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Torres del Paine is Burning

And I, too, feel a fire under me. I woke up this morning in Coyhaique, Chile, the capital of the Aysen Region. I’d slept later than I’d wanted. It stays light here until 11 pm, and I’m having a hard time remembering to go to bed at a decent hour. I woke this morning with a sense of anxiety and enormous pressure. I have to go to Puerto Natales. I have to bear witness to the massive forest fire ravaging the Torres del Paine National Park. This is a rather drastic change of plans. I only arrived in Coyhaique on Friday, just in time to spend New Year’s with my Chilean cyclist friends. I intended to continue my research on HidroAysen here for at least a week before slowly continuing south, but I’m feeling the hands of the universe against my back, pushing me to move south now instead of later. I have a lot to do today to make this happen. So this is going to be a quick, doesn’t-even-begin-to-do-justice-to-the-past-month update. Sorry.

1. Published a second story in the Santiago Times, this one about the appeals against HidroAysen being presented in the Supreme Court just before Christmas.

2. Left Puerto Montt and rode for 12 hours on a series of buses and ferries to arrive in Chaiten, a town nearly wiped off the map by the eruption of Volcan Chaiten three years ago. Less than half of the original inhabitants still live in the ashy remains. I spent one night here with a group of friends of the road, and visited local hot springs, before hitching my way south to Villa Santa Lucia and Futaleufu. I posted a new album of photos of the ferries, hot springs, and friends, here.

3. Spent ten days in Futaleufu rafting on the river of the same name. Although the Futaleufu River is one of Chile’s most famous whitewater destinations, it too is under threat of being dammed. I wrote an article about Expediciones Chile and the company owner’s work to open a dialogue with the hydroelectric developers in hopes of finding a way to share Chile’s rivers. I sent it to the newspaper today, and will post again when it’s published. I spent Christmas hiking high in the mountains near Futaleufu. I camped alone, next to a raging glacial creek, and drank boxed wine and toasted to friends and family and loved ones.

4. It took me three days to hitchhike south from Futaleufu to Coyhaique, first with a Chilean friend, then with a fellow New Englander, and finally with a young man from Belgium, Nico. Nico and I waited eight hours before getting a ride, but just as we were about to give up hope, Gustavo and Luis Miguel and their pearly blue Mercedes truck rolled up and offered us a ride all the way to Coyhaique. There was only one catch. Before we could go to Coyhaique, we had to detour almost all the way to Argentina to build runway markers for a ranch’s private airstrip. The resulting 24 hours – dusty, hungry, bumpy hours in the back of the truck – were the kind of traveling hours I live for. I could write a book about just that trip, through the jungly glaciated cordillera to the dry, rolling pampa, and back. In the meantime, however, there are pictures.

5. I have less than one month left to raise funds on my Spot.Us page! I am very grateful for how quickly you all have responded, but we can’t stop yet. I still need 31 twenty-dollar days in less than 31 days! $635. THANK YOU to the donors of the past month: Jennifer “Jeni Brazofuerte” Armstrong, J.D. Lasica, Jeffery Aberbach, Clysta Seney, Benno Friedman, Michelle Powers, and MY MOM! Don’t forget that there are neat little gifties tied to each donation. $20 not only funds my work for a day, but also gets you a signed 8 x 12 print of one of my photos. Even $10 gets you a personalized thank you post card from Chile! Please help spread the word.

Thanks for reading, thanks for donating, thanks for your moral and emotional support – I’m halfway through the trip. I’ll be back before we know it. Stay tuned.

1 comment to Torres del Paine is Burning

  • kenny harshbarger

    good luck with your fundraising! You’ve done so much incredible stuff, so I just know that money will not slow you down!

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