the morning, I mount my bicycle and follow the Futaleufu.
As the day progresses, the road gets worse and worse.
It climbs through green peaks and descends along craggy,
rocky banks of water so violent that I can barely hear
my wheels crunching on the road. Portions of the road
are transformed into deep crevasses by waterfalls that
tumble from the mountainsides. The entire day I see
only two gauchos, who nod curtly and raise a
forefinger from their reins as I pass them.
a farmhouse in sight, the road spirals westward; elbow-jarring
gravel bumps me down to a lake where I call it quits
for the day, where a string of peaks and glaciers lies
at the foot of a warm, azure lake. Three Chileans fly-fishing
nearby flash silver tails of line back and forth until
the sky turns black.
mess of land and water...
Carretera Austral is the only road that heads south
from here, a washboarded, potholed path that winds in
and out of the mountains, to and from the coast, connecting
glaciers and rainforests and glaciers again. The road
was Augusto Pinochet's project, intended to open up
the isolated south for the Chileans, and it is virtually
abandoned; it is much easier to travel by boat in these
parts than to navigate the steep mountain passes.
The road stretches
kilometres south from Puerto Montt and dissolves just
beyond the settlement of Coyhaique, where the mess of
land and water becomes too complicated to be accessible.
pass a lonely hitchhiker as I turn onto the Carretera.
He seems ready to camp out for a few days waiting for
a ride, but waves cheerfully as
I ride by. Near the seaside village of Puyuguapi, pigs
and chickens are scattered across the Carretera, the
only road through town, and I have the feeling that
if asked, no one would be able to say where this road
goes. Nor would it matter.
one travels alone here, and of the few cars that pass
me every day, each driver stops to talk, shattering
the isolation and loneliness they feel when they travel
through these green fjords. They offer me rides, water,
food, directions on a road that is only going one place,
a reality check...whatever they can give me that will
make my life easier. They always ask, "No tienes
miedo?" Aren't you scared? they say, with wide
eyes searching around them as if something horrible
could happen to us here, in the presence of nothing
but land, sea, and sky.
For a Patagonian
recipe straight out of Anik's book, click here.