129 Photos

La Junta to Puerto Varas
Craig and Steph's Horseback Ride in the Andes

(Stephanie Smith)
After a very sound sleep we woke up at around 8:00 a.m. and headed out to the main room. Tatiana was already cooking sopapillas and she served them with rolls and cheese. Condiments included kiwi jelly, butter, and manjar. We drank our coffee and fully enjoyed every bit of food. We were getting very used to this and would miss our time staying here. The entire experience has been very relaxing. Soon afterwards, Scott came in after getting the horses ready, and he ate his breakfast. Before heading out we got some photos of Tatiana, Joracio, and Andres, and at 10:00 we set out on the trail. The day was warm and sunny and the horses seemed ready to go. Corbata was all set as well. Corbata knows how to read all the signs and knew it was time to go home again. Craig and I rode our horses and Scott towed another horse down behind his horse. The trail was still muddy and at times made the footing a bit difficult. Because of the weather today, the tabanos were more of a problem than they had been on our ride up two days earlier. In general they preferred the horses to humans and didn't bother us too much but it was easy to feel a bit bad for the horses. The relentless attack must drive them nuts when they are just trying to get back home. After a few hours along the trail we stopped in a nice wooded shady area for lunch. Not only was it a beautiful rainforest surrounding us, the shade also provided a nice reprieve from the tabanos. For the most part this technique worked. We ate cheese empanadas and cake that Tatiana had packed for us.

After gathering our belongings and getting the horses ready for the trail, we set out again. After a short ride we found ourselves crossing the river where we had lunch just two days before. It seemed like a lifetime ago. It seemed odd to think the entire experience was really short in time yet plentiful in experience. At one point we came across two people driving five or six cows up the trail and we had to pull over to let them pass. Simple events like these can sometimes be very interesting on the trail but fortunately we could all move into the trees enough to prevent too much animal confrontation.

Despite the annoyances of the tabanos, we really enjoyed the sunlight. The river sparkled, and the forest was dappled with light penetrating the thick vegetation. It felt good to be in the saddle again. Craig seemed very confident on Negro today. I noticed that he seemed to go along with the movement of the horse and never hold on at all. Whether going up or down the terrain he seemed at ease with the movement and really seemed to be enjoying himself on the ride. Not many words were spoken and the sound of the hooves on stone, wood, mud and grass did the speaking for us. The ride gave us plenty of time to reflect on the journey so far. Before we knew it we were back at the gate and getting back on the 8 km gravel road, passing cows, sheep, beekeeping boxes, etc. Temucano wanted to trot the whole way down the road. The section on the road seemed to take forever, and the tabanos were buzzing around us incessantly. At the end of the road there was some road construction going on near a bridge. While I was still on the bridge a bus came whizzing by a little close to Temucano and I got a bit nervous. Fortunately this was without incident and I was able to proceed down the final stretch of trail back to camp.

We arrived at the Campo Aventura riverside lodge at 3:40. Suddenly the time seemed to be flying and we would be leaving soon. It's always rather difficult for transitions like these. We could have easily spent more time with the horses but we had more plans in Chile and needed to get on the road. We wanted to spend the night here at the camp, rather than heading back to the guest house, but the airport would make for a long ride in the morning. We realized we would have to head out long before breakfast so that wasn't really a good idea. So, as we sat at the picnic table and had tea and lemon tarts with Scott, reflecting on the journey, we heard two huge blasts from the road construction. They shook everything and made us feel like we were under air attack. We remarked that we were glad those blasts hadn't happened about 20 minutes earlier, when we passed the road construction. Otherwise it probably would have spooked the horses or at least scared us half to death. We said our goodbyes to Christiane and Scott as we would be getting into a car and heading back to Puerto Varas.

At 4:45, our driver arrived and he led us to the car. Just then, Peter, Alex, and the Ko'Kayak van had pulled up to drop off some folks who had spent the day kayaking and were now coming to stay at the camp, just like our arrival two days earlier. Peter was very friendly with us and offered us a ride back to Puerto Varas. This was quite nice of him, but as we already had a transfer, we had to decline the generous offer. We felt a little bad as we knew we would have a very enjoyable ride with Peter and Alex but then again we knew we had to stick with the original plan as our driver was already hired and waiting. We said our final goodbyes and headed down the road. As we pulled out of Campo Aventura, Eva was waiting on a corner for a bus to the center of Cochamo. We picked her up and had a nice chat with her about our horse trek. We dropped her off in the center of town. Our driver was flying. He didn't seem like he was driving that fast but we seemed to be covering a lot of ground very quickly. At one point he stopped at a convenience store and asked if we wanted anything. We really couldn't think of anything and said no thanks. A few minutes later he came out of the store and he had a candy bar for each of us. How nice! When asked, we didn't think to respond that we wanted a candy bar but once one was placed in our hands, we knew, we wanted a candy bar! They were called Costa Chocman, and were billed as "bizcocho nañado relleno con manjar." Mmmm...manjar! What could possibly be wrong with something that had manjar in it? This was becoming a favorite food of ours. After thanking him for the generous offer he had a big smile on his face and headed back toward town.

We arrived at the Guest House at 6:45. We checked into the same room (#2) and collected our luggage from the upstairs storage room. Then we headed out to Puerto Varas to find some dinner. We wandered around trying to decide where to eat. We were hoping to find a place that took credit cards so we wouldn't have to worry how much we spent. It wasn't really mandatory that we use a credit card but it would make things easier and we wouldn't have to be careful ordering. There were several little cafes in town, but very few took credit cards. One that did was Mavi's Cafe Restaurant, and we decided to eat there. We went inside and got a table near a window. I was intrigued by a sign that advertised fondue. That was something I hadn't had in a while, and I was in the mood for a fun meal. I ordered the cheese fondue, which was served with cubes of bread, slices of apples, slices of sausage, and little fluffy sphere-shaped "duchess potatoes." Craig got the filete torneado por tocino, a filete wrapped in bacon. It was also served with duchess potatoes. We had pisco sours to drink. After the brass fondue pot was delivered to our table, we noticed that a lot of other people started ordering it as well. We wondered if somehow we were responsible for the current trend. Both of our meals were delicious. For dessert, Craig got a "Pamela Glass" (vanilla ice cream served with warm raspberries). I had helado mora crema (blackberry ice cream). Each was served with sugar wafers. The whole meal was really terrific and hit the spot. At first we had no idea what we wanted to eat or where we wanted to go but we were very pleased with our choice at Mavi's. By the time we left the restaurant and walked back to the Guest House it was around 9 o'clock. We lingered on a park bench to admire the rosy glow of the sunset over Lake Llanquihue and the volcanoes. A dog in one of the nearby houses didn't like that we decided to sit on the bench and started barking at us. We laughed thinking how the town puts a park bench here and the poor dog goes insane when it gets used.

When we got back to the Guest House, we sat in our room and looked at some of the photos from Craig's camera. We probably could have sat out in the main area but we felt more comfortable in our room. There were lots of guests tonight, and the place was more of a madhouse than it had been when 28 American food editors had been there earlier in the week. Vicki had continued on to another part of the country with the editors, and things seemed less polished in her absence. There were no chocolates in the room and no handmade soap in the bathroom. In fact, there was no soap at all. Also gone were the inspirational sayings on the bedside tables. We tried to go to sleep at 10:30, but it was futile. Classical music was playing on the stereo right outside our door in the common room. The phone kept ringing. People were stomping up and down the stairs, and people in upstairs rooms sounded like they were moving furniture around. We put in our earplugs, but it didn't help. We just kept laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. At midnight, Craig had finally had enough and went out into the common room to shut off the music. This turned out to be even a worse night sleep than we had with the wailing baby next door in Puerto Natales. Oh well, tomorrow we will be off to Santiago and then Easter Island.

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