A Road Too Far?

Letter From Chile

I awoke again this morning to an entirely clear sky.  It is cold early in the morning in late summer in the mountains of South Chile, about 45 degrees.  We are suffering through a very long dry spell.  There has been no significant rain for over two months, and the clear sky is mostly obliterated by heavy smoke.

The two forest fires, incendios, are fortunately on the other side of the Puelo, a wide, fast river flowing right in front of our cabin door.  We would never be allowed to build here, so close to the river, at home.  This might be a wise restriction, because some year, before too long, the river is going to take the land, cabin and all, in a spring flood.

With the government budget for the helicopter with the water bucket having been exceeded and a neighbor endangered by one of the fires, the firefighters, axes, pumps, shovels, sleeping bags, potatoes, flour, and a watermelon arrived at our airstrip by Twin Otter and were ferried nearer the fire by my husband and the neighbor, who own the only two motorboats on this part of the river.

Downstream from us lies a canyon, not navigable; upstream, another canyon, even more wild; beyond that, Argentina.  The “road” behind our house leads past a few farms, the nearest a 25-minute walk, to a rowboat ferry across the river and on to another airstrip, a school, a few houses, and a radio-phone.  By foot, it...

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