Monday, April 13, 2009

You, me and Teniente Bello

Chileans already know where this is going, mas o menos (roughly).

Yesterday I accompanied two intrepid gringos (actually, whose idea it was go out for a hike, hi still life, mr. still life!) up to Parque Mahuida in the comuna of La Reina for some steep walking up, and some steep walking down.

See, this is the thing about hiking in Chile. Since we've got these giant razor-backed, um, you know, Andes, most hikes are straight up the mountain, and then straight down the mountain. Though you might think it would be the opposite, I far prefer the ascent to the descent, basically because gravity keeps me from flying up the mountainside sin querer (by accident), but also gives a strong pull downwards on the slippystep down the scree, loose gravel and rocks. I sat down a couple of times, harder than I'd have liked, poom right onto my poto (tush/bottom).

Anyway, slipping down the mountain aside, I always have a bit of a problem with this park. It's lovely, safe has holly-like trees (including the rash-producing litre, which you must say hello to), a million blooming things, and several different kinds of birds, which you might actually see, unlike the mammals who know a thing or two about hiding. My problem is that I am constitutionally incapable of following Sendero El Litre to its logical conclusion back down to the road.

The main hikes in the giant park (and before I forget, it's accessible by the D02 to Alberto Cassanova/Larrain, and you can get the D02 at the Irrarrazaval metro, or at Plaza Egaña or at Simon Bólivar or a bunch of other places), are up Cerro San Ramón (two days, you overnight on the mountain), along the Sendero de Chile (trail that one day should connect most of Chile), or up to Cerro La Cruz. We opted for up towards Cerro La Cruz, guessing we might not go up the whole way, but rather take the dreaded Sendero El Litre back to the park HQ. This trail is dreaded only because I cannot follow it. In the spring it is one of the prettiest place I know close to Santiago, the other being Yerba Loca, which is harder to get to, but I'm sure I'll write about someday soon.

And here's where the poor lieutenant Bello comes in. As we were hiking down and across a few dry streambeds, we heard a voice. "Are there people over there?" "Yes," we responed "and over there?" "Estamos mas perdidos que el teniente Bello" (We're more lost than Lieutenant Bello, fig: We are utterly lost). The hikers coming in the opposite direction were trying to hike the same trails as us, but in the opposite direction. And they too, were a bit confused. We were able to direct them back from whence we'd come, but not before exchanging a few pleasantries. The leader of the duo, a broad man with a very big stick, proclaimed himself to be "from" San Francisco. This seemed curious to me, as "from" is really a where you were born thing, not a where you live thing. The gentleman was obviously Chilean, but had been living in SF for 30 years. It almost makes me want to go on yet another tangent, one where we discuss what it means to be "from" somewhere. But I will resist, and leave it hanging for discussion at a later juncture.

Teniente Bello, of the getting lost fame, was a minor military figure, the son of important people, and the grandson of Andres Bello, for whom one of the city's major traffic arteries is named (when I die, please name a bikepath or hiking trail after me, not someplace where people sit in choking traffic and smog). Anyway, poor Teniente Bello had a series of mishaps when trying to get his pilot's license, He had to fly a tight triangle from town to town, and first got lost in the clouds, then lifted off without enough fuel, and finally was lost forever in fog. He is not celebrated like our Amelia Earhart, that groundbreaking female pilot, rather he has become the butt of jokes, and

Which, come to think of it is actually what I'd like to have named after me. A trail that never takes you where you think you're going, that meanders and crosses back upon itself, and that in the end, you have to write your own adventure to get found again. Given my lack of sense of direction, my tangential musings and all the rest, I think it would be only appropriate. If it's in Chile, I hope they'll call it Sendero de Aylín. (Aylín's path).

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