Friday, 18 January 2008

the Andes to the Pacific

part ONE : the mountains : about 10km from the border with argentina : about 2000m above sea level : termas del flaco : tinguiririca valley : almost too hot to bear suplhuric smelly and magic all healing water : mud : the valley where the plane with the uruguayan rugby team crashed in the 70's inspiring the film 'alive' : tiny intensely coloured flowers : dust : a wildly swinging and swaying bridge over an icy very fast flowing river : waterfalls and boulders : dinosaur footprints in the rock : a mine : statues of the virgen mary in impossibly desolate locations : impeccably well dressed huasos (chilean cowboys) : scratchy prickly plants : rainbow coloured rocks : stars and satellites : flocks of noisy yellow and blue parrots : condors that remained invisble

part TWO : the central valley : santa cruz : a small town amidst a sea of vineyards fruit trees vegetable fields : bustling and wealthy but also rural and simple : single storey abode buildings : the classic central plaza full of palm trees and monkey puzzles : a museum with a glittering display of mapuche jewelry and just about everything else you could imagine : breakfast of almond cake and a juicy juicy peach sitting in the plaza : the usual lunch of avocado tomato and cheese sandwich in the incredibly friendly panificadora : horses and carts clip clopping down the main street : a constant parade of flat wide brimmed 'huaso' hats

part THREE : the ocean : pichilemu : a seaside surfing town : a chilean newquay : a wide curving bay of dark grey sand : a rocky headland : white frothy waves and a steely grey sea : thick sea fog rolling in off the ocean : outer space monster seaweed : sad llamas with hats being paraded up and down the beach for people to have their photo taken with : empanada capital : a vague air of faded grandeur : a hilltop promenade of palm trees and topiary that has seen better days : an old abandoned casino covered in scaffolding and being done up : arcades : gokarts : a rickety funfair : a delicious dinner of grilled fish and tomato and onion salad with a huge glass of freshly whizzzed papaya juice served by an extremely kind and very old woman with a wicked sense of humour and a glint in her eye

Friday, 4 January 2008

La Isla Helvecia

The island is surrounded by a beach - mostly made of dark grey volcanic rock pebbles, though the far eastern point is brilliant white sand and perfect for swimming. There are pink crab shells everywhere. On the sheltered northern shore some of the grey rocks have been colonised by extremely yellow lichen. It takes about 20 minutes to walk the complete circle around the island.
On the northern face, visible as you approach in the little wooden Chalupa boat (passing dolphins and sea lions) from Calbuco, is a large house, clad in flaking white painted weatherboards, with pale blue window frames. The house was once quite grand, built by Swiss immigrants probably at the turn of the century. In the hall is an imposing oil painting of a smartly dressed gentleman. Today the house is falling apart. The hot water and electricity have long ceased, though there is running cold water from a rainwater collecter, a gas hob and lots of candles. There are several missing windows, woodworm everywhere, and healthy happy families of spiders. A wiry Chilian with a red beard and blue eyes (as Celtic looking as they come) came over with us, he is the son of the woman who bought the house in the 50's, and now lets it out to occasional visitors. The house has everything required to frighten the life out of you, and would be the perfect place to shoot a horror film, but somehow we felt quite safe and sound there - maybe it was comfort in numbers, we were six, and had a lot of red wine and whisky to get through. More than anything, the house had an air of containing a thousand stories, but they were fading, each broken window and rotten beam was a story disappeared.
The interior of the island consists of grassy meadows (kept tidy by the residents - 2 llamas, 3 sheep and 3 donkeys - almost straight from Noah's ark), a dense thicket of vegetation, and a grand old forest of Chilian Oaks and native Arrayan trees. The Oaks have grey trunks and the Arrayans orange. There is an open air stage at the far end of the forest.
To the east is an unbroken line of snowy peaks, stretching far into the south and the Patagonian wilderness. At sunset they glow pink, and a little later reflect the moonlight. The view to the south and west is across the water to higgledy-piggledy Calbuco, small neighbouring islands and ChiloƩ.
We explored, we swam, we feasted, we slept.

One month ago - the last and most dramatic part of a very long plane journey... 30minutes till landing!

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Volcan Llaima

The road trip in the south.
First night near Temuco, in the foothills of the Volcano Llaima. The first real active volcano I have seen, it was beautiful - a perfect conical shape, its upper part covered in snow, and best of all, emitting the occasional puff of smoke! The next day we walked closer to it, through temperate rainforest, coming to a brilliant vantage point across a plateau of intensely green bamboo. We admired it more, and were also a little wary, the puffs of smoke were a warning not to get too close...
Later on that day I read that it was one of the three most active volcanoes in the world.
Yesterday evening at about 6 o'clock Llaima erupted, and continues to do so.

Nuevo ano sin luz

The blog is not quite as active as I anticipated... must be having too much fun!
And computers, let alone computers with internet access, were pretty much non-existant (creatures from another world) when we were down in the south.
After New Year at the beach I am having a few days of doing nothing in Santiago, nursing my swollen mosquito bitten left eye.
New Year itself was fantastic - we were with friends in a rented house a couple of hours north of Santiago on the coast, barbeque on the terrace, countdown to midnight, feliz ano nuevo feliz ano nuevo wooopwoop and then bang! - powercut! Perfect for watching fireworks... The power remained off until the next day, in all the village. It was great, we had all we needed to eat and drink, the stars and the moon were out in force, and the huge pacific waves kept on rolling in on the beach. A pretty nice way to start the year.