Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Valdivia Area - Last Minute Sightseeing

[Maryanne]After and between all the chores to get Begonia ocean ready again, we also needed to do the final provisioning, check in with the Armada etc. I dragged Kyle out and about and where possible squeezed in a bit of sightseeing. At the same time our wonderful neighbours in the marina were also keeping us entertained. It was busy and we clearly were not going to have enough time to do everything, but some fun MUST be had! We struggled to do as much as we'd expected since so much was clearly off season or even closed, but we did our best!

The area is packed with 'craft breweries' we had to try at least one,
And when we went to try some crazy golf, we met these llamas instead!

The local fish market shares its home with some hungry Sea Lions

[Kyle]THE thing to do in Valdivia is get a boat tour of the river. All of the tourist guides we have seen for the area mention it in the first three items of must dos. There are several companies, but they all do pretty much the same: Go down the river, throw a wake at the marina on the way, stop at Corral for an hour or so of sightseeing, go back up the river, throw another wake and return to Valdivia. The going rate for these tours seems to be about 50,000 pesos per person, about $85USD or £70.

Not for us, thanks. We've seen the river and we can hardly throw a wake on ourselves. That just left Corral. We're practically locals now, so we just took the bus from the marina to the ferry terminal and bought a couple of tickets. Our way had the added benefit of allowing us to explore without being part of a mob.

The old Spanish fort at Corral

We got off the ferry and strolled up to the big Fort. We paid 1,700 Chilean pesos (about $3) and immediately realized we could see 90% of it from the ticket counter. There were a few old cannons, but nothing else other than the walls themselves. We took it as slowly as we could, but we're still finished fifteen minutes after entering. Apparently, in season, they have re-enactments, which might make it seem less like throwing our precious sightseeing day in a hole. We couldn't help but notice the contrast with the well done (and free) Fort at Niebla.

And around Corral - on a quiet day

It felt a bit early to return, so we had a stroll around Corral to see what there was to see. It turns out it wasn't much. We followed the smell of fresh bread to a bakery, where we picked up some walkin' food to enjoy as we explored the remainder of the town. As soon as we left the bakery, we realized it would be smarter to slow to a saunter. Even after doing that, we were back at the ferry stop fifteen minutes later having exhausted the town's offerings.

Given it's high billing, I think we were expecting way more in the way of diversions in Corral. We thought about popping into a pub for lunch, but since the main view from their balcony was of a big plywood wall, we decided to pass and retrace our path home. We were a bit disappointed. It was nice to get out, but at least the day hadn't cost us 100,000CLP. We managed to get the whole day for 7,500 (about $12).

Next: The Valdivia Museums? Nope. Our last chance day was cold and rainy all morning and we never could get the motivation up to tear ourselves away from important but unglamorous indoor jobs to go out in it. We're going to lose fast internet when we leave the marina (most likely until we arrived in New Zealand again), so we wanted everything to be as updated as possible before we go. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to decide there's stuff you're just not going to get to do.

Between getting everything pretty much fixed to go, we did make some time to do some socializing. We have met some very nice people at the marina and it was always hard to pass up on opportunities to spend time with them in favor of some greasy job that will surely result in losing more skin off of my knuckles. Finally, all of the major work was done, so we planned an evening out at a nearby restaurant we have been trying for a while to patronize.

Every time we had tried to visit a highly reviewed local restaurant called K8, it has been closed – even on Saturdays. Maryanne finally found some mention on their U-face page about being open again after vacation. We invited the crowd, who were all willing to give it a try with us. Joining us were Rene, a lovely Swiss man on a long solo adventure in his boat Ata Ata, and Gary and Karina from Sea Rover II, who we had originally encountered in La Paz, Mexico just before we left for the Marquesas.

Dinner and the atmosphere at the restaurant were all that we could have hoped for. We all got along great. The stories were flying. We all like each other. That’s not the interesting part. The interesting part was the journey between the marina and the restaurant.

We had originally planned to walk the mile or so there and then get a bus back. As we left the marina, the two resident dogs, Sophia and Maxima, decided to join us for something to do. The first time Maryanne and I made the walk to K8, they had accompanied us maybe halfway and then gave up to go back home. This time, they were both in it for the duration.

