Isla Negra, Chile

Trip Start Jan 28, 2008
Trip End Feb 08, 2008

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It does not look like this day is going to start well; the tour bus does show up on time but there appears some confusion as to what bus who is going on and to where. Anyway, we taken to a rendezvous point and introduced to a series of people all of whom will mean nothing in a few moments except for the the driver and our tour guide. They and we switch from the big tourist busso to the little touristic bistro bus. The former being the formal 120 seater for traveling from city to city; the latter all the best for exploring the side streets and finding the serendipity latent in any trip, awaiting on a call, a trip, an event...
Well, the first event is trying to find the last passenger who has taken a hostel somewhere and the company's directions are not what the driver and guide feel are the best or the driver and the guide are not what the company wishes to have interpreting its directions. Ten minutes stretches to fifteen and bit more before at last, we find it. Oh, oh - we have found what they are looking for; but, it is not where the passenger is. The cellphone calls are becoming more frequent and more urgent but to the credit of the guide, Claudia - she keeps us entertained between breaths, listening to the driver with one ear, the cell with the other and watching the streets for signs, landmarks AND answering questions of those of us sitting far enough back that we don't know she is on the phone!
Plus, she and we are finding out that the bus is an entertaining lot full of fun, hyperbole, teasing and mirth, bordering on what, past dusk, will be diagnosed as madness when seen silhouetted against a full moon with the shadow of an old Inca King crossing its face! We pass a street called Septembre 11 and one of us named the person writing this blog, asks: "what is the significance of the date - does it have anything to do with 9/11 in N.Y.?"  Good guess, but no corn pie for this lad - the correct answer even after polling the audience had to be supplied: "'tis the date the dictator won and he named the street after his victory..."
In fact according to Wikipedia: "On September 11, 1973, Pinochet, who had recently been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Arm, led a coup d'tat  against Socialist President Salvador Allende and, along with the Navy, Air Force and Carabineros, established a military government. Pinochet implemented a series of military operations in which (according to the 1993 Rettig Report) approximately 3,000 people were killed while (according to the 2004 Valech Report) 27,000 were incarcerated without trials and subjected to torture. Thousands more fled in exile, in particular to Argentina, as well as Peru and applied as political refugees; however, they were followed in their exile by the DINA secret police, in the frame of Operation Condor which linked South American dictatorships together against political opponents.
By the time all this story had been told and fascinatingly we were all distracted, directions and communications had been sorted and here we are - the real hostel and on boards Joseph wearing this thread-bare beige hat that looked like it meant as much to him as a one-eyed chewed up teddy-bear does to an eight year old trekking through strange places. The introductions had to commence all over again and by now everyone is familiar with my name change from Waymark to Mark Way and from there corrected to Graeme which got Claudia confused and on asking me again, I replied jokingly, 'why not just call me sir?' This she started to do and interspersed it with a 'your Lordship' change-up or if in a fastball mood it was "Lord".
If I became overbearing at the plate she intentionally walked me with four straight 'hey-you' and I was meek again. As we retrace a bit of the tour of the day before heading to the coast, Ingrid and I become more aware and receptive to the data fed to us. The nature of the region, the Casablanca valley amongst so many others, the wineries and agricultural lands leading into or out of the open pit mines and both showing a carpet of desert at their front doors. This route is different than yesterday's and soon turns into a colourful array of homes and the hint of beach and ocean to come. The homes are more like works of art spread on easels by the shores of Cannes or St. Tropez. Where we have graffiti, these townsfolk have eye-fruit from talented salad-makers on the fly!
We reach a race track in  the Santiago District and stop long enough for Claudia to get out and ask if it is open for visitors; I think at this point my writing in the li'l black book has kept me from observing what happened but we are on our way again. Not that I wanted to see a race track - sorta, seen one seen them all - not like football stadiums where the World Cup has been played. I believe we have just been told that Valparaiso and Santiago are both regions abutting each other. Must check this later. "Santiago is a valley surrounded by mountains causing smog in the winter as there are no winds; also there is no access to the ocean. Valparaiso has all the beaches", says Claudia.
We are now hearing all about Pablo Neruda and his accomplishments. Most of these I have included officially in the previous blog with web-links, rather than go in detail here. Needless to say and briefly he was a poet, won both National and the Nobel prizes, a Senator and an ambassador to France, Spain and many other countries including Mexico, and Sri Lanka. He married first a Dutch woman in 1939. He was a devout communist and for us Canadians it was to note that he also arranged for a boat load of dissidents to be brought from Spain on a ship called The Winnipeg.  I asked about the ship, but not too much is known other than it was a cargo ship, sold to the French perhaps in the 1920s.
Thus I looked it up when I got back home. Click here for details. Closing in on our destination, we have to go through a toll booth and there is a local selling 'stuff' in a basket. Da-Vid asks us in Spanish if we want anything? This gets translated between Claudia and Cecilia, the only two true bilinguals on the bus (Sp/Eng). We ended having as a treat on behalf of the driver, Dulchy Chilenos! I'm not going to tell you what they are - I have to leave something for your imagination or to entice you to Chile! We now reach the home of the Man. Claudia tells us that Pablo researched where Chile got its name. There are today even after all his research several plausible answers:
...At least one stems from the Mapuche Natives; another from the Spaniards; or simply the word means where the land ends and ocean begins. I will leave that for other readers/travelers to make comment on. We stop for a quick bathroom break before what we are told is a short hike down to the home and lands. A discussion about Isabelle Allende plus the history of the Mapuche is in order and ensues... This then leads to another series of hot topics on racial discrimination, gender equality, marital names and more. And we conclude with the fact that today 10% of the country are Mapuchi AND 2nd class. Finally, before going into the home, and as we pass under an arch with a large sea-horse sculpture on top.
We reflect on Claudia's description of the poor who earn the equivalent of $280 per month, and no public health. They have but a class structure where the indigent get the poorest health care services and the last in line for emergencies. Each class gets relegated to a letter from A to D giving them a place in the line of interminable waiting. We see through the arch, the sea, a wooden structure forming a star with two bells hanging from each of the apexes and next to it is a well preserved boat seemingly natural in its environment of land 30 metres above sea level and 30 metres from the shore!

