21 December 2011
Today, the longest day in the southern hemisphere, was full of adventures of the bad weather and cultural kind. Jeff got the bike Friday and trainer out for the first time since we began sailing, and we both rode a bike on a boat, definitely a first for me. We each did twenty minute interval training which goes like this; 30 seconds of pedaling as if you were being chased by a bear followed by a minute and 30 seconds of leisurely pedaling (recovery), repeat ten times, try not to barf. The waves from the wakes of fishing boats were hardly noticeable mostly because my body was trying to get me to stop torturing it having not done interval training for awhile, and it hurts the first few times until my body decides it's not so bad after all. At that point you are supposed to pedal like two bears are chasing you, but I never do.
Then Laura and her granddaughter, Kati row up in their old wooden rowboat. We invite them on to have a look at Hekla, and offer them tea and cookies once they accept. We attempt to have a conversation, and I'm wishing that I had been studying and practicing Spanish since leaving Valdivia. In spite of our inept speaking of Laura's native tongue, we are invited to her casa en la tarde. We accept. I try to joke with her and tell her we will not bring Hekla, but a smaller boat. She accepts this matter of factly, of course this is "mas práctico." being able to tease and joke with people is one reason I want to learn Spanish, but clearly I have a long way to go.
Laura tells us that she has a friend, Thomas who lives nearby. She points out one of Hekla's windows. He is from "Los Estados Unidos", the United States and he has kayaks. She tells us where her casa is and what color. We understand that her casa is orange and that it is up a ramp and nothing else. We say our goodbyes, assure her that we will visit in the afternoon and she rows away. Jeff says to me, "Did you notice her oarlocks?" "Oarlocks are not something I would notice," I laugh and tell him. This noticing of how things work is one of my favorite things about Jeff. He describes to me the very simple, yet effective oarlocks of Laura's rowboat which are two pieces of round wood on each side about a hands width apart and again a hands width tall. The oars are set between these pieces and rowed merrily away.
Jeff and I head out in our kayak to explore and perhaps circumnavigate the little island close by, and of course to visit Laura. It's been raining off and on all day. Big dark clouds roll by bringing gusts of wind and sudden rain, then the sun shines until the next one rolls in. We peddle to a little inlet. Yes peddle. We have a Hobie Mirage kayak which has these nifty peddle mechanisms, ask Jeff for an explanation of how they work, and/ or it can be paddled with oars the normal way. I'm not quite coordinated enough to peddle and paddle. We prefer peddling but when it gets very shallow the peddles don't work and we resort to paddling. The peddling is kind of like a recumbent bicycle, however it's not a true circular motion, but rather a back and forth pushing. It's great fun and a great way to explore the shorelines. We've seen so many birds up close, one surprised sea lion, lots and lots of seaweed floating just under the surface, crabs scurrying, mussel shells, oyster farms, iridescent mossy green rocks and Thomas's kayaks all from our kayak.
As we peddle through huge seaweed patches, we startle schools of fish and they jump up from below sprinkling the surface with flashes of silver and sounding like more rain. It is delightful. We see the concrete ramp that leads from the water to the town of Añihué where Laura lives. We beach on the gravel shore next to the ramp, then stare at a ten foot concrete wall all along the town front. Lucky for us, there were some steps not too far away. We wander the tiny town like the two lost tourist we are. Every house has a garden of vegetables and flowers. I admire the colorful patchwork of roses, lavenders, calla lilies, lilies, calendulas, geraniums and such. Laura has sent Kati and her friend, Evelyn to lead us to her casa or we may have wandered indefinitely. We walk up a dirt road away from the main town. We pass free range roosters, chickens and chicks, farms with grazing sheep and one with a turkey, more vegetable gardens, a few houses, two men and a stray dog. The vegetation is thick along the road and is of trees, a raspberry like vine with pale pink flowers, ferns, the native fushia shrub and other plants. The girls are quiet. I try to engage them in a simple conversation, but nothing I say seems to interest them. The silence was nice. The silence of this country is nice. A quiet surrounds these small little towns near where we anchor. Occasional fishing boats motor by, or there is a brief dog fight, sometimes hammering can be heard or sheep bleating. Mostly it's quiet, a calm and lazy feel. The birds of Chile are the most vocal feature. There are so many kinds, but that will be for another report, we are at la casa de Laura.
It sits on top of a small hill. There are chicken pens and a large garden of potatoes, fava beans, green beans, and cilantro. In other places she grows elephant garlic, mint, oregano, onions. She has a cherry, a peach and an apple tree and a small shed to store root crops and apples. Her husband is a carpenter. He is away working. Inside her house is simple. There is a small table with two chairs, an oven which I think she said works on propane, a small counter and sink. There is another room beside the kitchen, but there is no coach or arm chair there. There are two rooms with closed doors, one of which the girls disappeared behind. Laura's house is neat and clean and filled with light. She looks out on a pastoral landscape of grazing sheep. She offered us maté with mint. After one taste I realize that it also has sugar. It may be true that Chileans put sugar in everything! She then fed us merluza, a kind of mild tender white ocean fish. She had prepared it by a simple marinade of salt and elephant garlic. She had then pan fried it in butter. It was delicious! She also served us new potatoes from her garden. They were peeled and boiled. Simply delicious. She just watched as we ate and drank. She seemed to take great delight in our exclamations of "muy rico." We once again attempted to converse. There was a mutual delight in each others company in spite of our lack of words. We laughed a lot and she gave us potatoes, garlic, mint and flowers from her garden. She also gave us some marinated ready to cook merluza. Life is teaching me to pay attention, angels come in all shapes and sizes. Grace surrounds us in the simple sharing and being with another.
Laura walks us down the dirt road. She points out the place where through the trees she saw Hekla's mast which peaked her curiosity. It starts to really rain and she is not wearing a jacket. She says it doesn't matter, shes ok. Then it starts to hail tiny bbs shot from the blackened cloud. Now Laura laughs, a quick shrug, hug, goodbye and she's turned towards home. We head for our kayak. Jeff wants to kayak around the island. I say, "Are you crazy?" He walks toward a beached massive ferry laying on it's side. He wants a picture. He's taking his time as I stand freezing next to our kayak. He tells me from afar, "It will be done in a few minutes." And sure enough, by the time he's back to the kayak and we have launched, the hail has stopped.
Three quarters of the way around the island, the brisk wind helping us along, we encounter a low tide land bridge. Jeff says, "a fifteen foot tidal range in these parts is challenging to work with." I say a four letter word. We scout it out hoping to portage a bit and finish a tiny peddle back to Hekla. Good thing it's the longest day of the year, we are peddling back the way we just came, the long way only now we are into the wind. Actually, it was a lovely peddle though the wind was brisk and tentacles of slimy kelp kept grabbing for our peddle flippers. We made it back to Hekla just as the rain began again in ernest.
It is a glorious sunny late 8:30pm. It's still cool though without enough strength to heat up this fiberglass boat full of windows. We will run the heater again tonight. We have an hour more of daylight. It has been a glorious full day of adventure. I am grateful. We are blessed for days just like this one and now there is a rainbow over Laura's town to prove it.