Sophia is great. She seems to be mostly Border collie and she is sharp as a tack. Maxima is as sweet as a dog can be, albeit a little shy, but she is not the most savvy.

The problem is that the road to the restaurant is a main road with no path for walking other than a thin line of tramped down grass off the edge of the pavement. In the breaks between fast moving traffic, the road is by far the better quality surface. When traffic approached, we all dove into the grass to let it pass – all of us except Maxima, whose reaction to a huge vehicle barreling down on her is to cower in the middle of the road. Fortunately, each time, the drivers saw her and had time to hit the brakes, no doubt cursing us for “our” idiot dog’s behavior. Sophia has the sense to get out of the road and most of the time Maxima would follow her, but in the confusion of a sharp bend, a big truck and a lot of legs to dodge in the grass, she would occasionally get “stuck” in the road, looking terrified and confused as to what to do.

We had each had about six heart attacks each when we reached the bridge. The only way to cross it was to wait for a gap and time a quick dash across along the six-inch wide curb. We were all really hoping the dogs would give up there and head home, but they didn’t. Maxima was successfully skulking along in the gutter when an approaching bus from behind spooked her and she took a right turn in front of another bus. Both drivers had quick reflexes and she managed to avoid getting squished, but just barely. That was heart attack number seven.

Karina couldn’t take it anymore and found some rope, from which she planned to make two leashes to lead the dogs home. There was no way we were taking the bus back and leaving them to cross the bridge by themselves.

Sophia was fine with this, but when Karina went to put the rope around Maxima’s neck, she had a full freak out. Karina thinks she made have been caught one too many times by a dog catcher. I tried to help and we got the second leash on her only to have her flip out again and knock me into a thorn bush, some of which I am still digging out of my hands a week and a half later. About that time, Sophia chewed through her leash. We got them across the road one last time to the restaurant, which didn’t seem to mind letting them join us on the patio. They stayed under the table and kept our feet warm.

When we paid our bill and left, leaving plenty of daylight for the walk back to the marina, a third dog emerged. Sophia has a male doppelganger.

The eight of us made it back across the bridge okay. After another of Maxima’s scares, Karina took it upon her wonderfully kind self to run back to lessen the time they were near the road. New Dog stayed with us and looked very put out when we left the road for the marina. Everyone made it safely. Every time I see Maxima now, I have to give her a hug for being alive and have a little talk with her about staying away from the road.

Subsequent get-togethers were held at the marina.

** Note: this post was UPDATED 6-Apr-2018 - apparently it had been posted without all the appropriate information - communications failure.. :-) **

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Stuff Gets Fixed

[Kyle]On the first clear day after getting home with spare parts in my suitcase(s), my first main job was to repair the starboard shroud. Even though I had run lines to take the load off and the shroud was sagging, it was still a little disconcerting to go up the mast and disconnect the top end while I was up there. As I was doing that, the wind picked up and it got a little choppy in the river. The polyester lines that were supporting the mast on the starboard side stretch more than the steel cable does, so the mast started swinging slightly while I was swinging from it, which made the situation seem much less secure than it was.

{Maryanne: The problem 'shroud' is one of the 3 critical wire supports that hold up the mast, quite important! To do this fix, Kyle had to climb up the mast and disconnect it - but only after rigging a bunch of other stuff that would hold up the mast in the meantime! Once it was disconnected he could trim it back to 'good wire' and then install the new parts. We were very lucky in that our neighbours aboard Sea Rover II had recently done the same fix and gave a few excellent tips and a heap of confidence. This along with the advice from our US rigger gave us (Kyle) a lot of moral and mental support for the job (which turned out to be quite straightforward - thankfully).}

When I got back down, It was time to cut the shroud to the right length with a hacksaw. This to me causes the same feeling as drilling a hole through the boat. I don't like it and I try to avoid it at any cost. It needed doing, though, so I reviewed the repair procedure several times and made triple sure I didn't screw up the cut and ruin the shroud.

Maryanne helped me assemble the terminal and we're both pretty happy that it is stronger than the one on the port side now.

I went back up and reattached it. I was worried something terrible would happen, like it would be mysteriously too short, but it fit just perfectly. I was still being thrown around by the chop and it was a huge relief to get the mast hooked back up to its designed support mechanism.

