Bienvenido a La Maquina

I walked away from the farmhouse and further through the town of Ensenada, reaching the intersection between the Osorno Volcano, which I hope to climb at some point in the next few days, and Petrohue, a little lake town that several people have told me I have to check out. Unfortunately I think this day’s going to be a short one. The previous evening I had stepped off a curb funny and tweaked my right foot, didn’t think much of it at the time but by the time I’d crossed town my foot was screaming at me to stop. Damn.

My first thought was to just rest it for a bit (even though I’d only gone about three clicks by this point), so I stopped at a little corner store / cafe thing with Wi-Fi, getting online for the first time in a few days to have a look at some maps. I threw my boots back on and headed toward the volcano but another kilometer or so and my foot was screaming again. This is a showstopper. I doubled-back to a campground I saw with lake access knowing the best thing I could do was just stop walking for the day. I threw up my tent about twenty feet from the water, went to the nearest convenience store and grabbed some cold beers. The campsite even had a decent Wi-Fi signal from the picnic table adjacent to my site – not bad for $7 a night. There was also a canopy walk / zipline thing mounted about twenty feet above the campsites, didn’t really see anyone using it though…

That was how I spent pretty much that whole day, making another couple runs to the corner store as I got nice and crispy in the sun and nice and pickled from the beer. It was a stinking hot day anyway, so I’m kind of glad I didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t feel very well the next day though, as it was even more scorching and my tent turned into a sauna, forcing my hungover ass out into the sun. My foot was still equally screwed the next day anyways though, so even had I not been hungover – and had it not been blazing hot – I likely wouldn’t have wanted to do too many miles anyway.

By my third day at the beach my foot still wasn’t 100% but I really wanted to throw down some miles, get moving again, so I sucked it up, swallowed some painkillers and headed down the road to Petrohue, about 17 or 18 kilometers away. I especially wanted to get moving because I was up not long after dawn and the weather was cool, cloudy and even spitting a little drizzle here and there. The scenery and vegetation changed almost immediately – the road followed a river running through a narrow pass in the mountains, the opposite side of the river being mostly a sheer rock wall and my side being mostly ferns and lichen-covered trees (no more eucalyptus though).

My foot was holding up fairly well and there was a good amount of traffic going by so even if it didn’t, hitchhiking wouldn’t have been too hard. In fact, before long I had cars just stopping to ask if I want a ride even though I wasn’t trying to hitchhike. One family pulled over in a little white Fiat that was struggling to make it up the 1-2% incline and I definitely had to decline their offer – with me in the back, I can’t imagine it’d make it the rest of the way up the hill.

I reached the Petrohue River Falls, apparently a big tourist draw as there were numerous tour buses and people taking selfies everywhere. I didn’t know anything about it but I figured I might as well pay the $3 entrance fee and have a look.

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Not bad. Too many people crowding the narrow catwalk over the falls though, so I hightailed it out of there and headed back up the road, which turned into a mixture of gravel and fine grey dust immediately past the falls, forcing me to wrap cloth around my mouth and nose for when traffic drove past.

Not much further along my foot started throbbing like mad, but there wasn’t too much I could do about it and I was only 6 or 7 kilometers from Petrohue at this point so I kept going. I was offered a couple more rides by drivers passing but declined.

I then reached this sign in the middle of nothing, inexplicably declaring the spot to be “La Maquina”, or “The Machine”:

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There was absolutely nothing there, no buildings, not even any electricity. I have to assume it was referring to the section of the river nearby, where there were rapids:

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I kept trudging along and reached Petrohue shortly. Surprisingly, it wasn’t really what I’d call a town. There were a handful of cottages, a swanky-looking lodge, a few little cafes and ice cream shops, souvenir shops, a jetty and a CONAF station for hikers to check-in. (There’s a trailhead into the national park here.) There were also a metric shit-ton of tourists. (Not apparent by my photos, I attempted to leave them out.)

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My foot was hurting way too much to head out onto the trails and I didn’t feel like sticking around (or heading across the lake, which leads to an Argentinian border post) so after about five minutes I jumped on a little mini-bus back to Ensenada and reclaimed my campsite.

On my way in I noticed a right-hand drive Land Cruiser, one of the troop carrier models that had been converted to a camper, with a list of place names written on the side and most of them crossed-off. I strolled over to have a look and struck up a conversation with the Aussie owner, an older guy named Giles who’d been driving south since Alaska with his wife (who had flown home briefly to take care of a few things). Quite the rig, he walked me through some of the mods and we commiserated about the shitshows we both experienced trying to bring a vehicle through Central American border crossings. He fortunately missed the El Salvador / Honduras crossing on the Pan-Am Highway, without a doubt the most chaotic border I’ve ever seen, but he said I was lucky that I left my car in Panama – he said unloading his rig in Colombia was one of the most frustrating experiences a person could imagine, even with native Spanish speakers helping him. It took him three and a half twelve-hour days of waiting in line at different bureaucracies and filling out different forms. Holy shit, I couldn’t even imagine.

I laid out by my tent and tried to work out my foot, seeing if there was anything I could do to work out a kink or something, but without much success. I also received an email from my immigration lawyer – it looks like the visa could be ready in as little as a week. Wow, looks like this trip is actually winding down, but to be honest I’m ready to start working again, this day marked five months on the prowl. Not sure if my foot will be mended enough to head up the volcano, but this campsite isn’t a terrible place to be stranded anyhow.

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