New Year New Friends
17 January 2012 | Isla Jchica
One thing about this sailing life is that we are always leaving. I wanted to write about our stay at the Marina Isla J´chica, but until now, a week later, I've felt too tender, too sad about leaving the good people we met there, the people who welcomed us on the New Year and treated us like family. It is Chilean custom to celebrate a special event or just hang out with friends and family by BBQ. We were invited to a New Year's BBQ at the house where the guides working at the marina live, Berni, Fito and Sebastian. There was a tasteful and rustically chic clubhouse on the island, but Fito, the boss said, "He prefers the more casual relaxed feel of the home". And having the party there, on the deck practically a part of the jungly forest, until it rained, was wonderful in that relaxed and comfortable way of slipping into an old pair of pajamas on chill evening. There was a table spread with a cheery big blue and white checked cloth and a platter of fresh cut fruit that Sebastian had prepared. A big platter of rice, and a tray of bread and bottles of wine were also arranged there. As were forks and knives arranged purposefully and neatly at ninety degrees to each other. The meat, chicken, pork, and steaks, lots of it was cooking away on a huge grill. Pieces of Cipr ´s wood were used to smoke the meat. Most Chileans we've met are proud of the fruit grown in abundance in their country; cherries, plums, apples, pears, mangos, grapes, melons. Also the wine is a matter of pride, and indeed these are two very delicious Chilean products. But their pride and joy is meat; fish, beef, lamb, pork, chicken. They love it, and they love BBQing. Christian, the Chef, pronounced quickly and sharply sounding more like Jeff, grilled the meat. We talked in English grateful that Fito and Berni were fluent and the others tolerated our poor Spanish. Isabel, a woman from Per½, was at the celebration too. After much talk and much wine and after the long lingering dusk, a wooden board with small pieces of smoked pork was shared amongst us. Very delicious. Then after more talk and more wine, we cheered and hugged the new year in. And shortly after midnight, we ate the meat on the grill. Very good. It started to sprinkle and we moved inside, where we were served mango mousse. Jeff and I stumbled back to the boat sometime after one o'clock full of food, wine, talk and good feelings. Kind of late for us old timers, but worth it. The next day, the first of 2012, Sven, Berni, Fito, Jeff and I took a kayak paddle across the bay to a trail through the jungle for an enchanted hike to a stunning overlook to watch the sun set in all it's passionate glory. We walked in a previously burned landscape where the foliage was not so dense as in other places we've been. In the early 1800's there was a policy in place that said if you can prove that you burned a piece of land, it's yours. This land had once supported many tall old, very old cedar trees. The evidence of them stood weatherbeaten but still straight, stark, silent and gray against all the young green growth. The dead standing Cipr´s De Las Guaitecas, Pilgerodendron aviterum, are the most southerly conifer in the world. They are the second oldest too, after Bristlecone Pines of our country, living to be 3000 years old. Their wood is strong and straight and resists rotting so they were also valued for ship building, and many tracks of land were burned to clear the dense undergrowth to make it easier to get to the cipr´s. Fito took us off trail to, "a beautiful lookout". We went bushwhacking over moss and lichen covered hills, tussocks and rocks. We went winding around, over and under mossy limbs. We heard frogs. We heard and saw hummingbirds. And even though this place had once been burned and therefore there was less foliage to stumble through and the tallest Cipr´s I saw was only a little taller than me, it was still challenging and required careful head down attention to where you put your feet. Fito certainly deserved his nickname, Indiana Jones! At last we got to a place where we could see forever; the majestic mountains of the mainland east, layers of towering hills, thousands of islands scattered in endless sea. An expanse like I've never seen before all greens and blues and without evidence of human influence. A beautiful vista is a bit of understatement. The main show was to the west and we stumbled through the thick of it back to the sun set view. We were not disappointed. The first day of the new year ended in a mango mousse colored sky deepening to pure mango before slowly saying goodbye. We walked down the trail in twilight, moonlight and mostly reverent silence filled for another day with wonder of this world. And that is what is so wonderful about our new friends. They are filled with the wonder of this world and they love sharing it with others. Before we left the marina, Berni called to me excitedly, "Zia, come there are woodpeckers"! We ran up the wooden dock, along the wooden trail and she motioned for me to stop and pointed up. There were two female woodpeckers searching for insects in a tree just a few feet from us. Their furious frantic tapping intermingled with the almost constant shrieks of one of them. We stood fascinated and watching for some time. We could hear another nearby but not locate it. I turned to go, but again Berni called to me. She had located the other, a bright red headed male far up in the tallest treetop patiently working for his dinner. These are Magellanic Woodpeckers, Campephilus magellanicus which I had heard in Chile before but never seen. Grateful for this parting gift, we sail away in bittersweet surrender to the leaving of beautiful place s and new friends.