It took another hour or so to re-tension and re-tune the rig, making sure the mast was perfectly straight and centered. Maryanne said, "Great! Now we can go sailing. We just can't anchor." She has a way...

So, the next day, I replaced the windlass.

Putting the thing in place was easy because it was the same model as the old one and the blots fit through the old holes. The tricky bit was the wiring. The wires are big, carry a lot of current and live in the anchor locker, which means they're almost constantly wet with salt water. It was important to slow down and be very meticulous about going through all of the steps to make proper bulletproof (waterproof!) connections and make sure they were thoroughly sealed. It runs beautifully and looks so shiny that it will seem like such a shame to use it and get it all scratched and muddy. I wonder what the chances are of getting Maryanne to do it by hand for a while...

The rest of the jobs that arrived in our luggage were minor and we were able to squeeze them in between the bigger ones. Now we're all fixed up again and ready to go somewhere AND anchor.

Kyle fixes the shroud and the new windlass

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Unexpected Visit to the USA

[Maryanne]There were a host of reasons that it suddenly made sense to take a trip back to the USA. From our short time in Chile, this certainly wasn't something we'd expected to do... but, hey, we'd just have to be flexible. Our bank cards were about to expire and we'd need ATM withdrawals in the coming year; unexpected boat parts were suddenly needed, impossible to source in Chile and an expensive and unreliable import process would possibly mean we'd be stuck in Chile long past our planned leaving date. Once we determined it would simply be easier to go the the USA and bring the critical items back ourselves, it gave us the opening to order a few extra bits - YAY. Unfortunately the logistics made it best for just one of us to go, and we figured it should be Kyle so he could get some extra Mom time from the whole exercise. Overall it wasn't a fun trip, it was some miserable and stressful commuting involving days of travel for just two days and three nights at his Mom's - but he DID get some quality Mom time. Whew!

[Kyle]After five thousand miles of being crammed into airplane seats that seemed surprisingly low on foam and surprisingly high on jabby metal corners, I arrived stiff and sore in Phoenix for my brief visit with Mom. I was not allotted much more space in her car than on the airplane flights, but her passenger seat was a jillion times more comfortable. I probably should have eased into it by taking off my shoes and sitting on them, but then my feet would have been more comfortable.

Will this all fit into 2 carry on bags?
(And thanks to Carla for all the pictures in this blog)

Awaiting me at Mom's was the small mountain of boxes of stuff we had ordered online for me to retrieve. It was bigger than the dresser. It was bigger than the fridge. I put my two empty roll aboard suitcases next to it. Uh, oh.

I decided to tackle that problem the next day after I've had some sleep. In the meantime, I had the other problem of too much yummy food and not enough space for that. I put in a valiant effort. Thanks, Mom!

Afterwards, the food coma combined with the long trip to put me right to sleep. I was hoping to wake up all refreshed with the sun shining in. Instead, after a few hours, I was having terrible dreams about trying to get the mountain home, so I decided to just get up and get on with it.

After removing all of the packaging down to discarding extraneous pieces of paper from the packing slips, I got the pile down to what appeared to be about three and a half suitcases worth. Several packings and unpackings later, I managed to get it all to fit within the physical limits of the cases. I even left room for dozens of molecules of air.

The problem was that the windlass was so big and heavy that the case was right at the weight limit for the airline. Everything else in that case had to be light, but also dense and padded enough to protect the windlass from the abuses of the bag smashers. A few repackings later, I managed to get one heavy bag, one REALLY heavy bag (3lbs below the limit!) and a 30lb daypack as carry on, which I would try my hardest to casually pretend wasn't slicing my arms off with the shoulder straps. Those bags were going to look pretty suspicious under x-ray and I was more than a little worried about them being searched because each one of them was technically a spring-loaded, Jack-in-the-box style bomb waiting to go off. Bombs are not allowed on airplanes.

There was at least some time to relax, and, of course, be well fed by Mom

Getting the bags packed gave me a whole day spare to get caught up with Mom and get as many odd jobs done as I could while she worked.

Before either of us knew it, it was time to get up and get me back to the airport. Flights are full everywhere all of the time now, so there was no way I was going to be leaving Phoenix by plane. Instead, after hours of research, I determined that my only option was a one-way car rental to the El Paso airport to get a flight from there the next morning that was still not yet full. The drive took about eight hours and El Paso was the only airport within that kind of radius from Phoenix that I would have any chance of getting on.

