Sunday, July 04, 2010

Week 3 - Gumboots, puppies and a jet boat

A rainbow shines on our last day at Palmoa

As the damp reality of the Patagonian winter set in we faced a glut of rainy days followed by a sprinkling of sunshine. The persistent rain over the weekend had caused a number of slips, including one which destroyed the final switchbacks of one of my favourite Paloma descents; Super Cougar.

The section of Super Cougar mauled by a slip

We spent most of our digging time clearing debris and reinstating the tracks to their former glory. These repair works served as an ideal opportunity for some real world application of my other occupation as a civil engineer. Firstly we located the support posts and slats of a retaining wall which had been scattered about the hillside on a landslide’s destructive whim. Then dredging up distant memories of geotech lectures we set about reconstruction, laying down the all important drainage then layer after layer of reclaimed earth packed against the stacked slats. Initial confidence in our contracting prowess turned to dismay as the support posts wobbled more than the tooth of a child eagerly awaiting the dental fairy. Support posts and braces were quickly installed with a sledge hammer and nails to keep the main posts fixed to the hillside. While the resulting monstrosity would likely not win any architectural awards we were confident it would withstand nature’s onslaught. Only time will tell if this proves to be the case.
Gumboots in their element

Working in the post-storm slop one comes to value simple things. Notably water proof rubber gloves, and gumboots. Fred Dagg couldn’t have got it more right when he penned his ode to the Red band. My first few weeks of work had been plagued by saturated work boots, which is difficult to stomach at nine in the morning, especially when faced with a day of soggy toes. With this in mind I jumped at the chance to requisition a pair of gummers from the crew who were leaving for sunnier climates. It is hard to believe that a single item of footwear can make such a profound change to one’s outlook, but with gumboots afoot no bog is to sticky or snow drift too deep and a day of digging in the sleet has surely become less of a chore.

DJ Jazzy John rocks out a plate full of Pachunga

Our final meal at Paloma was everyone’s favourite Chilean artery clogging treat; Pachunga! When the departing crew had requested it they had no idea of the labour it would involve, but when the maids dished it up at nine in the evening after a good four hours slaving in a hot kitchen we were fully aware of the sacrifice and even offered to wash dishes as recompense. With even less of the healthy salad bits of regular Pachunga, the meal was a hit with the crew and the evening was notably quieter as food comas set in.

Jet boat Jake on his way to Disierto, cerveza in hand

The original plan was for us to head west to Lake Disierto on Wednesday but slips on the road pushed this back to Friday. Apparently the mud was so thick that our only way into the lodge was by jet boat. Swerving and dodging the shallow rapids linking the lakes made for a thrilling ride. This trip also gave context to our employer’s grandiose trail plans which aimed to link the two lakes by a ribbon of mountain singletrack.

On arrival in Disierto we were greeted by a pair of excitable puppies named after the trail crew’s favourite after work beverages; Konig and Becker. I’ve attached a video of their playful antics, if only to capitalise on the guaranteed blockbusting popularity of puppies on Youtube. Everyone loves puppies!

Their effervescent disposition makes for a stark contrast with nonchalant demeanour of Solo back at the Paloma camp. He will chase a stick with aggression reminiscent of his rugged past but on picking it up he’ll loose interest and look around like he was never interested in chasing anything as stupid as a stick.

With Lake Disierto as our home for the remainder of our Patagonian stint, I can’t wait to explore the trails that crews here have built, not to mention building a few more for good measure!

Mountain Pedaler out...

No comments: