21-Feb-2004 -- This is silly. This whole confluence idea is really silly. Wandering to random points defined by an arbitrary designation of coordinates centred on Greenwich some centuries ago and being guided by the latest in satellite technology. The excitement of the approach tempered by a vaguely embarrassed feeling. It’s great.
A Scot and an Irishman based in Santiago we had headed South to explore another part of the Andes. Being in the area and with time to spare, we decided to swing by the confluence and see if we could reach it. We didn't know if it had been "bagged" or not, but as we'd already got to two other confluences too late, we decided to give it a shot anyway. In our first approximation we got quite near just going by car on dirt track roads. 1.2kms away from the confluence we found a dirt track heading in the right direction.
This was too good to be true. 600m from the confluence the track petered out by a tumbledown shack festooned with washing hanging out to dry and seething with kids. This was rural poverty in a flat parched landscape, a scene right out of “The Grapes of Wrath”. The mother came out to see what we were up to and we realised we had run into our first problem.
Now, most educated Chileans don’t read maps and have only the haziest idea of what a confluence is, but there was no way this woman was going to have a notion of what we were talking about! We opted to say we were going for a stroll. She gave us a look that said "Crazy gringos" and off we went through flat scrubland under the baking sun.
Very easy going. We could see we were less than 100m away on easy terrain. This was going to be a piece of cake. However, at 50m from the confluence we ran into a river. A wide, deep, silty river, the Titinvilo. We did try to wade across and nearly ruined the camera and the GPS when Iain slipped and soaked everything. So, back to the car, Iain with a very muddy backside. I wonder what yer woman thought!
We swung around to approach the confluence from the other side, on another more official dirt track road. We parked some 2kms away from the confluence, slapped on lots of sun block, and set out over more scrub and fallow fields. Nearing the confluence we found ourselves to be on the right side of the river, but on the wrong side of one of the Chilean equivalents of a barbed wire fence. The standard "barbed wire fence" here is cacti lined up side by side and which is used for drying your washing on, the spines being used instead of clothes pegs. This fence was the second equivalent. See photo.
It is made by stringing up one piece of barbed wire and then propping up prickly, thorny branches of the espino shrub on either side. The nett effect is that of an extended briar bush about one and a half metres wide and as long as you like. (In this case very long). We checked one end of it and it stopped well into the river, so we couldn't get round it that way. We never did find the other end and opted for dismantling it (and putting it back together again when we came back).
Then finally, the confluence. We made it. Our first virgin confluence. We took some pictures where you can see those wretched espino shrubs growing - the curse of the mountain biker - and the willows by the river. Then off to the Andes to celebrate with BBQed kid and a couple of cold beers.