Published: April 12th 2012April 11th 2012
Did you ever have one of those days when you wake up with a spring in your step and that the day ahead was going to be something special? Well today is that day.
Well almost. My credit cards are en route from Santiago to me and there is still a nagging within me that Chile Express will let me down.
I pen this entry sat on a white beach where the desert meets the sea in a tiny coastal village called Balia Inglesa. Hot sun and little cloud. The South Pacific waves gently lapping the shore. There is hardly a sole about. Some cafes lining the shore are open but for the most part the village is shut for the autumn/winter break. A village of 200 inhabitants during the off season and 6000 during the summer months. Kayaks are stowed away and beach huts boarded up. My three amigos, the three A's, Anita,Aki and Anji relaxing letting the 'fresh from the sea' scallops and glass of vino blanco we just ate and drank go down. Almost paradise? The white sand is a little gritty to my liking and litter needs picking up. Apart from that, it's estupendo.
So early monday
morning ,bade my farewells to the owners of El Tersoro in Pisco Elqui.We all had a great party the night before closing the beach bar. I was the DJ again and most of those staying came down for the fun and dancing. Tried to drink the bar dry, and finally fell into my pit, rather than a cactus at around stupid o'clock. I knew I would like Pisco Elqui, but I fell in love with it.It was hard to leave but the timing to do so was perfect as the hostel winds up for the close of season, and the day I left was foggy and overcast. My eternal thanks to Christa, Edie and the staff for an awesome time. Anita has been offered a job there next season. I reckon she might just do it. She is supposed to be going to Peru to become a Nunn for six months or so. I wonder if she will get her own Nunz-mobile? Anyways, her folks fly in next month for four weeks travelling together. So it will probably be the Priory she checks into after they have returned to Switzerland.
I have travelled seven hours by bus north to the
town of Caldera. It lies on the coast at the bottom end of the Atacama desert. It is a seaside town with a lot of character but as it's the low season there are few tourists about. The community has reclaimed their town for a few months. I imagine only a few weeks ago this place was humming with visitors from all nations and Chileans on their yearly summer break. All around are old posters of parties and festivals that happened a few weeks ago but have yet to be taken down or postered over.
Staying at a charming hostel, El Aji Rojo run by Dominica. She lives there with her partner, an archeologist and 2 yr old daughter Sara. Good vibe about the house. A lived in home rather than a hostel. Anita went ahead of me as the buses were full and so I arrived in town just before midnight. A dorm is more expensive than southern Chile. Dominica explained that water is scarse and expensive hence the dearer room rate. Figures I guess, being in a desert and all.
Aki and Anji are following us up here tomorrow afternoon, there being no buses for them at all
Aki and I
learning from the master, Karate Kid Style
on the day if our travel.
The morning spent trying to sort out my blog but the broadband here should be called skinnyband as so many people trying to use it during the day gave up. Super slow.
Anita is pondering whether to return south to Vina del Mar to see Ciro. ( Nunn? Lo siento, she needs sunn and funn)
We walk to the beach in the afternoon but it is pretty average and as we know there is is a much better beach 7km south at Bahia Inglesia we jump into a Collectivo and head off. (see previous rant).
Having spent afternoon at Balia Inglesa beach, which is south
of Caldera, return and walk into cafe next to hostel and meet Aki and Anji. Aki is teaching a young girl Karate in true Mr Miagee style. "look eye, always look eye". The young girl attends local self defence lessons and is transfixed by this amazing man taking his time with her. "middle,always aim middle" as he punches the air in front of him.
Speaking to Aki, when he was a young boy in his village he was a bit of a tear away and was sent off
to a monestery for his own behaviour. He would be made to wake at 4.30am. He hated it. He would run away but always found and returned.
One day a kind monk taught him some form of martial art. From then on Aki was up at 4 30 am but now happy learning this new skill. Having watched him briefly I can see he is very very good."Remember Dave, look eye, always look eye" as he chuckled to himself. Aki is also the Japonses extra in Austrailian films, especially ones about the war. Once he had to pretend to chop off the heads of four prisoners and by the end of the take was qute affected by it. The one with the most stories win, eh Aki?
So then in walks Jorge, a chilean, and speaks Japonses to Aki. He is a mining engineer/owner and lives in Bahia Inglesa. Travelled the world. He also speaks English and when he discovers we are all here for a few days recommends that we take a collectivo to a tiny beach called Loreto for fresh scallops on the BBQ. "Take tomatoes wine etc and enjoy" he says. he then tells us to travel
a little further down to Bahia Inglesa after lunch, call him and if free he will take us fossil hunting in the desert. A proud Chilean, as most are, keen to show us things off the beaten track. Sounds good. Seems trustworthy and after he left the cafe no warnings from the locals about him.
