Coyhaique to Chaiten.
My next journey was supposed to take 10-hours but due to road works I was advised that it could take up to 12 – mmm, if only that had been the case! This bus was the second worst that I have been on during my travels to date and the journey ahead would take its physical toll on my body. We left Coyhaique, an hour late, at 9.00 am.
My fellow passengers were a mix of Chilean travellers and foreign travellers. It was raining outside so the windows of the crappy old bus steamed up constantly making it impossible to see outside.
Up until today I would have thought it impossible for anyone to eat 7 dry bread rolls and drink 5 cans of coke in the space of an hour but that’s just what the person sat next to me did. During a brief introduction I found out that his name was Carlo. More on Carlo later!
And still it kept raining. There are only 3 busses a week from Coyhaique to Chaiten so seats get booked up very quickly, especially if the weather turns bad. As the journey unfolded we stopped for “pee pee” breaks and refreshments at various villages along the route. At each stop there were hoards of other travellers standing in the pouring rain with their belongs glued to their backs looking like vertical tortoises, waiting for a bus to get them out of their misery. The bus by now was bursting at the seams but still they tried to climb aboard.
The journey was slow and bumpy one, in many places the stone track road was undergoing major repair work.
Peter and Luke, two super guys, joined the bus midway through the day. We had travelled together, off and on, during previous legs of my trip to date.
At 9.30 pm, with only 1-hour left to go, disaster struck. The hissing noise that suddenly erupted was soon diagnosed as a flat tyre. After 10-minutes of head scratching, by the short bespectacled bus driver, it was obvious that he was clueless when it came to changing a wheel. Carlo to the rescue.
Having had a fair amount of experience changing tractor wheels, in a previous life, I rolled up my sleeves and began to help. I now speak a little Spanish, Carlo spoke no English, but we worked together in harmony with the occasional grunt and hand gesture. It was cold outside, the rain was coming down like stair rods and the only light we had was from a car that agreed to wait whilst we carried out our operation. Due to the darkness and the difficulty of using a jack on an undulating gravel road, and the rusty wheel nuts, It took nearly 2-hours to remove the old wheel and replace it with the ‘good’ one.
As Carlo and I climbed back on board the bus a round of applause erupted. I’ve never received a standing ovation for changing a wheel before. The bus driver also rewarded me at the end of the journey by finding, and paying for, my first nights accommodation.
I still believe it was the driver who should have been applauded, for managing to get us all safely to our destination, a drive of nearly 16-hours – without a break.