Tuesday 18 January 2011

Curacautin, Chile - Ports in a storm

Chileans and Argentinians love camping but the most popular holiday accommodation is the "cabana", a simple cabin with a kitchen and bathroom. You find them all over the place. If there is more than one of you, they are quite cost-effective so Simon and I decided to share one for a couple of nights near Castro before going our separate ways. On the second afternoon, a stray dog appeared, tail wagging, at our front door. She was an old dog with a grey muzzle and terribly thin with mangy, bare patches in her fur. One of her ears was badly swollen and she had fresh wounds from a recent scrap. She was one of those dogs that was really quite ugly but in an irresistable, wonderfully endearing kind of way. A small dog with a big personality, she worked her way into our hearts as we fed her numerous portions of boiled rice with egg, cheese, biscuits and steak. As it was getting dark, we took her outside to do her business. Unfortunately, the senora who owned the cabanas appeared, was clearly displeased at the presence of the dog and scared her away. I think we both could have cried as we watched that scrawny little mut trot along the road and disappear into the shadows. We did manage a smile later, musing that had the senora appeared a few hours earlier she would have found a flea-ridden stray eating out of her best croquery and curling up on her faux Persian rug. At least for one day that dog had a full belly, a lot of love and a port in a storm.

Rather than cycle the same route twice, I took a bus from Castro back over my outward route. The bus was heading for Temuco, a sizeable city with a bit of a reputation for petty crime. I was on a later bus than planned as the early bus that I´d booked was too full to take the bicycle. It was getting dark as we neared the city and I was getting increasingly anxious about arriving there on my own at night with no accommodation. A page from an out-of-date guidebook mentioned a campsite south of the city and though the bus driver didn´t know of it, he let me off in the vicinity of where it might be. I´d decided anyway that a wild camp in the country was safer than the city at night. Of course, there was no campsite and it was almost dark, so I had a slight sense of alarm. I pushed the bike over a walkway to the other side of the Pan American Highway where there were some lights. By an incredible stroke of luck that I still can´t quite believe, one of the buildings was a hostel. The windows emitted a warm glow; a lavishly-decorated Christmas tree stood in the lounge; a group of friends chatted around the dining-room table over mugs of tea. I was warmly welcomed, an eiderdown duvet was laid over my bed and even slippers and a mug of coffee appeared. My own port in a storm!

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