Now what?

After a restless night’s sleep, my foot was still hurting madly so headed out to the hospital for an x-ray. I’d been researching online about strains and sprains to know how long I’d be laid up, what to could expect.

Andy got a wheelchair from hospital staff when we arrived there. (I think nobody there could stand to see me hobble around either.) How nice that felt to not have to walk! It also ensured I was sitting when the x-ray came back. I sort of just stared at the doctor in disbelief as he showed me the breaks. How long will this take? Some absurd estimates were thrown around and ended with me understanding that if I screwed it up, I might need a surgery to line up the bones again. So far, it was the luck in this misfortune that the breaks were clean and not displaced. And I get to make a choice (yippee!)… a solid plaster cast for 6-8 weeks or a stiff removable boot that I have to wear day and night at first and then see how it progresses. That was an easy one. We went on a little shopping spree at the orthopedic supply shop down the road for a new boot and threw in some crutches to go with it.

More difficult choices were ahead. We left the hospital and I had no idea how we were going to continue our trip. We wouldn’t be sitting it out in Coyhaique. Stopping or going home didn’t cross my mind, I was too busy trying to figure out how we’d continue on.

After about a week of what felt like denial, I started researching for a local orthopedic doctor. We had questions we were too stunned to ask initially. I came across a blog of a pair of world travellers on a bike and got in touch with Ivana. She had broken her leg and was treated in Coyhaique a couple months earlier. She had a surgery to insert several pins in her leg and after several weeks, had continued on south by hitch hiking while her partner continued on their bike. That’s tough! Ivana was encouraging, and informative about the local doctors. I’m glad we’re in touch now to follow up how the travels are going. In the meantime, they are riding two-up again somewhere in the Atacama desert.

What are you doing New Year’s?

The x-ray answered the question we’d be asking for the past year, “Where do you think we’ll be for the holidays?” In the beginning, we speculated Ushuaia. Then we thought we should be past there so we could have plenty of time to loop up to see Iguazu and into southern Brazil to visit my colleagues there. Recently we’d revised the estimate to somewhere around Torres del Paine. We came committed to the road, not to a set route. When I found out my foot was broken, we just went with it. We’d sit out two weeks in Coyhaique for the holidays and decide from there. How long can a foot take to heal anyway? (And when will it stop swelling and hurting?)

Two weeks passed quickly while we were doing a bunch of absolutely nothing. I was content with my small trips around the cabin. Oh yeah, and we got a cabin! The hostel owner couldn’t stand seeing me go up and down those stairs any longer, so we were moved to a cabin across the street. ‘Twas the Christmas season and all… Very kind of her! So we had a cozy little fire, Andy stocked the fridge, and my days consisted mainly of wobbling from the bed to sofa.

That sofa is really memorable. I would just sink in and prop up my foot. When I was on FaceTime with Julia, she remarked how it looked like I was in a sea of roses. Yep, the pink posy print matched the curtains. But the sofa had seen better days. The cushions were worn out and rising from it was like lifting myself out of a deep hole. Everyone without crutches looked stiff and old getting up from it. With my crutches, I felt like a giraffe, so it was good for a smile or laugh every time.

Strangely enough we didn’t really go stir crazy. We just kind of chilled out and were astonished how two weeks can slip by nearly unnoticed.

Evaluating plans B, C and D

There were still quite a few highlights to come in the area and we wanted to get out exploring again. We just had to figure out how. In the best case, we’d be able to travel together or at least sort of coordinated so that we could see and experience sights at El Calafate and Torres del Paine together.

We could park the bikes and rent a car for a couple of weeks, but then we’d have to come back to Coyhaique and riding out of their meant dirt and gravel roads. I had no idea how long it would be before I could manage just any kind of unpaved road well again. We’d also have to get something worked out for the board crossing and customs since we’d exit without the bikes that were noted in our passports. It would all be possible, but this didn’t quite feel like the right solution.

I started looking into the many boat options around. If we could find a cruise operator that had a ship equipped to roll the bikes on, maybe we could just set sail for the south to Punta Arenas or Ushuaia while my foot heals and then ride back up north. It would allow us to travel together and would add a pretty neat aspect to the travel. We both enjoy boats and this would be an unforgettable way to see the icebergs and fjords of the region. Bot the cruises are not only pricey, they also fill up quickly and don’t have the flexibility we’d need to take the bikes with us.

There are some online travel groups, but I decided to start small and just send a few quick notes out to people we’d met along the way and other travelers we know. No familiar overlanders were nearby, and we didn’t meet any in town with similar plans. Sonia from Motoaventura told me that the paperwork to transfer my bike over the boarder to Argentina by someone else would be a hassle at the notary, especially around the holidays, but they could transport it within Chile if that would help. She also gave me the number of their contact person in Coyhaique, Rolf Traeger. We got in touch and it turns out, he’s a biker and has a car rental company. That got us thinking. How about we put our bikes up on the back of on one of his rental 4×4 pickups? He agreed. After a short discussion about how to do it, he and his team spent half a day welding a frame and tracks into a truck, then they helped load up our bikes and we were on our way. We could take the truck one way to Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, or elsewhere. This solution really fit the bill: we’d get to travel together, the bikes were with us, we could be flexible and it added a really fun aspect to the travel.

