Of Mice and Men

The Chilean Lake District is a panorama of soaring snow capped volcanoes and deep blue lakes. Picturesque towns with black sand playas dot the shores. Dramatic waterfalls tumble down carved volcanic rock. Towering emerald forests blanket the valleys. In a few days we fly further south to Punta Arenas to explore the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.

Our days in the cabin on the shores of Lago Llanquihue are idyllic. But as the coronavirus spreads we discuss our options. We sit out on the deck by the lake while Mocha lays on our feet and we ask where would we hang out for 3-4 months to ride this thing out.

We like where we are. The cabin is secluded and reasonable secure. It has a wood burning stove and sits beside a clean fresh water lake. And it has Netflix! The town is sufficiently near and far. Evan’s Spanish is getting us by. We have a car. Chile has fewer Covid-19 cases than Texas and we’re in a sparsely populated area with few visitors. Disadvantage: 1) winter is approaching in the southern hemisphere; and 2) we’re in somewhat unknown territory. The other option I put forward is Canada. Advantage: 1) closer to the US in case we’re needed back; and 2) Canada is English speaking. Jo thinks we should return to the US if we’re going to take the trouble to go to Canada. But I counter with two facts: 1) no TP shortage in Canada yet (is the average Canadian smarter than the average American?); and 2) better leadership (the average Canadian is smarter than the average American). We decide that tomorrow Jo will ask Bianca about staying here at the cabin for a while. But we’ll go ahead to Torres del Paine and probably even the Atacama desert and return here in a couple of weeks.

The next morning we wake up to more coronavirus news. Trump incoherently announces travel restrictions. More are surely coming. Italy is struggling to meet the medical demands of thousands of infected people. China is coming out on the other side of this. Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan show how leadership and smart policy can slow the outbreak. Argentina closes its borders. American Airlines cancels its DFW-Santiago flight indefinitely due to a lack of demand. It’s dawn outside. We decide we need to go back. Not two weeks later, not three months later but now. We’re ok here but our families are back in the US and it will get increasingly harder to go back to them. Jo gets on her phone and an hour later she has booked us tickets to Austin. We depart tomorrow and fly via Toronto. When the kids wake up we tell them our new plans. They are sad. We all are.

We drive halfway up volcan Osorno to where the ski lifts start. The lifts gently sway in the wind, empty and waiting for winter. Above the tree line the black volcanic soil crunches under my hiking boots as I walk up a steep slope. In a minute I’m met by three dogs that materialize out of nowhere. They like me to pet them and stay close but they aren’t clingy. I enjoy walking with them. The view is stunning.

Then we drive a few miles to Saltos de Rio Petrohué – waterfalls on the Petrohué river between Lago Todos los Santos and Lago Llanquihue.

Tomorrow we’ll leave early. I try to finish the bottle of local Carménère wine which is very good. Jo has a couple of drinks of her pre-made pisco sours. We eat home cooked pasta with local smoked salmon and watch a few short movies on Netflix. The kids pack. We feed Mocha her dog treats. It’s suddenly the very last night of our adventure.

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