Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Life is getting tougher and tougher

Santiago is a feeding frenzy on deep well lined pockets..its also a time suck. I hand plans for only a few nights but stayed for 7 days. There were no great adventures or epic mountains to report of but the hustle and bustle of a city of millions was an interesting change of pace from the 650 person township of San Pedro.

I slept in 4 different places in 6 nights, i went on a caffeine fueled bike frenzy through morning rush hour traffic on a loaner cruiser bike with (thankfully) good breaks but a poorly placed U-lock which liked to shift into the front wheel mid-turn and cause havoc on my well timed and well executed mid-traffic bus-lane manuevering.

I accidenitly left things at one hostal and upon trying to retrieve them one early morning i found the manager dead asleep, the doors locked and myself scaling the the second story balcony with nothing but free fall into sharpened metal fence posts below...when the balcony was locked i retreated to first floor windows finding the office window oddly left adjar, once easily in the office i was a bit peeved to find the door to the rest of the hostal locked from both directions and had to make a mad dash back out the window and to the front door when i heard the hostal manager finally get out of bed to investigate the noises...luckily she wasnt any the wiser and i stood on the front step claiming i had only been waiting for a few minutes, innocent!

I met up with Jack (who i met at Machu Picchu: he was back from Bolivia and his sisters from Chico were due to arrive in 2 days, they were bringing my climbing gear to me which i overnight shipped to the San Francisco airport for them to pick up at aFedex counter...huge thanks to both you ladies for that one and a massive thanks to Elina Peggy Sue Lin for breaking into my storage unit on a late night gear mission)
I met up with Carrie, a teacher at an international school in Santiago, a stranger to become friend, and the daughter of friends of the Parental Units back in the Granite State...she was fully stoked to help with my $30 a day budget and my mission to gain some weight - not only letting me use her metro pass (save me from spending money, walking and burning those precious calories) but also let me crash at her place, do laundry, fed me massive amounts of food and provided some fantastic conversation and some good remenising about NH (Thank you so much Carrie).

I went to a few museums, churches, cafes, tourist sites etc and then made a hitching sign "SOUTH - Chillian. I Have Chocolate" and gave my hand at getting around the region by wasn´t perfect but it more or less worked and i was in Chillan (6 hours south) after 3 rides, a few shared cigarettes, 1 onion i picked up from the side of the highway which had fallen off an onion truck ('hey look a free onion, that´ll go well with dinner'), and a short 90 cent bus ride to get me the last 15 k´s. It was now late and as i was trying to get INTO the mountains and not stay in the valley, i walked to the local bus station and was lucky enough to meet the last bus of the night rolling out of the lot heading up into the mountains (chillan is like any town in the willamette valley, you go there first then you turn 90 degrees and head up into the hills)...It was now getting dark , i had no place to crash yet and my perfect bus was infact only going 1/3rd of the way to the mtns...i got dropped off and told to wait for another bus going another thrid of the way...the higher the better i figured, poaching camping spots would only get easier as i got closer to the mountains. After 30 minutes in the 2nd bus I asked the bus guy if he knew any good places to camp and 1 minute later the bus pulled over and he pointed into the darkness and said "Una Playita" (a little beech)...I Wandered down an embankment and sure enough found a little beach next to a little river with 2 people standing at its shores, given it was 11:30 at night i was hesitant on the nature of the folks but with some awkward manuevering they finally shouted to me and within 3 minutes i had a beer in hand and was being invited to join them to go to hotsprings the next morning up in the mountains! Does this shit really happen? apparently so. They were software engineers from Santiago, one of which had grown up in the valley we stood in and knew the ownwers of the hotspring resort. I crashed hard and was riding in the back of their pickup the next morning on my way to the moutnains...giddy up.

The end of the road is infact Chile´s largest ski resort with accompanying Grand Hotels and lodges and a perfect volcano as a backdrop. The hot springs were a bit, well, interesting. The resort ones were 3 pools filled with warm muddy waters and an hour walk brought us to the 'real' ones which were actually just 1 pool big enough for 4 people and 7 inches deep...yes, 7, maybe less. When sitting with legs outstreched my knees were not covered. The appeal apparently was the mud, and there was plenty of that...we covered ourselves with it and they even bagged some up and brought it home...

They took off after the day and left me to my own in the woods, happy and content with free camping, a small river and plans for a 3 day excursion up, over and around the volcano starting the next morning.