A few minutes later the waitress came to me with a blackberry ( phone that is, not the fruit) which was found in the bar. Recognise it as belonging to Jorge. Rang his friend and a few minutes later a very grateful Jorge returns. "Call me tomorrow" he says, we will definately go fossil hunting. We exchanged phone numbers. "and tell the collectivo driver you want 'Osiones at Loreto' they all know it and know where it is."
The following morning after shopping the three A's and I flag down a collectivo and pile in. The sign on the roof states 'Caldera-Loreto-Bahia Inglesa'. Perfecto.
Our driver? 75 if he is a day, hard of hearing and seemed a little Dagenham to me, you know, two stops short of Barking!
"beunos dias senor, osiones a Loreto por favor"
"osiones a Loreto por favor"
"si, si, Loreto"
He shrugs and just smiles at me. Nothing.Not a flicker. We have jumped into a cab which goes to Loreto but our driver as no idea where the # it is, or clearly no #ing idea which # ing planet he is on!
Then it hit him. A light bulb lit up above us head.
"si, osiones, a Loreto"
He finally got it and off we set........ NORTH.!!
"señor, Osiones at Loreto"
"si, si, osiones. Muy bien" with a dopey grin in his face.
We pull into a shitty little port trading estate which stinks of fish, drive down a dusty lane to a factory marked ' Osiones'. The smell in the noon day heat of rotting fish was overpowering.
"osiones" says our nutty driver.
"This cannot be right" I said to my amigos. There we were with fresh vegetables, beer and wine ready for a lovely afternoon around a BBQ on the beach eating fresh Scollops. Instead we were in a dusty industrial estate staring at a disgusting looking rusty building with an outside toilet which processed Scollops. The smell was nausiating.
I called Jorge and put him onto the driver.
A light brighter than the stars in the sky lit his eyes. Finally he had it. Finally he knew where we wanted to go.
"ah" he said looking at me "Osiones a Loreto
Off we set, SOUTH, touch of deja vu past our pick up point some 20 minutes earlier in Caldera to Loreto beach our lunatic and deaf driver smiling to himself all the way. Reckon I will be chacking into the priory myself after this trip if this continues.
Calm down Disco. South America baby, South America.
So, we drive off the main road to a paradise beach. Straw covered open sided huts to eat in, a bar with cool samba music, BBQ area. High tide, small on-shore breeze and sunshine. Perfect. Thank the driver and huge smiles all round.
So to the bar..................
"Hola" to the woman behind the bar cleaning glasses and trying to look busy. We were the only ones there. In my best Spanish enquired about how this all worked. "Where do we buy the scollops, do we cook/grill ourselves, or can she do it for us?." I asked
Shown a small bath full of Scollops costing 250peso (35p) each. Cooking them however ...non.
"non? Quiero caliente" (I want them hot) I said, as I did not know the word for cooked.
"non crudo" said Anita. (not raw) Anita cannot eat raw carrots and so luckily knows the word for raw.
Never having eaten a raw Scollop in my life, and with Aki and Anji getting on a bus that night, eating raw shellfish was not an option, no matter how idyllic the setting.
"Tienes los briquettes para el barbeque?" now speaking frenchish.
"Lo siento. Non"
So, no BBQ and she had no provisions for cooking them.
Aki and I wander around for something to start a fire but it was looking like its salad and wine.
A car pulls up.
Speak to the driver, John and explain our predicament. It's amazing, when the pressure is on my Spanish gets quite good.
He understands and walks to the bar.
You are ahead of me here I know, shouting "Dave, remember, you are in South America"
But to round this off John goes into the bar and two seconds later the woman is preparing sixteen osiones and then lightly cooks them in her fucking stove in the back of her fucking bar!!!!! Agrhhhhhhhh!!!!!!
John also shows us a dressed crab with cheese if asked if we would like one.
Offer John some wine or a beer. He points the hand rolled cigarette I am smoking. Taking it from me " de nada" he says
So, fresh cooked scallops straight from the sea with soy sauce or lemon, a delicious dressed crab and salad washed down with a beer and wine. Eventually
Off then in collectivo to Bahia Inglesa.( where I am penning this blog)
Call Jorge and sure enough he arrives with his freind Dario. who is a dentist for the miners and children in the area.
They drive us out into the desert, samba music blaring all the way. Jorge explains a bit about himself and then we are fossil hunting
We go to an area where two huge dinosaur bones are sticking out the ground. I ask why they have not been protected or properly excavated. Dario just shrugs his shoulders " the government are not interested in this area" he says " except to sell l our reserves to other countries" adds Jorge " putting nothing back to the community who are poor"
Anita has the best find. A small fossilised tooth in perfect condition.
We all retire to the bar 'punto referencia' for some wine and fresh seafood. Sat in the sunshine just chilling.
Later the owner invites us all to his house in Caldera where he is having a BBQ. Aki and Anita are leaving for st pedro de Atacama that night but Anita and I are up for it.
Up in the hills looking down on the town, eating, drinking and chatting til the small hours.
Like I said. Every have one of those days when it all falls into place? Today was that day.