After hitchhiking to the bottom of Cerro Dorotea in Chile, in a lorry full of loo-roll, with a man who seemed to think we wanted to go to Argentina, we finally arrived at the foot of the hill and were ready to begin our ascent to the viewpoint. We were literally in the middle of nowhere; there was one shack-like house at the bottom of the hill, a few bushes and trees, and lots of animals. A line of chickens pecked round our feet and four dogs barked at us, each tied up to a different bush. Weird.
Just as we were looking for where to begin the walk, a tiny round woman hollered at us from the doorway, beckoning us over. She introduced herself as Frida and explained, in the fastest Chilean accent I have ever heard, that she was the ‘owner’ of the hill, and we had to pay her 5.000 CLP to be able to climb it. This price included a ‘tecito’ (tea) o ‘cafecito’ (cafe). (‘-Ito’ is traditionally used to indicate affection or smallness, but it has completely lost this sense in Chile. In Chilean it’s typical to add ‘-ito/a’ or ‘-cito/a’ to the end of any word you want, just for the sake of it. Frida talked almost constantly in this manner.)
She then rapidly babbled a load of warnings about the trail and the mountain, how to make sure we were following the path, where not to go, etc. My friend and I tried our hardest to catch her drift, nodding and smiling meekly. After handing over our 5 luca, we were handed home-made walking sticks to ‘get us up the mountain’. A load of encouraging words were then shouted at us ‘adiós mi hijitas, mi niñitas lindas, suerte! Cuando vuelvan van a tomar su tecito!’.
After a few hours hiking up the hill, with no living creatures except a grazing herd of cattle in sight, we were met with a beautiful view at the top. A panoramic vista of Puerto Natales and the surrounding mountains was peacefully displayed like a painting hundreds of metres below us. We then ate all the snacks we had brought as fuel (or emergency supplies if we had been kidnapped hitchhiking).
I absent-mindedly dropped my apple core down the side of the mountain, much to my friend’s dismay who warned me this could cause a landslide. I, being a natural worrier, held my breath as I watched it gather speed as it flipped and rolled over countless loose rocks. She then suggested I should sacrifice something to the mountain so it would spare us of a landslide, so I threw down some bits of cracker. It would have been hilarious and also very ironic if the cracker had then started a landslide. We then ate 175% of our daily fat allowance in peanuts (not even kidding :( ) and made our way back down the mountain. On the way down, we saw our first other fellow tourists for that day, a teenage boy and girl making their way up.
We made it back to the bottom in one piece where Frida had laid out a whole little buffet-cito for us. We were pretty full from all our snacks, but we did our best to tuck into the mountain of bread, jam, biscuits, cheese, tea and coffee that she had provided. She asked us, chuckling, if we had seen the ‘niñitos feos’ (ugly children) on their way up the mountain. We glanced at each-other bemused and mumbled to her that yes, we had. After stuffing ourselves with carbs and caffeine, we made our excuses and headed off to catch a lift back to town. We pretty soon managed to hail our return hitchhike; a rusty old red car blasting out Cumbia music, and got in with a friendly middle-aged woman. Before we knew it we were back in Puerto Natales, ready to hit the hay.
For a glance at what it is like to travel in Chile, check out the video below: