Winter Solstice in Valdivia.

In Valdivia , Chile, today it was clear , sunny and not very cold. I walked the 10 km from Valdivia to the boat  in a t-shirt. So that’s good.

There has been LOTS of rain. Rupert-style rain , but a little warmer than Rupert.

It is mid-winter here, but I had to take a bus across the Andes to see snow. I also had to go to Argentina to renew my tourist permit (good for 90 more days).

Paso Tromen or Paso Mamuil Malal (depends on if you ask the Chileans or the Argentineans) is at 1200 m asl. It isn’t one of the major passes through the Andes. I had to take the secondary route because of the volcanic ash issuing from Volcan Puyehue , near Osorno. The pass to Bariloche in Argentina is closed due to ash and smoke.

The smoke plume from Puyehue was nicely visible from the boat this morning, but the winds keep it away from us. No ash at all in Valdivia, but it has traveled all the way west across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans to plague aircraft in Australia.

The dusty little town of Junin de los Andes on the east side of the Andes in Argentina is a lot dustier now. The cars have caked coatings of gray dust.

It turned out that Junin was pretty much closed. No restaurants open , but I did find a room to sleep in. I didn’t dawdle , but returned the next day on a wee -hours bus to Chile where it is warm and wet.

The road over the pass was surprisingly unpaved , but the highway style bus banged along quite nicely with only one stop for repairs. I pitied the driver and helper lying under the bus at 3500′ in the mud , slush and blowing snow. Not enough to get out and help though. There were 2 narrow wooden bridges that looked very old , the style where 2 planks are laid along the bridge at the width of the vehicle wheels. As I said this bus was a pretty high end highway bus.

The forest of huge Aurucaria trees was awesome , especially with snow. These are Monkey Puzzle trees the size of old growth Douglas Firs growing in the subalpine. Not just a few trees but a whole dark forest with clear understory.

The one unbridged stream crossing was not a deep ford , I guess because everything was frozen at a higher altitude.

The benefits of travelling in mid winter are that the hostels that are open have really good prices and the choice of beds is good. The downside is that is cold and lonely. The woodstove in the hostel in Pucon took until bedtime to warm up the room. I was the sole inhabitant.

Meredith reports that even northern Chile is still cold in the desert at night and on some days.

I am spending muchos horas studying spanish. To what end I’m not sure.

I want to hear of someone who has successfully learned another language in middle age. It sure isn’t going to happen if I keep pecking away at the keyboard like this.

I have a Spanish/English dictionary on my kindle. Also a huge e-Phrasebook. Also an e-book called Speed Up Your Spanish. Also an electronic version of 501 Verbs in Spanish.

I have a big exercise book on Spanish verbs. I have podcasts in Spanish on the ipod for when I am walking.

Most important is my arrangement with a ‘teacher’. We meet 3 mornings per week at his office in Valdivia where he is revealing a previously unknown enthusiasm for teaching. The arrangement was for an hour , but this morning we went for 2.5 hrs. He is the manger of the Valdivia Yacht Club. He speaks virtually zero English. In fact , I have met only one person so far inValdivia who has any fluency in English. This makes for a good environment for learning.

The deal with Jorge , the yacht club manager, was that I would teach him a little English and he would help with my Spanish. It turns out though that he is not so keen on learning English. It is some of the yacht club members that think he should learn some English to better deal with the small trickle of foreign sailors that seek moorage locally. However Jorge is very keen on teaching and he is a stickler. His current issue is making sure I get my genders all correct and consistent. He was stunned to learn that in English we just don’t do genders.

“But what about boats , I understand that boats  , in English, are always female”  Only by custom , not grammar, I replied.

That’s it from Valdivia. Barb has gone home after a great visit. Our thirtieth anniversary was yesterday. Gavin’s Birthday (22) was noted on June 10th. And Father’s Day has come and gone. Which is a real big one. Susie has finished spring term courses and will give free lattes to anyone who goes by the coffeeshop on Dunbar (haha).  And now Mid-winter’s Day. Maybe tomorrow I’ll mention to the local folks (there are  5 -7 people staying on boats here for the winter) that it is the solstice and we will get some meat and potatoes for the barbecue.

” No Quejarse”

( Quejarse : to moan , groan and complain :Merriam Webster).

Birds So Far

Here is the list again of birds I saw within just a few days of arrival at Valdivia,Chile, to save you having to refer back to that earlier posting.

Southern Lapwings
Chilean Seaside Cinclodes
Ringed Kingfisher,
Green Backed Firecrown hummingbird (known locally as Picaflor Chico)
Austral Parakeet
Lesser Yellowlegs (finally a familiar bird)
Chimango Caracaras
Turkey Vulture
Black Necked Swans
Black Faced Ibises
Cocoi (White Necked) Heron -sure looked like a GBH to me
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egrets
Neotropic Cormorant or Yeco
Great Grebe or Huala

Here is a list of birds that I saw on a trip to Villarrica and Pucon.

California Quail

Cinclodes – either Dark Bellied or Gray-Flanked

Plumbeous Rail

Long-Tailed Meadow-Lark

Parakeet -either Austral or Slender-billed

Fire-eyed Diucon

Tufted Tit-Tyrant (it’s true)

White-Browed Ground Tyrant

Austral Thrush

Magellanic Woodpecker         ( even bigger and more flamboyant than a Pileated Woodpecker) – we saw this bird in an                                                                  Aurucaria forest (Monkeypuzzle trees) at sub alpine in Parque Huerquehue)

Chilean Flicker

And here is the latest list from a kayak paddling outing this afternoon up a small side estuary from the Rio Valdivia.