After only a few hours of sleep at a hotel across the parking lot from the terminal, I awoke at 2:30 to check on my flight. It and all others that day were all way overbooked. Most were also delayed. Groan. Overbooked flights caused 80% of the ageing I experienced working for the airlines. 19.5% was sleep deprivation and only 0.5% was due to the actual passage of time.

Fine, Plan... I dunno E, F? If I got another one-way car rental for the twelve hour drive to Houston AND I got to the rental car counter the minute they opened, I might just make it.

The drive started reasonably well. West Texas doesn't have much traffic on the Interstate and it is less boring, visually, than the rest of the state. I knew I had little spare time and calculated that I could make the drive on three tankfuls if I spaced them evenly. I would try to grab something to eat at one of the fuel stops.

When the car's computer said I had 100 miles to empty, I made a note to fill up at the next station. Every crest in the road revealed miles and miles ahead of nothing but more road. At 30 miles, I slowed down to save gas. At 15, I slowed way down, which I didn't have time for, but less so than running out of gas. The freeway kept climbing long hills, which was killing my mileage. At six miles to empty, I took the first exit promising a station. At the stop sign at the end of the ramp, a sign pointed left and said the station was in two miles. I drove it at about forty miles per hour and pulled into the station with 3 miles to go. I was so worried they would be closed.

The station had no food of any kind, so after being stopped for no more than four minutes, I was headed back toward the Interstate. I'd lost a few minutes, but it looked like I would make it if I was careful not to drive fast enough to require a fourth fuel stop.

At San Antonio a few hours later, I encountered the unfortunate combination of road construction and early rush hour traffic. Then a couple of vehicles hit each other in the merge zone and everything ground to a stop. After spending fifteen minutes to go just under a mile, I followed suit with some of the cheekier drivers and exited the freeway across the grass onto the frontage road. Fifteen minutes of stop and go traffic later, we were past the parked cars and were back on the freeway moving smartly. That was a relief, but by my calculations, I was 35 miles behind where I should have been. I also needed gas again.

I didn't even check to see if I could get any food where I stopped. I was back on the road again in four minutes.

A full seventy miles out of Houston with only two hours before the ticket counter closed at the airport, rush hour traffic started. I toughed out going ten miles per hour for a couple of exits, each one of which I sorely regretted passing as soon as it was gone, before a particularly high overpass revealed a future of stopped cars and brake lights as far as the eye could see.

I was pretty much in full panic then, which was good because all of the day's food and coffee stops had failed to materialize. Staying alert turned out to be no problem at all. I took the very next exit.

I was reluctant to leave the Interstate because my phone didn't have a U.S. SIM card, so I had no available means of navigating other than my twenty-year old memories of Houston's road system.

"I flew over that" actually served me pretty well because I knew that most of East Texas has farm roads on a one-mile grid. Most don't go through because of a river or a lake in their path, but the big ones have bridges.

I drove about six miles north until I came upon a road that looked big enough to get through and turned east. It almost immediately stopped being straight as it joined and then followed a river. It was still going mostly east, though, so I stuck with it.

At length, I spotted some kind of freeway in the distance through a break in the trees. Traffic on it seemed to be moving well, so I made my way over to it and got on. Whew! Now I knew where I was again - fifteen miles and thirty-five minutes until the counter closes.

You know what happened next. At the next exit, another accident had stopped all of the traffic. I took to surface streets again, along with a third of the others and started making my way vaguely in the direction of the airport. During one slow spot, I managed to get my third tank of gas and only lose two spaces in traffic. Before that happened, I was seriously considering returning the car empty and forking out the $4,000 fee.

I dropped off the car with ten minutes to go and stepped off of the rental car shuttle with three minutes to go.

It wasn't possible to run, but I managed a fast trot with my 140lbs of luggage in tow. I arrived wild-eyed and with no hair left (so, looking normal, but I was stressed, man!) I gave them my two heaviest bags, got my boarding pass and joined the back of the long queue for security. Okay, so the part of being a pilot where I get to go through the shortest line I DO miss.

