Monday, March 16, 2009


Arriving to Coyhaique had been an objective of mine since before I left the states. My NOLS course two summers back was instructed by two Chileans and in the end it was on the ice in Canada sipping mate and "huevando" in Spanish that I decided to travel to Chile. From El Campo NOLS, I went with Judd back to his house just a short walk down the road. Although a gringo from Lander, Wyoming, Judd Rogers has been in the Patagonia for more than ten years and might as well be a true born Chilean. He lives in a quaint straw adobe house over looking an enormous valley with his wife Carolina and kids Sam (5) and Sophia (less than a year). It was almost strange seeing the civil side of Judd since the only time we spent together, although more than a month, was on an icefield in remote parts of British Colombia. Over a bottle of vino tinto, we spent the evening remenicing about course in BC and discussing the Chilean culture. We had essentially shared the same experiences, but it was interesting to hear about how Judd had thrown his entire life into the mix- his job, family, and home. As the night went on, I all sorts of ideas entered my head about working with NOLS in the Patagonia and making Chile a more permenant residence... Judd had made a living that matched all my interests; his house was designed environmentally with a small garden, fruit trees, and a traditional wood burning stove that heated the place as well as the water. Working for NOLS, he not only surrounded himself with the outdoors, but also helped manage the small farm on the property. And lastly, he had adopted and integrated himself completely in this new culture. Interesting thoughts...

I had signed up for a WFA (Wilderness First Aid) course that would begin at the end of the week, but I really didnt have a plan for the first few days. The next morning, Judd set me up with one of his mountain bikes and gave me rough directions of a loop that toured through the campo behind his house. The whole trip was about 25 km and I didnt see a single person the entire morning. I was back at the house at around mid day and grabbed for my rod to toss a few flies in the river the cut through the property. Luckly, I was free from any hooks that might have been whipped in the wrong direction... I was so entertained in Judds back yard that I didnt even make it to the center of Coyhaique until the third day. The following morning, I set off once again on Judd´s green stump-jumper for the 11 km haul into town- I was really enjoying the whole cycling deal. In town, I followed my Lonely Planet guide book through the plaza, a small museum, and the best places to eat for my money. Coyhaique attracts a decent amount of tourists and so my attentive waiter made the blatant effort to explain to me that I was in a restaurant and walked slowly through the menu with me so I could understand. I just decided to got with it and act nieve. When he brought the bill he threw in a free city map and gave me a corky wink before returning to the kitchen. The town was covered with posters entitled "Patagonia Chilena- Sin Represas"- (With out dams)- a fairly recent environmental movment trying to prevent the installation of several hydroeletric dams in the south. Chile doesn´t deny that its entering an energy crisis, however, it doesnt make much sense to distrub the Patagonia to send power to the mines in the north. We don´t produce electric energy in Yellowstone to have it transported to New York City...or do we? All in all, its been interesting following and learning more about the issue. The town was cool- they even had huge statue of a hand holding a mate gord!- but the truth is I was having the most fun in Judd´s backyard fishing and hiking.

On Friday, we started the First Aid course up at the NOLS branch and Judd and Cristian (my other instructor from BC) attended the three day class as well to re-new their more indepth WFR certifications. So my previous teachers became classmates. Others had arrived from Colombia, Bolivia, Brasil, and all parts of Chile to take advantge of the course. I was a bit nervous since it was in Spanish, but I surprised myself by how much I understood- I think the only term I was unfamiliar with was RELAMPAGOS (lightening strikes). And so on sunday I left certified in CPR and Wilderness First Aid. That afternoon, we all got together to have an asado and celebrate the birthday of one of the instructors named Atila- kick ass name for a NOLS instructor... Many of the employees were from the states, but we all conversed in what little spanish we had- I met some very neat people. Once it got dark, the Brazilians took over the fiesta with traditional music and that awesome Brazilian fire dance- by far the coolest party ive ever been to. A week always goes by fast, but I had an absolutely great time in Coyhaique visiting old friends and leaving with a new skill that will be put to use when I return to the states. My parents and hayley come next week!

No comments: