Monday, January 23, 2006

Luminojos to Villarrica


Perched on a point overlooking the Pacific, Max Mills' "Luminojos" provided a peaceful refuge for a couple days


It is eight months since I left California. I reckon I'm around 2/3 way through this journey.

I'm camped at “Don Santos” campground between Villarrica and Pucon, on the shores of Lago Villarrica. This is the “Lakes District”, the summertime destination of many Chileans. Stopped first at another campground that is actually on the lakeshore. They wanted $24 a night! And the campground was crowded with families. This one, a half mile away, but across the highway from the lake is nearly empty. $4.

***

Driving south on highway 5 earlier, it had been sunny and warm much of the day, but approaching Temuco, I could see ahead some kind of weather system blowing in from the Pacific: cirrus clouds, followed by altocumulus, then some low level-cumulus. It turned cold and very windy. It made me realize how great the weather has been in Chile! I can't complain if that's now coming to an end.

Found the campground just before nightfall. An electrical hook-up allows me to work on the computer inside my tent.

This is the third night in a row I’ve slept in the tent. The last time that happened was in Panama, in the mud! I much prefer this.

***

Began the day at 6:45, with Kristin looking through my tent screen to see if I were awake. Max was taking her and Manuela off to the bus “depot” (a dirt yard with a ticket sales kiosk) in Curanipe. They are on their way to Santiago, northern Chile, Puno, Cusco, La Paz and Buenos Aires (I think). Max was going to then visit the internet café and said he’d be back around 10:30 or 11:00. Barely awake, I wished them farewell from inside my tent, then fell back asleep.

“Lucky” barking woke me around 8:00. I forced myself to get up. A car was parked up the driveway, but no one was around. I had promised I would clean up the dishes from last night. With no running hot water, I had to boil water to wash the dishes. A lengthy process. Then I packed up the bike, took a shower, then finally sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and wrote a note in Max’s "Luminojos" guest book.

It was approaching noon, and there was no sign of Max. I didn’t want to leave without a farewell. I walked up the driveway and looked at the car. It was Max’s. “How did he take them to the bus depot without the car?” Then it occurred to me that maybe he had returned before I woke up.

Went back inside and knocked on his bedroom door. There came a barely-audible, groggy reply. I told him I was about to leave, but would copy last night’s photos to a CD before going. He came out and said his back was bothering him so (from surfing the other day) that he came back from town and went right back to bed.

At 1:00 p.m., he escorted me out, taking me down the road to a man-made mirador, from where you can look back on “Luminojos” perched on the bluff. We took a few more photos, then he led me south across a new bridge and stopped where the pavement ends. For the next twenty miles, it’s a dirt road (though Max said it will be paved in the next couple years – which should bring a real estate boom to this area.)



Max and "Lena"



Max and "Lucky" (Max seems to like the letter "L".)


Once again, I had to get comfortable riding on dirt, gravel, sand and thick powdery dust. I wouldn’t call it “fun”, riding a heavily-loaded bike in this stuff, but one does eventually adjust to it. The access to the coast thus far appears to have been primarily for logging. The forests have all been cleared, and now are replanted in crop-like blocks. For those who have staked out their plots on this quiet stretch of coast, it’s apparent that soon these will be highly-desirable properties. It feels so much like California’s far north coast.



Much like California, Oregon and Washington, Chile's forests have been largely cleared and converted to "agriculture". It looks like a sprawling Christmas tree farm.


Turning inland, the clearing is virtually complete. Much of the land looks like one continuous Christmas tree farm. Off the coast, it grew quite warm, and less like California’s north. Heard a jet overhead, an unusual sound these days. Yesterday, I saw a contrail to the south. A rare sight lately.

The sun’s position almost directly overhead is disorienting. My sense of direction is confounded. I pulled out my compass to get a feel for the directions. The cues were baffling. To my northerner senses, if it seems I’m driving west, I’m in fact going east!

They’ve gone absolutely crazy planting eucalyptus here. It's guaranteed to destroy the soil.

The motorcycle's electronics have been acting up: the speedometer malfunctions, a false EWS signal, a false light failure indicator. It's annoying, as I have to stop to investigate whenever these things come up.

In Chillan, I hooked up with highway 5 once again and turned south. A "beautiful" new highway. They’re still working on interchanges and access points. A speed limit of 120 Kph (about 72 mph). It’s a toll road (since La Serena) and costs about $1 (500 Pesos) every 45 miles for the motorcycle (essentially it’s like paying a dollar extra – over $5 – per gallon of gas!)

