We flew into Santiago, and as they say, "you can never go back". What was a somewhat clean and walkable city in the winter has turned into a hot, dusty, dirty and crowded place. Unfortunately, where we had originally parked Cindy had been closed down and the area now has many abandoned lots. Apparently, the municipalidad is looking to renovate this part of the Centro.
As I mentioned, where we parked Cindy had been closed. This actually occurred twice while we were in the United States. Once in September, we were given less than a week to get Cindy moved from one secure parking facility to another. Thankfully, we had made a good impression on the place we stayed before and the manager, Eduardo, moved Cindy back to his parking area. Thank goodness for Western Union and a quick wire of the funds.
Within a few months, Eduardo informed us that his parking facility was being taken back over by the municipalidad and again, Cindy had to be moved. He located a safe lot outside of the city and we again wired the necessary funds.
With this musical Cindy, we did not know where she was when we arrived in Santiago. We stayed at the same hostel we had before and made the call to Eduardo, only to find out that he was on vacation until the following Monday. Impatiently waiting for Monday, we again called and found out that his phone was out of service. Ok, not that we panicked; however, Gerson was growing evermore aggravated with the situation.
Since we had an idea of the area in which Eduardo lived, we took the metro to its furthest point and started asking taxi drivers if they knew of the area. After two definitive "no's" we were asking the third taxi driver when a lone passerby overheard Gerson's dulcet voice and exclaimed "Yo se Villa Rodeo". Come to find out, that was where the young man, Luis, lived.
After trying to get Eduardo's exact address through various telephone companies (they refused due to some stupid rule of privacy), we ventured via taxi over to Villa Rodeo area and began to walk the streets, asking if anyone knew Eduardo. After an exhausting hour, Luis took us to his family's cozy home and he started to make some phone calls.
One of these calls was to the local phone company and after a combination of pleading and flirting, he procured Eduardo's address. Come to find out, he lived all but five minutes away, so off we went.
Eduardo was quite surprised and with a some talking by Gerson (and a very stern tone in my voice that in any language translates to do not even think of f****** with me), Eduardo led us via taxi to Cindy. I am happy to say that other than Cindy having a bit of a dusty tan, she looked great. The sun has taken its toll on the flag stickers on the upper window and other than a dead battery, she just needed a good bath.
We came back the next day with a new battery and Cindy kicked
over like the good girl she is. We washed her down and away we went.
Fortunately, there was a parking facility across from our hotel and she was
easily tucked in for a couple of days.
Luis escorted us to the Chile/Argentina border as we had to get an extension on Cindy's visa to stay in the country. We had been told multiple stories as to how to extend Cindy's stay and we followed what appeared to be the most official direction. Of course, after our three hour, uphill drive to the border, we were almost turned away by being told that we had to go to another city to get the extension.
Fortunately we had Luis, because he explained that he was there with Gerson when Gerson received the differing instructions and that he was "embarrassed" and "ashamed" for Chile that no one could give a straight answer. Next thing we know, the two women at the customs were writing a letter to their manager on our behalf, requesting that the fine for overstaying the vehicle visa be waived. We provided them with a copy of a letter we received from the Chilean consulate in Miami explaining the four hurricanes that slammed into Florida and which subsequently put us to work and delayed our return to Chile.
So, we trundled back down to Santiago, cleaned, tweaked and packed Cindy and left the next day for the coast, with Luis in tow. One thing though, we need to find one of us a new name because "Luis" is pronounced "Looeece" and "Louise" is pronounced "Looeez" and damned if I can tell the difference when Gerson hollers out our name. Gerson was having fun with it because he calls out the name and we both answer his call (well, sometimes anyway)..
We just meandered along the coastal roads, many of which were surprisingly unpaved. There was some beautiful country where the pine trees met the ocean with sweeping beaches and terrible roads were the only access. We spent these days getting used to Cindy's sounds and movements again and checking and double-checking Cindy's mechanics.
