Saturday, June 26, 2010

Week 2 – Cohaique, Pachunga and 3 trail dogs

Graffiti in Cohaique referencing the freeing of political prisoners

Last weekend our crew of 8 took the opportunity to hit the town, Patagonia style. A quick dash along the lake and an hours drive north and we made it to Cohaique (or Quahog of Family Guy fame as some of the more cynical crew like to call it).

The desolate surroundings apparent on the drive in appeared to be echoed in the town, with only a scattering of stores and an alarming prevalence of locks and barred windows on most of the homes.
Fast and Furious; Cohaique drift

Stray dogs wandered the street despite the biting cold and we were heartened to find that a local cafe had decided to turn around the lives of these misfortunate mutts by offering proceeds from the sale of English language books to feed and house them.

The Quahog markets were a veritable smogasboard of knitted goods. I took the opportunity to stock up on Alpaca wool hats from a particular vendor who could be seen spinning the yarn in the back of her stall. While her apparent blindness didn’t bode well for the fit of the finished product, it certainly upped the sense of smugness that can only come from the purchase of handicrafts hot off the knitting needle. If anyone out there wants some sweet handmade headgear (with or without earflaps) don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Ollie digs in to some Pachunga sporting his new alpaca wool hat

A number in the other crew had raved about a certain Chilean delicacy called Pachunga. The dish was constructed on a foundation of steak and chorizo sausage (cemented with cheese) and topped with a generous mound of greasy frites. To appease those who claimed the dish unhealthy, a sprinkling of egg, gerkin and capsicum topped it all off. Accompanied with a sloshing of sauce the dish was heavenly, and I’ll freely admit to polishing off a double portion single handedly.

Taking advantage of the fine weather Sunday, a small team headed up to finish some of the traverse track we’d been building. The work also served as an opportunity to work off various indulgences, pachunga included.

Trail building conditions on one of the nicer days

The cool but clear spell continued to Monday but come Tuesday the muck hit the fan and we were served with a three day long degustation of bitterly cold sleet, snow and heavy winds. During the worst conditions, 20cm of snow fell and soaked through we had no option but to keep swinging a spade or pick, the exertion just enough to keep toes and fingers warm.

Trail building in some average weather

Such is the passion (or perhaps stubbornness or even madness) of the crews here, we slaved on in the snow and wind. We had moved on to digging an alternative line down the hill to complement a mind melting piece of trail called Super Cougar. Fortunately this trail offered a fun way down the hill in any conditions, the steep loamy berms serving as an olympic luge style thrill with good dose of corner drift to keep nerves in edge.

Poopie, Nobby and Solo are two four footed friends of the team here at Paloma. The former is a hyperactive sausage dog who hits the turbo at the first sight of snow, leaping and bounding about the slopes like a gazelle in spite of limited ground clearance. Despite her being in a seemingly constant state of shiver, she is often first up the hill in the morning and is well loved by the crews for her playful antics.
Poopie on one of her adventures

Solo has his own story too. Legend has it he turned up at the lodge one day, seemingly arriving out of the mist. Originally known as Rape Wolf for his inappropriate advances on Nobby, he has mellowed to become the ever vigilant sentinel of the crew, barking to scare away approaching condors at lunch or to warn of approaching puma at night.

Solo stands guard

Nobby however seems to be afflicted with schizophrenia, following closely but dashing ahead if called or patted. His jumpy nature is the main reason he is yet to be captured on film.

All three dogs have a lifestyle the envy of dogs the world over. Free to roam about the Patagonian wilderness by day, with the constant attention of trail crews looking to rest weary limbs with a pat or two. Life for the trail builders themselves isn’t too dissimilar from their canine companions. A refreshingly simple daily ritual in an otherworldly location must surely be good for the soul.

Mountain Pedaler out...

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