Getting a little Chile

Trip Start Jan 09, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Chile  , Lake District,
Saturday, March 2, 2013

[By the way thank you for your comments and messages. They are great to read and we appreciate them. We just don't have Internet access for long periods at a time so it is difficult to reply to them all.]

It seems that large bodies of crystal clear water and snow-capped mountains are very conducive to blog writing. Our last entry was composed alongside a mountain river in patagonia and I am busy writing this one on the shore of a large mountain lake on the Chilean side of the Andes. The difference is that we have gained one freeranging companion - the ever-cheerful Chris and his handy Spanish dictionary. Now, to elaborate on why Chris has been so cheerful and why his little Spanish dictionary has been so handy I need to explain to you the core principles of traveling on a freerange budget. This is an extreme form of budget traveling that allows one to maximize minimal costs and minimize large expenses with the comfort of knowing that you are not spending that much money. It most importantly allows you to appreciate the small things in life whilst traveling through larger than life landscapes. We have travelled through the gentle pine-covered foothills of the Argentinian Andes, up over the rough and rocky cliffs around the Chilean boarder and down the other side of the Andes in Chile where the rocky cliff faces seem to grow rugged beards of more tropical vegetation. All the while we have grown to greatly appreciate the four basic necessities in life which coincidently form the core principles of traveling on a freerange budget: food, shelter, water and freeranging friends.

Let us start with food - the stuff that tastes good and you eat and digest. On a freerange budget we have learnt to roam the countryside harvesting fruit from trees as much as possible. This technique has landed us cherries, blackberries, nectarines, apples and some other red-looking fruit we not too sure was actually fruit. During the few nights we have had to spend in a backpackers hostel or camp site we have discovered the joys of the 'communal shelf'. This is a shelf filled with food that travelers leave behind. From this we have gained a bounty of pastas, rice, soup packets, garlic and even an un-opened packet of cookies which has lasted us many a day of lonely hitch hiking. When we are forced to spend money on food, we employ a very strategic method where, like freerange chickens with our heads twisting and jerking we strut up and down the isles of a mini market scanning for low prices. When a possible bargain is spotted we frantically gather around and confirm that the calories : price ratio is acceptable.

A critical part of eating food on a freerange budget is preparing it whilst camping in the middle of nowhere. This requires fire, which, as Chris would say, is the very essence that ignites our souls. As we have moved across the Andes our sources of tinder and kindling have changed along with the climate which has been a lot wetter on the Chilean side. On rainy days we have learnt the multiple uses of a Spanish dictionary. We use the pages of Chris' handy dictionary as kindling to start our fires. In doing this we have sacrificed our ability to communicate in Spanish for fire and food, which, as you will find out shortly, has come back to haunt us at later stages in our journey. Anyway we use the pages of the dictionary to get a tiny flame which we gently nurse to life. We huddle around the miserable smoking flame, eyes bloodshot and watering, noses running as we take turns to blow the smoking flame until it finally takes. As Confucius say: wet wood burn bad - life lesson from Chris. We go to sleep each night smelling like smoke and singed hair but it is all worth it for the sake of fire and food.

The next important principle of traveling on a freerange budget is centered around shelter, which, as Luke would say, covers your emotions from the harsh weather of life. Hitch hiking takes your emotions on the back of a rusty pick-up truck, soaks them in exhaust fumes and dumps them on random stretches of road in the countryside. But a good night's rest under the shelter of our trusty tents always seems to help. Once you have been dropped off alongside the highway near a town you cannot pronounce the name of, the key is to always scan your surroundings for a patch of flat ground hidden from view of the road and the access to which preferably does not involve jumping over a fence because this is illegal. When the sun is setting it is best to stop hitching, move stealthily to your chosen squatting spot, set up your tent and start gathering kindling for a fire or just sit down and find the definition of 'fire' in the pages of Chris' handy dictionary.

