In Osorno, for a few quid, I stayed in a gloriously delapidated pension where the old blankets lay an inch thick on the beds, lino was peeling off the bathroom walls and the friendly but slightly eccentric landlady in her pale blue dressing gown kept the ignition for the hot water boiler under lock and key. Still, that weird mix of programming called the BBC World service was available on cable so I was able to catch up with items relevant to my situation such as the impending royal wedding and business opportunities in Gabon.
I grovelled out of Osorno. I had absolutely nothing in my legs at all and the fresh wind was once again in my face. Not knowing whether to blame my recent illness or lack of appetite the evening before I simply got my head down and concentrated on the business of hating every km, hehe. Every touring cyclist will know what I mean..
I had planned my day with two possible destinations I could choose depending on how my legs were, as it happened I chose the nearer, just 60km away.. the small Germanic commune of Puerto Octay on the shores of Lake Llanquihue.
As I pointed out my home town in his atlas the man in the tourist ‘shed’ by the plaza told me I was the first ever visitor from my part of the UK to come to Puerto Octay. I knew better however. We had had exactly the same conversation back in January when I passed through Puerto Octay in the rain just 2 days into my ride to Peru. I was headed north up the eastern side of the lake and eventually east into Argentina. This time I’m headed south down the western shore of the lake.
P.Octay is a pleasant little village with some interesting old buildings however I was more interested in seeing if the batty old dear still had her little shop selling empanadas by the plaza, and to see if they were as good as I remembered. She does and they were.
“No hay aguas calientes” the man said after I had paid him 4000 pesos* and pitched my tent in a tranquil little spot surrounded by rose bushes on the shores of the lake. It was non-negotiable. Bugger. As it happened there wasn’t any cold water either except a dribble from a standpipe by the shed. Still, it was a beautiful, quiet spot and I was able to look forward to a mug of tea at dusk and a good nights kip. It didn’t happen. After sun-down every dog in the village joined in a communal all-night shouted conversation. Why do they do that? I would have happily shot every last miserable one of them. I have earplugs but due to a quirk of nature known as my ears they won’t stay put for long.
And so to Puerto Varas. A pretty little town on the southern shore of Lago Llanquihue. In January I stopped here for a coffee on my way north, just one hour into a journey that turned out to be more than 4000 miles. As I write I feel I am at an unintended crux of the journey, more so than just stopping for a brew. What goes on in my head here determines what happens next. The journey south of here is ‘committed’, there are few ‘opt-outs’ once I leave Chiloe and hit the Carretera south of Chaiten. I don’t normally write about how I feel, beyond “crap, I’m fooked”… no-one wants to read all that self-indulgent crap.. however just this once I’ll mention where I am at as it is relevant to the next couple of months. You see I’m suffering <cue violins, hehe>, I’ve not found myself in quite this situation before on the road. My hands, wrists, feet, head and neck are persisently cracked, bleeding & fooking painful no matter what I do. It makes riding and camping, at best irritating.. at worst, miserable. It’s proving hard to deal with and I find myself questioning what I am doing here. The skin issue is usually symptomatic of some deeper stress, in this case I suspect it is a combination of physical from having been sick and emotional – in that respect it can be a self-perpetuating thing. I love adventure but as I write this evening I find myself indifferent about whether or not I complete this journey. I fully appreciate how lucky I am to be able to just come over here and ride my bike again for a few months but as with so many facets of the human condition logic doesn’t come into it. Still, I’m experienced enough in these things to know that I have bad days, as do we all, and that a few good nights kip, some good food and good company can make a world of difference. I can have two of those three here in Puerto Varas so here I shall remain for a couple of days while I try and find my emotional feet again. I have little doubt that I will. Oddly the third, good company, is lacking. This is a heavily touristed spot but I guess it is too early in the season for most folk. Since leaving Santiago I have not met a single other gringo. Not one. Amazing.
At this point I should probably go and have a beer. Sadly in the bars here beer comes in stupidly small bottles for a stupidly high price and many of the bars would rather sell you a Budweiser or Corona rather than any of the, in my opinion superior, local brews. Quite the opposite of Argentina just over the border. Oh well ;-)
* wild camping in this area seems all but impossible, being quite heavily populated the land is either all actively farmed or built on. That will change soon enough I think :-)