Nature Stays Forever… We Do Not

It was very sunny in Chaiten.

I had a plan in mind – Pumalin National Park, then go back to Puerto Montt and then to Puerto Varas. Planning is good. But who knows if you can really implement it?  

The town wasn’t really as bad as what the Londoners told me. I think it was because of the weather.

Along the seashore

I walked to the seaside (I believe it was the seaside. I wrote ‘river’ in my journal but there was a tsunami there so it makes more sense that it was the sea although Google says tsunami can travel up rivers from ocean). Along the shore, I saw ruined houses. Some were buried in sediments or mud. Some only had the roof exposed to the sun and the rest of the house were buried under the ground. I saw shoes of little kids outside the house and I saw chairs inside the house buried in mud. I could only see the top of the chair.

The chairs were half buried in the ground.
Only the roof of house was visible. The rest was buried under the ground.

It was ghastly.

Imagine, before the tsunami, those houses had a beautiful view overlooking the beach but now they were all buried.

Was this an active volcano? Was it breathing out some smoke? Or was it just the cloud? I hoped it was just the cloud.
Flowers were blooming. Nature regenerated.

Flowers were blooming.

Nature destroyed itself.

But then it regenerated.

Destruction is part of the natural process.

As I was walking along the waterfront, two kids came and asked me to take photos with them. The girl wanted a photo with me. I asked her why. She then said something in Spanish which I didn’t understand. Her body language told me she either wanted to take a pic with me and frame it or just want a photo with me. OK, I said. And then the little boy asked me to kiss him on his cheek. Ok, no problem. Is that a Chilean thing? The kids were so happy after they had their requests answered. I still didn’t understand. It was the second time in Chile.

I joined the a local tour to Parque Pumalin. I met two other German guys who were going to spend a few days in the park. Cool! 

The vehicle stopped as a plane arrived. The planes and the cars shared the same road. So, that was the runway of the airport. I couldn’t believe it! But I’m glad that we saw the plane landed. It was an amazing sight. It was my first time to see it!

The road was shared with the plane. That was the runway of the airport.

We went to the base of Chaitén volcano. It erupted around 5 years ago. The guide Nicholas showed us how the nature destroyed itself and then regenerated. Trees, grass, moss started to grow now. It was a new kind of environment. New kind of plants. He said it started to have insects, e.g. scorpions, bees and they even found a beehive. He showed us some volcanic rocks. One was black and the edge was sharp. That was called volcanic glass. The other one was a stone but very light. It floats in the surface of the lava or magma I don’t remember. He used a metaphor – beer foam. The stone was the beer foam. The stone is called pumice. He said scientists came here to study this volcano.

He said they were lucky. No one died from this eruption. But the government didn’t do anything. They even cut the water and power supply to Chaiten. The residents had to clean up the town themselves. The government spent money on another town nearby and tried to move people from Chaiten to that town. The money they spent on that could have rebuilt Chaiten, the tour guide said.  When the new government started, they helped the people in Chaiten. 

On the one side, you can see tall trees.
On the other side, you can see the scars of the volcano eruption.
Plants were growing but they were not the plants that were here before.

At the base of the volcano, I could see the volcano from afar. It was like a thermal bath. Steam came out of the volcano. Amazing. According to Nicholas, there were 3,700 volcanos in Chile.

That was really steam, not the clouds.

The concept of nature destroying and regenerating itself inspired me. Why were humans here on earth? I raised this philosophical question to the German guys. But no one could answer it. I said if we pee or do big business, we will change the cycle of the regeneration process. Maybe we were just like any other animals like deer, monkeys. But why were we here?

We then went to another trek where Nicholas showed us different plants. Some of them were edible. The German guys had a lot of natural ingredients for their meals. Some of the trees there were three thousand years old. Amazing! I hugged a tree and took a photo.

Tall trees!
Another part of the forest, with all the tall trees. I have always loved the smell of trees.
I am so small, so tiny, so insignificant.

We then went to the waterfall. The German guys camped at the campsite while I went to the first part of the trail with Nicholas. It took us one hour to finish. An easy walk. Beautiful. He told me the forest was a very friendly forest. It didn’t have poisonous plants.  Well, you may eat a poisonous plant but you wouldn’t touch any poisonous plants. There were animals too like pudus. They were very little deer. The adults were like two feet tall only. There were also monkeys but he had never seen any. Pumas lived in the forest too but it was hard to spot them. But they didn’t attack humans. Foxes lived there too. But we didn’t see any of these animals. I guess you had to go deep into the forest to see them.

The waterfall in the forest.

It was a virgin forest. According to Nicholas, the road to the forest was only 24 years old. Before that, no one could go there. It was just not accessible. He also told us if we cut a tree in the forest, the punishment would be very harsh.  If people robbed a bank, they could still defend. But if people cut a tree, no, no, not negotiable.

The road we took in the forest.

It was nice to have this trip. The weather was good.

After the waterfall hike, he took me to the other side of the beach. I said it was just like Jurassic park. It was so pristine. Unexplored. No human intrusion. Beautiful.

The pristine area of Chaiten
I like the rocks.

After that, we went back to Chaltur office where I enquired about a bus ticket to Puerto Montt. The lady said she got a ticket for me!!! I was thrilled!! I could go back to Puerto Montt tomorrow. Not that I really wanted to.

When I went back to the hostel, I got a message from my aunt.

My grandmother died.

So, going back to Puerto Montt was a good option.

I could fly to Santiago from there.

Plan changed.

I quickly had breakfast and checked the funeral details. I think I had to take a flight to Santiago tomorrow. The wifi didn’t work on my computer and I couldn’t use my mobile to buy the ticket online so I had to wait until I got to Puerto Montt. I would see if I needed to stay there for two nights. I hoped not.

I had to speed up my travel, go to Bolivia immediately. I was sure I had time to go to Uyuni but I wasn’t sure if I had time to do the jungle there.

I went to the bus terminus to catch the bus to Puerto Montt. The bus jumped on two ferries.

View from the upper deck of the ferry
I was contemplating when I was on the upper deck of the ferry.
View from the ferry – a snowy mountain under the deep blue sky

I was thinking when I was on the upper deck that it was ok for me to shorten this trip. I had experienced things I wanted to experience and even things that I didn’t want to experience. I visited places that I wanted to go. I learnt so many different things. I met lots of interesting people.

I had no regrets.

Uyuni would be the last place for this journey.

17 – 20 February 2013

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