All is well in sunny Santiago, Chile! It´s full-on summer here in the latter half of February and the days are clear and perfect, though some have been Florida-hot. Naturally, my thoughts rove to Clearwater and the few days that I will blow through there to see our brand-new deck, courtesy of a barter deal with friend and neighbor, Walt Williams; repack suitcases; catch up with friends and family….and drive north for Phase II.
So, wrap-up time down here in South America is slow and lazy.
The Great Creative Human Race wrapped up with a satisfying tie. Team Maple. originally feared missing in the Andes, had simply taken a ¨creative¨ route between lakes and volcanoes somewhere near the target goal of Puerto Montt. It turned out that they were directly across the same lake I gazed upon during my cappuchino-sipping balcony days. Both teams returned to Santiago´s Hostal Forestal within days of each other and shared a hearty barbeque exchanging adventure stories. All in all, the Andes Mountains were good to them and, sunburned but intact, they now speak of Nepal next year.
Real life calls and I, too, am facing a need to sort my knapsacks and get my gear in order for returning to the States. But, for the moment, I´m still on summer vacation and the days are warm and lazy. Lots of reading, writing, park bench sitting, and umbrella table eating time. Did you think this sort of world travel was all a massive amount of work?
Next month will be full of friends and family and I really look forward to seeing them all while catching up on what I´ve missed during my many months away from home. Soon, I´ll attend the Second Annual Afterlife Awareness Conference in Virginia Beach, Virginia, which will allow me to meet the authors of a new wave of books concerning the planning that each human does in the Realms Above planning their future life back on Earth. Before I get there, I hope to re-read books such as Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls by Michael Newton, MD, and Your Soul´s Journey by Robert Schwartz.
The island of Chiloe (chill-o-way) doesn´t look all that large on the map of the base of the Andean spinal column which becomes Patagonia, the southernmost region of Chile. It´s a squarish lump of land at the top of a column of broken, rocky protuberances which litter the way down the coastline to the Cape. My Chilote friends say that this is the very spot where the Andes submerge, intact, allowing only the mountain tops to peek above the water. It´s not that far above the Antarctic Circle but the water is warm enough for summer swimming by both people and penguins.
After weeks of hostel dormatories and days of highly-populated buses, I sought solitude in the treat of a private room in a hostel in Ancud, which I secured on the internet. Instead, I walked into the welcoming arms of the youthful Gigi, her boyfriend, Andress, sister, Valentina and their friend, Maria Josef. They had converted their modern family home into a hostel after the sudden death of their mother after a brief illness. Valentina´s eyes still reflect the unfathomable loss but she designs her future to include chef school and a job on a cruise ship.
If I had wanted cloistered inactivity, I should not have come on the eve of a popular island Costumbre Festival in Castro and an accordian-playing music fest in another island town. Ten minutes after my arrival, as welcomed as any family matriarch, I found myself accepting their kind invitation to come along on tomorrow´s festivities. Sure, how can I miss the chance? And I again became a tourist, though that was the very role I was hiding from. Actually, I was sort of becoming a local as I didn´t see many tourists the next day when homefolks celebrated the life of the community as they have for many years, cooking the bountiful catch of King Crabs, Salmon, fish, mussels and clams, according to special island recipes. Yum!
Julio filled in at the hostel during this one-day festival vacation and had the place full by the time we returned. He has dived in these cold waters for shellfish since he was sixteen. Because of the extreme depths, his legs were paralyzed when air was forced into the bloodstream but instead of following the doctor´s advice and getting bariatric pressure treatments, he chose the cure of generations of Chilote divers…to be dropped back into the ocean to swim to even greater depths to equalize the oxygen. It worked and today he has some pain but walks and works normally.
On the festival morning, five of us set out to drive over many kilometers in Andress´twenty-year-old Toyota Corolla. I had thought that this was a small island but the distances felt far indeed. Imagine a crazy quilt with images of farm, wheat fields, cow pastures, mountains, seasides with bays and estuaries. Fill it with weathered towns, forests, hills, rivers and bridges. Then curl many roads throughout with fully half of them rocky and unpaved. Now, take this highly-decorated blanket and crumple it up. Seriously crumple the thing so that mountainous lumps lead to concave valleys and any possible road has to wind and twist so that all cars have slow going.
Except for Andress´Toyota! It sped along, though our travel time was still considerable. Whack! Wham! went the rocks on the underbelly and I wondered what sort of an island custom Gigi was observing when she pressed her fist against the upper corner of the windshield every time an approaching car passed by. Later, I learned that she was mimicing her mother and probably every other shotgun-riding woman in a local car. Apparently, the pressure on the glass prevents shattering if a stone should be flung into the windshield.
