Yes, we’re back on the road. We’re moving to the north, although a little slower than planned. After 33 days at the Mallín Colorado Ecolodge we figured it was time to hit the road again. Our workstay at the lodge was an amazing experience. With very high highs, but also very low lows. We worked many hours, ‘till late at night one time for 11 days straight. That was a little too much. But we met amazing people, saw amazing landscapes and learned a lot of Spanish. Our Spanish has improved drastically, although the most improvement we made is in the kitchen area. I can tell you how to make ‘Casuela de ave’ or ‘Mil Hojas’ in Spanish. We can ask you if you would like to drink a Pisco Sour, but don’t expect me to explain you how to find the nearest supermarket or what I think of the weather. Oh and of course we’ve got the Chilean slang down almost perfectly, cachay?
So the 15th of February we hit the road again. We took the bus to Coyhaique and right away enjoyed the sounds of the city. Living in isolation makes you appreciate the convenience of big supermarkets and fresh fruit and vegetables – not even mentioning the beer and wine – even more! We chilled and looked into accommodation at our next stopping place (Puerto Puyuhuapi). There was a problem however. The bus companies weren’t selling any tickets out of town, because there have been protests* for many days now and the roads were being blocked. We were eventually told that there wouldn’t be reliable transportation up north until the end of the month. That’s when we started looking at other options. We could leave the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway) early and take a boat to the Island of Chiloë right away, instead of going there through Chaiten. We reserved (w/o paying) a seat on the boat for Wednesday, hoping that by then buses will at least be able to take us to the port, about 70km west of here.
On monday it became clear however that the protests weren’t about to stop and all the roads to and from Coyhaique have been blocked. The city is running out of benzina and the buses to neighbouring towns have stopped offering services. When walking through town we see lines of cars for the gas station, which is usually situated many blocks further down the town.
Yesterday ministers flew over from Santiago for a meeting, but from the sounds we heard yesterday night coming from the town, people don’t seem to be happy yet. Today we decided to go for the only option we have left: fly out of here. We booked a plain ticket for tomorrow to Puerto Montt, which is just a little more expensive than the boat. We reserved a seat on the transfer to the airport, but there is no guarantee we will make it there. So far they have been letting tourists pass the barricades, but it feels like the situation is getting worse every day. More soon, hopefully from Puerto Montt.
*What are the protests about? People in the region of Aysen are being fed up with the fact that the cost of living here is so much higher than for example in Santiago. This is for a large part because this region is still not connected to the north by road. Anyone coming here has to take the boat or go into Argentina at least once. The government promised to finish the Carretera Austral, starting in 2017… The protesters have a list of 11 demands, mainly focusing on the costs of living, education, healthcare, … Adding fuel to the frustration of the people here is the topic of the dams that the government wants to build. These huge dams would not only change the environment drastically, but apparently the electricity created by the dams would be sent directly to the north of Chile. All while electricity and fuel are many times more expensive here than up north. Chileans in this area are angry, every town has many many grafity, all angry words against the dams. For those interested: Patagonia Sin Represas