TSA was only slightly annoyed at the many replacement laptops I was carrying in my pack, which was the same reaction they had to all of us in the line and all of our belongings, so that wasn't too bad. I arrived into my seat at the gate with a whomp! Awaiting me were several messages from Mom asking if I had arrived yet. She thought I had arrived eight hours earlier after flying and I had neither the time nor the signal to tell her of my subsequent change of plans. After giving her the short version (yes, there is one, but it's not nearly as suspenseful), she told me to go grab a bite before getting on the plane. First of all, that's IF I get on the plane. Second, too tired. Last night's dinner will tide me over until then.

Just about the time that I was starting to get a little nervous that they forgot about me, I was given a boarding pass awarding me the second to last middle seat remaining. On board the plane, I met my two row mates. To my left was Tech Guy, who had a spider web of charging cables strung between himself and the outlets in the seat in front of him, thus ensuring that if I ever had to get up mid-flight, it would not be that way. To my right was a guy who had the rare ability to remember anyone's name the first time, as long as it's Bro. He was named Bro. All of his friends were named Bro. It seems a LOT of parents in the '90s wanted the same popular name for their kids. He was engaged in an animated one-way conversation with Tech Guy, who turns out is also named Bro, about his Broventures in Broland with his Bros. He was trying to impress Bro by going on about the awesome company he started that writes apps for smartphones. His latest was one that would find nearby mountain bike trails or rate women's asses, depending on whether you were in the woods or a city. It was called something like, "Bro, Check this out!" Bro seemed to think it was a really good idea.

All of this was said over me in complete oblivion to my presence.

"Hi, I'm Kyle, although some people call me Bro. I'm flying down to Chile to try to help convince people that all Americans aren't self-obsessed gasbags. Looks like I've got a lot of work cut out for me."

As soon as the plane started moving, Right Bro popped an Ambien, to which he added two mixed drinks when the food came. He barely made it through dinner, passing out in a splayed out blob, ensuring I couldn't go that way either. Better hold it in...

As my pack was too distended to fit in the overhead bin, I got to share my limited space with it. Technically, it fit far enough under the seat in front of me to allow a passageway in an evacuation, but there would be no stretching out for the ten and a half hour flight, which I DID spend in it's entirety without leaving my seat.

When we touched down in Santiago, Ambien Bro slept through the impact and heavy braking, although he did let out a snort and some drool. He finally awoke with a groggy "Mnyeuh!" when people started pushing past him to get off. Tech Bro had already packed up his chargers and was pushing his way to the front, eager to be the first to get real wifi and not the crap they have on the plane.

I, on the other hand, was in no hurry whatsoever. My bus to Valdivia wasn't leaving for ten hours, so I wanted everything to take as long as possible.

I collected my bags and took some time to inspect the contents for damage. The bags looked a little strained, but everything inside seemed intact.

I got through immigration okay, although the woman was clearly a little suspicious that I had only been gone a week and that my previous entry stamp had not been affixed at the Santiago Airport.

Then came SAG. They seemed not at all concerned that I had ticked the box on the form confessing to being over my allowance for computers and cell phones. When they ran the bags through the X-ray, ostensibly to look for contraband sausages and honey, they all looked very concerned and wanted to know what the big machine was.

"You may want to step back a little", I said and opened the bag. When I explained that it was a motor for a boat to use to lift the anchor, it seemed to do the opposite of clear things up.

"Who's boat is this for?"

"My boat."

"And you live here?"


"But you have a boat here?"

"Yes, but it is a Yacht in Transit and this part is a replacement part." This particular wording was very important.

"How much is the machine worth?"

Uh, oh. This is where they hit me with the huge Duty. I searched and searched, but had no receipt as it was deemed too bulky when packing. I had an email copy, but no signal. Two pieces of paper I did have hard copies of, thanks to Maryanne, was our boat Document and our Zarpe. I offered them for inspection. He called his Supervisor. I repeated the same to him. The people behind me were bailing out for other lines. He called his boss. She looked at the document, read the Zarpe and told me Buen Viaje! We were done. I was free to go. Whew!

