Living in a Chocolate Factory just off the Coast
Trip Start Sep 15, 2006
80Trip End ??? ??, 2007
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We met Rodrigo's mom, Anitsa, and discovered that she has a little home business making chocolates. Excellent... we're staying in a chocolate factory. I must remember to thank my brother for this connection. After we'd said hello and dropped off our bags, we decided to walk into town. We bought lunch at a supermarket and had a picnic on the beach, watching the waves crash on the rocks and the gulls fishing just beyond.
Walking up the beach, we admired the way the coastal condos were built into the hillside, one on top of the other. Cierra liked this much more than the coastal high rises, because it retains some of the natural contours of the land. I contend that it's uglier than nature either way, but at least if the buildings stand on their own, some of the hillside can be left untouched, and you aren't left with these leaning hive monstrosities. Farther along up the beach, a rocky island was stained white for some reason. We looked closer and saw that the island was covered with giant pelicans, evidently the source of the white, and sea lions. We watched as two bulls challenged each other and settled the argument with a little face off.
Back in town, we needed a bathroom, so we bought the cheapest thing at Burger King, then made use of the oceanfront table for a few games of cards.
Back at the house, we met little brothers Benji and Daniel, both home from school. They were into rugby and football, and immediately started practicing their goal kicks in the front yard, just large enough to simulate a goal, with the netting replaced by a stone wall covered over by shrubbery. Kick THUMP. Rustle, rustle as some of the precious few remaining leaves fell to the ground. Kick THUMP BANG against the drainpipe. Their Mom winced occasionally at the abuse her plants and wall were taking, but the athletic ability of her kids took precedence. The boys challenged us to a table tennis tournament, then roundly thumped us. Little Benji had a serve like lightning, and we quickly learned that if he got the ball, it was all over.
Big brother Javier and his girlfriend stopped by for dinner on their way back to Santiago. Javier told us some hilarious stories about his father's recent purchase of a bakery, which the whole family was now involved in running. He had lots of travel stories, too, having recently spent time in Brazil. Time passed too quickly, and soon dinner was over and Javier had to go. We did the dishes and then slipped off to bed, me for some quiet dreaming, and Cierra for an unexplained sneezing fit that kept her up half the night.
Atchoo. Atchoo. Atchoo! ATCHOO! Atchoo.
"Are you all right?"
A long pause. I thought, could she possibly be sleeping through all this? Finally, an answer came back through the dark. "Yeth."
"Good." Yikes, she sounds stuffy. I turned over and fell back asleep.
In the morning, it turned out to only be allergies and once we got her out of bed, Cierra was fine, if a bit sleepy. We had some breakfast, then decided to spend the day in Vina del Mar. The bus driver who took us there was a certifiable maniac, and by the time we were dropped off, Cierra was nearly ready to repaint the interior of his bus in a gastronomic medley of colors. To calm her stomach, I took her to a nearby public garden to look at some flowers. She loved the plants, but her stomach didn't settle much and she ended up lying down on a bench for a little nap. We walked around Vina a while afterwards, looking at the outside of the much glitzier buildings. Near the waterfront, somebody with a lot of money and a need to live in a theme park had erected some beach-front castles, complete with towers and turrets. We passed by the town's casino, and thought we'd go in to see someone else with money lose it, but were surprised that there was a seven dollar charge to enter the casino. Wait, so I have to pay you to go in and lose money at your place? That doesn't seem right. We opted instead for some tasteless pizza at a place with a pack of fat and aggressive pigeons hanging around, and we had to take a swipe at them once in a while to keep them from bellying up and flying off with a piece.
Cierra was still tired, but didn't want to re-board the crazy bus, so we walked back slowly along the beach, then up the hill. Eventually the boys came home from school and challenged us to more ping pong. A neighbor's puppy had escaped the fence, but the neighbor was gone, so they let in into their yard to keep it out of the street. The young beagle got a lot of energy out chasing a tennis ball around the yard, and Daniel and Benji got even more exercise capturing him to reclaim the ball. Eventually the owner came to claim him, and then Rodrigo arrived, fresh off the bus from Santiago. Our benefactor was almost the last in his family to meet us, but his father arrived shortly afterwards, and we all had dinner, a delicious Peruvian chicken dish whose name I never quite could figure out how to pronounce. In so many ways, Rodrigo reminded me of my brother Sawyer, from his hair, to the way he dressed, to the relaxed manner that he had when conversing with someone. It was like having Sawyer in the room with us for a while, and later, we got on the computer and all chatted with Sawyer for a little while so we could really be together.
Later, Rodrigo took us on a nighttime driving tour of Vina and Renaca, then we stopped off for drinks at a taco place. Cierra and I shared a Brazillian favorite at the suggestion of Rodrigo, a Capricosa I think. It was lemony and full of booze, and that's why I can't spell the name, darnit.
Rodrigo had just pulled into the drive to deliver us back to his house. Midnight, and one of his friends was calling him to come by and visit. But these 2 old codgers were headed to bed.
The power was off in the morning, leaving Anitsa unable to get her car past the electric door. She was concerned because she had to drive us all to the bus station for a bus to Santiago, with Rodrigo barely allowing enough time to make it back for a big physics exam. The power came back at the last minute, though, and we sped along the coastal road. Watching the rocks whizz by, we thought ahead to tonight when we'd be jumping this Pacific pond in a jet aircraft.
An interesting story in the paper this morning, too. Turns out the very same flight we're taking today was landing yesterday in New Zealand when the pilots reported the plane was barely missed by fiery falling debris just 8 kilometers away. First misidentified as a falling Russian satellite, it was later thought to be a meteorite that didn't quite disintegrate in the atmosphere. Anyway, let's hope that doesn't happen tonight.
We had an afternoon to kill in Santiago once we got off the bus. Rodrigo gave us what he thought were keys to his place there so we could drop the bags, but the keys didn't work, so we left the packs with the doorman. Of we strolled to the mall and a last meal with table service and hot food before the great belt-tightening that will be our time Down Under. We strolled the mall for a while, looking at all the Things We Can't Buy and the People Who Probably Shouldn't Be Either. Eventually we made our way back and banged on the door until sleepy Javier opened it up. Rodrigo came in right behind us and confirmed that the key we had was, in fact, the wrong key. We jumped in his car, bags and all, headed first to the airport, then to Sydney. On the pavement outside, we said goodbye and thanks to these 2 guys who made our time in Chile a whole lot of fun. We also waved goodbye to the continent of South America as we prepared to fly farther from home on the path that would very soon be leading us back.