I’m making myself useful I suppose, cooking up a storm (damn I’m good!) Compliments abound, and as usual it’s my pleasure. Hubert, the Frenchmen who’s being doing the bulk of the cooking since his arrival three weeks ago, has been away for the last three nights, giving me the opportunity to dazzle the non-vegetarians :) I got some great feedback today: two of my crew said at dinner that they might be converted to vegans on this trip; Spencer, talking all day about today’s lunch, happily marveled at what might have been his first day eating vegan day ever; and Julian reported that tonight’s meal was his favorite meal yet, only slightly better than last night (but only slightly, as last night was his favorite too :) Then they said Hubert and I should have a cook-off… I hope I don’t step on his toes!
After my first two days, in which I had to prepare my first 6 meals for myself (and I’ll admit there’s definitely a learning curve when it involves feeding me) as they had either milk powder, mayonnaise, chicken, fish, beef, eggs or cheese in them, I was grateful when Hubert took shore leave so I could prove myself in the kitchen.
I took this opportunity to try some things out on them, so I can better influence the provisioning of food for our long passage, and so we can prepare group meals for the lowest common denominator in mind. I slipped some soy creamer in the curry last night (after Julian kindly offered to make one, but was lost when I told him I wouldn’t eat it if he employed his signature secret ingredient: cream of asparagus soup, and I had to do show him how it’s done ;) Nobody has once had to add cheese, cream, milk, mayonnaise or meat to anything I’ve prepared so far, and not a single complaint. I just don’t think, due to habits, people generally think it can be done… and probably won’t ever try when there there’s the choice between the two.
Before I came, canned meat or egg sandwiches, and chili con carne were daily staples. Now I’m already getting repeat requests for the ‘creamy’ potato pasta dish and my curry, and what were those we ate for lunch — coconut corn sausage?
Sorting out the food list today, taking a total inventory and then inserting all my wishes: soy meat & powdered soymilk, coconut milk, dehydrated mushrooms, canned pineapple, walnuts, capers, vegetable bouillon and canned beans without bacon, I stirred more interest in things to come. When quantities for each item typically came to “a shitload”, and agreeing that we shouldn’t be preparing everything separately, I’m anticipating some very fine meals indeed.
Happy Birthday, Jocelyn! In honor of your 21st birthday, here’s a list of 21 things I love about the last couple days (ie. your long birthday weekend which I’m celebrating down here).
A fair warning to my weary-readers… this list of doom is long & random, written for the girl whose ear I’d chew-off (not Mike Tyson style) if I only could spend it with her tonight. It’s been too long. Here she goes:
First, I’m most pleased with this FOGATA (campfire) I just made. Raging, keeping me warm, effortless to make in this dry desert-scape, it’s my finest inferno to date. I’m burning COW PADDIES. This fucking rules.
Third is Jeff’s PASTA. He’s outdone himeself this time. Merquén spaghetti, onions, garlic, potato, TVP (veggie-meat), carrot, ginger, arvejas (peas)… omg how does he make it so good? We make consistently amazing food – like $14.95 good – every night. But this is a pasta nite to remember (of which he is usually chef). Somehow we always innovate, using mostly the same basic ingredients. Innovation #33: Cold oats & coffee (separately). Who needs hot water? Nescafe & instant oats are both great with cold water, who knew? Not prime examples, but hey, we’re camping. Saves lots of time in the morning not to boil. Blam!
My specialty is RE-INVENTING LEFTOVERS. Last night it was rice & dal turned into patties (w a little flour & water), pan fried & topped w salsa.. Mmm! A pasta-cooking snafu in Coihaique inspired crazy creativity: next day breakfast I fried up onions, carrots & spinach, mixed in the soft spirals with spices & flour.. fried em up in patties.. Home run! And so much fun!
Back to what makes me really happy.. Campsite SHEEP! Who can ask for better neighbors? (Almost as cool as beach cows in India.) And it’s lambing-season, meaning they’ve all just been born. So at every turn, extreme cuteness! Really. Freakin’. Cute. I love hearing their tiny bleats before I even open my eyes! Yes, I count them.
Speaking of seasons, MERQUÉN is the best seasoning ever: smoked coriander mixed with chile pepper.. mmmm it goes in everything! And it’s OFF-SEASON for tourism down here. There’s Never anyone else around, camping, hiking in national parks, at hospedajes (guest houses) and restaurants. It’s pretty awesome though. We get to see Chileans in their natural flow, before they’ve got their tourism-faces on, or not at all! Upon entering Parque Nacional Cerro Castillo, we find a well-equipped campsite with gates closed (to cars) & no Park Ranger. The ped/bike entrance was certainly open & passable, so in we pedaled! Over firm snow we roll in & choose the pick of the litter, with fire pit, picnic table, a shelter to cook in & block our tent from wind. We melted the snow (4 feet deep in some places!) to drink over a roaring fire of winter’s fallen branches… all alone in our own National Park (again, as always :). There was even chopped firewood at every site! Wth?