I went to a coffee shop and wasted as much time as I could until the hard seats just became too much for me. I then took a cab to the bus station downtown where I repeated for the same in their coffee shop. While I was waiting, I noticed a sign saying it was a federal law that each bus passenger was only allowed one piece of checked luggage each, weighing no more than 30 kilos. I had two and one of them was 30.5 kilos. I was a little worried about that. When it came time to load my bags, the guy took them both, asked me where I was going and returned two claim check tags. No argument. That was a relief.

When I had purchased my tickets several hours earlier, I was given a choice of seats. I chose a window with an empty next to it as far from the bathroom as possible. Boarding the bus, it seemed the configuration had changed. My new seat was right across from the loo. At least the empty stayed empty. I was able to put my pack on the floor next to me and stretch out my legs. I quickly fell off to sleep, lulled by the drone of the engine.

At the next stop, a LOT more people got on and took every available seat. I jammed my bag under my legs, pinning them up against the metal frame of the seat in front of me - not nearly as comfortable. The lad sitting next to me did not seem the remotest bit tired nor concerned that I might be. He bounced and sang his way all the way to his stop in Los Angeles six hours later. He seemed to not get that headphones were so others don't have to hear what he was playing.

When he left, I was comfortable for about twenty seconds until he was replaced by a big oblivious guy in a giant parka who took up a lot of space. He wasn't THAT big, but he had a way of spreading out. He used both armrests, stretched out on both seat backs and kept pushing the curtains on the other side of me open and closed every time he wanted to see if we were moving.

When he finally fell asleep (it was an overnight bus ride), the half of him on my side flopped over on me. I was initially annoyed by this, but as we proceeded further and further south, it got colder and colder in the bus. The guy was keeping me warm.

I kept expecting the heat to come on any minute. After all, it was a modern, million-dollar coach. It never did. I looked around and noticed everybody either had on parkas or were covered in blankets. My coat was stuffed into the bottom of my pack, which I had no possible way of retrieving, so I was stuck for the time being. It was too cold to sleep.

By the time we arrived in Valdivia, eleven hours after leaving Santiago, I was shivering and had managed to sleep only during the first thirty minutes of the trip.

To keep with the theme, I should have taken off my shoes and walked home, but I decided to splash out and get a cab instead. Maryanne met me with open arms, took a suitcase and helped me on the boat. I don't remember that much about the rest of the day because I was half awake. I decided for the purposes of getting back to a normal sleep schedule to stay up as long as I could. When I finally gave in, I remember being overwhelmed with how flat and soft and warm the bed was. I woke up at eleven o'clock the next morning feeling like a completely new person. Time to unpack!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Anniversary Road Trip - Santiago

[Kyle]From Santa Cruz, we hit the road feeling like we really should have gone on foot to burn off our meal instead of lazily driving a car to Santiago.

Santiago is crazy. It's a real-live city with sky scrapers, a subway system, air pollution and rush-hour traffic filled with impatient drivers. It's the most populated place we have been since leaving San Francisco almost a year and a half earlier.

We managed to both of our surprise to find the high-rise apartment I’d booked on Airbnb. It was nice and it was right in the middle of everything, but it was also a reminder of why we don't want to live full-time in a big city. It was a two bedroom, two bath dwelling crammed into the confines of a concrete cube with a thousand others just like it. It's height made for some nice views but also made the twenty-four hour din of traffic impossible to ignore. The unit next door probably rented for more than we could've afforded when we both had real jobs. {Maryanne: The apartment was perfect for the two of us with the 'spare' bedroom used as our bag dumping ground. I don't think it would have worked for 6 people, but for 2 we had room to spread. There was even a community swimming pool (should we be so inclined)}.

With just the remainder of the day left for exploring, we decided to spend our time having an aimless wander around our neighborhood. My thought was that we would enjoy a walk in the adjacent park for the hour or so before darkness fell, then find a nice restaurant/bar where we could have a Pisco sour and a light dinner before returning to the apartment to see if one of the bottles of wine we bought the day before was any good.

Santiago scenes

It didn't work out that way. Our evening stroll through the park took us to the road that acts as the demarcation line between to good area and the bad area of town. There were no tracks, per se, but the right side of the road was definitely the wrong side of the tracks.

