The Road to Ensenada

Letter From Chile

At a quarter of nine in the morning, we climbed into our four-wheel-drive pickup where the new road ends at Llanada Grande.  Until this year, a flight to its unpaved airstrip or a two-day ride by horse from the automobile road was the only way to get there—and that was after a couple of hours bumping along on that winding road full of potholes.

The narrow gravel road follows the old horse road as far as the Manso River, low now after a month with only one serious rain.  Nevertheless, there is a monster bridge, suggesting some idea of what happens in the spring and, sometimes, in other seasons as well.

We used to run a resort a little downstream on the Rio Puelo from the Manso, and, as we drove along just above the farm that supplied fresh produce and fruit to the resort, we could see the two-room farm cabin, christened the “Love Shack,” in which we stayed while we were building.  A little farther on, we came to the ferry landing, below the big rock where I often sat to look at the twists and turns of the river upstream.  Our first employee, Oscar, who drove a boat for us, lives on a farm below the lake, and we planned to visit him for the first time in some years.

Only 15 years ago, when we first came to the valley, we brought an outboard engine and a modern boat, supplanting the chalupa, a primitive wooden boat with a one-lung, 16-horse engine and a very small propeller...

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