El Jardin


Hacienda La Florida – Tarma

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I sit in the bed and lean a bit forward to get a different angle looking out of the window of our room. Outside an old couple drags large portions of some sort of grass through the farmyard. They have formed a bundle bigger than themselves, wrapped a huge cloth around it and carry it on their back. From behind you hardly see anything of the person, it seems the bundle moves on its own feet. They disappear through a large door. The bikes stand there in front of the veranda like horses used to stand in front of a saloon.

The sky is bright and blue. The dogs are dozing in the sun. The air is cool though, we are at 3000m here in Tarma.

I am glad I feel a lot better. 3 days ago I woke up in the night, not feeling well, freezing. Not the kind of freezing that you have when it is cold. The kind of freezing that comes from the inside. The kind of freezing you get when your body has changed the inner thermostat to a higher temperature. That’s what he does when he thinks a fever could do some good.

I ended up with over 39 degree fever, quickly rising. And I felt absolutely miserable. Since we had been across some areas which are malaria prone, there was the small chance I had caught this or some other nice tropical illness.

I decided to see a doctor. We called Padre Louis, a 70-year old padre from Germany that we know and who lives here for decades. Since he had a little spare time that day he offered to bring us to the hospital, where they could make a quick test for Malaria.

We had to wait for more than 5 hours to get the result. But I also got a shot to lower my fever so I quickly felt better in the hospital. We waited and could watch the life going on in that provincial hospital. It goes on a slow pace.

A Peruvian singer sings his cheesy love songs in the radio. The lady behind the desk has a pile of papers in front of her, holding a pen in her hand and from time to time even filling something in. But most of the time she is leaning back and turning her had so she can follow the game show in the TV. Once in a while one of the girls walks along the aisle and you can hear the clacking of high-healed shoes as she goes around the corner. The clacking is of a low frequency. Nothing like the hectic sounds you would hear in a European hospital.

As the padre is waiting with us all the time, we wanted to know how much longer we have to wait (they originally said something about 40 minutes). The lady at the desk was not turning her head to us or even just taking her eyes off the TV show when Christy was asking her. It would be only another 20 minutes she promised.

The padre took off eventually. He had some appointments.

I was watching the whole scene from one of 6 beds they had set up here. It is sort of the waiting room. One other person was laying there. An elderly man who is calmly resting. After a few hours one of the doctors is taking care of his injured hand and he disappears. One of the nurses prepares the bed, which means she is putting the same sheets back in order.

The sheets I am laying on have been in use already as well. Brown and red spots all over. I am too tired, feverish and ill to care about.

Finally the results come. The lady doctor had a look at them. No malaria. She wonders where the result of the urine test is that she had ordered. We realize we paid for it (and as well for a second shot) but the nurses have forgot about it. So now Christy is going to the pharmacy to get one of these neat little cups. They get their urine sample and one of the nurses disappeared with it. We were let alone with the promise it would only take 20-40 minutes for the result. Since we already waited 5 hours for the last 40-minute-promise I started to let them know that el-gringo was getting a little bit angry about it.

Finally another doctor showed up. He was more senior and started to ask me precise questions about my whereabouts. After he had a detailed knowledge of where I had been for how long he assured me, that Dengue and a couple of other possible candidates of tropical diseases would not be a possible reason for my high fever. That sounded very professional so we gladly returned to the hotel.

So here I sit. In the nice little hotel. In our nice little room. Getting slowly better as the fever lowers a little bit every day.

It is not a typical hotel we are in. It is an old hacienda that rents rooms. The Hacienda has a long an interesting history. A well known Peruvian author wrote a nice little novel about it (Silvio in the rose garden).

It is run by Pepe, the owner, and his wife Inge, a German lady that fell in love with the Andes and then with Pepe some 30 years ago. She is a very caring, very open and warm person. Every day she comes to see how I am doing. In the evening she prepares a special soup for me, all with all kind of super fresh vegetables from her huge garden. That garden (el jardin) plays a large roll in the novel about the hacienda. And as I am sitting there in my bed, getting slowly better I decide it would be time to get up and have a look around. Christy joins me for a stroll around the hacienda.

A double storied and u-shaped main building is creating a yard of approximately 20x20m. The buildings are painted in a light blue.

In the yard there are some old motorbikes (the most actual one a KLR650 from their son who traveled South America with it). An old Land Rover, a classic Ford, and a first generation Unimog are standing around. The open side of the u-shaped main building is closed by a wall, a shed and a little chapel. The wall contains a huge gate that leads to the fields of the hacienda which spread along the valley.

A little door in one corner of the main building has a wooden sign above it: “El Jardin” it says. It leads to a nice and full garden with lots of different flowers and plants. A huge 200 year old cypress marks one corner of the garden. Behind it a little meadow for the horse spreads. It is also the campground for guests who want to pitch their tent. Next to it a huge herb and vegetable garden allows Inge to create her nice meals. There are also stables for a couple of cows.

A young german studies the chances for the farmers in the valley as part of his degree in socioeconomics and a young girl is spending her last 2 weeks of her work and travel time here on the hacienda.

The whole place is very calm. Tranquilo as the Peruvian would say.

I am very happy I got sick at a place like this and not in a loud and chaotic city. And I am almost a little bit glad I got sick at all. Otherwise we wouldn’t have got to know that little place here so well.