4AM, alarm rang. 4:30AM, on our way to the dock. The boat was lit. The crew was busy preparing
for departure. It was the first time I saw anybody doing anything in Chile at 4:30AM.
Our boat looked like an oversized crab fishing vessel. We loaded all our gear below the bulk and set
our bikes on the aft deck by the rail. It was definitely not a passenger ship. Behind the wheelroom
was a tiny galley with two booths, a bar stool, and a gas stove.
We were not the only passengers. A group of some 20 carabineros took the seats by the booths. There
were not enough seats for all of them, some were standing in the galley, some outside.
A big halogen light shined on the deck. Otherwise, it was pitch dark as we left Candelario Mancilla
"Viento, Viento." It was the captain in raggy sweater. He didn't seem to be interested in talking
to anybody. Last night, when asked why we were leaving so early, Ricardo simply said the captain
was "loco" - "crazy".
We sat on the bulk cover. It was cold. VERY VERY COLD. Once the boat picked up speed, frigid wind
cut through all my clothes. I had everything on, hat and gloves. A nice deckhand came out of the
galley and asked if we would like coffee, apparently it was served to whoever inside.
Cold and sleepy, Brian went down to the bulk to take a nap on top of the potato sacks. I tried too,
it made me sick, so I came back up.
In the galley, all the carabineros wore the same winter coat and wool hat. When the sun started to light
up the eastern sky, a lot of them walked out of the galley. One of them waved me to go in and take
To my great surprise, I saw Ricardo. I kind of remembered Brian said he needed some supplies from Coyhaique
but didn't expect he would be on this boat. I found myself a standing spot near the stove. A very large
woman who seemed to be the cook was boiling a kettle of water for Mate.
I must look really cold. The same nice deckman who told us about coffee gave me, and only me, a hot bread
roll. Everybody looked at me. I shared small pieces with our fellow cyclists and took it down the bulk
to wake Brian up with a little surprise.
As the sun came out, it got a bit warmer. It was incredibly beautiful around. When there was a chance,
I asked Brian to give the nice deckman a candy as a small thank-you.
4 hours later and nearly frozen to death, we arrived at Villa O'Higgins. The boat dock is 6km away from
It was a wonderful 6K ride by the lake with rivers, waterfalls, and marshland around. In fact, I wished
it were longer than 6K. We took time to enjoy our ride. Brian "took a dirt nap" but he didn't seem to care.
We exchanged all our remaining 85 Argentinian peso in addition to 20 US dollar to Chilean. That gave us
enough to buy groceries and stay at Apocolypsis, the hospetaje ran by one of Ricardo's brothers. At first,
Brian wanted to start cycling right away. It was a gorgeous day with plenty of sun and no rain. But I felt like
staying. Something told me we would miss something if we rushed out of here.
The rest of the group decided to go on. So we said good-bye to them after a picnic lunch.
We had no idea where Apocolypsis was. On the hunt for some bread, we asked a village girl for bakery,
she pointed us to a house with a sign on the window saying: Se Vende Pan - We Sell Bread. And what the luck,
it was the hospetaje.
Osdina, Ricardo's sister in-law, makes excellent bread. The hospetaje is clean and warm. After a nice hot
shower, Brian had a good mouthful of Calafate berries and walked downstairs to have a conversation with
Osdina while I went for my shower.
"Come out Yan, quick." He called me minutes later.
In Osdina's spacious kitchen, before Brian could finish his first sentence, Osdina and a friend of her who
just got off the same boat with us looked at him with their mouth wide open.
"Calafate?" They pointed at his purple teeth and lips.
"You have calafate?"
"They are my favorite. I haven't had any for 2 years."
Brian gave them a big bowl of it from our Nalgen bottle. They were tickled pink (or rather purple). Osdina turned
over and made two fried dough - she calls it Sopiapilla - for us in exchange.
I quickly came out of the shower. We were in heaven with hot sopiapilla and Guinda Jam we had been saving
since we bought it from Senora four days ago.
It was only early in the afternoon, so we set out to explore the village a little bit. Villa O’Higgins seems to have grown
out of the image of a pioneer outpost as so described in my guide book. There is a village square and quite a handful of
streets on a grid.We came upon a building with a "Posta de Rural" sign outside. A post office? I thought. I wanted to send
my postcards. So we went in and were greeted by a woman in white gown. She looked puzzled when we showed her our postcards.
Turned out instead of a post office, it is a clinic. "Posta" =/= "Postal". "Correo" = "Post Office". We found
the "Correo" and had our postcards sent.
Out of the village and back on the road to the boat dock, we found a quiet hiking trail just over a bridge.
We rode the narrow track for a while before it was too muddy for me to ride. Brian fell over by a rock and
scratched his bike frame pretty bad. I took another fall soon after and broke the front mud guard. A short
excursion with a small price.
By sunset, we were back at the hospetaje having Mate at the front porch while watching the quiet streets, simple
houses where dinner was cooking inside, and white-capped mountains in the distance.
Inside, Osdina had had the fire going. We had some pasta cooking on the woodburning stove. A couple who came on
the same boat from Candelario came for a chat. The man listened patiently while Brian flipped through the dictionary
to find the right word. They must be friends to Senora because he knew my cow milking stories.
"Did you get anything?" He poked fun at me.
"Very little." I had to be honest.