Wow, I sure have been slack with this blog!!! considering that it is now June… I am back in Australia and this post is about just after new years till the middle of February I have taken procrastination to a new level. But I will finish this project, one post at a time I will get back to the day when I get home, and then see where I will go from there. If this blog will develop into something new or if I will shut it down, I do not know yet.
Well a few days after new years Nick and I went to the south of chile with some family friends to a lake called Caburga, this is a place known as the presidents lake as about 3 or 4 of them have holiday houses on the lake! The cabin that we stayed in backed onto the lake which was to put it simply. Friggen awesome! Like you do in chile we had lots of meat and sugar while we stayed there, not much of anything else =D Went out on kayaks around the lake. One of the days when Nick was feeling a little worse for wear 😉 I went for a walk with one of the kids past the house of Piñera (Chilean President) and along the way a dog started to follow us from that house, in the end it went home with us. A few builders said that it was the dog of the handyman, but but for me that still means it was Piñera’s dog! Another of the days we went out in the cars up a really long mountain dirt road till we got to a national park where there was some pretty cool and by cool i mean the water was SO COLD waterfalls. Which of course means that we had to strip down to a minimum amount of clothes (nudity was not possible as mothers were about) and go for a quick dip to get under the water. which was awesome except for the whole water being freezing like i mentioned above, but that had to be expected when you take into account that the water was melted snow… hmm.. it did taste really good though! I think it was the next day nick and i had a try at fishing in the lake, with no luck, but it was very relaxing and later that day we went to a river which again we had no luck in. But talking to some other people that had been fishing in the area that had only caught 1 fish in about 2 or 3 hours in that river so it was not just us. I did get my line caught on a branch and had to go belly button deep in another freezing river to get my line and floaty out (i was NOT going to let that floaty go!)
Finally once our time in Caburga was done, we got a bus out to Valdiva which just happens to be a really nice town/city and also the location of the largest ever recorded earthquake in 1960 which literally shifted the geography of the region. A map that was printed in 1959 was of little use if you were trying to do some orienteering in 1961. Lakes formed where there was farmland, and where there was lakes farmland appeared. So that is a little bit of an introduction to Valdiva. But anyway back to the story and the adventure, we were staying with my biggest cousin Josefa who for your information is a friggen champion! she is one of the funniest people i know in the whole wide world, and after this trip which is now well and truly over as i will be about to start my 3rd week at home is a lot of people! On that first day we went with her and one of her friends to the beach which unlike most beaches in chile was not super cold, because it is right next to the mouth of the river which has had time to warm up so the water is significantly warmer than viña.
*I also have a saying about going to the beach and swimming at the beach, “You have not been to the beach unless you wet your feet and have not gone for a swim unless you wet your hair” *
But because it was summer and summer means holidays and lots of free time there is like a market thing for all things typically Chilean there. All types of really yummy foods are sold as well as maybe the most local beer, short of going to the brewery (which was about 5km away). Hanging out at the beach which was black sand and left my feet all funny coloured was really cool, i had never seen proper black sand and it was nice to see a beach like this. My cousin had a pub/cafe which she was a proper local at (they are there most days) she would walk in and take about 5 min to get to a table because she would be talking with all the people there. I would love to have a place where it was like cheers and everybody knows your name =P Went there a few times in our 3 days in Valdivia (i think 4 times) had some local beers one was called cuello negro which was soo nice! but it was a friggen death trap, i got the numb face from one pint i think it was, but its possible that it was bigger. This is of no interest to no one except me, but i had a pair of thongs which i had for years and they were always really slippery and when i was in peru i cut them up a bit to give them more grip which worked great! And they broken when i was in Valdivia bought an emergency pair at the supermarket and turned out they were the best pair of thongs i have ever owned! not got a blister from them, most comfortable, grippy, everything. Hyperlider you know how to make one mean pair of thongs!
After the time in Valdivia we got a bus to Lican Ray to go to the best house in the world, it is the place where you can take a dump and watch an active volcano from the window, its the place where you walk about 200 meters and your at the lake, 400 meters and there is an arcade with pool tables, foosball and well arcade games =P It is where some of my greatest childhood memories were. But this time it was not about making childhood memories, it was about making memories as an adult. Not just faint blurs of random things but whole days, conversations actually being there. We arrived to Lican with only my grandparents and cousin at the house so it was a little dull for the first 2 days, but then another one of my cousins arrived and it became much more interesting and entertaining. Nacho is so much fun to hang out with, he just talks total crap all the time, its great and fits in with Nick and I really well! Claudio on the other hand is much a worrier. Everything is a little bit to dangerous. Just an annoying person to have around when you want to go exploring, We start going to a walk to who knows where and he will start to complaint that we are on a walk to who knows where… Then why follow! So as background to the lake where Lican Ray is on, it’s Lago Calafquen which is wicked! When i was little i would sit on the edge of the lake and look out and see 3 islands. one big one, one medium one and little one all in order from big to small, i was never allowed to go out to them when i was little but now that i was big i was determined to get out there! So we went down to the lake and hired a boat which Claudio was constantly in our ear about grandma saying we were not allowed to do. She would always tell Claudio what we could and couldn’t but never to us. So we listened to ourselves hired a boat and started to row out to the island. Turns out rowboats are really hard to row straight! Anyway after zigzagging our way to the island for about an hour (we hired the boat for 2) and playing on the island for about 1/2hr we started to make our way back which took even longer. Nacho and Claudio were pretty crap at rowing (just being honest Nacho if you read this!) so Nick and I were getting tired, when we were about 150m from the sure the boys got out to swim the rest of the way and instantly the boat was just flying though the water! It was crazy how much faster we could go… Finally returned the boat, and we only had about 1500 pesos left between us so we pretty much saved 3500 peso =P, Poor dude hated us!
