Short Stories
Entry No. 55 May 1, 2005

Termas de Amarillo

After disembarking the Picoya from Puerto Montt to Chaiten, we felt like we were in a whole new world. A different place, different season, different era of time... It was absolutely breathtaking not just for the views but for the feelings and what this all meant. Highway route 5 with its 4 lanes, guide rails, toll booths, truck stops, road reflectors, clover leaf interchanges, exit ramps, weigh stations, and SOS telephones was now behind us. We had entered the land of majestic mountains, glacier views, 2 lane roads, landslides on steep ranges that shot up to the sky, and miles of ominous clouds that made me feel as if I was underneath the ocean looking up at the waves rolling to shore.

After some Internet and shopping, we headed south on the famous Camino Austral. Infamous this time of year for the rain and winds, this road stretches throughout the southern part of Chile all the way down to a tiny town called Villa O'Higgins, about a 2,000 km stretch. We would only be going to Chile Chico, 822 Km, which was enough for me in this weather. We laughed nervously as one store owner asked us if we had ever read or seen The Perfect Storm. After showing his temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity gauges, he informed us that that was what we had to look forward to today.

As we rode along the Yelcho Rio heading south, the wind was incredible. Thank god it was a tail wind. Without pedaling on a flat road I was able to reach about 20 miles per hour. It was quite nerve-racking but amazing. The wind pulled the water off of the river and sent a mist into the air which caught the setting sun in the northwest and created a rainbow that was pegged against the turbulent clouds boiling in from the south.

At the same time, Susie's scarf was stripped out from under a bungee and was sent sailing through the windy scene and found its home on a distant tree top. We watched with awe. This was insane. With the wind and the rain coming towards us in the distance, we figured that we would be in for a wet, cold night. Nevertheless, it was Saturday and we saw a school with a nice area that would cover us for the night. After talking to the schoolmaster next door, he insisted that we needed one of the classrooms to be protected from the wind. Yet another ridiculously generous Chilean. After we settled into one of the classrooms which happened to have a fire pit and a table, we got a fire going and started dinner. Ivan, our new found friend, joined us for some mate (1) and told us all about the hot springs nearby. We made a date the next morning with him to go check it out.

The night's storm turned out to be pretty intense and we were so happy to be inside with a warm fire and dry. After a delicious breakfast of sopaipilla (2) membrillo (3) jelly with seafood salad, Ivan and his son Mario showed us around the hot springs. It felt great and we even dipped into the glacial rivers just to run back into the hot hot water. It was wonderful. We didn't shove off from El Amarillo and Ivan until about 3:45 pm. By 5:30, however, we found yet another little home, this time an abandoned house to hide from the cold rain.


(1) Mate pronounced ma-tay is a hot tea to be taken from a metal straw. It has the same qualities of caffeine but there is none in it
(2) Sopaipilla is fried bread
(3) Membrillo is a type of fruit

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