“Speaking of ships silently passing in the night…
Even your own path crossing with a complete stranger, on a sidewalk, down the hall, or at Starbucks, on this holiest of adventures, amongst the billions now alive and the zillions who could have been, means so much more than most can even comprehend. Suffice it to say, however, that in such moments these fellow adventurers are closer to you than a brother or a sister, no matter who they are.”
When we thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail years ago, we were constantly embraced by the kindness of strangers- people who we refer to as Trail Angels. These people offer us simple acts of kindness with no intention of personal gain. Very often these people appear in the moment you need them most.
From the moment we left Pucón and began our journey to Villa O’Higgins we relied on the kindness of friends and strangers as we moved across Patagonia to our destination. During our northbound journey on horseback this reliance on the kindness of others will continue as we pass through unknown terrain.
From folks who stopped to give us rides as we hitchhiked south across the region, to others who shared information, contacts, meals and pasture to graze, we wanted to include a space to acknowledge our gratitude for all the kindness shown to us throughout our journey.
Southbound: Pucón to Villa O’Higgins
Esteban & Mey:
A special thanks to our friends Esteban and Mey who drove us down to Puerto Montt! Esteban and Mey have a wonderful restaurant in Pucón that should not be missed if you come through town! Check it out: Cielito Lindo
Southbound: Hitchhiking the Carretera Austral
On the outskirts of Chaitén we caught two hitches- our first in the back of a small white pickup truck and the second shortly after in the back of a big red pickup truck (that also stopped to pick up two other hikers). We didn’t catch the names of either drivers because we were in the bed of the trucks and were moving quickly. But we want to acknowledge their kindness as well as they helped us get all the way to Amarillo!
Monica & her husband:
Monica and her husband kindly let us pile into their cargo van that they had driven down from Santiago. Monica tossed us candies as we bounced along the dusty Carrertera and she would excitedly point out the windows as we passed the incredibly blue lakes and rivers and hanging glaciers. As we cruised south we had a soundtrack of American classic rock from the 80’s.
Gladys & Juan:
As we hiked out of La Junta, Gladys and Juan pulled over to give us a lift. Gladys loves dogs and told us all about her family’s dogs back in Concepción where they lived. They were on a road trip south for vacation. We had lunch together in Puyuhuapi and continued south until the road split to Puerto Cisnes where we parted ways. The next day as we were hitching into Coihaique we received a phone call, it was Gladys and Juan checking to see if we were okay since they didn’t see us again on the road!
Carlos & Family:
As we hiked along the narrow and curvy Carretera Austral, Carlos and his family pulled their large blue truck to the edge of the road so that we could quickly jump in the back. As we bumped along the road we swapped stories with two other hitchhikers from Valdivia who were heading south as well. Thanks to Carlos we didn’t have to hike these steep hills with our heavy packs!
Rosario & Machay:
As the hot sun beat down on us and the horseflies began to attack, Rosario and her adorable dog Machay came to the rescue! We tossed our packs in the back of Rosario’s pickup truck and jumped in the air conditioned cab, swapping stories and watching the incredible countryside outside of Coihaique roll by with a great music mix in the background. Rosario offered for us to graze our horses and camp on their property when we pass through on our northbound adventure.
While in Coihaique we found a small saddlery where we met Roco. He called a friend down in Cochrane to ask about horses in the area, just in case we couldn’t find any in Villa O’Higgins. We talked equipment and route options and plan to stop in again for a maté when we head north.
It was late in the day as we began hiking out of Coihaique, countless cars zooming by us with hardly a sideways glance. Just as we were contemplating whether or not we should stop for the night and just pitch our tent, Camilio pulled his van over and jumped out to say hello. He was heading down to Puerto Rio Tranquilo that evening and welcomed the company. Camilio is a guide in the area and leads glacier treks and mountaineering trips. Just before leaving the paved roads of the northern section of the Carretera Austral, we stopped for a delicious sandwich and an epic view of Cerro Castillo.
We arrived in Puerto Rio Tranquilo around midnight and Camilio dropped us at Marcela’s hospedeja where we set up camp. The next morning we spoke with Marcela about our plans to buy horses and ride north. She happened to have family in Villa O’Higgins who own Los Nires where they offer great camping and food. They also happen to have horses! She gave us their names and numbers and sent us off to connect with them further south.
After packing up camp we hiked out of Puerto Tranquilo, beginning a slow and hot climb up the winding road. Luckily for us Diego passed by but quickly stopped and backed up so we could jump in his truck. We threw our packs in the back and jumped in the cab. Diego drove us beyond his destination, taking us about 20km outside of town before he had to turn around and head back to work.
Christian & Friends:
Once Diego dropped us we continued hiking along the hot dusty Carretera. Several cyclists passed us, along with fast moving cars heading north. Just as we crossed a large bridge, a red pickup cruised by quickly. We yelled after them “en la maleta, en la maleta!” (in the back, we’ll ride in the back), as we could see the cab was full but any ride would be a relief. They stopped and we raced over, threw our packs in and away we went. As we cruised along the pristine lakes took our breath away, and we even stopped at Lago Bertrand for a quick dip before heading on to Cochrane!
Mathias is a local guide in Cochrane, he guides treks in the new Parque Patagonia and surrounding area, and not only did he offer us a ride to the end of town where we could catch a better hitch, he also loaded us up with great information about alternative trails we can take when we ride north to avoid the Carretera Austral.
Alvaro & Jose:
We caught a hitch with Alvaro and Jose as they were heading out of Cochrane. Aside from being full of stories that had us laughing, they also offered a lot of helpful information about horse buying here in Chile. Alvaro suggested a few options to buy horses in Cochrane if we had any trouble in Villa O’Higgins, and also offered that we could camp and graze our horses in his pasture when we pass north again.
Rodrigo & Fran:
When Rodrigo and Francesca came along few cars had passed before them. We were getting further along the Carretera Austral, and fewer folks were venturing this way. Luckily we managed to squeeze all of our gear, the dogs and ourselves into their little car. We shared music and stories and ventured with them into the lovely little town of Tortel, about 22km east of the Carretera Austral. That evening we enjoyed a delicious meal, a bottle of wine and a lot of laughter. Afterward they were kind enough to drop us just outside of town so that we could set up camp along the Rio Baker just as the rain began to pour.
Paula & Arturo:
Although we awoke early Saturday morning, we waited several hours before we were finally able to get a ride back out to the Carretera Austral- all in thanks to Paula and Arturo! They actually passed us and ended up turning around and coming back for us! We strapped our packs to their roof and piled into their car, cruising along the magnificent Rio Baker.
Rodrigo & Fran (again!):
After Paula and Arturo left us at the intersection of the Carretera Austral and the road to Tortel, the hours seemed to drag on as no cars passed us. Everyone heading south seemed to be going to Tortel. Three cars passed us heading south in the span of 5 hours. Suddenly we saw Rodrigo and Fran pulling out and driving south, they slowed down to chat, but their back seat was filled with two other hitchhikers Daniel and Sara. We bid them farewell and safe travels and went back to the edge of the road to wait for another hitch. About an hour later, we see Rodrigo and Fran’s car coming north around the bend. They had dropped off Daniel and Sara at the ferry port and drove all the way back to pick us up! It was an incredible act of selfless kindness on their behalf, and we would not have made it to Villa O’Higgins on Saturday without their help. To top it off, Fran, who is a vet, also helped us to treat a small infection that Curi developed on her belly (don’t worry she’s okay). We spent the next day with them hiking in Villa O’Higgins and enjoying wine and stories. We also made them promise to come visit us in Pucón so that we can return the favors!