Last Tuesday, we procured our own transportation from Fernando, a local driver and guide. "El Luchador" (the wrestler) is a franken-truck consisting mostly of Mitsubishi parts. The registration cites the vehicle as a 1995 model. It is a dirty beast. Ollie and I rented the pickup so that we could properly document the approach to El Arpa. We spent Tuesday tooling around the outskirts of Los Andes, documenting our surroundings. On Wednesday morning,
we headed up the mother road to the promised land, shooting the twists and turns of the perilous road. On the way back down the valley our journey came to an abrupt end when the timing belt failed. Despite the best efforts of Chris, the Arpa guide, we were dead in the water. Fernando came and towed his prized possession, the wounded wrestler, back to civilization and a mechanic. Ollie and I were once again motor-less.
On Thursday morning, we hopped a bus to Santiago. Ollie's departure (originally scheduled for Wednesday) had been delayed do to protests in Santiago, which crippled the country's transportation network. That afternoon we met with esteemed journalist, Sergio Paz. He is a travel writer for El Mecurio, the national newspaper, and also writes the annual Chilean Ski Guide. Sergio gave us the low down on the Chilean ski scene. He had offered only glowing compliments for El Arpa and Toni Sponar, the man he refers to as a mountain visionary. Shortly after the interview Ollie and I parted ways, as he had a plane to catch back to the real world (already a day late for his second year of Yale graduate school).
On Friday I met with Bryan Pearson, owner of Santiago Adventures, the exclusive booking agent for Ski Arpa Chile. Bryan gave me a candid interview and assessment of Arpa from a financial standpoint. Then he sent me on my way via a rented Volkswagon Jetta that I will hence forth refer to as "Sporty Spice." By late afternoon I jetted out of Santiago in "S.S.," headed back to Los Andes and the guide compound, known as "the Bunker." I spent Friday evening in the company of Toni Sponar.
We rose to fresh snowfall on Saturday. I climbed into "Sporty Spice" and rocketed towards dirt roads and the unforgiving terrain of the Arpa road. I was able to reach snow line before the morning thaw to document snow settled up high desert cactuses. I spent the rest of the morning zipping around the Andean countryside, meeting local characters. Some of the standout encounters included a herd of billy goats determined to cut off "S.S.," a Caballero (wearing a C.U. Buffs sweatshirt) practicing with his trusty steed, San Esteban's one and only "Empanada Lady," and a group of friendly neighborhood kids demonstrating their Chilean futbol prowess. After a belly full of empanadas, I made my way to bed early.
I slept in Sunday. After a late start due to unrelenting valley fog and low-hanging cloud cover, I climbed in to "Sporty Spice" and spent the day zipping around the Aconcagua Valley. Sunday is reserved for four things here in the Chilean countryside: Church, Futbol, moto-riding and horseback riding (Caballero style). By late afternoon, the Arpa guides joined me back at the Bunker and we headed to Lomo House for dinner. Monday will bring an early start and lead to more filming of the Chilean lifestyle. Stay tuned as I report about a visit to Santiago with Toni for some business and a trip with the Boys for some freeskiing down the famous Andean couloir known as "Super C."
Ciao, till next update.