Instead of falling off my bike near Mendoza, or Santiago, or even Bariloche, I chose to hurt myself in Cholila, a dusty town in a remote mountain valley. This corner of Chubut province feels far removed from the Patagonia we left a few days ago with its ritzy lakeside towns, fancy shops, five-star hotels, and ski resorts. Cholila’s only real attraction is Butch Cassidy’s famed cabin 8 km outside town down a dirt road. According to reputable sources (in this case the Lonely Planet guidebook), Butch and Sundance arrived here in 1902 with every intention of giving up their delinquent ways and settling down to a quiet life as ranchers.
In some ways I actually chose the perfect place to take an unplanned stop. We’re getting a feel for the “real” Patagonia – a place where dogs and horses roam freely, where people sit around sipping mate, a place that, in 2012, feels much like how I imagine Butch found it in 1902 and how Bruce Chatwin found it again in 1977.
We’re staying at the one hostel in town, Piuke Mapu, a little two roomed cabin on the edge of town overlooking the mountains. Dario, the owner, is keeping us entertained while we wait for my arm to heal up. He’s a climbing and skiing guide, eager to bring attention to Cholila’s world class backcountry terrain. Last night we went up to the house he built himself for an asado dinner that involved a pot of chicken and vegetables cooked over the open fire.
Dinner was delicious, although I was dismayed (and slightly embarrassed) to learn that my 16 km walk to Butch Cassidy’s cabin was all for nought. Turns out, I only went to the entrance. The real cabin is 1 km further down the road. In my defense, it was an easy mistake to make – the so-called “entrance cabin” was an old wooden building with a sign outside that read “Butch Cassidy.” I’m somewhat tempted to walk back there, but for now, drinking mate and reading is more appealing. Today Dario is hosting some sort of herbal medicine retreat up at his house, so I’m considering ditching the pain killers and steroids that I’m currently taking in favor of some natural remedies. Just kidding, the drugs are working wonders – hopefully enough to allow us back on the bikes tomorrow.
In the meantime, here are some pictures of Cholila and the (false) cabin.