A few days later Claudio and Granddad went back to Santiago but Julio (dads brother) and Co. came down, and it with them cousins and friends (Nacho, Pedro, Nacha, Maca, Gonzo, Seba and Nick) we had maybe the best summer anyone could EVER ask for! My grandparents were really worried about letting me drive because its the wrong side of the road and that i was in for certain death if i drove here… so i waited until Julio arrived and asked him for the car and sure enough without skipping a beat tells me to go get the keys and have a good time. He is such a cool guy! So we get all the cousins in the car and in the tray and go for a drive out to the river of lava from the last time the volcano erupted. When i was little the River used to be right next to the road, but in the last 15 years they have been extracting it and using it for stuff, so we had to go driving in about 1km until suddenly you reach a massive wall, it would be about 10-15 meters high and it was all once lava which is pretty hectic.
Another day we went walkies around the town and just started to walk and walk and walk… We pretty much left the town and were on the road to go to the next town, but at that point we started to return. There is a river that goes next to Lican so we walked down the side of the river until we reached a place where i couldn’t pass and people started to get angry =P went through a fence in the hope that we would get out to the walkway we were on earlier… Turns out it just finished in an unpassable fence with so we had to go walking through a property which felt kinda dodgy, like it always does when you dont feel like you should be there! and where did we come out? about 100 meters before we started walking next to the river. Big useless detour that made a few memories along the way. The greatest way to travel! Never quite know where you are going, just have a slight idea of direction and hope for the best.
Nacha and Maca (2 female cousins) made some friends and went to watch them do motocross and stuff, but if that sounds extreme the boys (Julio, Pedro, Nick, Seba, Gonzo and I) went up an active volcano to 2000 meters above sea level, as high as you are allowed to go before you need to have mountaineering equipment. Or you will die. That is not a joke or trying to make it sound more dangerous than it really is all the way to the top. The Volcano has perpetual snow and being a volcano it is not smooth on the way up so its you can fall into places and just get stuck. So we didnt go all the way to the top 2800ish meters. (that is 600 meters higher than australia) But anyway, we climbed from 1400 to about 1600 which is where the first bit of snow can be found and played something that i suspect has never been played before on that mountain, and maybe even in the entire country. Snow cricket!
We continued to climb the mountain after sliding and playing the snow for an hour or so. Being all Volcanic rock it was really loose so climbing so HARD! Dust was constantly going into your eyes, for every step up you would slide half a step back. Eventually we made it to the place where the cable car finishes in the winter and just rested there until everyone got there and was good to go back down. With the climb on the way up we all ran out of water, but because it had been raining a few days earlier there was lots of fresh snow that had fallen. I went and got my bottle dug a bit to get to the cleaner stuff and just put it into the bottle and left it in the sun, it was pretty good to be honest which i was a little surprised about! It took about an hour or so to climb the 350 meters and 20 min to run back down! It was just a case or long step slide, long step slide the whole way down. Each step would take you about 2 meters further and maybe drop 1 meter, it was pretty hectic!
When i was younger and lived in Chile and used to go on holidays to the south, one of the years mum went white water rafting and loved it! She still raves about it to this day! If you ever talk to her ask her about it =) So sure enough if it was so good, we had to give it a go! So Pedro, Nacha, Seba, Nick and I went to one of the places that does it, booked ourselves in and hit the rapids. It was really fun, but so much hard work! You need so much strength to go against the current and trying to stay in the raft as it bounces around the different rocks and waves it really tricky. A few times i fell off my seat across the raft into Nick, and then you have to get back up and keep going as you get water all over your face. Down one of the rapids where it went down quickly and then there was a big rock which makes a huge wave Nacha got flung out of the raft into the water, we got out the other side and turn around and my little cousin was missing! But the guy on the kayak got her out, when she got back to the raft she had such a huge smile! she loved it, she was the only one to fall so she was embarrassed about that, but she said it was the best fun! A bit further on it got to a huge waterfall which we were not allowed to go down, it was about 6 meters in total so we had to get out and walk around to a rock where there was a 6 meter vertical drop and then a swim out the other side, it was fantastic to do a big drop, I had not jumped of rocks into water in such a long time! The last bit of the run was pretty quiet in comparison to the top, but it was ok as we were all getting pretty tired.
