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 Iīll 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 1900īs 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 MP3īs 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 eveningīs arrivals with a bottle of Chiliīs 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.
If in a journey an unavoidable/unexpected detour should present itself, itīs best to accept the detour as part of the trip and enjoy it as best one can. I know those words are true, I just didnīt think I would have to live them so early.
Normally, the first thing I think about in the planning stage is what great scenery Iīm going to see, the activities about to be undertaken, and maybe even how lovely the weather will be. What isnīt on my short list is how la gente, the people, will be a critical part of the journey, other than giving overnite shelter or directions to the next destination perhaps. In all my preparations for this trip, I did not consider the first leg would be all about the detour and la gente and little else.
But in the photo above are three of the most important people on my unexpected detour (AKA 26 Days With Sciatica). Ramon, who drove us to hospitals, therapists, drug and grocery stores; Anita, his wife, who provided english-spanish translation over the phone to various health care providers; and of course, Joyce, who takes such good care of me rain or shine.
Two other Chileans stand out like no other as well. Claudio Guzman, a Shiatzo massage therapist (not sure what that means but he did help me heal). Senor Positivo - if there ever was a man alive that fits the description, Claudioīs it. He gives us a delicious bottle of vino dulce when say goodbye. We enjoy his most thoughtful gift for 4 nights on the road.
And the equally skillful, compassionate and knowledgeable physiotherapist, Consuelo Jaegar. Literally, I couldnīt have been in better hands. If the beginning of the journey meant spending time on an unexpected detour, well then thank God it was in Chile. I am so obliged to the la gente here.
Incredibly, Consuelo arranges for a tour of the historic 4 masted sailing ship, Esmeralda. This is the ship all Chilean sailors must train on. Consueloīs friend, Francisco, a lieutenant in the navy, instructed cadets for 8 months on a trans Pacific voyage to New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan. The tour is incredible and a true highlight of our time in Valparaiso. Thanks again to the lovely Consuelo.
Finally on February 18th we are ready to leave Valpo. Ramon and Ube drive us to Vina del Mar where our bikes have been awaiting us, safely stored in the basement of the Hotel Ankara. Hugs all around, almost tears. Ramon presents Murray with a beautiful Alpaca wool toque. One last photo of Ube astride the Bumble Bee and we off ... destination 1136 km South, Puerto Montt and the Navimag Ferry to Patagonia.
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