Our first festival was an eating affair. We selected the booth of some local fishermen, snagged a table in an outdoor shelter and ordered gluttons of seafood. Grilled salmon, oh yes! Then, we roamed the artisanal crafts booths where I fell for a loose-knit, handmade wool sweater. and Gigi secretly bought me a knit doll, which she presented to me as a memento when we said goodbye at the bus station.
During all the driving, we visited quite a few of the famous, restored wooden churches of the island. They are national treasures and remind me of the lyrical wooden churches I had seen in Russia. This whole island and much of the mountainous farmland of lower Chile, was populated by Germans early in the Twentieth Century, long before the war. In a very savvy move, Chile invited German farmers to populate that geologically-similar countryside, granting them generous farm plots. Consequently, houses are sturdy and filled with lace curtains. This explains the polka dancing and accordians, as well.
It was dusk when we headed home, speeding over the stone-strewn logging road. Ka-Pow! went the tire directly beneath my derriere! Flump, flump, flump…we ground to a halt. That tire was toast. Nay, it was lace, rubber lace, worthy of an artisan. Ouch! Luckily, a farm driveway presented itself and we pulled in, hopefully enlisting the aid of a woman peering out between her curtains. For we certainly did need help, as an examination of Andress’ trunk soon revealed. He had a spare, he had a jack, but no lever to operate the jack and no lug wrench to release the tire. The woman shook her head and retired within.
We four girls took to dancing in the street, trying to stop the occasional bits of flying traffic. The trouble was that we looked suspiciously like the many backpackers trying for a lift for packs and pals, times ten. We, too, had flown right on past their desperately appealing faces. But by evening, we were just as tired, shabby and desperate as they had been. Amazingly, our crudely flapping hands did lure-in at least six cars but none had the requisite parts. These were all newer, smaller cars. Everyone was very sympathetic but couldn`t even call for help since no one`s cell phone worked in that spot.
As the sun went down, I wondered if the nearby pigpen would be my dreamed-of private room for the night. Then a red station wagon came along, only to become our last and greatest failed hope. That driver saved the day though, by backing out of the drive and blocking the road until another car simply had to stop. Voila! We suddenly had the winning combination. Not only did the new car have the right sized tool, but the farm woman`s son arrived and hauled a wooden beam from behind a fence, propped it on a rock and levered the car`s side into the air by kneeling on the beam.
Before he delivered that solution, I was sertiously trying to remember a metaphysical demonstration I`d witnessed once, where a cluster of people inserted their index fingers under the body of a large person; took a deep breath and with intense concentration, lifted him way off the ground. Possibly that would work on a car. Watching those big men get the tire off the conventional way, I was so glad I didn`t have to make a fool of myself convincing the others to stick their finger under the car and levitate. Instead, I found myself kissing the ruddy cheeks of these dear Chilote men who had finally delivered us from a night in the pig pen.
We got home at 1:00 a.m. The next day, I just hung around the hostal, getting that elusive rest I had come so far to find.
This blog is a continuation of a theme started several posts back. Please read those first or remain hopelessly confused by this silliness. I believe that I have lost track of my opponents. How does one win a race under these circumstances? I am so new to world-class racing that I haven´t a clue….but I plan to submit a strongly-worded protest to The Committee, that´s for sure!
¨Where are they?¨Leapin´wondered as she stepped off the small Pachamamabybus van in Puerto Montt, Chile, the entry to Patagonia, which had been designated as the original Finish Line for the Great Creative Human Race between Canada´s Team Maple, consisting of Hunkey Dory Hank and Flyin´Bryan of British Colunbia, and the United State´s Team Sycamore, consisting of Leapin´Linda of Florida.
It wasn´t ´sposed to end this way. There were to be fireworks, banners, checkered flags, cheering and confetti. There was to be a sprint across some symbolic line; sweatiness, muddy tires, groaning bodies and the victory of de feet over today´s modern machine´s large rubber tires, effortlessly spinning only because greasy axles require simply the pressure of one foot upon a gas pedal. However, all this horsepower theoretically equals out the brawn of two powerful men against one frail (of a certain age) female.
¨What could have happened to them?¨ Leapin´mulled as she wove through the tourists and the traffic of the vaunted destination. ¨It´s not all that beautiful here. Maybe, they moved the finish line to Puerto Varas, twenty miles away. Let´s go find out.¨
A cryptic message, probably painfully thumbed on a cell phone during the luxury of a downhill run, sent a week ago, is the only communication received from Team Maple enroute. This came on the very day that Leapin´left the starting line in Santiago, after completing the severe handicap set by The Committee to give the fellows a head start on the mechanized monster she´d chosen as her method of transport.