The photo-ops here are many. The sky is perfect as if hanging for a blue sheet backdrop rather than joining hands in nature with the sea. The aperture is adjusted by God's own light meter and the rest is up to our cameras and us. A sun dial is only what one would expect - the omnipresent Poisson en-caged in his own circular world; free but only limitedly so. A tour of the home has been arranged by our tour company and as we wait to enter we are shown a driftwood carving of a lion and a monkey - such that it looks as if it grew that way and was not carved at all.
Each item here is part of a legend or a history wrapped around one man's life.  It has been said that the sea hates a coward and one gets the feeling that Pablo was anything but. Apparently, at every testing point of his life this virtue came to the fore and served him, his friends and his country. His courage was spontaneous, instantaneous, anything but premeditated, planned or strategic. The tour of the home confirmed that for each of us. Photos inside the home were not allowed; however we were also told that his home was seized, sealed and many things stolen when Pinochet took power. My guess is that Pablo would want that to be the ONLY time for restricted access to his memoirs, reduced knowledge to his loves, fettered feelings of his passions...
No, I heard him tell me to take a photo and enjoy like I would the sound of a wave crashing on the shore at night! The tour was excellent, informative and revealing (it didn't sound like a repetitive monologue by some -one paid to perform, no it sounded like someone telling because they cared). Afterward we were directed to the tomb of Pablo and his 3rd and last wife. They lay facing the ocean, open to all celestial bodies and brushed daily by the changing winds bringing his soul the messages of the sea on which he depended upon during his life. I know it sounds rather pedestrian at this point, but lunch was ready to be served.
It will be in an excellent outdoor patio restaurant and we all sit down together. We overlook the ocean and beach, in front of the home and next to the naturally maintained gardens and all of the icons we have touched today with our thoughts.  Below us to the left is an old hut that looks like it has been made of driftwood - we are told it served a dual purpose of pantry/storehouse.  A totemic sentinel stands guard only two metres away from the burial site. Across the waters puddles of pelicans ply the waves skimming them with a gentleness belying their awkward body structures; at first sight we thought 'perhaps they are albatrosses' but...
We are told that they flock together (albatross do not) and hunt in the sea, but never land on water. With lunch finished, the beach and the ocean beckon us down, and there we go. It is here that  a mild calamity occurs as Ingrid is coaxed into posing by huge boulders where large waves are lapping at her feet. The photos and accompanying text tell the story also; but sufficient to say she (as I was, if you recall during the trip to Buenos Aires) is attacked by these women-bashing rolling snow caps. Ingrid is then mightily thrown upon a boulder, stripped of her skin-on-a-shin and is doused head to toe with salty brine!! 
One might ask: "and how pray tell does someone get out of wet clothes and into dry ones that do not exist?" The photos tell all! The rest of Hemingway's story of the Young Woman and the Sea, is detailed somewhat in the photo dialog. The rest is hidden in the recesses of the minds of each of us depending upon how we saw it. For some the episode was heroic, for others tragic and perhaps another, opportune; for all of us though it was typical of a day of most amazing conversation. The covered the spiritual to philosophical, from antiquity to average day of today, society/humanitarianism, geography, politics and...this blog cannot let it go uncredited the "Joseph contribution".
He gave us all so much with his unquenchable thirst for knowledge far greater than his accumulated base of data and experiences and that alone may well have exceeded the sum total of the rest of us in the bus. AND, Joseph is young!  Having said that, I wrote a poem in the privacy of the back of the bus and it was for Ingrid as they usually are. I did  not intend it for anything else. She saw it and pushed me to tell the others. She then DID tell the others and that is how it got published in that l'il ol' rickety bus-vagen de Isla Negra. (Actually a Mercedes, just in case the tour company is reading this.) I have included it in the penultimate log page.
The company we are using is TurisTour and because we can highly recommend them, here are their coordinates. tel: 488  0444;; On conclusion of the trip, we all agreed it was one of the most enjoyable outings any of us had had with strangers. But in the meantime, we still had a small side trip to take on the way  home, that ended up being as much time again as we dragged it into the shank of the evening. And how did we do this? Just naturally.
Everyone was so enjoying themselves, the driver didn't want to go home, the guide didn't want to stop interacting with us; we didn't want to stop our communications and involvement with David and Claudia and we all felt the same way about each other. Thus, we enter into the beautiful town of Pomaire, a potters' village whose origin goes back to 1771. Its legacy has been preserved for generation after generation and this can be seen in its earthenware stores, baskets, weaves and unique, individual buildings and merchandising.  All of the photos of this outstanding trip are in the next blog as they stand better alone than lost in the first half of this day. So dear reader, just assume that you are going for a bus ride for the next hour with a sing-a-long, a jamboree and a rollicking good time until you turn the page in TravelPod and see the next entry.
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