Carretera Day 7: Los Ñadis to Tortel

After about ten minutes back on the main road we spot our Slovakian friends, as we had predicted, and pick them up. They are happy to see us. We ride together the rest of the way to Tortel as we swap stories about our respective countries and about life on the road.

Tortel is a small seaport at the end of a network of fjords that has only been accessible by road since 2003. For this reason the entire place has been set up as a pedestrian city, built into cliffs above the ocean connected by a series of wooden walkways and is sometimes referred to as the “Venice of Chile.” The buildings are painted bright colors to liven up the foggy dim climate of this rainy area.

We arrive around lunchtime and head to a hospedaje for lunch, a small restaurant set up in a warm and welcoming local woman’s living room. She cooks us pollo and puree as we watch the local news. The is a lot of drama happening over local fishing rights in the capitol and all looks chaotic, a bill is being discussed. The peace of this little town prevails and the news feels like a story taking place in another reality.

After lunch we return to the van for a siesta and wake up an hour later to hard rain on the roof.

Since this is our only day in Tortel we make hot cups of Nescafe, put on our rain gear, and we head out to explore the town’s many walkways and docks. Not many people are out but everyone we pass says hello.

After as much rain as we can take—Justin’s jacket is no longer waterproof it turns out—we return to the van, head just out of town, and find another beautiful camping spot on the Río Baker.

Throughout Patagonia there are very few billboards. The only ones you do see communicate points on the ongoing argument around damming river ways for hydroelectric power. Patagonia Sin Represas’ (Patagonia Without Dams) overwhelms HidroAysén’s attempts at a PR campaign. One of the primary rivers on the table is the Río Baker, Chile’s most powerful water flow—the average flow is 870m3/second (31,000ft3/second). As we make dinner on its bank we imagine what different reality the future holds if the power company succeeds at damming this beautiful, turquoise channel.

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