I look down the streets of towns I pass. Many are still dirt.

Lots of vacationers on the road, but no motorhomes. Usually a loaded car, and maybe some kind of roof rack or box.

Refueled at a “Copec” station and decided to eat there. Many of their stations feature a “Pronto” cafeteria, a decent fast-food restaurant. A number of the sandwiches include avocados. And they offer wine! The food is served on washable plates with metal flatware. This restaurant even offers wi-fi! Take note McDonald's!

5 comments:

shelby said...

Dear Sir, As an Environmental Studies Major, and a native Oregonian, I have to stated that your picture captions are EXTREMELY misleading to those who are truly naive, such as yourself. I grew up in a very rural community that was built upon logging. Having seen the devastating effects of both sides of the issue I turned towards the above major in hopes of creating, or helping to, common ground for both "environmentalists" and those who need and want to use the land. While I agree there is some significant clear cutting there is also a substantial amount of re-growth and replanting, done by the U.S. Forest Service, private industries and even some loggers themselves. Many forests grow back MUCH healthier and at quite a rapid rate. Think about something for just a moment; let's say the loggers cut down all the forests... then what? They just took themselves out of a job. Does that seem like something they would WANT to do? Of course not. Now mind you there are those that do not care about the environment just as there are those that are overly concerned with the environment to the point of shutting everything off from human use.
The picture you have along with its caption is not only misleading but potentially inaccurate. Allow me to explain; this easily could have been clear-cut however it could have been a forest fire or a clear-cut after severe forest fire when there isn't anything else to do with those trees. (Burned trees are of little use other than to lay on the ground and wait to be part of an even bigger forest fire.) Your caption states "It looks like a sprawling Christmas tree farm." You could not be farther from the truth! I will guarantee this is NOT a tree farm! How do I know? Well tree farms are very neat and in rows, like corn or other veggies. Also there is irrigation pipes for watering tree farms, do you see any?
To a trained eye this is what it is... after the "clear-cut" or forest fire, whichever the case may be. Someone went back into this area and replanted. You see when replanted the trees grow back, big and healthy. From there if the forest is then thinned, meaning the smaller weak trees are cut down, the forest will be ever so much more healthy for our future generations.
I understand the concern for the forests, we ALL have concerns for them. But before posting pictures with captions that are untrue please do some research.

shelby said...

Dear Sir, As an Environmental Studies Major, and a native Oregonian, I have to stated that your picture captions are EXTREMELY misleading to those who are truly naive, such as yourself. I grew up in a very rural community that was built upon logging. Having seen the devastating effects of both sides of the issue I turned towards the above major in hopes of creating, or helping to, common ground for both "environmentalists" and those who need and want to use the land. While I agree there is some significant clear cutting there is also a substantial amount of re-growth and replanting, done by the U.S. Forest Service, private industries and even some loggers themselves. Many forests grow back MUCH healthier and at quite a rapid rate. Think about something for just a moment; let's say the loggers cut down all the forests... then what? They just took themselves out of a job. Does that seem like something they would WANT to do? Of course not. Now mind you there are those that do not care about the environment just as there are those that are overly concerned with the environment to the point of shutting everything off from human use.
The picture you have along with its caption is not only misleading but potentially inaccurate. Allow me to explain; this easily could have been clear-cut however it could have been a forest fire or a clear-cut after severe forest fire when there isn't anything else to do with those trees. (Burned trees are of little use other than to lay on the ground and wait to be part of an even bigger forest fire.) Your caption states "It looks like a sprawling Christmas tree farm." You could not be farther from the truth! I will guarantee this is NOT a tree farm! How do I know? Well tree farms are very neat and in rows, like corn or other veggies. Also there is irrigation pipes for watering tree farms, do you see any?
To a trained eye this is what it is... after the "clear-cut" or forest fire, whichever the case may be. Someone went back into this area and replanted. You see when replanted the trees grow back, big and healthy. From there if the forest is then thinned, meaning the smaller weak trees are cut down, the forest will be ever so much more healthy for our future generations.
I understand the concern for the forests, we ALL have concerns for them. But before posting pictures with captions that are untrue please do some research.

shelby said...

