10-17-2010, 06:47 PM
Joined: Jan 2005
Location: The Badlands (of NJ)
Let's continue... with the thoughts of Turkish-style coffee - out of a copper cup, very hot, very sweet - put into my mind by doring
(see message above). Mmmm.
Next morning in Puerto Natales. I love exploring my destinations very early, when there is a stillness in the air and the rays of the rising sun are just starting to warm the place up.
Here the atmosphere was just as moody and nostalgic, quiet and deserted - with only an old lady sweeping the sidewalk and a couple of backpackers passing by.
And, of course, the stray dogs.
Last visit to the World's End Café Book Store. This is the end of our riding adventure: we are leaving the bikes in the shop and Roberto will take us to Punta Arenas in his truck.
We are soaking in and enjoying the place: cappuccino is good and Wi-Fi works well. Not bad for the End of the World, no?
Last minute souvenir purchases: Lewis is able to fulfill most of the shopping list for the personnel in his office. He certainly made the day for the street vendor.
Back on the road, now in the big seats of Roberto's truck. Returning to our departure airport in Punta Arenas.
Now, that we do not have to concentrate on riding, we can notice items of interest missed on the way up. For example, these: at first I was annoyed by what I thought was garbage dumped in big heaps alongside the roadways. Then, I realized that there was a design to them.
I found out that these are roadside shrines. The bottles are important. They commemorate a woman, Difunta Correa, who was following her husband's military unit through the desert in the 1800's. She ran out of supplies; after many days, her body was found - miraculously, the infant child was alive, suckling on her breast even after death.
The shrines are often set up by long-distance truckers. Visitors leave dollhouses, pieces of clothing and - most of all - pile up bottles filled with water to quench Difunta's thirst and to ask for her protection.
Chileans are expert road builders. Their long distance gravel highways are one of the best I have ever traveled. The surface is smooth and hard packed, with very little frost damage. The key is, obviously, depth of the street bed and excellent drainage.
They learned their craft by connecting the widely spaced population centers of their long and empty country. Now, that they are more affluent, the roads are becoming paved - the surface is again very good, facilitated by the underlying perfect gravel bed.
In the interim period, money was spent on paving only one travel lane, the other one remaining as gravel.
This is one of the old roads, now abandoned: vehicles in both directions would be traveling on this single paved lane until they came to face each other. Then, the driver who was not in his lane would have to switch onto the gravel side. Presumably, traffic was light then.
Did I write already that it was windy?
As I mentioned earlier, the relationship between Chile and Argentina was not always friendly. Many territories in the region were disputed and there were often military skirmishes, sometimes outright war.
A big confrontation was in the works in 1978. Just 3 years before venturing out to the Falklands/Malvinas, the Argentine military was on the verge of invading Chile. The attack was called off just a few hours before launch.
While preparing for the fight, both countries extensively mined their border zones. Here the road winds itself near a Chilean-Argentine border crossing - many still active mine fields bear witness to the uneasy history.
Ironically, not too far from the minefields, a postcard-pretty sight: a lake full of pink flamingos.
We were here! Lewis is marking the spot.
rdwalker screwed with this post 10-19-2010 at 09:37 PM