Don´t Postpone Joy

Trip Start Jan 15, 2006
Trip End Sep 05, 2006

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A wise friend of mine used to say 'Don't postpone joy'. As a protestant New Englander, I, on the other hand, had always been taught the benefits of delayed gratification. This trip is my subtle way of growing beyond my roots. (He, however, now has two small children and may be back in the business of postponing joy.)

I mention this because we have quickly learned that on the Carreterra Austral there are two correlaries, 'Don't postpone lunch' and its twin, 'Don't postpone gasoline'. On our drive to the ferry, we turned our nose up at a couple of potential lunch spots and paid the price. We ended up dining on board the ferry on stale grilled cheese sandwiches that tasted like they had been toasted on the exhaust manifold of the ship's diesel engines. We won't make that mistake again. Yesterday morning, we bypassed a gas station because we still had 3/4 of a tank remaining. Now that I have procured a map of gas station along the road, I am concerned we will be forced to beg a farmer to siphon a few liters from their tractor. Stay tuned.

After we left the ferry, we camped for an evening in Park Pumalin. The park was founded by Doug Thompkins, the original owner of Esprit. About 20 years back, he purchased hundreds of thousands of acres of temperate rain forest from bemused Chilean land owners. The park is maintained in a very pristine state with few hiking trails, no farms, and only one small hosteria (which was full.) We camped beside a beautiful lake in a small shelter/campsite. There are only a very limited number of campsites in the park and they are closely regulated and charge user fees. The whole park seems to be run on very strict 'minimal impact' ecological guidelines.

Thompkins' strategy of park maintenance appears to be ahead of its time in Patagonia. So far, there are not enough people to make much of an environmental impact in th area. Those that are here seem to be more gentle to the environment than settlers on most frontiers. Land is cleared for pasture, but the farms are very neat, there is no litter or other major environmental damage.

Leaving the park (but still in the rain forest), we arrived in the soggy town of Chaiten. It had started raining that morning at our campsite (after a beautiful starlit night), but Chaiten looked like it had been raining nonstop for years. Clearly, the town had been established as some sort of transshipment point for goods coming in and out of the region, but most of the optimistic souls had left generations ago. Not a lot of smiles in soggy Chaiten.

We left the rain forest and headed deeper into Patagonia. Driving through the area gives one a sense of discovery that is impossible to find in the states. You are not quite Lewis and Clark, but you get the sense that there are nearby unnamed peaks and never visited waterfalls. The scenery is truly spectacular. Snow capped peaks, mountain lakes, glaciers, forests... The pictures don't do it justice.

We are currently ensconced for two days in the beautiful mountain village of Futaleufu (try that in a spelling bee.) According to our guidebooks, the town is one of the world's greatest destinations for both fly fishing and whitewater rafteing. (If you look in the back of Outside magazine you will see ads for trips to Futaleufu.) I assumed that we would find the place in the early stages of Aspenization with cute boutiques beginning to crowd out the hardscrabble natives. Good news, the hardscrabble natives are all still here and we found no cute boutiques (Kia is not completely convinced that a few cute boutiques might not be a positive development.) The wealthy gringos who vacation here seem to stay at fancy specialized lodges for either rafting of fly fishing. We are off this afternoon for a junior 1-day raft trip on a calmer portion of the Rio Futaleufu. Wish us luck.

Photos are still slow so I will try to catch up soon. Tomorrow we are southward bound again.
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