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Feewheeling Adventures

 

She Bikes, She Eats -- Patagonia

 

 We're delighted to welcome Toronto writer and food expert Anik See as a new member of the Journeywoman network. From the temple festivals of Bali to the wine harvests of Georgia to the fragrant bazaars of Iran, Anik has circled the globe by foot and by bike. Among her favourite places in the world is Patagonia, the rocky and remote area in the south of Argentina. Anik writes...


Why Patagonia? The truth was, I'd wanted to go there since I could read, and the truth is I have not stopped thinking about it since I got back, and that's going on five years now. Not a day goes by when I don't wish I were there...

Through nature's workshop...

I cross into Chile again near the town of Futaleufu. If I thought I was in Patagonia before, it does not even compare to the Patagonia I am in now. From the open steppes and sandstone-coloured mountains of Argentina, I pass the frontier and enter a cacophony of landscape, of verdant mountains crashing into each other, of snarling vegetation and roaring rivers. There is a quality of sharpness in everything that is unfathomable. Darwin called it "nature's workshop."

I roll into town just after dark and stand in an abandoned plaza in the centre of town. It is dimly lit by strings of lights that swing violently in a Bikesudden breeze, surrounded by the spiky, swooning branches of Patagonia's famous araucarias, monkey puzzle trees. I look across the plaza and see a store whose front window is crammed with small wooden ships. The dim light of a candle wavers behind them and the silhouette of a tall thin man fills the door frame. He whistles to get my attention and asks if I need anything. I ask him if there is a place to camp around here.

Strange things indeed...

"Sure," he says, pointing behind be, "down by the river, at the bridge there. There's some good flat ground. And all the water in the world. But why don't you Mug 'o Coffee come in for a coffee first?"

The inside of the shop is crammed with more wooden ships--everything is wooden...the walls, the creaky, worn floorboards, coated in a fine sheen of sawdust. Luis clears some old newspapers off a table and beckons me to sit. He brings warm milk and instant coffee and I ask him about the boats. It seems a strange thing to sell in the mountains. He smiles and says, "One is never far from the sea in Chile." This is true. At its greatest breadth, Chile is only 120 kilometres wide.

We sit by the water...

Luis takes me down to the river and helps me set up my tent. We sit by the water for a while, listening to it rush over rocks. He tells me this is the most beautiful river in Chile and if he could, he would build a house over it so that he would be reminded of its beauty at any given moment. 

After a long silence, he gets up and bids me goodnight, but returns ten minutes later to find me still sitting there. He smiles and says, "Ah, the Futaleufu, she has you now.... She won't let go." He has brought me a bag of bread and cheese and mate, and wishes me a good trip. When he turns to leave, he is immediately absorbed into the darkness.

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