And then things began to get interesting.
I’ve forgotten to mention the multitudes of hitchhikers here in Patagonia. I’m uncertain whether it is due to lack of good public transport, or just an interest in making a free go of such a remote part of the world.
We are pretty loaded down in the bus with the worldly possessions of three, and usually the hitchhikers are in packs of 3 or 4 complete with massive backpacks. But on this afternoon we passed a single hitchhiker in the middle of nowhere. He had his name-brand backpack and waterproof hiking boots, and it was just miserable outside. So we picked up Daniel from Santiago, hitching his third time through Patagonia.
Four days prior, while in Puerto Montt, Daniel heard there were protests in the Aysen region (where we are headed). He said there might be a roadblock. We traveled for a couple hours, and sure enough we hit one.
The protesters were nice enough, and let us know they would open the road in 2 hours. But now it was decision time. Apparently, there were more road blocks all the way down to the next large town, Coyhaique. This blockade was right before the gas station (which was rationing the equivalent of about 5 gallons per car) in La Junta, and also just in front of a highway turnoff that would take us to Argentina.
For two hours we debated what to do. Daniel could only get minimal information but we were told that south of Coyhaique, things should be fine. There isn’t much to see from the Argentina side, and even through the rain, the scenery here in Chile is spectacular. The plan was always to stay in Chile for as far south as possible, so we decided to drive on a little farther.
So, when the road opened, we were first in line to get our allotted gasoline and then continued on to Puerto Puyuhaupi. We’d intended to go a little farther and camp, but the station here was out of gas, and the town was actually quite lovely. So, we got a cabin and decided to see if we could figure out what was going on with the protests, roadblocks and gas shortage. We could always backtrack to Argentina, but we really just wanted to continue to drive down the Carretera Austral.
We left Daniel with a group of other hitchhikers on the main square, all trying to get rides south. We’re not sure how far he got.