Monday, January 23, 2012

Lago Ranco Part Two

Mr Tabubil and I, along with Mr Tabubil's parents, sister and brother-in-law, have come south to spend the week between Christmas and the New Year  at the parcela of a friend just outside the small village of Llifen on Lago Ranco (Lake Ranco), deep in Chile's southern Alpine Region.

Precipitously abandoning the Saltos de Nilahue, we drove off down the road and were menaced by an ox.  Prancing down the highway, swinging his lowered head from side to side, he was menacing oncoming cars and prepared to take on all comers.  He outweighed us three to one.  There was a tense moment of standoff  - eyeball to bumper, and we prepared for a glorious retreat, but he caught sight of an SUV more in his weight class and let us pass. Ha!
            We saw the lake in glimpses and snatches.  All the beachfront land is private here.  By law, all water-frontage must provide for free public passage, but when property owners throw up walls and hedges and rows of dense fir trees to protect their privacy, acting on your guaranteed right to public passage involves some pretty major acts of trespass.  And most people down here own shotguns.   Apart from a promenade and a pier in the town of Lago Ranco, we saw only one public beach that day - a stretch of land so benighted and unappealing that even the most optimistic-minded real-estate developer couldn't have imagined making a profit out of it.
            Through a break in the trees we saw something astonishing - a floating beach.

All of the pumice that flows down the Nilahue river into the lake is blown by the winds into this one sheltered bay.  Millions and millions of them.

A little further on, we met a herd of horses.  The horses weren't particularly impressed with a car full of gringos, and decided that we didn't have any right to the road.
            Their gauchos had to put in a fair bit of persuasive effort to change their minds.

Half-way around the lake from Llifen, the highway turned inland again and we turned off it onto a dirt road that ran down toward the lake.
            The road curved sharply upward and the shoreline turned vertical.  A sharp slash in a volcanic headland turned into a gorge - below us was a wide river of the most astonishing liquid blue.  The road dropped back down toward it and dead -ended in the water.
            Bemused, and charmed, we got out of the car and wandered along the shore.  There was no ash here and the water - the water!  It was as clear as blue glass.  Fathoms deep, moving softly, gently, taking on an icy aquamarine tint.  I had no swimsuit with me.  I had no towel.  At that moment I wanted a swim worse than I've wanted anything in my life. 
            I still regret not jumping in - fully clothed, and dripping all over my seat later.

And we found a ferry.  Painted red and hand powered.  Two men shunted it back and forth across the lake - hooking metal claws into a thick rope cable and walking the ferry across - one ferry length at a time.  It took them sixteen seconds to walk a boat length.  All day.  Every day.  Back and forth across that enchanted river.

We rode the ferry across.

The day was warm and DRINKABLE and the water was blue and cold and clear and the trees were green and dark and the sky was sharp and clear as a trumpet blast.  And we felt a little drunk.
One of those perfect moments, you know?

Next year we are going to go back there and find a cottage or a cabin or a tent on the banks of that river and we're going to spend all of every day in and on that water.

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