It seemed a safe enough area, but there were definitely not going to be any nice ferny restaurants with balconies overlooking the skyline. We found a few dodgy-looking pool halls and some dodgy-looking dive bars, but nothing that seemed to be a better deal than giving up and going home. One notable place we found was advertising empanadas on a sandwich board outside. As we passed the place, we were amused to see that it was a night business run out of a garage. If we were so inclined, we could go in and get microwaved empanadas served on a greasy table with a view of a rusted out Chevy and a shelf full of salvaged parts. No thanks.

{Maryanne: I'd dreamed of eating at the historic 'central market' but by the time we arrived it was all closed up so with no particular restaurant in mind, we just wandered about hoping to find something. We later found out that we missed LOADS of great restaurants by a single bad turn... Oh well.}

We ended up buying a couple of empanadas each from a bakery/mini-mart and taking them back to our apartment to add to the wine. It was okay. The label said, "Best paired with gas station hot pockets". It turns out we were tired enough that anything more fancy would have been lost on us.

Santiago Proper

With an eye toward being proper tourists, Maryanne booked us a walking tour of the city the next morning. Our guide for the day was a history teacher "between jobs" who was doing free tours for tips. We felt both guilty and pleased to not have to share him with anyone else. He was just wonderful. We were taken through some very nice neighborhoods in which we would have loved to linger had we had a few spare days, and given a very good history of the area. My favorite part of the whole to tour was when we stopped at the Presidential Palace.

Lots of Chilean churches have some remnants of pre-Christian-influence worship themes
(like the sun, and mountains found in most Mary statues)
It was great to have these pointed out to us

We took a bench with a view of the palace and had a long discussion about the Pinochet years. We have found most Chileans to be reticent about their years living under a dictator, but our guide was candid about it and made an effort to answer our questions honestly. He said it helped that we were speaking English, because a lot of the time, when speaking Spanish, he gets confronted by hecklers with a particular ideological axe to grind. Like many painful periods in history, change and acceptance may take generations before the pain and resentment recedes. {Maryanne: It's kind-a inappropriate to ask Chileans about Pinochet, in the same way it might be to ask Germans about Hitler, so we've avoided the topic to date. It was nice to be presented with the opportunity to chat openly about it and ask questions without fear of offending. Our guide also left us with a good tip for a place to get lunch, in particular the Pastel de choclo that I'd been keen to try - it is basically like a cottage pie but rather than mashed potatoes uses a thick layer of ground corn topping that has the texture of mashed potatoes}.

German influences and Chilean poets are key themes in Santiago

Once we bid our guide goodbye, and then had lunch, we decided to take in the city from the top of the biggest hill within the city limits. It was a good warm day for an uphill slog, but to save precious time, we elected instead to buy a combo ticket that would take us up by funicular and down via Poma lift (gondola). As tourist season was over, we had no waiting either way and could stroll to our heart's content along the paths and linger at various lookouts. Coming down, we found what has to be the most scenic public pool ever. It was eerily NOT mobbed with people beating the heat. We may just have joined them had they not been doing their post-season maintenance.

A trip to San Cristobal Hill for the views

At the bottom, we had some more strolling along the river before popping into the mall at South America's tallest building for some much needed outdoor wear. Malls. Fleh!

Two quick, jam-packed subway rides later and we were back at our apartment packing me up for my flights north. I have managed to avoid airports entirely since I retired and all of the intervening time has not softened my subconscious sense of dread when driving up the terminal road. I really hope that goes away someday, but it seems it's going to take a while.

Maryanne: Having dropped Kyle off at the airport (a short 15 minute drive if you don't get lost) I returned to the apartment and just chilled for the evening. The next day I took a walk about the streets headed specifically for the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. I took a stroll though the central market (finally) and just enjoyed soaking up the feel of the city before grabbing a snack and chilling back at the apartment - it was a long drive back the following day to Valdivia)

A final day of ambling about Santiago

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Anniversary Road Trip - Waterfalls and Wine

[Kyle]In the morning, we went downstairs for breakfast in Villarrica. We were ready to go at the early end of the range given to us by the proprietor for the morning meal. Conspicuously, there were only two place settings in the whole dining room. We HAD been the only guests in the whole place. Unbelievable! It had been Saturday night at a beautiful resort town. The place was clean and charming and, instead of being a few blocks back, the only thing between us and the lake was a road. The price was low for what we got and yet we were the only ones there. I would have thought they'd be booked weeks in advance. The school year started the previous Monday and everybody went home. When they say low season in Chile, they mean low.

