along the way. The Argentinians also offered me a ride as far as Ensenada (another 15 km or so down the road) but I declined, said I’d like to get some more walking in. Ten or fifteen minutes later they honked at me as they drove past in their Hilux and I had a twinge of regret, riding in the bed of that truck on a day like that would have been fantastic…
I don’t know how hot it was but it had to be well into the thirties. I doused my headband-thingy in water to try to cool down but it wasn’t much use, it was almost bone dry five minutes later. It wasn’t even three o’clock and I’d already probably drank over five liters of water as well. A couple of the volcanoes around came into view, one to my southwest:
And Osorno, which is in a national park between Ensenada and Petrohue and has camping and hiking (I intend to spend at least a night or two up there):
Not long after, maybe around the 13 or 14 km mark for the day I get off the road again, the sun’s really beating down on me so I cut into a little roadside greasy spoon, mostly just to get the shade. They’ve got decent looking sandwiches though so I grab one and once again the proprietors are super-friendly, asking me dozens of questions about my trip and where I was headed. It was still another 9 or 10 kilometers to Ensenada but I wasn’t in any real hurry to get back out in the sun so I kicked off my boots and let a good chunk of the afternoon drift past talking to them and trying to ignore the Michael Bolton tunes they had cranked.
Even when I do hit the road, it’s only another 3 or 4 kilometers before I’m burning up and decide to pull off again, this time to the front steps of a church. Being Monday no one’s around so I kick off the boots again and lay out, nodding off for a little bit. When I wake up it’s cooled down a little so I get back to her.
I reached Ensenada not long afterwards and although I found a campsite it’s just an open field and I really wanted some shade so I inquired at another little farmhouse and found a bunk for $15 (no breakfast though). There was a store right next door but strangely they didn’t allow people to enter, I had to look through the windows and tell a lady at an open window what I wanted. This seemed stupid so I asked:
Me: “Can I enter?”
Me: “I can’t speak Spanish.”
Lady: “You speak well enough, I think.”
Me: “Nah, there are a lot words I don’t know.”
(This was all in Spanish.) I’d had enough of walking for the day but I decided to head another kilometer or so into town to a proper store where I could actually step foot inside and I load up on about $25 worth of mac & cheese, cereal, peanuts and wine. Cracking the wine back at the farmhouse I started typing up some notes and noticed two marbly eyes staring at me from the bedside. As soon as I could said “Why, hello there” I had a little calico up in my lap, then on my keyboard, then in my face, then back sprawled out on my lap and asleep.
I’m tossing around ideas about what to do the following day when two more guys show up in my room, a couple of guys in town to play soccer apparently, they look about my age. One guy looks way too big to be a soccer player but his buddy assures me he’s a great player and the other guy looks like Russell Crowe. Pretty sure they’ve been drinking and they’re pleasantly surprised to hear I’m from Canada, Russell has a cousin in Saskatchewan. We talk for a bit and then strangely it turns to politics quickly, specifically about the 1973 American-sponsored coup and overthrow of Salvador Allende. I say strangely because unlike Argentina, where it seemed like everything was hyperpoliticized and everyone was ready to talk politics any time and any place, I haven’t really heard many Chileans get political. They passed out before long though, they seemed pretty beat while I stayed up sipping wine and patting the cat.