AYSEN PROTESTS AND FISHING
For the past week and a half things have been a bit inconvenient here in the Aysen region of Patagonia. The people of the region reached their tipping point. The issue that made the difference was the government’s decision to approve the construction of big hydro projects on the Rio Baker. This decision was the spark that brought all the lingering social concerns to the surface. The protests are spreading with blockades of tires – burning at night – at important intersections and in front of warehouses and truck parking areas. In the outlying villages the locals are blocking the roads in sympathy and solidarity.
So far here in Coyhaique or the outlying villages of El Blanco, Balmaceda or Villa Ortaga I haven’t seen any violence by the citizens or the police. As you approach each village here is a road block set up by the locals as part of the protest. At each one they stop traffic for two hours and then let private vehicles through. Trucks don’t get to pass. On the road to the airport there are three road blocks but they are coordinated. Outside of Coyhaique it is open on the even hour. At El Blanco http://youtu.be/_kVlAEpwgxs it is on about the even hour and a half and at Balmaceda at about the even hour and 45 minutes. If you time it right you can make it to the airport in Balmaceda with just a slight delay. I heard there was some attempted looting by hooligans at the UniMarc (big supermarket) just down the street from me in Coyhaique. There are some broken windows. Newspapers are reporting clashes between police and protestors in Port Aysen, the choke point for al supplies coming into this portion of Chile. It is just very very inconvenient. I’m down to about ¼ tank of gas. I have to conserve it so I can get to the airport on the 6th to get home.
I support the Patagonians even though they are making it hard on me. This is my fifth year down here and I don't, for the most part, see any improvement in the infrastructure from the first time here. Lots of the bridges are still questionable and the roads are in no better shape. I've traveled better on old US Forest Service roads in the states than the pan American highway toward Villa Ortaga or the road to Argentina via Coyhaique Alto. There is no health care outside of Coyhaique. If you live in Chile Chico you have an 8 hour drive to anything other than minimal health care. Maybe you would get lucky and have your problem in time to make the once a day ferry from Porto Ibenaz (sp) which would reduce the time to health care by about 5 hours. The people of Aysen have valid grips with the government. They are small in numbers and isolated geographically from the developed north of the country. All they have is hydro-electric potential and the north wants it and to give the Patagonians nothing but lip service.
So much for the editorial comments. Now to the fishing. No fuel and cold, wind and rain has made it tough. We have not been able to make it two several of the best – as in BIG fish – rivers and streams. When we have been north near Villa Ortaga http://youtu.be/_kVlAEpwgxs on a couple of small streams we have done very well with a lot of fish and a few big fish. We – Ethan and I – have made the strategic decision to wait until the weather is good for a couple of days and then use our fuel to get to Villa Ortaga. It is only about 35 or 40 Km each way but rather than come back to Coyhaique at night we will see if we can find a place to stay there for the night. If we can’t find a hospedaje we will sleep in the car.