We made a lot of driving distance, but left the main road briefly to grab a view of this beauty (Laja waterfall) and some lunch

Our route descended out of the hills into the valleys of wine country. Driving through wine country here is surreal for anyone that has been through California wine country, because the two are pretty indistinguishable from each other. Long straight rows of vines cross golden hills at angles that make them appear to curve downwards towards pastel colored estates surrounded by flowers. The roads are smooth and dotted with big green signs directing traffic to places called Santa Rosa, Tiburon, San Rafael and Los Angeles. Billboards are everywhere advertising tastings and vineyard tours.

We drove through the very charming little town of Santa Cruz, trying our best to ignore its charms. It was running late by then and we were hoping to get in a tour at the vineyard where we had booked our room for the night.

When we arrived, the guy who checked us in said we were too late for the tour, but he would see if one would be possible the next day before we left. From his subsequent description, it seemed like it would not so much of a vineyard tour as a wine tasting. Since we would be driving afterwards and not sleeping, we decided instead to try one of their wines with dinner and guess at a couple more to take with us.

We were assigned our room, which again seemed to be the only one occupied in the vicinity. Not again! We decided to spend the last of the daylight wandering the manicured grounds and strolling along vines plump with different varieties of grapes ready to harvest. We each snuck a taste of the raw fruit and declared Chardonnay our favorite. {Maryanne: It was quite the hotel, swimming pool, tennis court, large fire pits for cook-outs, the vinyards (obviously) and bicycles to tour the grounds. Inside were snooker tables, books, games, and plenty of places to lounge. Unfortunately the bar didn't have any service or we would have started on the wine much earlier}

La Playa Vineyards and Hotel

As we were lounging on the big comfy chairs in the garden, we overheard another couple seeking in an English accent. We weren't the only guests there! Their room was the only occupied one in the wing on the other side of the lobby from ours. They were polite enough, but not particularly gregarious, so it was a little uncomfortable at dinner to be sat at adjacent tables in a room as quiet as a library while pretending we can't overhear each other's conversations. During one occasion when the imaginary wall was down, we asked them about the wine they had brought in with them when they arrived (we had ordered a bottle with our meal). They said they bought it after the wine tasting fifteen minutes earlier. What?! The guy just said...Auugh!

Anyway, we had a lovely restful night followed by long, hot showers and a eerie solitary breakfast, which was still made a little uncomfortable by our the proximity of our server, who was trying her best to keep close tabs on us while trying to appear not to. It didn't work. It was weird. Time to hit the road.

On our drive through Santa Cruz the second time, we happily succumbed to its charms. First was the museum. What an absolutely unexpected gem! I've been to a lot of museums, many of them after being dragged by Maryanne, but the museum in Santa Cruz is my favorite museum EVER! I'm including the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. It was enormous and had the best collections of so many things that I have ever seen. Most impressive to me was the pre-Colombian art. I have seen a few carvings here and there, but nothing like rooms after rooms of the most intricately detailed and delicate pieces they have here. There were so many objects that were built like ships in a bottle whose detail could only been seen with magnification.

Colchagua Museum in Santa Cruz had an extensive and beautifully presented range of subjects
(and an audio guide in English) - we loved it

Another thing that surprised me was the textiles. They went way beyond weaving complex patterns. There were tiny voodoo doll-like representations of people. They were the size of a fingernail and they each had unique and individual dress and expressions. Some had tools. Some had weapons. Hundreds of these were then used as fringe at the edge of an equally elaborate cloth. They also had a knitted hat that had a whole 3D scene with three weavers working around a loom making even smaller hats on top, all in wool! I had no idea...

{Maryanne: Another extensive exhibit here recounted the story of the 33 miners rescued from the 2010 CopiapĆ³ mining accident after being stuck underground for 2 months. Both Kyle and I were glad there weren't too many other visitors allowing our tears to flow freely.}

Before leaving town, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant where the chef and owner treated us like treasured long-lost friends. He fed us more than we could eat and when we told him we couldn't possibly find room for dessert, he brought us a couple of them anyway.

We hit the road feeling like we really should have gone on foot to burn off our meal instead of lazily driving a car to Santiago.