Thoughts for Today
From the real world, sublime and challenging
Isolation, a different kind of rain forest and…
Valparaiso’s spinning drummers…
Chacabuco is one of those names that really exercises the mouth. It is a remote place, as if in the middle of nowhere, with a growing port which is 30 years young. The Sunday sun was shining, the sea glowing and in the background the snow-covered Andes. The town was named after the ship that was part of the independence sea battle (1817) of Chile. It is usually warm and wet with 3000mm of rain annually, and part of the world of pumas and condors, and in this port, salmon fishing.
Heading our way by coach to Parco Aiken Del Sur, a private conservation forest, we were looking forward to the morning. Aiken means ‘Refuge’ and embraces a rain-forest which is so dense the trees have very narrow trunks because of the lack of light. On the way there were cattle in the road,and the entrance to our trek was dominated by huge Gunnera plants (called Nanka), and very tall wild Fuschia trees amongst white Arrayan white flowers. The darkness of the forest led us through to the great light of a 72 feet high waterfall and the rainbow of the picture. An exotic beetle on the way back was showing off just for us - a Chilean Stag Beetle.
Just a short ride away was a large lake and Quincho House - like a tall Garden Room, with a central open fire where we had the obligatory refreshments. We walked down to the lake overlooking the foothills where numerous swifts gave us their constant air display.
In the late afternoon back on board Balmoral we celebrated Holy Communion surrounded by beauty, the salt of the sea and the light breaking through the complexity of the Patagonian Forest.
A couple of days at sea afforded the opportunity for passengers to reflect on the journey so far. A listening ear for support was given through sadness at home, or uncertainties foreseen in the future. Light in darkness has many guises and sometimes takes time. A voyage of this length gave that time to open up to the future in all kinds of circumstances.
The 12th of February saw us arriving in the port of Valparaiso,‘the jewel of the South Pacific’. We coincided with their midsummer 23C and on average 27C all year round. Valparaiso took the name of the sea battle between the British and the American navy in 1812. It has a population of over 300,000 and is famous for its street art, extraordinary architecture, and very steep funicular lifts to the heights of their 43 hills. It was the home of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. He is celebrated as ‘the poet’ of the Americas. His real name was Ricardo Basoalto and we visited his house Le Sebastiana up on the heights overlooking the port. It is reached by one of the 6 Funiculars. Between 1883-1915 there were 15 of them in operation.
At the time we could not understand the heightened security with backpacks locked away and the banning of any photos inside the house. We subsequently learned Neruda is still not without controversy. A committed atheist and lifelong Communist he was well travelled. His home is full of light displaying the very practical and eclectic furniture and art from around the world. He brought the idea of murals for the city from Mexico. As well as being a poet he also served the Diplomatic Service of Chile in 1938 in Paris and was Consul General in Mexico 1940-1943. Having supported President Allende he was appointed as Ambassador to Paris from 1970-1972. Neruda died just twelve days after the military coup of Pinochet in1973.
After all the culture we were treated to Empanada (Chilean for Cornish Pastie) and Pisco Sour on Mount Pleasant as the whirling drummers of Valparaiso serenaded us. Our descent was the steep and rudimentary funicular revealing the murals of Valparaiso. These tell the stories of earthquakes in 1906, and the recent fire in the city in 2014 when 16 people died and 2,800 houses were destroyed. They now face the challenges of Covid 19.
This is a resilient city, despite the recent troubles, and the exuberance of the place was never far away…we pray for light out of darkness in these troubled places.
We travel on to Arica, ‘the driest inhabited place on earth’ and our last port in Chile….
Blessings from Edward and Jane