The day dawned perfectly and i made my way through the ski resort, up the ski runs and eventually beyond the bounds of the resort. I was joined by 5 ladies who were doing a 1 day up and back and we loosely walked together. 5000 feet of climbing puts you in a snowy saddle where you can drop your pack and make the final 600 foot dash up one of the two twin peaks. The winds were howling and more than once i nearly blown over but all told it was a dandy little place to stand with the crater still steaming sulpher fumes...I dashed off the summit and had a wild 3000 foot decent off the back side with nearly all of it being technical boot skiing...edging, turning, countouring all required...good fucking fun really.

As the water melts off the top of the mtn it infiltrates into the pourous rocks and thousands of feet later reemerges spontaneously out of the ground, creating wonderful green oaisises (sp? as you´ve noted im a horrible speller, bad typist, and spell check is in spanish so its useless to me). I found a particularlly nice one with flat green grass and called it a day. Rain was on the forecast and my high mountain route the next day would potentially be in the clouds so i walked, packless and thus free and fast, for another hour to take photos of tomorrows route incase i would be navigating by compass, photos, and the horrible 50 m internval map that i had a picture of in my camera...oh being too cheap to by a map (the lady at the map store in Santiago scowled at me after the 3rd map i took a picture of, refolded and then put back on the my credit i did BUY 6 other maps).

Rain never came and although there was a 'trail' on my map, i never found it and decided not to go where it should have been, but instead do some overland travel higher up on the volcano. It was epic drainage crossing as i was contouring around the volcano and thus going against the grain of every drainage which fell off the volcanoes fall-line...scree running was the name of game and for 3 hours i whooped and holared down some seriously steep slopes and suffered back up their opposite sides...i was seriously rewarded though...

AGUAS CALIENTE. A little blip on my map, more hot springs, my camping spot for the night. I wasn´t hopeful when i saw it on the map tho, i fully expected it to be no more grand than the 7 inches of muddy water i found at the last one (which lay only a further 90 minutes beyond)...holy shit buckets was i wrong...This was no hot spring, no hot pools, no hot mud bath...this was a half mile...2000+ feet of HOT waterfalls, hot rapids, hot eddies, hot pools, hot gorges, hot everything...i got there at noon, it took me an hour to explore its length, i found the perfect camping spot. i had the entire place to myself, i was on day 2 and had packed 4 days worth of food...i ate, bathed, explored, slept, read and repeated until the sun went down 10 hours later...i woke up with only half a days food the next morning and shipped out of dodge, of course i first spent another hour in the 'hot gorge'. I had stashed my non-mtn stuff in the woods at the trail head, retrieved it, poached a shower at a campsite and began my hitch hike off the mountain at noon, I got picked up by the 2nd car to pass me which was a team of paragliders sponsored by Peugot who had summited the volcano that morning and flown back to their car (Yes, flown), landing in the golf course (brilliant! they were on a 6 week mission around Chile climbing peaks and flying off them)...they were french and lived in the Pyranes and offered me a place to crash at their house when i find myself there in 5 months on my bike tour of Europe...they dropped me off at the bus station back in Chillan and within 3 minutes i was the last passenger boarding the bus to Concepcion where i sit now waiting to meet up with Jeff McDonnell, my Master´s Advisor for a few days of report writing!!
Yikes, this one got it goes when you have coffee dripping through your system...After this PUCON to meet up with kayaking friends from the states, then either climb a week in Bariloche, Argentina or straight line it to Puerto Williams for a 7 day trek at the bottom of the excited for this one...check it out! and then head back north slowly...


Let the Merken Spread!

I have no witty caption for this but i was hoping for some combination between pony rides and donkey just seemed like an odd thing to carry to work in the morning!

Cafe Piernas...Coffee with Legs, the tame version (a coffee shop with long-legged hostesses) - the non-tame version has blacked out windows and you bring a lot of small denomination bills!!!

and of course after coffee with legs you have to go to Da Chruch

Central Church

Face of the Devil! Ive never seen an actual sculpture before


An 18th centure spanish jack-knife...With a hacksaw! amazing!

A very intricate scale

Who let that dirty shady character in? I can smell him from here! 80 cents for the natural history thats something i can afford! Free Toilets too!