I think that this whole marsh area was formed by the 9.5 earthquake here in 1960. Still evidence of drowned forest. This was and still is the most powerful earthquake EVER recorded.

The marsh area is dominated by rush and tule (scirpus).

Austral Cowbird

White-Winged Coot

Cinnamon Teal

Cocoi Heron (again)

Great Egret

Red-Legged Cormorant

Many-Coloured Rush Tyrant – which made my day.

Well , I considered copying photos of  these birds found online but that would entail a lot more time on the internet.

I do take some photos of birds but the outcome is hilarious (maximum zoom in poor light from a kayak with a point and shoot camera). Not worth it , even for the record.

There are lots of photos on the web of all of these birds.

It is so easy to find humour in birdwatching that I won’t even bother.

Boats so far in Chile

There are some interesting boats around here. See the photos at the bottom.

‘Pi’ is a Danish one-off  fibre glass boat that has sailed north from the Horn region. Their Volvo engine died in Caleta Tortel and had to be replaced. A remote and difficult job that took 4 months. They have gone home for the summer to visit grandchildren etc.

‘Windpsalm’ is a Westsail 32 with Brock aboard who is originally from Toronto. He has lived and worked as a tugboat mariner in the Carribean for years and wants to get back there. He spent last winter in Prince Rupert. He hopes to sail south around the Horn to get back to the warm seas. He does really long relaxed passages. 80 or 90 days is not unususal for him. He arrived in Valdivia via the Marquesas.

‘Kaili’ is an Esprit 37 (Perry design) with Tim aboard. Four years ago Tim sold his mountain property in NE Oregon and bought Kaili. He re-rigged her and bought new sails. With no experience he set off. Four years and 75,000 miles later he is in Valdivia and wondering how to make a few bucks to keep cruising. His sails are pretty much worn out and when he leaves here it will be with only a trysail and staysail functional.

‘Sequitur’ is a Hunter49 from Vancouver. Michael and Edie have come down the coast with offshore legs to Galapagos and Juan Fernandez Islands. He bought the boat new and had a lot of gear installed by the agent in Vancouver. The installations were apparently second rate and they have been plagued with electrical and mechanical problems. Alwoplast yard here has been hired to repair the problems. Michael points out that there have been no problems with the hull , rig , steering, or main engine. They keep a fairly detailed blog which can be googled.

‘Imaqa’ is an interesting boat. Designed and built entirely by her French owner , she has just returned from the Antarctic. The boat has a swing keel and 3 rudders ( all steerable) along with a bow thruster. 17 m long  and bare aluminum.

‘Pacific Eagle’ is a brand new 57′ Chris White catamaran just launched next door at the Alwoplast yard. She has left for Australia. A sistership flipped over last year near Niue in a really big gust. Of course lots of them haven’t flipped over as well. And it didn’t sink.

‘Le Mamejou’ is an Ovni 35 aluminum boat from France. Fred is an engineer I think for the Toyota racing team. He bought the boat new for about $400,000. Insurance is about $4000 per year. He was previously inexperienced (who wasn’t?) . At Puerto Natales he was caught by strong wind against a rough quay and sustained damage to the topsides, including a puncture or two to the toe rail area. He also had his hand caught between the boat and dock and was injured , but retained all his digits and their function. He will sail to Papeete in Tahiti for definitive repairs , to the tune of 15 or 20 thousand dollars. Meanwhile, gumpucky keeps the water out. No heater on his boat.

‘Curare’ is a Bowman 36 with Geoff and Linda aboard from Vancouver. They sailed here via Central America , Galapagos (where we met them) , and Easter Island. They have gone to BC for the summer where they work as geologists.

Next season I think they are sailing farther south. They left Vancouver in 2007.

The last boat is ‘Attilla’ owned by Adrian,a Hungarian , with his crew Annique. He bought the boat , a HansChristian 34, for cheap cheap (like about $20,000) in Guaymas after years of neglect. Time and money and he is cruising. Their project is to sail to the Antarctic next season. Tiny little wall mounted wood heater. Great dodger.

Annique has left her own cruising boat at anchor in the Carribean while on this expedition.

Adrian was struck in the eye by a swivel on his fishing line (not the hook) and damaged the little muscles that constrict the pupils. This was several months ago. They were on their way to the Antarctic when it happened and they diverted to French Polynesia to get the eye checked. He may be able to get this repaired in the future , but in the meantime it gives him a certain characteristic appearance that fits with the project at hand.

While in Puerto Montt we had coffee aboard Biribi B with Mani. He is a Finn who has benn inj southern Chile for about 20 yrs and has no plans to leave. He initially came as crew on a Finnish boat via the Antarctic. He met his wife in Tierra delFuego , she was singlehanding her own boat, and they sailed together for many years. She died of cancer last year at age 70.

We also visited ‘Bolo’ a 45 or 50 ‘ Australian aluminum boat owned designed , and built by her owners. They sailed around the world in the 70’s in a 28’ steel boat. This new boat also has a lifting keel with one rudder but also has 2 skegs. They are heading south , but not to the Antarctic. No photo because it was pouring rain.

I’m sure we’ll see a lot more interesting boats as we move south. I never get tired of them.

Who could ? Right ?