Fire fire fire everywhere!

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Malalcahuello, a tiny town where the fires stopped me from hiking.

“Nope. Sorry, kid, but with all the forest fires raging in these regiones, all trails are closed.”
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Chile is divided into regiones, their version of states or provinces. They’re numbered from 1 to 15, and at the Santiago bus terminal you better know your region’s number to get in the right ticket line!

Damnit. Oh well, better to find this out now than die in a raging fire.

“Since you hitchhiked here-”

“I took the bus, just asked the driver to let me off on the highway.” He gave me a disbelieving look.

“Well, you won’t be able to get back that way.”

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. When somebody tells me I can’t do something, I immediately become like a customer I had the pleasure of encountering when I worked in the hotels of Yellowstone. After informing him I wouldn’t let him into random rooms without verifying they were his, he told me, “Fuck you freak, I’m gonna climb in through the window!” Inspirational words to live by.

I headed back to the highway, finding a makeshift bus stop with shade. Within 5 minutes I was able to flag down a bus.

“You going to Temuco?” I asked the attendant. He nodded. I put my bag in storage and handed him $6 for the two hour ride.

After spending the past two nights hardly able to sleep camped out in the back of a noisy hostel, I decided to get a hotel room. If I wanted to save money I would’ve just stayed home, I tell myself. As the bus drove in and out of signal in the windy mountain roads, I used my phone to reserve a room close to the bus terminals. At less than $28, ’twas well worth it. Not as much character as one Ethiopian hotel room near the Eritrean border, which had a bird nesting in the bathroom, but still a nice place to plan my next move.

While waiting forever to pay (I ended up leaving to get a haircut and coming back later), an older woman asked me what I was doing in this part of the world. With Chile’s heavily native population I stand out with my green eyes, pale skin, and hair reddened by so much time in the December/January summer sun. Looking at me, everyone can tell I’m a foreigner.

“I’ve lived here my entire life and never seen anything like this! Usually at this time it’s rainy and cool, but this might be the hottest and driest summer in history. All those fires here, and those six men dead…” If I had looked at a local newspaper in the past week I would’ve known all this.

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It’s not quite as dry as Ethiopia in the dry season, like above at the Bati camel market, but not too far off either.

Temuco is a working class town of about a quarter million well off the tourist circuit, and it was heavenly to get to actually sleep without degenerates screaming by my head all night. It was also nice not being exhausted for my 5 hour bus ride the next day to seaside Puerto Montt, another blue collar town. I stayed in an Airbnb solo for the first time (sleeping in a stranger’s spare bedroom was surprisingly nice, will have to do that again) and transferred to Argentina’s Bariloche.

“Been to Argentina before?” The bored-looking border officer asked me. I just said yes and declined to mention it was my third time. Crossing between the two countries is pretty easy, and immigration always takes place amidst beautiful Andean alpine scenery.

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