|In the morning, I went down to the port to check things out and I talked to the port director and gave him my phone number and he promised to Whatsapp me if anything changed. The hotel was full for that night and given that Chacabuco is a very small town with absolutely nothing going on, I decided to drive to Coyhaique an hour away and wait it out there. I got a room in a good hotel called Madero and contacted M and M and they invited me to Mena's house for dinner. In the meantime, I went to the local Eurocar office and got an estimate for the one way drop off fee - over a thousand dollars. I considered driving back but by this time it was already about 4 pm and if I started the next day there's no way I could have made it all the way back to Santiago by Sunday. So I decided just to see what happens. Dinner was great and Margherita and her daughter joined us as well as a different Luis and Gabby. The following day - Thursday - i decided to drive out to the airport to see about turning the car in there. By this time I saw no alternative but to pay the one way fee. If I didn't fly back, I'd miss my flight from Santiago, my flight to Iguazu, etc etc. the domino effect would mean all plans which are already paid for would go to shit. The man at Eurocar did the precise calculation. The total rental would now be $1,065,000 clp instead of $333,000 clp. A difference of about $1,170 USD. SIgh. The trip delay insurance better pay for this as well as my extra hotel stays. I bought my one way ticket to Santiago for about $130 USD and chilled the rest of the day.
Friday, I had to switch hotels and stayed just up the street from Mena's house at a B and B called Raices. I went to Reserva Nacional de Coyhaique and took a hike through the beautiful park for a total of about 4 hours. When I arrived at the guardaparque, she told me about the different trails and their difficulty. The one I said I'd go on went by the casa de la bruja, she said. I stopped her to make sure I understood her. La bruja? I asked. Seeing that bruja means witch in Spanish I wanted to find out if I had heard right. Yes, she said but don't worry, "no esta alla". I didn't know if that meant she's not there at the moment, not there today, or never there, and I didn't really want to know so I didn't ask more. I discovered later that it's apparently a haunted house of some sort in that a witch used to live there and now it's a little museum which was closed.
I chilled later and took all my left over provisions such as laundry soap, dish soap, olive oil, milk, flashlight, duct tape, a chile guidebook, a good corkscrew that she was in desperate need of, and some other things and left them at Mena's in order to get the car cleaned and ready to turn in the next day at the airport. I went to the gas station to fill the tank and a woman approached me and called my name. Wtf? It was Vanessa from the Trattoria several days earlier along with husband Luis following after her. We kissed each other's cheeks (this is the Chilean custom when you see anyone you know or are introduced to anyone for the first time who is a friend of a friend. When I went to Mena's house, Gabby - who I'd never met before - opened the door and I said - in Spanish of course - hi I'm Beth and I started to walk in and past her and I saw she was surprised and I realized I had failed my manners and I apologized and we kissed cheeks and told her it was a new custom for me and to please forgive me). Luis and Vanessa explained they were heading to Puerto Sanchez for the weekend and I explained why I was still in Coyhaique.
I went back to the Unimarc supermercado (this is the one that really is a supermercado) to get some wine. People come from all parts to shop here as it's the only real supermarket for hours in any direction. People fill to over flowing two or three shopping carts for weeks worth of food and provisions. Interestingly, the streets of Coyhaique are filled with cars during the day. It's hard to find a parking spot anywhere. And there are tons of people in the streets. But at night, all the cars are gone and it is perfectly quiet with no one around or in the streets. It stays this way until well after 8 am as people generally don't start work until 9 am and there is no commute for those who live in this small city. And the people from outside the city don't start coming until later.
I met up with Mena about 7:45 pm and we went and got some salmon ceviche (delicious) and a beer and time flew until we realized it was already after 10 pm and we were late for going to Mele's house. We went over and Margherita and two other men were there. We all made introductions (with cheek kissing of course) and chatted. Later, another man and woman came (I can't remember everyone's name). I could barely understand a word she said she spoke so fast and clipped all her words. The man was Colombian and I understood him perfectly. He and Mena and one of the other men and I were chatting about I don't remember what and I remarked that the Colombian's laugh was so funny. Then he remarked that Mena's laugh was so funny and then she remarked that mine was. At this, the Colombian started laughing where upon I laughed so Mena laughed so he laughed and it was a round robin of laughing hysteria that none of us could stop and the other guy couldn't stop laughing at any of us. I've never laughed so hard. We had been drinking prosecco, and the bubbles were giving me heartburn because I couldn't control my laughing. Mena finally had to get up and go outside which temporarily broke the chain of laughter. We were just calming down (all discussing where we were from and how we'd landed there) when the Colombian asked Mena when she would be leaving Coyhaique and she replied she had no date in mind. Then he asked me the same question and I said mañana. The stark contrast and rapidity between our two answers set off another bout of uncontrollable laughter between us and it was all we could do to catch our breath. Good times. (Three days later my voice is still shot from the laughter.) About 1 am I said I had to get going since I had an early flight and I kissed everyone and M and M walked me to my place and we said our goodbyes. At the airport the next morning, I paid the exorbitant rental car bill. When I was in the boarding line, a woman approached me and said my name. I looked at her and quickly realized it was Lolo, M and M's friend from Puerto Raul Marin Balmeceda. Jeez what a small world and city this is!! Goodbye Coyhaique. It really is a magical place.