Thursday, January 7, 2016

Chilean Vacay 2015...Part 2.....Puerto Montt and Castro (and colorful resident stories!)

Monday, December 7.....Spent all day in port in Valparaiso and since three of us are huge tennis nuts (Ed, not so much!) we spent a few hours in the morning hitting balls on the ship's upper deck court.  We were berthed in the cargo area  -  as always  -  and all around us was the din of cargo containers being loaded on the ship immediately next to us.  Great workout....a bit of a sunburn.

We then had our pre-launch Muster drill - pretty small because it was just the eight couples in the Exclusive Resort suites - the owners/residents, of course, don't need to do it.

During the Muster drills, the Rose's recognized another ER couple as friends/business colleagues from Dallas.  As the wife of that couple is a person of importance in the city and needs to remain private, I'm going to respect that and not give their names.  Needless to say, we spent a lot of time with them and their guests over the two weeks on the trip and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them.  It really is a small world!!

Then we went grocery shopping at a Jumbo (South America's version of a Walmart) in the city.  Valparaiso is called the "San Francisco of South America" and I can see why  -  a bit shabbier in places  -  but set in the hills and at night the lights are spectacular.  We bought a lot of jamon and cheese and some dinner fixings and then just went back to the apartment and for a quiet evening of cheese and crackers, lots of wine and Rummikub until close to midnight.  

It tends to get competitive!!

Ed and I then sat on the deck watching the loading of the container ship and waiting for our midnight departure.  We were warned that we were heading into large swells and high winds for two accurate forecast.

Tuesday, Dec. 8.........Woke up in fairly high seas and high winds.....reported at gale force of 45 mph and by the afternoon couldn't even go out on our deck.

Spent the day inside doing some reading and working.  By afternoon Joni and Jill were in the bar (shocking) and Ed went to the cigar room for a smoke (again, shocking).  I joined him after finishing up some work and drank scotch while he smoked a cigar.  We met an interesting guy from Palo Alto and had quite the conversation.  (Apparently, Exclusive Resorts was in-part his idea!)

The day concluded with an Exclusive Resorts only cocktail reception and then back to the apartment for the evening with Jill and I cooking some chicken thighs over pasta in our kitchen and a little Rummikub and the while being rocked like crazy!

So far, we have had lots of chats with "residents" that give us a better picture of life aboard this condominium.  Most folks do not live aboard full time, but come and go for a couple of months at a time.  Evidently Christmas on board and going to Antarctica is a big deal because a large number of residents arrived by air today, with families in tow, to be on board for the trip and the Drake Passage crossing.  There is also a family living on board full-time. he was supposedly a NASA scientist, and they homeschool their children in this environment.  Met another couple from Connecticut who boarded with us and will be on board until late March when they will get off in St. Barths.  The thought of living on board all that time drives all of us crazy.  First, there is not that much to do between ports.  They stream movies, have guest lecturers and several restaurants, but sitting in your apartment day after day with slow satellite wifi would get really old.  Really fast!

But the cake goes to a woman we endured for two hours one afternoon in the bar.  Joni and Jill had gone to have a cocktail and play Rummikub while I got a massage and Ed slept.  When I arrived, they were deep in conversation with this woman.  She is early 60's, pretty in a Jane Fonda sort of way, trim and striking.  We all tried to psycho-analyze her later and after I describe some of the monologs, you can judge for yourself.  Monolog, because none of us got more than a sentence in between each diatribe she launched into the beginning of an answer one of us would give to the next question, which followed.  We will call her Penelope (not her real name but you SNL fans might remember Kristen Wigg's character and get a clue from it).  Her story, in general, provides that she was married for may years, lived in Indonesia with her husband who died from cancer in 2009.  They bought an apartment on the ship some time before his death and she has used it extensively since.

In response to Joni's question of how my massage was, we learned she is a physical therapist by training.....agreed the masseuse I had is the best on board and then proceeded to grill me on how I felt about the massage, why my muscles were tight and how I really needed to get in touch with my muscles and tendons to understand why even after weekly massages, I had tense muscles.

She is an amateur photographer and  -  out of her mouth  -  unprompted  -  came the story about the last crossing over the Drake Passage to Antarctica, from her apartment deck up near the bow and low down on deck 6, she would stand naked as the spray from each wave enveloped her and she took incredible videos and still photos of the waves, the spray.  She volunteered that likely none of the other residents saw her because most wouldn't venture out on their decks in the cold and very rough conditions.  We never did ask why she was naked or what that had to do with the photography.

She asked if we were going fly fishing in Chacabuco and when we replied "yes" she started, yet another, monolog about fly fishing, how incredible she is at it and how spiritual it is.  She asked Jill if she had ever done it (no), then first said, "Well I'm glad I won't be on your boat." then changed her mind saying she wanted Jill to be on her boat so she could have a laugh watching Jill try to cast.  She needs a laugh, she says, to get over her grief.  She then asked if I had fly fished before.  When I said I had, she proceeded to lecture me that the only real rod was the split bamboo type.  I told her I didn't have any of those....just the modern graphite type.  She concluded that I had never really fly-fished before.

Then Ed showed up (poor guy...I could tell he wasn't fully awake yet) sat down next to her in a chair, and then the fun really began!!  She worked her way back to fitness, flexibility and the need for complete body looseness.  She proceeded to look Ed in the eye and take her leg and place it up behind her head.  Ed made the obvious comment to the obvious innuendo that she seemed not to notice.  We then decided it may be time to go back to our apartment......

Wednesday, Dec. 9.........spent the day at sea......worked out, had dinner with our Dallas friends, drank wine, played Rummikub.....see the monotony we talked about??

