Friday, July 28, 2006

Las Trancas 05

Originally posted to El Cantar de la Lluvia on Friday, December 02, 2005

The idea had been going around in my head for quite a while. Certainly the length of the trip made one stop and think; it was the first time that I'd be trying a trip like this, of almost 500 km.

It's just a question of packing the bike and setting off. The trip to Las Trancas took me about 8 hours and a half, something like that. I rode at between 85 and 95 km/h, what's the point of going faster. I didn't want to stress the engine, or tire myself. The result was a relaxed journey, no rush, seeing the sights, how beautiful scene after scene rolled past, being a part of the picture (as has been famously said before), feeling the wind and sun on my body. A trip really acquires an extra dimension when you take it like that. In a car, everything is flat, framed; the sky is not over your head, instead, there's a piece of sheet metal. You've got your cubicle, the toll booth receipts, the radio, your luggage, a can of soft drink, and the horrendous monotony of the windows, the steering wheel, the dashboard. On a motorbike, all that disappears,

...and there is nothing above you. As the narrator of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance said, on a motorbike you are part of the scenery.

I crossed rivers and bridges, one after the other. On one hand it's nice to recognize the name of a river from your school geography lessons, but on the other it's also nice to forget the name, to stop and feel how the bridge bounces violently with the passing trucks.

And sometimes, inexplicable things; artificial forests in the middle of nowhere, with a regularity and perfection that were extremely calming.

Having turned now to face the Andes, I noticed the clouds hanging over the valley I was headed towards.

Once I was in the valley, the real mountains came into view, those that surround the Termas de Chillán.

And above the cabins, the waterfall. During the days of rain and wind (of which there were three), the waterfall fell diagonally, its white vertical thread unravelling like a battered feather.

We were near a volcano, and where there are volcanoes, there are lava flows, escoriales. I took the road to Shangri-La, a lost valley just like all the other Shangri-Las in this world. To get there, I rode through a forest, following a stony track, which then took me to the escorial.

At the end of the track, a large house, clearly abandoned. Its windows were black gaping holes. The track to the house was cut off by a stream and a large slope of volcanic sand, which I was able to scale with difficulty, the rear wheel spinning as if it were some crazy steamboat on the Mississippi.

And it turned out not to be a house, but a mountain lodge, owned by the University of Concepción's Mountaineering group, according to a hiker that was taking a break in the shade after walking down from the Cordillera.

The next day, I decided to go back to the waterfall, like I did last year, but this time on the bike. I left the bike as close as possible to the base, in the middle of the forest, and I set off.

The climb is an easy one, if taken carefully.

And I'm there! Rainbow and all.

The view from up top was amazing.

The valley's drinking water is taken from the waterfall, either from its base or from the top, and is sent via these black tubes to its destination.

The return to Santiago was quicker than the outward leg of the journey, and on the way I saw several interesting things.

In the distance, you can just make out two walking figures.

Finally, after 7 hours, I was back home again. An unforgettable journey, no?

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