Wednesday, 15 June 2016

A lucky ride

Today started slowly - as most cold and overcast mornings do. By 11, the sun was out and patches of blue sky had made it through. We were in for another beautiful day.

Yesterday evening I had a message from a Joburg friend asking if I knew his friend Lynn because she was currently in Futaleufú - as are we. Oddly, I'd seen through  Facebook shortly before we left that Lynn had bought land in Chile. I thought it was more South and had no idea that Lynn was staying here.

I'm not sure how I first met Lynn but it was years ago and our more recent contact had been about orienteering - our school orienteering programme - as she was teaching at a school in Eshowe.

What I didn't know is that Lynn has spent most summers here (over the past 10 years) as a teacher for the daughter of a guy that Celliers knows. He runs a rafting and kayaking company here.

I found this out when I met up with Lynn today. She starts heading back to SA tomorrow - our paths only just crossed.

She recommended a route for us to walk - one that she has mountain biked many times. She drew us a sketch with landmarks and off we went.

It was great to see the Futaleufú river. We had two sightings but missed the place to spot Dynamite, a big rapid. She had said we may have to crawl through vegetation to get the sighting...

On and on we walked. We saw two large bulls being led by their owner. Most of the cows here in Chile are really small. At first I thought they were all cute 'teenagers' but then I noticed udders and realised that these were a fully-grown, small breed of cattle. These two bulls were definitely the exception. Large, square and very strong with enormous heads. Working beasts. Their owner said they are used for work, like hauling logs from the forest. Celliers took a photo of me standing next to them. Magnificent animals. Fluffy too.

On we walked. We passed a small settlement, spotting the school 'with a Chile flag outside' and then the houses and poplar trees, which Lynn had indicated. We'd been out walking for about 3hrs (it must have been just after 4pm).

Then a lady in a truck drove past us and stopped just ahead. She didn't stop for us; instead to read something. I knocked on her window and asked about the route to Futaleufú and whether she was going there. She said no and that it was shorter for us to turn around rather than doing the loop.

And then she said that the teacher at the school lived in Futaleufú and he would be able to give us a lift back.

We turned around and walked quickly. It must have taken us 10 minutes to walk back to the school and there we saw the teacher locking up. Close! I asked if he could give us a lift back and he said yes easily.

In the car, I explained the route we had planned to take. He said that the road on the return went up and up and up and was very steep and long. He said the whole loop was around 23km; we thought it was 15km. We would have been walking until 19h30 if we'd missed him. Phew!

We had a conversation in Spanish and he was good to talk to because he kept his words clear and simple for me to understand. He was born in Futaleufú, studied in Orsono and worked as a teacher all over Chile for many years. He returned to Futaleufú three years ago and loves his town. He has three students at his little school and is the only teacher there. From September he rides his bicycle to school.

We were back in our cabaña before dark and had the wood-fired room heater going in minutes.

We have been blessed with very fine weather. Not very cold during the day and relatively clear. Lynn says she is rarely here this late in the season but the weather has been really unusual. By this time of year the snow would be all the way down the mountains with lots of rain too. Chile too is in a drought. There is some snow up on the surrounding mountains; but not much.

To us everything looks damp and wet - it is dry for regular conditions.

Tomorrow we leave Futaleufú.  It has been good to have a few days in one place. No driving; lots of walking. We're heading back to Chaitén and will meander along the way to enjoy the scenery. We're catching the ferry to Puerto Montt on Thursday morning.

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