As an Environmental Studies Major, and a native Oregonian, I have to state that your picture and captions are EXTREMELY. I grew up in a very rural community that was built upon logging. Having seen the devastating effects of both sides of the issue I turned towards the above major in hopes of creating common ground for both sides. While I agree there is some significant clear cutting there is also a substantial amount replanting, done by the U.S. Forest Service, private industries and even some loggers. Think about something for just a moment; let's say the loggers cut down all the forests... then what? They just took themselves out of a job. Does that seem like something they would WANT to do? Of course not. Now mind you there are those that do not care about the environment just as there are those that are overly concerned with the environment to the point of shutting everything off from human use.
The picture shown along with its caption is misleading. Allow me to explain; this easily could have been clear-cut however it could have been a forest fire or a clear-cut after severe forest fire when there isn't anything else to do with those trees. (Burned trees are of little use other than to lay on the ground and wait to be part of an even bigger forest fire.) Your caption states "It looks like a sprawling Christmas tree farm." You could not be farther from the truth! This is NOT a tree farm! How do I know? Well tree farms are in neat rows, like corn or other veggies. Also there is irrigation for watering do you see any? After the "clear-cut" or forest fire someone went back into this area and replanted. You see when replanted the trees grow back, big and healthy. From there if the forest is then thinned, meaning the smaller weak trees are cut down, the forest will be ever so much more healthy for our future generations.
I understand the concern for the forests, we ALL have concerns for them. But before posting pictures with captions that are untrue please do some research.

timtraveler said...

Shelby,

Thanks for offering your observation and I wish you well in your major. I think this is one of the most important areas one can study.

I first began my environmental studies at UCLA in 1970 and must confess, it is a life-long undertaking. I have continued to take courses at the local community college simply because our perspective on the subject is constantly evolving.

In my blog, there are fifty posts labeled "deforestation". These include some observations from just the past several years.

Regarding this particular photo, it is indeed a tree plantation. "Farm" may be the wrong term, I agree. I did speak to locals about the forestry practices in this region. As in many countries the trees here are harvested for export to Asia.

Regarding "tree farms", those here in Sonoma County, Northern California, may or may not require irrigation (beyond the initial rooting stage) as the climate is mild and rainfall plentiful. The photo in Chile was taken in a region very similar to California's North Coast.

Personally, I have witnessed clear-cutting and severe deforestation in many places: California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Arkansas, Mississippi, British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon, Alaska, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile.

I have flown over the western states many times, and the patchwork of clear-cuts is obvious. And now with tools such as satellite imagery I am able to study many other regions. (The devastation in the Amazon is particularly astounding.)

It is fairly easy to tell fire-damaged forests from routinely harvested forests. (A reader pointed out my photo of clear-cutting outside Missoula as harvesting following a forest fire.)

But I have to ask, at what point did nature forget how to grow forests? When did forests suddenly have to be "managed"? And why must downed trees be removed for their residual economic value? (And what will nourish the soil as we strip away, slash and burn every remaining scrap of vegetation?)

You no doubt have studied how monocultures are more susceptible to disease and fire than natural forest ecosytems. Yet throughout the U.S. Northwest and western Canadian Provinces, companies like Weyerhauser have created vast monoculture plantations, solely for the purpose of harvesting the trees. Their economic interest lies not in preserving forest ecosystems. Across the planet, the average age of forests is declining, as is their diversity.

From the Northern U.S. up to the Yukon and Northwest Territories much of the evergreen forests are being devastated by pine bark beetle infestations. One must question whether a century and a half of clear-cutting has weakened the defenses of these natural systems.

Though I've never made forest studies a specialty of mine, they have been an important part of my education. (It probably began when I helped clear-cut 400 acres of Sierra Nevada for vineyard in my early 20s. Thirty-five years later I can still see the negative impacts of that "project".)

In my professional career, I have met with forestry officials both here in California and in Europe. I learned about the European Union's widespread emergency efforts to maintain the forests of Southern Europe in the face of progressive desertification. I have studied the oak forests of Southern and Eastern Europe and interventions being taken there to control the spread of disease in forests weakened by pollution, overgrazing, firewood harvesting, etc.

I have been to the pulp plants in the Northwest and in Wisconsin and seen how forest products help drive our economy.

All this is to say, that I do believe in research, and a continuing education. Each and every day I read about environmental challenges and potential solutions.

After all, we are all in this together. It's indeed a small world that we must treasure and preserve for generations to come.

Thanks again, and good luck!

Tim

timtraveler said...

Oregon's dirty little secret (and in this, Oregon is hardly alone):

Clearcut Chemicals