Thursday, Dec. 10.....Puerto Montt is the beginning of the fjord region  -  very similar in climate to Vancouver and from here on it is supposed to just get more spectacular every day.  This is a fishing town with about 250,000 people.  It is also the southern terminus of the Pan American highway....the northern end being in Fairbanks, Alaska.  In California, it's Route 1.  Imagine that!

We hired a driver and a guide and the four of us toured the town and two neighboring vacation spots....Frutilar, which is a fabulous quaint German settled town situated on the beautiful Lago Llanquihue and Puerto Varas on the other side of Lake Llanguihue.  This is called the lake region of Chile...lots of lakes and lots of volcanos.  There are three spectacular ones 20 miles inland and the clouds cooperated and parted long enough to give us fabulous view of one of them.  I forget the name but ut's not the one that last erupted in April!  Our guide had some amazing photos on her phone of the eruption and aftermath.  Put aside the volcanoes and it looked very much like a European village.

The Germans settled this region in 1850 and Frutilar looks like a Swiss village on the lake.  We walked around the town taking tons of pics and stopped for some authentic German Kuchen. 

We continued on with the tourist gig  -  really enjoyed our guide who was South African and Chilean.

We toured a fish market right on the wharf.  They have a local barnacle that is a favorite.  They harvest them live and the little fellows stick their tiny claws out of the barnacle and waive them around.....until they're dropped into boiling water.  Comparing that fish market to the one in Bali was a hoot.  We actually would have eaten the fish from this one!

We had booked a late lunch since dinner in Chile never begins before 8 pm and takes at least two hours.  We chose this Chilean grilling restaurant, or Fogo, named Fogo de Cotele, that is a favorite of the ship residents.  Unbelieveable....with a story by the owner worth telling.  First the get three choices of beef....Sirloin, Filet, or Ribeye grilled over an open fire, sopapillas, new potatoes, Chilean skewered bread and wine!  One of the best steaks we've all had in a long time.  The restaurant is tiny....7 tables, a small bar, in a round building with an open pit grilling fire in the middle.  And like I mentioned, the menu consists of 3 kinds of steak.  That's it!  The tab at a nice steak house in the US with the wine we ordered would have been over $500 for the four of us.  Our total in US$....$140!!  We're going back tomorrow!

Now, for the story.  This fellow  -  tall and lanky  -  is an Englishman who lived for many years in South Africa.  He and his wife and their three toddlers decided to sail around the world.  After about three years (YES...THREE YEARS...IN A BOAT WITH TODDLERS!) After about three years at sea and just after they had sailed down from Galapagos Islands, Jeremy and his wife decided their kids need to be in regular schools and stopped a couple of weeks later here in Perto Montt.  He bought this little restaurant in 2007 and they have been here ever since.  Delightful fellow - great english, of course, and starved for conversation.  We spend a long time after lunch closing visiting with him and getting a very different picture of Chile.  The restaurant has had the same menu for 35 years  -  the prior owner had to sell because he was a drunk and pissed off all the locals.   Apparently if they ordered anything other than a medium rare steak, he threw them out of the restaurant because "they obviously don't understand meat"!!  We, of course like rare so the present owner let us stay!

Friday, Dec. 11........Rainy and cold all day.  Hung around the ship except for a return trip to Cotele for lunch doing laundry and just relaxing.

Saturday, Dec. 12  We left Puerto Montt at 6 pm Friday and we arrive in Castro, Chile around 1 pm Saturday.  Castro is up a fjord and is in the beginning of fjord country.  It is an archipelago.  Lots of islands and lots of fields, pastures, you name it.  Looks a bit like the English countryside in the north of England.  Similar climate as well.  Lots of sheep some cattle lots of fat dogs.  That's always a good sign.  Castro looks a bit worn and industrial from the ship.  Turns out it is.

Being great adventurers, we promptly head for a restaurant lauded by previous ship visitors...Mercadito.  Not much more than a small shack across from the beach.  We are greeted by a mid 30's fellow with a beret....everybody wears berets in south Chile!!  Broad smile, thin mustache, speaks English and we are in for a great, long, alcohol-fueled feast!  Armed with bottles of white and red wine, we dig into smoked octopus grilled and served with butter, two steaming hot, hollowed-out rocks filled with surfer clams smothered in parmesan cheese and grilled and a huge bowl of mussels with broth to match and, of course, local fresh bread.  By the way....two orders of the octopus were necessary...and we are talking large octopus with 6-8 inch long tendrils.  Fabulous.  Then more wine, more laughs and dessert.

We noticed a young couple with two young children at the table across from us and heard English and THEN heard southern drawls being slowly spoken.  Of course we had to get to know them....young, married Church of Christ missionaries from Ft. Worth who had been in Castro for five years, had decided no to extend their mission as their children were becoming school age and were celebrating with a round of last meals at their favorite restaurants before heading back to the states on January 2.  Nice family and fun to hear about their experiences.

We then walked the streets  -  very steep San Francisco type hills but really nothing interesting to see.  Walked off the food, saw the local craft market and fish market, but nothing really to talk about.  Ed has been trying to find Cuban cigars this entire trip and asks at every town but no luck.  We were directed to this new Walmart type of supermarket at the very top of a very, very steep and long street.  Of course, no cigars.  Poor Ed.  Patient to the fault but unrequited.  Dinner that evening on the ship at East, the sushi restaurant was a blast.  Lots of funny stories and conversation about Dallas, war stories from judges and lawyers alike....none to be repeated here!

Part 3 starts final day in and around Castro then on to Chacabuco and some flyfishing in Patagonia!!

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait for the rest of the story, kudos to the photographer, the pictures are stunning!!