Written by Neon
We spent a short time in the tiny pueblo of Trapa-Trapa, then, realizing we wouldn’t be able to get what we needed to get done on our town stop (internet and full resupply) hitch-hiked to Ralco, a larger town nearby. Our hitch turned out to be a nice guy named Felix, who had grown up in Trapa-Trapa, but now lived elsewhere. He and Fidgit talked about the history of the natives in the area, as well as the development of the road that he was driving along. It was a warm day, so I was just in the backseat trying to not get carsick- I succeeded! We made it to Ralco and were able to find a place to stay and some non-trail food.
Though still a small town, Ralco had what we needed, so we rented a room at the hospedaje for a couple of days to celebrate Christmas, get in touch with loved ones across the globe, and get some work done. The owner of the hospedaje and her daughter were very kind and were even able to do our laundry, making it the second time we had washed our clothes this season (minus underwear and socks, of course; those were washed far more often). Christmas in the summer is still something I’m getting used to, though the downpour all day helped set the mood for staying in and drinking tea while watching Chilean TV.
The rain cleared up as we were leaving town and we were able to catch a ‘micro’ or bus back to Trapa-Trapa. It was my first experience being on a full bus down here. By full, I mean the seats were filled (some with women who had children on their laps) and everyone who piled in after that got to squish together in the aisle until everyone got on the bus. As the bus trundled up the one-lane dirt road, most of the people on the bus drank beer after beer, throwing the empty cans out the open windows. As the bus got closer to Trapa-Trapa, boxes of wine came out, and then vodka. Some of the more drunk locals began attempting to talk to me and I told them in Spanish that I don’t speak much Spanish, though they kept trying. No one became aggressive, though. I was grateful that our stop came up quickly after that. Fidgit and I have a rule to not be around men drinking heavily for safety reasons, though it was unavoidable this time. I was glad to get back to the trail and camp outside of town that night.
The next morning, we were able to follow a well-worn horse path up out of the valley and down into a valley full of puestos that opened up and had a road at the far end which traveled between Argentina and Chile. We were in between countries again, traveling between the fronteras. We set up camp and walked ‘back into’ Chile at a border patrol station. Even though we had never actually left the country, because we passed the station, they had to check and stamp our passports again. It was confusing for both sides to try and explain the situation. We made it through after about 30 minutes and began our ascent to the pass west of Volcan Antuco. Up and up through an old lava field we went, loose rocks slipping out from under our shoes. The wind that picked up near the top was a welcome event, as the sun was getting hotter with each step. Fidgit also wasn’t feeling well, though we were able to get over the pass and hang out in the shade of a giant boulder for lunch. As we traveled down the other side of Volcan Antuco, Fidgit began feeling worse, so we took our time picking our way through this fresher lava field and then down the multi-kilometer, steep downhill that took us to the road and our campsite for the night.
After some sleep and re-hydration, Fidgit felt a little better, and we were able to hitch into the town of Antuco to resupply, planning on coming back to the trail early he next day. As things don’t always go as planned, Fidgit had another bout of illness in the night, and we decided to stay another day in town. The hostel owner basically forced Fidgit to go to the ‘posta’ or health clinic in town to get some meds; she felt much better after she did. We were also then invited by the hostel owner to come celebrate New Year’s with him and his children and grandchildren that evening.
We were getting ready to go across the backyard to visit for a short time that evening when the hostel owner’s son-in-law came to retrieve us and we were escorted across to where the Asado was going on. Perfect timing, as the lamb was nearly done. We met the daughter and grandsons of the hostel owner and were immediately swept up in talking to them about our travels and the U.S. Dinner was ready shortly and we ate heartily before being invited to play ping-pong while waiting for midnight. The time flew by and suddenly we were all celebrating and wishing each other well in the new year. Strangers had yet again invited us into their homes and shared themselves kindly, I fell into a deep sleep a couple hours after the new year with a smile on my face.