Rained in again, but exploiting the silver lining of these Andean cumuli-nimbus.
The first night, aside from the rain which we’ve mostly gotten used to by now, we opted to stay in charming Czech/German-pioneered Puyuhaupi as a reward for almost two weeks of straight cycling and camping out. (We did have a forced mini-break upstream too, waiting for the weekly ferry to come take us across the otherwise un-passable fjords into Chilean Patagonia, but even then we still ventured out and camped at a local hot spring :)
Puyuhaupi, which translates to (island of crimson flowers), has only 500 residents but is the third biggest town we’ve passed through since leaving the capital. It sports an info center run by a remarkably helpful lady [boy], who hooked us up with maps, suggestions of the cheapest home-stays in town, and even free spanish school books to practice our language skills.
Rising early the next morning, we hoped to catch an early boat across a lake to visit some nearby thermal springs (45 min. away by bike), but it was raining buckets. This turn of events had us here, however, to witness a local calamity. A fire horn sounded from outside, and through the window I saw smoke billowing from across the river. Jeff and I hurried to the scene, along with everyone else in the village, to help. We assisted Bomberos (firemen) in pulling hoses to the river, who drenched the small flaming house for nearly and hour before it was extinguished. Nobody got seriously hurt, but the family’s home and belongings were thoroughly hosed.
For the rest of the day we hit up the local shops, scored fresh sweets and empañadas, tackled projects that needed doing like repairing ripped gear and sewing water-resistant rain booties to go in our cycling sandals for keeping toes dry. We also cooked-up some of our best grub to date; so nice to take advantage of a wood-burning stove! (Jeff and I joke that this is more a culinary tour than a cycling tour, our food is so consistently dank!)
The endless downpour permitted us to stay in town a second night (as 2 of the town’s only 4 tourists) and attend the Peña Folklorica, a variety show in the town gymnasium, while enjoying mulled wine and hot food with the locals ’till late.
This morning (day #3) the relentless pelting on our hospedaje’s tin roof was license to sleep-in until 11:30, snug as bugs in rugs under 5 layers of bed cover (a Southern Chilean standard, it seems so far). No guilt was incurred.
Being situated just outside the really cool National Park Quelat, we’re anxious to hit our itinerary of hiking to the Hanging Glacier, soaking in hot springs, and exploring the Enchanted Forest. After a full day of this yesterday, I was sure by now we’d have a serious case of cabin fever. Instead, we’re taking full advantage of these days off.
In addition to exercising our yaps in culinary delight, we’ve been on a rigorous diet of speaking Spanish. Jeff is the only person I’ve spoke English with down here, (excluding one friend in Santiago), and we’re moving to nix English completely. So between each other, and everybody else in Chile, it’s been total immersion. It’s going well, so much in fact that it’s super-awkward to write in English!
Today, we spent a solid 8 hours studying, looking up vocabulary, talking with our hosts, and quizzing each other. Even a little TV with the kids had educational value. In a single day we’ve made more headway than in the last two weeks combined, which is saying a lot given nobody even tries to speak English with us. It’s so refreshing, in contrast with my experience of the last couple years where English was the only common-ground in most places I’ve visited, and even in Spain when I tried to speak the native tongue, people just replied in English. Finally going native :)
I hope the rain lets up tomorrow so we can back back on tour, but the weather forecast predicts this storm will last 2-3 more days. After today’s language session, I’m excited to keep it going, and even though being rained-in with not much to do but eat and study is a bit like being forced to go to fat camp, I like to believe that things play out exactly as they should. So either way, we’re getting what we need.