Amazing this came out in the picture ...what color are the circles between the squares on the right diagram? Green or Orange?

Santiago...boasting Chile´s largest flag


Morning after the day of little private beach..La Playita

My company and my ride...a fantastic chance encounter

Back of the pick-up on the way to the mtns

These beauties were in bloom EVERYWHERE...gorgeous

See, everywhere

Back into beautiful temperate beech forests...i love these woods

Old Mans Beard...just like Oregon!

There are always two sides to the story

Shady...yours truely, and finally with a haircut!

On the trial to the 'real' hot springs

Here we are, lots of stinky steam, little water, plenty of mud! The resort actually mines the heat, pumping cold groundwater and/or snowmelt from a local stream through pipes dug into the hot ground, they then pipe it to the pools down the valley...not eeeeeexactly hot springs, but i dont think the hotspring resort users really care

Yea no kidding! I was barefoot and walked away with more than a few blisters on my feet from accidentily stepping in the wrong spot!

Yes, that water is definitely boiling


Fluids 101...on the way to the heat mine

Where the hot water ends up!

And where i ended up for the evening, a nice cozy little flat spot for free and my first fire of the nice!

The picture of the map i was going off of. Follow the red line to the saddle between the two peaks, drop off the back side, hook a right, walk back around...badda bing, badda boom.

Day 1...get through the ski resort, drop off trash, fill up on clean water, walk a vertical mile up.

Awesome clouds

The destination...peak on the left

The surroundings

up and upper

Finally at the summit 6 hours later, looking over at the shorter and snowless twin summit

The crater and nearby other volcano

Afternoon storms building and rolling in..the wind was somethign fierce and the temps were dropping

Time to get out of this barren landscape and drop down into some green! whats the best way to get down...?

BOOT SKIING!!! nearly 3000 feet of it too, tricky and technical on 30 degree pitches with a 40 pound pack, but fun...i ate shit hard a few times and there were a few precarious moments where my 'edges' weren´t quite grabbing enough and i was slidding towards some drop offs...the rest was just fun mogaul skiing!

Aim for the green spot

And the mountain said 'let there be water', And then there was water...lots of it, gushing out of the tasted gooood!

I found my green patch for the day and set up shop. You can sorta make out my tent near the top of the big green patch. I had my own stream which popped out of the ground only 10 feet from my tent...mmmm Peeeeerfect

The close up

Lots of Scree...epic scree running! the top layer was all pumice, soft and light and you could go as fast as your little legs could carry you!


Yep. More mmmm Perfect

Already above the clouds, how bout that

Making my way back round the hump...lots of good clean water to drink from!

It was truely amazing to see the little island of green...a bit of life in an otherwise empty landscape. Water is king out here

Life through the sunnies. the winds were strong and it was beautiful watching the clouds ride up the valleys and tear off the crests.

and old lava flow i presume

after crossing 27 drainages i got to Sulpher World and figured i was near my destination for the could smell it and everythign was steaming

The colors of an active world!

Some very crazy landscapes

Awesome geology

Sulpher and steam spewing out!

Beautiful sulphur crystals

I dropped another thousand feet or so and then it started...out of now where (like how all the water emerges around here) but this time HOT and Steaming!!! I couldn´t believe it...Really? a hot cascading waterfall, no way, dreams are made of such things

Oh wait, another one?

Wait, what? The river is hot gotta be fucking kidding me!!!

This was it! a half mile long strip of steaming river...100 degrees, mmm peerfect!

A hot river AND a horizen line? Horizen lines like this mean only one thing, waterfalls and gorges

Small as gorges go sure, but with a 20 footer at 30 cfs i was not about to complain - it was HOT! I really wanted to swim the little drop in the front but there was a fuck-you rock in the landing that i couldnt budge

Exit to the mini-hot-gorge and camp! Also the site of excessive eating, sleeping, and bathing

Morning dawned clear and i was outta there (after another hour of hot tubbing it though)

How could I leave this place without a jump shot?

Or two

Up and over to the ski resort

Indeed...thank you

Looking back on the hot valley

Out towards distant peaks

Two of these guys were catching thermals so close to me i could hear their wings cutting the air..they soared back and forth in front of me a dozen or so times

Right, that oughta do it for now...after this last pic it was all business getting back tot he ski resort, cleaning up, hitching rides and getting to concepcion 4 hours away...until the next adventure.