Yesterday, this (annoying) German girl expressed amazement, and a little disdain, when I told her that I was staying in this village, Cerro Castillo, for two months. Girl, it’s my life – shut up! Also, whatever. Water off a duck. Just goes to show that everyone is different, I guess.
For those who may not know where this village is (I say village because at 400 people, it’s definitely not big enough to be a city, and probably not even big enough to be a town…and that’s by Patagonia standards!!), it’s on the Carretera Austral, the famous “number 7” highway from Villa O’Higgins all the way to Puerto Montt in Chile. It’s about…halfway up? Anyway, it’s a beautiful and quaint little town that has one of the best 4-day hikes I’ve ever done! I was fairly lucky because I came here on a whim, not having heard of it before a guy who picked me up hitchhiking told me about it. Also, lucky me! I’m staying here for 5 weeks at a brewery and 2 weeks working for a hostel.
Anyway, so I do the hike – pictures below – and it’s fantastic. I headed out by myself (on my birthday, April 4) and at the restaurant where I was picking up a birthday sandwich (wasn’t that good), I met a cool German guy named Alex who was my hiking companion for the whole hike. I’m slower than average and he’s faster than average, so unfortunately, he was waiting on me a lot of the times, but he was charming and gracious and we had a great time together.
I finish the 4-day hike, go say hello at the brewery (they seem nice) and then try to work at a hostel to save some money while I figure out what I’m doing until May 5. Basically, I had 3 weeks to kill. I kill a few days staying at the hostel and figuring out what’s going on. Then I go to Puyuhuapi where they have this lovely little national park – and it’s a very small park! – where I get free apples.
The people who picked me up hitchhiking (I’m always hitchhiking) go inside the park while I set up my camp. Apparently they found an apple tree (I never saw one), picked apples, thought of me, saved me some apples, came back to find my campsite (how’d they recognize my campsite???) and left me 4 of them. I recognized their truck as it was driving away and they stopped to say they left me apples.
Only in Chile….Have I mentioned how amazing Chileans are??? Yes, yes I have. And I’ll say it again.
Anyway, cool couple down, I spend 2 nights in the park and 1 night in the village of Puyuhuapi, and then head back to Cerro Castillo. People had told me that it was a can’t-miss area, which is why I came here in the first place, and…I wasn’t impressed, sadly. It didn’t stick out to me at all, but ironically, what DID stick with me was the large city of Coyhaique on the way to Puyuhuapi, with its many restaurants and cafes, and everything you could possibly want to buy and the beautiful river/foothills range north of the city. Now THAT was beautiful, and I can easily see why someone would want to camp there. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any spots to camp there! 😦
Sometimes, it’s just nice being in a big city, you know? Oh the Coyhaique Café! Best torta (dessert item?) that I’ve ever had in my life – it literally melted in my mouth (not exaggerating), and it was so sweet and delicious and the raspberries were so fresh and yummy omgggggg. And the hot chocolate that went with was really good too!! I’m totally going to go back there hahaha.
I come back to the city because I have carpentry work to do! I expect to be doing it for the next 3 weeks, which didn’t happen, and I learned an important life lesson! Or a couple. Unfortunately, it’s one of those valuable lessons you learn because you made the wrong decision, but I’ll take what I can get.
I came back to Cerro Castillo, and lo and behold, this guy who told me he’d hire me won’t return my messages! Whyyyyyy??? And because I had gotten so stuck mentally on doing carpentry work and getting paid for it, I just could not let it go and readjust my plans!
It is important to be flexible and not sabotage yourself because you’re overly attached to failed options.
I was already feeling a little bit guilty for spending so much money on stuff that wasn’t explicitly “necessary” (though enjoyable, for sure) and also feeling constrained with money, such that that I was feeling weak (lack of money), powerless (I can’t get him to talk to me), and shamed (I spent too much money on stuff I don’t need).
It is important to make a decision when you’re in a state of abundance, of power, and of strength.
Needless to say, the decisions I made at this time were not the best ones because I was unable to overcome this state of weakness and guilt. I stayed for 2 days at a hostel, paying $15/day to waste my time and have shitty wifi. Then, instead of going after what I really wanted (carpentry work), I settled on working at a hostel for free room and board in exchange for working on their ranch, about 4 hrs a day. All in all, not a bad gig – but not the best either because it’s not what I was really after.
I really wanted carpentry work and I settled on ranch work. In fact, I didn’t even look (hard) for carpentry work!
Yes, the hostel/ranch owners are nice and I’m growing in Spanish. Yes, I’m eating local food (which is spicier than I thought it would be). Yes, it’s free and I am saving lots of money. Yes, I’m learning how to repair/construct cow fences, herd cows, clean stables, and pick apples. I’m also learning what goes into keeping cows (selling them, weighing them, anti-parasite injections, moving them around, etc.) – and unfortunately, it’s sad how we treat animals that we use for food. But is this my best self? No, it’s not.
For those curious, I did, however, about 8 days later, think about my time and what I wanted. I took some time to change my state (“change your state, change your life” says Tony Robbins) and then, while in that state of power and freedom, I decided to stay here at the ranch. I only have 6 days left anyway, and I have to come back here to work at the brewery, and I want to go hiking for another 3 days anyway. But I wish I had changed my state to make a better decision (whether to look for carpentry work and/or travel around) back 10 days ago when it would have made much more sense!
So we’ll say that this is one good lesson learned. Maybe 2. 🙂
Also, we don’t treat animals well. I’m not saying every animal has a soul, but cows do for sure. If you just hang around them any substantive length of time, and especially if you mistreat them, you’ll see it. They have pride, a sense of dignity, a feeling of companionship with other cows, a motherly concern for their young. So do horses. And dogs. Cats too. Pigs too, so I’ve heard, though I haven’t spent any time around them – in fact, I’ve heard that they are some of the most intelligent animals on Earth!! I’m convinced that going vegan is the only ethical option, and an obvious one at that. Unfortunately for the world, I’m not a wholly ethical person.
Also, you know what’s fun? To think about life design.
I took some time just to reflect and came up with 4 alternative lives (lives that I’m thinking about having when I finish this trip) and did a couple things. First, I did a written description of each ideal life’s “best”. It normally started out with “This would be an awesome life because…” and then I would detail what my life would look like! That got me excited about each one. Then, I did a list of pros and cons, what I would be giving up and what I would be receiving in return. Then, if applicable, what I would need to make this “life” a reality.
None of them can coexist together at the same time, but that’s okay. It’s about having each life be independent from the others (can’t live in the middle of a big city and live in a self-made cabin/farm in the woods at the same time). And even though it was a little sad to realize I would have to take turns with them, I guess I can save some of my best living for my future too. 🙂
It’s fun to imagine possibilities, though I also admit that it leads to some sense of discontinuity in the sense of my life. Like, how right now doesn’t feel like a part of my life…it feels like a pause on my life. Is that a bad thing? I just get so envious of people who feel that their travel life IS their life. I guess, I mean that I’m acclimatized to this “pause’ of my life, but I don’t feel that it’s “my life” as much as it is a break, a time to renew myself and grow and learn new things and then take those skills, lessons learned, etc. and use them to construct an even better life than the one I had.
Imagine, if you will, going on a 4-day hike and then seeing a side path that is completely off the main path but is supposed to be worth it – so you spend half a day, following this path around a mountain and then you arrive at a beautiful glacier and it’s amazing, and you sit there and take it all in – and then you head back to the main path route. It’s valuable, worthwhile, beautiful, fun, etc. But it’s not the actual, main path either. My current life of travels feels like that side path.