A few days later we went and did the last kinda adventurey thing. Some of the cousins went to do a big high ropes thing while Nick, Nacha, her friend and I went horseback riding. I love South America, we got to the place, they put us on our horses and off we went. no safety talks, no instruction on how to ride at all and no helmets. There is nothing like riding a horse without a helmet, riding a motorbike is close but no cigar. So we went riding along, Nacha is a “gun” rider and was pretty much controlling the pace of the entire group which was pretty cool, we went off through all the main steps of the horses, but for me rarely did it get to a gallop which for those that don’t know feels like a magic carpet ride! we all went to far and then had to turn around and go back up big hill and wait for the rest of the group, poor horses got worked pretty hard! As we got back with the group the leader got a message on his radio calling “Matias Zenteno” which we thought was kinda weird that there was another Zenteno there because it’s a pretty rare name but thought nothing of it. Anyway we kept riding along and finally as we got back to the entrance to where the stables are there was a police man with a book and he read out all our names and said we had to go with him as there had been an accident with one of our family members. Not what you want to hear when you are the one in charge of the group and the accident happened about an hour before you knew anything about it! All that we were told was that there was an accident with someone and that we were going to get driven back to Pucon in the police car to the hospital. Nick and I were in the back of the paddy-wagon Nacha and her friend in the back seat. So sirens blaring we sped back to the town hitting about 150 at some points, it was pretty cool =D When we got to the hospital we see Pedro with his shirt totally ripped, Maca has a big gash on her face and leg, Seba is limping around and Gonzo is nowhere to be seen. There was another little kid in a neck brace. Later we find out that Gonzo had broken his pelvis, but he was not the worst of the group. A girl had broken 2 vertebrae, her shoulder-blade , elbow and some ribs. From what the cousins said it was horrible, she was hanging backwards with her feet touching her head unconscious for about 15 minutes with the staff asking my cousin who was the only one awake at that point to check if she was dead!
Long story short chargers were pressed on the company and my cousins were on the front cover quiet a few news papers and on the TV in the national news. In the coming days lots of things came out about that company, they shut down their rafting (which we did) because they were not complying to safety standards etc. It started a pretty big police investigation. It was pretty full on.
After returning to Santiago we had a few days before Nick had to go back, which were pretty eventless. A few days after Nick went home i went up into the mountains with Julio, Rosario (dads brother and sister) and some of my cousins. It was really cool, the place we went is a mini resort thing for the police where they can take their families on holidays. It was really pretty right in the middle of the mountains. One of the most beautiful things i have ever seen. That night i went to stay with Julio and for the next few days he lent us his car and we went out to Viña and Valpo to visit my other cousins and pick up Maca’s boyfriend. From Valpo we went to a place called Algarrobo which is where the worlds biggest swimming pool is, but more importantly where there is a holidays house of some relatives! stayed there for 2 nights having an awesome times and introducing flippies into the surf when the wave comes in, to chile. Believe me in a few years it will be the big thing there!
I went back to Viña and stayed with my uncle and went on one final round visiting family in that area as i was going home in a few days time. I was at my aunties house when i got a call from Home telling me that they had found some information about my grandfather, mums dad. So i started some frantic calling to get in contact with some people and try to organise something. The next day i left Viña in the morning, met up with my mums half-sister and we went to see my grandfather for the first time in 15 years.
When we got there it was the most touching and sad thing i have and i think will ever see. He was just an empty shell, he was so thin i dont know if he understood anything that i said to him. There was not emotion in his eyes, no movement it was just a stare. But just being there i knew that he was the reason i was in the world and that i loved him so much. Regardless of what might have happened in the past or how he is now. He is still my grandfather and always will be. I knew at that point that i was going to be the last of his grandchildren that will ever see him, he was to frail and 4 of them didnt know anything about him. I felt such a privilege to be there with him. For all of South America, seeing Machu Picchu, becoming friends with all my cousins again, meeting new ones. Going to the north of Chile which is so special to my mum. None of that matters. I saw my grandfather for the last time and that, THAT is what will truly stay with me till the day i die. That is something that i can never ever ever do again. A few days after getting to England in March i got another phone call from home to let me know that he had passed away. And honestly it hit me so hard, i was a mess for a while after, any time i would think of him i would get so down. Even writting this i have tears building up in my eyes and the biggest knot in my throat.
South America was and will be one of the most special places in my life, this journey through there just made me see that with the eyes of an adult. It is not the fairytale place that i had in my memory. It is a land far from perfect, but at the end of the day it is where my roots are, it is where i grew up. It is where i have my first memory.
It is my first home.