The top of Arcoiris – or the time I fell in love with Chile
It was all coincidences that had lead me to Cochamó, that had made me venture through the ancient moss clad forest on a century old horse trail all by myself, and that had taken me here, to the top of Arcoiris, where I now could see the Osorno volcano – yet again – in the distance. All coincidences that had lead me up to this moment, this place that would make me fall head over heels in love with Chile.
Exactly three weeks earlier I had been on another mountain top, Cerro Lopez, near Bariloche, Argentina and been looking at the same volcano – far in the distant, behind the fjord-like lakes and behind countless mountains. What was I thinking when I was standing there – looking at the rugged landscape, looking into Chile? Did I see myself falling in love with the valleys, the mountains and friendly people on the other side of the border? Did I plan to spend more than one and a half month on the long and narrow stretch of land next to the Pacific Ocean?
Definitely not! How could I? I went to South-America to learn Spanish and if I were to fall in love with any country at all it was supposed to be Argentina. Chile was just an afterthought, a place to check out when I was in the neighborhood. It wasn’t love at first sight though. Sure, I really liked it, Torres del Paine was beautiful if not somehow overcrowded, Chiloé charming and tranquil, Futaleufu had amazing rafting and I had one of my favorite clown shoots ‘til now in Chaitén.
Most people I met were extremely friendly and helpful, if at times in a somehow brusque and weird manner – especially in small towns. In a hospedaje in Chaitén we somehow got permission to cook our dinner in the kitchen, which was mainly used for the restaurant, and the owner and chef would constantly taste our vegetable stew, remark that it was too sweet and throw in a handful of salt, I guess he was trying to help us out, but in the end he was rendering our food almost too salty to eat. When we were done eating, washing up after us in the kitchen, he handed us a piece of the salmon he’d been cooking for his restaurant guest, and let us have it for free (it was too salty as well, that’s one thing I don’t like about Chile, they’re way too fond of salt!). And even though their ice cream and beef can’t compare to what they have in Argentina, their avocadoes are heavenly.
Yes, I really liked Chile, but it wasn’t really love until I went to Cochamó. Until I climbed up the steep path to Arcoiris, four strenuous hours, some places up almost sheer rock surfaces, where using a rope was the only way to get up. It wasn’t until I saw the amazing views of the rounded granite domes surrounding the forest clad valley below me, until I spotted the clear blue laguna in a bowl of another mountain across from us with a thin sprinkle of water running down the steep mountain sides and I again spotted the top of the Osorno volcano in the distance. It wasn’t until then that I realized how much I loved this place, how much I adored the unbelievably beautiful Cochamó valley and how much I loved Chile!