I love the availability of CLEAN WATER to drink, clear & delicious. Melting snow was an exception to our usual method of just filling up at streams and waterfalls. It’s way preferable to the tap, which is actually treated & chlorinated, yuck! You can fill-up wherever it gushes from forests and mountains, just Not farm-land :)
Speaking of which, the water I just attempted to drink is frozen! This fire is warm but it ES CHILEout tonight! Tee-hee, (that joke never gets old.) I’m also still up almost 3 hours after Jeff went to sleep.. Me time! Double tee-hee!
Back to the SNOW, I’ve never appreciated it so much before. Usually I wouldn’t be caught dead sleeping outside when it’s freezing. But these white-capped mountains have won my heart. And even more special is seeing it melt, clear veins lined with bright green, cutting though white fields, or revealing the bold colors of crisp mountain faces. Never seen anything like it, feel so luck to be here during this brief and beautiful window.
Snow also makes Nepali/Indian-style RIVER-LAUNDRY possible! After 2 days in what felt like the Outback, with a backdrop of the towering jagged sno-capped Cerro Castillo mountains but without any fresh water to drink, we manifested a stealth campsite next to a raging mountain stream. After hydrating, next order was to FJORD into the middle to wash clothes in a sunny spot on nice big rocks. Now we have clean clothes (and all the Patagonians near the 46th parallel sigh in relief!) Today, in Reserva Lago Jeinemeni, another National Park that we had all to ourselves, it was necessary to ford a river with our bikes to get in. How cool is that?!
Ah, the elements. The WIND is so strong these days, great for air-drying! Pitched the tent in a grassy clearing behind a dune for shelter, and near to a fence to hang and let those babies dance! All dry by bed time! Head-winds while cycling, on the other hand, will cut your speed in half & make your life tough, while Tail-winds make you fly like superman.
I’m liking this new weather. No rain lately! Clear skies, 4 days straight. It’s this region on Lago General Carerra, near the Argentine border. Conquered the hills and now the weather is amazing. Still freezing-ass-off cold at night (fogata required), hot & sunny by day. Love it. Love being DRY. Love campfires with dry wood 3 nights in a row. Mmmm! Star-shine & Star Walk-ing.
We’re past our biggest in Chile, but I sure do love those HILLS. They keep me warm, and my legs & core strong (by keeping upright & balanced with so much weight at low speeds). They reward me with the best views, a sense of accomplishment, and speedy downhills (74.7km/hr out of Cerro Castillo!) We climbed in a headwind all day into those glorious peaks, then cruised down easy the next to savor the luxuries of town. Balance.
How good is BEER ON TAP?! My question for you is whether it tastes as good without the sweet triumph of under-age deception? Only the 2nd time we’ve found it in Chile, today’s being a local variety, so good in tall 600ml mugs and with English futbol on the tele. Forgot it’s name, but it’s clever tagline went Patagonia con Cerveza. Heehee, they’re all about conservation down here, (see http://patagoniasinrepresas.cl for more info.) I relished every drop and wanted so bad to Saturday-it-up with another, but we had some riding ahead of us, little did we know it would result in…
SWEET FAILURE, ie. turning back when appropriate. We set out last night on a scenic route to our port town destination, which would pass many lakes & be SUPER-bonita (as my friend Poonam’s doppleganger in the reiki tourist office promoted, who was not the first tourism professional in Chile to use this adorable prefix!) The back-country road was tougher than any we’ve encountered, impossible to stay balanced and moving on our loaded touring bikes up & down relentlessly rolling hills of loose gravel. It was, however, some of the most idyllic scenery to date (sculpted desert canyons w lush green accents), and for that sweet taste it was worth the abuse. (I will be back to Wwoof there, mark my word!)
You can take this city boy far from the big smoke, but you can’t take away my IPOD. Thank goodness for music. I dunno how Jeff does it without. I must be gettin old, but it’s been all 90’s greatest hits in my ear lately: Biggie, Wu-tang, ODB, Kool Keith, SP, Beastie Boys, the Offspring, the Prodigy, Marilyn Manson, Nirvana, Deftones, GnR, NIN, Stereolab, Boards of Canada… in this way I actually feel old, but I’m happy to finally experience this universal age/musical phenomenon first-hand, where my soul sings for the Classics. I listen to new stuff too, but I welcome the Comeback, esp. the old school hip-hop. Joc, is your Classic still cranking out the Modest Mouse?
Even though I’m happy spending these hours writing to you, I don’t miss the net at all. I love being UNPLUGGED. Even though I’d Skype you up if I could to wish you well-done on achieving legal drinking age, the slow satellite connections here probably couldn’t handle it anyway. You can barely find pan (bread) in a village on Saturday let alone find an Internet connection. So all I’ve got are these thoughts of you, my iphone to write ’em (just recharged via my wee solar panel!), and my analog cosmic vibrations.. hope you feel ’em!
Te Amo, JOCELYN, debajo de (from under) tu constelación, Libra. (Yes, I can see you getting fresh tonight, snuggled up between Venus & Mars!) Wishing you a naughty birthday from Chile Chico, 15km from Argentina, our last stop in Chile! Tomorrow, when we cross, it will be our 1000km milestone! Neat huh?