Week of February 27, 2005
We ran into a bit of foggy weather so we decided to move a bit further south and we found the sun for which we were searching. Landing in a small country-coastal town called Chanco, this area is known for its fantastic cheese products. We found the Frederico Albert National Parque named after its benefactor, a German naturalist that headed a group that reforested the coastline to diminish the erosion of the sand dunes. Hence, he set in motion a preserve that has kilometers of walking trails through a dense and beautiful forest (bosque).
We took quite a walk to the beach and enjoyed the peace and quiet, only to be resoundingly disturbed from our contemplations by a loud and raucous crowd. We peered around a large wall to see what appeared to be the entire town sitting in the stands watching a soccer game. Now, when you see hundreds of people waving their bodies and stomping on the stands for a futbol game, you would think this was a really big game. What we found were impeccably uniformed boys, aged from 10-12 years old being cheered on by the majority of the town. Talk about your local support!
From this point, we started to wend our way into the center of Chile and seek out the many rivers that lace through southern Chile. We stopped overnight at a small town called Trehuaco and camped next to a very wide river bed with but a trickle of water. Fortunately, this is the dry season or the river would be near impassable.
Our camp near a beautiful fall called Salto del Laja had several natural "piscinas" (pools) fed by small water falls. These pools were concrete encased and were just like a natural river pool without the restrictions or hassle. The tranquility of these manmade, yet natural pools was fantastic.
If you were to look at a map that possessed longitude and latitude, you would find that we have been traveling through the equivalent of northern California and on into Oregon and Washington. With the amount of dense pine tree forests and steep terrain, the comparisons to the Pacific Northwest of the United States have only just begun.
Again, moving south, we planned a stop in Temuco. A town of decent size and clutter, we stopped here to replenish our stock and to have Luis reunite with a young lady he had met previously. We stocked Cindy and met Luis' fried (quite nice) and after they said their goodbyes, we headed for Villarica.
All of a sudden, we pass a taxi with a mad-man waving and yelling to get our attention. Gerson catches a glimpse of none other than Sam, the New Zealander that we met at Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and again in La Paz, Bolivia. We had been keeping in contact via email and we were planning on crossing paths in a town further southeast; however, our very timely and eerily coincidental passing led us to the internet cafe in the next town, Villarica.
As we hoped, Christine (Sam's better half) had provided us with their telephone number and their whereabouts for a few days. We had not planned on checking our email that day and had we not seen the blonde mad-man in the taxi, we would have missed them by a few hundred kilometers. As fortune smiled upon us, Sam and Christine were housed in Villarica, not five minutes away from our internet position.
Sam and Christine were staying at wonderful place called Hosteria de la Colina and with the gracious permission of the owners, we stayed there for the night. If you were ever to be looking for a cozy, relaxing place to stay in Chile, this place is it (45 411503).
We spent the evening catching up and agreed we were both setting out for Pucon the next day. Sam and Christine prefer to free-camp and had chosen a spot on Lake Villarica (in Pucon) and we found a welcoming camping area just up the street (a hot shower was a must for the three of us). We met up with Sam and Christine in town and found them conversing with a German couple, Bernd and Antonette. As it turned out, Bernd and Antonette had parked next to Sam and Christine, for they had shipped their motor home from Germany and were traveling north.
So, the town of Pucon was visited by three motor homes on the same day, representatives of Europe, North America and Oceania. We had a scrumptious dinner in Izzy, Sam and Christine's home, and compared traveling stories for several hours.
The next day found us all wandering the town and again crossing paths. Dinner was decided to be uptown at our place and Gerson (and his student, Luis) prepared, yet again, an excellent bar-b-que.
As with travelers, we were all heading our separate ways. Sam and Christine to head back to Villarica, Bernd and Antonette to head somewhat north, or maybe east, or perhaps west (their plans have no schedule) and us off to the southeast. We said our good-byes and off we went...