The cryptic message reads as follows: ¨Hi Linda, we are in Bariloche, closing in on the big prize!¨ This was sent a full 15 days post departure on February 2nd. Since then, silence! What do you make of that? Should I call up the National Guard, the Carribinerros , do you suppose? Even a hearty hollering out of their individual mottos, Hunkey´s most original¨Give ér shit! or Flyin´more repeatable Ï´m all in! would be a welcome sound, echoing through the Andes. Any response floating over that serrated, volcanic, snow-covered Andean spinal column would be music to Leapin´s waiting ears as she sips her cappuchinos on restaurant balconies overlooking majestic Lake Llanquihue, watching swimmers, canoes and kayaks cavort in the crystalline fresh water.
Should she have so recklessly changed the TBA finish line venue from that gritty, industrial Puerto Montt to the classy, touristy destination resort of Puerto Varas, a mere twenty extra miles away? Guilt rises in her breast. With no reply to her rather-wordy explanation to Team Maple, she has no way to tell if, upon notification, they fell to the ground in exhausted protest at the extended mileage. Quite possibly, they simply declared themselves the Winners at the original, fishy-smelly, finish line; tossed down a few pints at the nearest pub…not the classy Pim´s Pub awaiting them here… and hopped a plane back to B.C.; leaving Leapin´posing with her self-assigned Winner´s Trophy at the chosen designer Irish Watering Hole, directly across from the highly-photogenic lakeshore, complete with three volcanoes.
¨Where, oh where can they be?¨ is Leapin´s latest lament as she blithely prepares to give up the vigil and take herself, via the wheels on yet another bus, to the small town of Ancud on Chiloe Island where the availability of a whole, entire private room has lured her away from the crowded, six-bed sorority room, currently shared with hundreds (if not thousands) of girls.
Ever faithful to The Great Creative Human Race, Leapin´vows to return to the Finish Line on Monday, February 13, one week after her arrival and almost a full month since her farewell to Team Maple as they bravely set out in the early dawn of January 18, in Santiago, Chile.
Please, won´t you join her as she faces East, (where the Andes hide those intrepid bikers), and raises her plaintive cry and the motto of her life and this race, etc. ¨Go, See, Do, Be….See, Go, Be, Do…Do, Be, See, Go..Be, See, Do, Go¨ Team Maple! Where, oh where can you be?¨
Tomorrow morning I will leave the capital of Chile, where I have hung out for three weeks, and travel south to many small towns in the Lake District of this country. It is gorgeous down there, with Andes mountains, Pacific coastline, and so much natural beauty. This is a sportsman´s paradise and I hope to describe it from the many quaint towns along the way. Hopefully, I´ll have more computer access than I have here and can keep these blog posts more up-to-date.
My transportation will be by private backpacker´s bus – www.Pachamamabybus.com and it comes to me in the morning, eliminating a trip to the bus station. Instead of following the usual commercial bus route, this special traveler´s bus goes to all the cool places that backpackers have on their lists. If one is in a hurry, they can do an entire loop in seven days, going as far down as Puerto Montt and Chiloe Island and returning to Santiago. Bus fare for the whole route comes to $250, which is only slightly more than a commercial bus ticket would cost. Two buses a week leave the capital, several days apart, so it is possible to hop on and hop off – with advance planning to assure a seat – and stay in the towns as long as you want.
I´m going to spend about five days in each town and absorb the whole month of February covering southern Chile. Three years ago, I flew from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, Argentina, so I have already been all the way to the bottom of this long spine of the Andes and don´t feel a need to return as it is not easy to travel overland there from Chile.
I know that I am going to be wowed during the whole scenic drive between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains. I can tell that because I have been so pleased to stay in this clean and exciting city. Just this evening, walking back from a lovely dinner in the BellaVista Plaza, I realized that if I had to chose a favorite foreign capital, it would be this one. And that´s saying something because I generally just don´t like cities.
This one has a gajillion university campuses, although not too long ago, Chilean students led riots and protests about the costs of their education – about $60,000 US dollars equivalent per year. It´s peaceful now but the cost question has not been solved yet, so we may hear more. My hostel is close to a portion of a university so there´s a youthful feeling in the air. One reason we get the impression of so many places of higher education is that the many colleges and universities that are here, don´t have clearly defined campuses but have buildings all over town. So, there´s always an engineering or a business or a medical training facility. Pretty brainy place.
My hostel is a nice quiet one and I have had plenty of deep sleep, even in an 8-bed dorm with constantly changing male and female roommates. Hope I have the same luck for the rest of the month.
Okay, the next post will be written from the road!