Week of July 18, 2004
To start off the week, we enjoyed a warm and wonderful day with Francisco and Lolly. Good food, great conversation, much laughter and of course, Copa America futbol kept us well all day. It still amazes me that you can be half a world away and meet people that you feel so comfortable with....a small world after all.
Having heard that there was an expected storm creeping into Santiago late on Tuesday, we upped our plans and drove up to the local mountains to avoid being caught in the snowy deluge. Much like the Southern California mountains, this part of the Andes gets just enough snow for skiing but still retains its sunny days.
Going back a few weeks, we had given a ride to a backpack with legs, or rather, a young German girl named Christine carrying a huge backpack compared to her petite size. We lunched with her and as it turned out, she had a friend in the Santiago mountains that might have been able to help us find a place to park whilst skiing. She gave us a business card for a very charismatic Bill and a few emails and telephone calls later, there we were - parked just outside of the Refugio Aleman that Bill manages, which is nestled at the base of the Farallones-El Colorado and Valle Nevado ski mountains.
We excitedly watched (and these old bones felt) the cold sweep come in accompanied by this amazingly fluffy white stuff that blanketed the July ground in a wintry hush. To step out into a foot of snow on my birthday morning was nothing less than exhilarating. We chose to let the storm do its worst (and best) and go skiing the next day.
The Refugio Aleman is located off the cliff that overlooks Santiago and looks up to Farallones ski mountain. The building was built in the 1940's and is one of the oldest buildings in the mountains. The leasers of the Refugio and Bill made us feel unbelievably welcome and cozy as we hovered around their fireplaces and imbibed their beers. If we were to own a place like this, this was the atmosphere we would want.
We shared my birthday dinner with everyone in the Refugio and the leaser of the property, Eduardo, was so impressed with Gerson's culinary ability, he presented me with a truly exceptional bottle of red wine. It did not take long for Gerson's cooking to accumulate a gathering of guests and several bottles of good wine appeared and disappeared. Speaking of things that appeared, out of nowhere, a cake with a single candle (thank goodness they did not have a fire hazard of 42), was carried by Gerson and the bar of the Refugio rang with English, Spanish and Portuguese "Happy Birthdays". And, to top it off, Brasil beat Uruguay in the semifinal of the Copa America 2-1 so Brasil meets Argentina for the final. A certain Brazilian was quite happy!
Unfortunately, our bliss was a tad short lived as we had an atrocious night in Cindy. It seems the winds sneak up the valley walls and attack the face of Farallones. Since we just happened to be perched on the brink of the valley, we received the rude awakening of the violent wind shears and the jostling gusts.
We both kept trying to reassure the other that Cindy would not tip over nor would she be nudged over the cliff; yeah right, tell that to the adrenaline chip in our heads that sent pump after pump of the drug with every heave of Cindy. I was first in saying that I was terrified and within a minute, Gerson said the same. With a quick squeeze of the hands, we agreed to go "downstairs" and give Cindy an extra 400 pounds of weight below her center of gravity.
Fortunately the winds died soon thereafter but our nerves continued to twitch. Just imagine being 10 feet up in the air and not only feeling your bed sway, but rather, be pushed over to one side with several buffets of wind and then to be let go, only to abruptly rock back into place. Not to mention the screeching sound of fingernails along a chalkboard as ice scraped across Cindy's sides.
Yet, Cindy surprised us again with her sturdiness and her ability to weather just about anything. She even kicked over her engine in the freezing temperatures following the winds. She is a tough old broad, that she is!
Once our nerves were back in their proper place, we ventured up to the mountain for a little skiing/boarding. We rented our equipment (which took a few adjustments and all was fine) and we had a blast cruising on the powder dry snow and on the virtually vacant slopes. Not a bad way to spend a July birthday...my first time skiing for its celebration - how cool is that!,
The next day we awakened to blinding sunshine and one of the finest skiing/boarding days you could ask for. Needless to say, we hurried up onto the slopes and suffered through several hours of adrenaline fun.
We came back to Santiago after our phenomenal day and gave a ride to Matt and Noah from Toronto, Canada. Matt and Noah are on a snow quest - 27 days of skiing/boarding anything they can in Chile. I have asked them to send me some pictures of their antics and I will look to post them in our new section "Friend's Adventures".
Noah and Matt stayed around the corner from us and we saw them off to Portillo the next day. We were quite taken aback by the warm and sincere thank-yous and goodbyes, especially in a written form from Matt. We were greatly touched and we hope to keep in touch with these two snow bums.
Saturday saw us running around trying to get the parts to change our propane
system to accommodate the Chilean propane bottles and hookup. After
numerous attempts to fill our tanks and being rebuffed each time, we relented
and adapted our hardware to the Chilean's propane system.
In my previous page, I forgot to mention that Gerson and I have been officially baptized Santiagoans. We learned that narrow sidewalks plus water-filled potholes and fast moving buses can result in an unexpected bath of sorts. To our chagrin, we received our baptism while waiting to cross the street. Once we stopped laughing, we shook ourselves off like dogs and ventured across the street. We even had a few locals chuckling right along with us...what a sight we must have been!
Week of July 25, 2004
Our last week in Santiago before we fly back home. Just lots of getting ready and pulling out the summer clothes we tucked away for the winter season here.
We had hoped to leave Cindy in the estacionamento that we have been staying in that is located near the centro of Santiago, but an early morning intruder changed those plans. We were asleep (as it was about 3:00 a.m.) and we heard a "snap" or a "crack" sound and nothing else. There was no movement of Cindy, but Gerson peered out the windows nonetheless.
Still not being assured "it was nothing", Gerson walked outside and caught a glimpse of the culprit of the noise. It seems that a young man was able to climb between the gate and the 15' high fence and clamber along the top rail of the fence, crossing the parking yard undetected by Muneco (the guard dog). Only when the miscreant either stepped on or hung onto a wire that supports the tarps over the parking, did he announce his presence (when the wire broke).
We cannot be absolutely certain he was aiming for Cindy; however, he quickly backtracked away from Cindy (which was the only vehicle in that area) and vaulted over the gate. We have a strong feeling he did not expect someone to be in the vehicle as there are no guards in the estacionamento from Saturday night through Monday morning.
It's a bit ironic...we have traveled through so many countries that we were time and again forewarned to be careful because of the high theft probability. The only country we were not warned against was Chile because it is the most affluent and economically advanced of the Latin American countries. And, what country have we now had two attempted accostings on Cindy and two scuffs with gypsies? Why, Chile...go figure! (The gypsies were just a few women attempting to direct our attention elsewhere while they cozied up to me and Gerson, and they got the brunt of our return assertiveness when telling them to leave us alone...let's say, they understood us immediately and backed away just as quickly).
As we did in Panama to make ready for shipping Cindy, we thoroughly cleaned
her and installed a couple of preventive break-in measures. We cabled the
side door to the front door and screwed in a plywood wall between the cab and
the "house". Along with plywood screwed in over the back window, we hope
there are enough deterrents to keep the vandals out. And hopefully, the
parking area we chose that have 24 hour guards is truly as safe and they
We made it home to Huntington Beach without hassle and we will be enjoying our time with our family and friends. The adventure resumes the first week of September, as do these web pages...until then, Ciao!