During our journey we have squatted in some strange places, including the slopes of a mountain covered in ancient volcanic ash, the no-mans land in between Argentina and Chile as well as in the middle of an on-ramp circle next to the highway. We are busy squatting at the moment alongside this lake although we are not too clear about whether we are allowed to be here. To get here we trekked, backpacks and all, down a freezing river in the rain. The only casualty we had was Luke's phone which fell in the water, but we quickly solved the problem by burying it in our stockpile of rice to dry out. We found a patch of flat ground sheltered by trees and settled in. Despite the rain we had a swim and whilst half naked made a fire to warm up. It was during this process that an old man and his dogs stumbled across us in our vulnerable state. Turned out we were making a fire and setting up our tents in his back yard. We put on our innocent and confused faces, started shivering extra hard and said "Hablamos Engles" which means "We speak English". He seemed like a very sweet old man and seemed very concerned that we were making a fire in his back yard (I still can't figure out why - I mean it is the very essence that ignites our souls). After a very long and broken conversation he lead us down to the lake shore and seemed to point to a spot where we could camp and repeatedly said the word "cosa" which was a word we had never heard. So we opened Chris' handy Spanish dictionary only to find that we had burnt thought the section of the dictionary with the words beginning with the letter C. The one time we need to legitimately use the dictionary and we had burnt Through the necessary page. Classic. So anyway we have continued camping here not knowing if we really are allowed to.

The last two principles of a freerange budget are water and freerange friends. Water should be free, but here in Chile you have to pay for access to public toilets which is the only source of water we can get whilst hitching. So, instead, we go visit a shop and ask to use the toilet. Whilst one person goes in with five bottles to fill up, the others act like they are really interested in the products the shop is selling. We also make good use of the opportunity to use the toilet which becomes a luxury when hitching and freerange camping. On one occasion we felt guilty about just hanging around while we all did our daily business in a tiny vegetable shop's toilet, that we bought a few snap beans from the owner. She knew what we were up to and didn't seem too impressed.

Finally, what would a freerange budget be without freerange friends. Luckily for me (Zander) these come pretty cheap in the form of Chris and Luke haha ha. Freerange friends can be useful for many things like a shoulder to cry on when you can't get a lift or there is smoke in your eyes, as well as a source of warmth to get you through those chilly Chilean nights. This proved especially true during one recent hitching adventure where we experimented with trying to hitch hike through the night. Donned with two pairs of pants, all our jerseys, beanies, sarongs and even blankets we had taken from the airplane, we felt ready to face the cold of the night. We had even cooked some pasta and soup behind an abandoned police check point with a freerange fire from scraps of wood from the roadside to warm us up. But, standing on the side of the highway under a dim street light we must have looked like Spanish-eskimo-hobo-tram-vagabonds, because after 9 hours of hitching we had no ride. We had a little cry on each other's shoulders and decided to call it a day and pitch a tent in another on-ramp circle to sleep. We then maneuvered our frozen bodies to squeeze into Chris' 2-man tent and slept snugly like three freerange penguins sheltering from the cold. We went to bed laughing that night because of the absurdity of our situation. Sometimes there is little that is more important than to be able to make light of any situation and laugh about it. And I think we do that pretty well. Chris is ever-cheerful because we are all ever-cheerful.

Until next is an educational song about hitch hiking!
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Tom on

Stunning blog. What a great time you're having. However, please put names and places on photos. And please get a señora to join your singing group. The guitar playing is a wizz. How about some flamenco to go with it!

Sally on

Sometimes I feel I would like to cry with you men, as I read your story. However it is funny too, to imagine you all squashed in your tent, chomping your wild fruit and rice, and singing songs to encourage each other. This is real adventure - what those frontier men went through - disciples of the Lord with nothing - well done! love Paul and Sal x mostly Sal xx

Tom on

As you say, hitchhiking is no laughing matter, so, just a word of advice on the vagaries of a hitchhiking holiday; never, NEVER, split up to try and speed up the process, you may just never find each other again. And I do speak from experience, although from some time ago.

Tom on

About the use of the dictionary for fire (and maybe other emergency uses which I'll not discuss here). When you get Internet access, you can download some pdfs with words and terms, but nothing that will deal with an elderly man in the deep rural areas of Chile, I'm afraid.

Elisabeth on

Dear Zander, Luke and Chris, you are a bit on the thinn side, its fantastic to read about all your experiences and I always look foreward to read your next blog. I would like to support you to a nice warm meal. How can I do that? Do you have an account where I can send you some money? If you start looking like too thinn-spanish-eskimo-tramping-vagabonds you might not get any rides at all.

Tom on

Boys, do not give your account to anyone offering you free money and you don't know who those people are. These friendly offerings are nothing but a scam. So, be careful.

Cath (y) :) on

Guys! Finally found your blog and it is proving the best entertainment/knowledge source for the day..
Flip, I miss you three. So glad to see Chris Confucius made it to form your beautiful threesome, your pictures are wonderful and seeing your faces again so great. Flip. Hope today in South America is treating you so well:) so much love Cath xxx

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