Day 26. Back in Valparaiso again, after being here in 2006. But this is February 2009, and Joyce and I should be in the south of Chile by now, yet here I sit again today and look upon the church courtyard of Capilla del Carmen. Granted, it is a pleasant view and one that reassures, in the larger scheme of things, all will be fine. The grand Catholic churches so common in South America tend to make one feel that way. I look forward to when I´ll be healthy again because for the last 15 days I have been confined to our B & B room in Valparaiso, crippled by sciatica.
But with every dark cloud comes some silverware. Or something like that. In this case, it is the Chilean people who have offered every assistance possible to Joyce and I. We are being immeasureably helped by the owner of Garivalpo B & B, Uberlinda Valencia. Ube, besides being like a mother to us, has enlisted friends to help as well. Like Ramon and Anita Cespedes, who ferry us everywhere, translate and expedite things. Ramon, 30 years with the elite Caribineros, spent 20 years in charge of the guard at the Moneda in Santiago (where the president and ministers of Chile work). A more patient, practical and reliable man would be hard to find. Anita, a retired Grade 3 teacher, can speak some English, so between her English and my limited Spanish we communicate well enough. This morning, as a gift, Anita gave me what looked like a business card. On it was written a prayer to El Senior to help me heal. I will carry that card with me for the rest of this trip.
In the 17 days before the bikes arrived (and the sciatica), Joyce and I had a great time exploring the streets of Valparaiso. We hired a most extraordinary guide, "The German Pirate". Michael took us on a 10 hour walking tour to small but typical businesses, cottage industries really, where we sampled hand-made liqueurs; watched clothes made using 80-year-old Singer sewing machines; and at the German-Chilean Club, we stood in a tiny room filled with orginal climbing gear from the first attempt to climb Aconcagua in 1883. Interesting too was the badge shop, a dark little room from the early 1900´s with a 20 ton hand screw press. Eric Schindler works the press, making uniform cap and helmet badges for the firefighters of Valparaiso. Eric inherited this 100 year old shop from his grandparents, themselves German immigrants to Valparaiso during the heydays. Eric is a bombero himself. Bomberos in Chile are volunteers and pay for their own gear. They do it for the love of the profession and service to the people.
Some afternoons we sit by the big window in our room reading, listening to MP3´s or enjoying the vista. On occasion, Joyce sketches a scene that catches her eye.
Most evenings we sip wine and enjoy the sunset on the cerros opposite us. Since we also have a wee view of the harour bay, we can watch container ships arrive and depart. Seems naturally fitting to welcome the evening´s arrivals with a bottle of Chili´s national toasting product, say a carmenere, merlot, cab sav, syrah or sav blanc, to name a few. As the climate here naturally invites a light supper and una botella de vino, we can toast and eat each night for under $10 - for both of us. Like I said, within every dark cloud there is some silver underwear. Or something like that.
Posted by Murray Castle at February 02, 2009 06:09 PM GMT