We awoke early on the 30th and started up the Rio Valdivia. We were both really happy to be here and the River was beautiful.
We had a lovely end to our journey and arrived at the Valdivia Yacht Club at about 1pm after a total journey of 2,339 miles and 27 days at Sea. We were welcomed into the Marina by a really friendly Chilean (aren’t they all?).
We tied up and Roger went to see the Armada to get us checked in and to advise them that we had Monty on board. We were pleased to learn that there were no quarantine requirements and by 4.00pm, we had all walked into Town and were sitting outside a little Restaurant having a Beer and proper Chips… Needless to say, we were all fast asleep by 8.00pm !!
The following day we had a good look around the Town – it is a strange little place with some really beautiful old Colonial buildings next to some ugly concrete monstrosities! Sadly, a lot of the old buildings have been lost to Earthquakes, fires and floods – the worst being the Earthquake in 1960 which was the largest in History and which triggered a massive Tidal Wave that swamped all Chile’s coast from here to the island of Chiloe.
After the Chilean independence in 1810, there was a great influx of German settlers who founded shipyards, breweries and mills industrialising the area and their influence can clearly be seen. Indeed, a number of the buildings look quite Germanic and the native Valdivians’ second language is still German.
There is an amazing Fish and Vegetable Market on the banks of the River and we saw absolutely massive Sea-Lions in the water waiting for the odd bits of fish to be thrown to them by the fishmongers filleting for their buyers.
They were about fives times as big as the ones we had seen in Galapagos… wouldn’t like Monty to get too close…
When we returned to the Marina, we met Jan & Eli, a very nice Norwegian couple on a beautiful 62’ yacht called “Jenny” which Jan had built himself. We were invited over for drinks that evening and were introduced to a young French couple also in the Marina called Pierre & Amelie. Both couples had crossed the Atlantic last year to Brazil and had travelled South via Argentina and around Cape Horn and were now heading West to New Zealand. It was nice to trade stories of our Easter Island experience with their tales of Patagonia.
Jan & Eli were due to leave within 10 days but Pierre & Amelie were waiting for their Engine to be rebuilt so weren’t sure when they would be going as they were awaiting parts to be delivered…
On Good Friday (2nd April), we hired a car and drove to “Fundo Chacaipulli” Maggy & Ian Staples’ farm about 50 miles away near Los Lagos. It was a beautiful drive along the Banks of the River on a dodgy old track (not the quickest route which is via a main road !!) but we managed to arrive in time for lunch and a long walk around the Farm with Monty trying to keep up with a 3 month old Chocolate Labrador Puppy (called Sahne after the Chilean Chocolate bar 'Sahne-Nuss').
The scenery was fantastic.
They have 500 acres along the Rio San Pedro and Ian’s hobby of Beekeeping has become a thriving enterprise with a Honey Plant hidden in the grounds of the Farm – really delicious yummy Organic Honey….
We had a lovely day and it was great to see Monty really run again although he did sleep all the way back and most of the following day – he needs to get fit again !!
To make our lives easier, Ian introduced us to his Administration Director, a young Lady called Marianne who has been absolutely wonderful and has helped us so much with adapting to life in Chile. She is literally worth her weight in Gold and “Gracias Marianne” was our most used phrase for the first few days !!
The next few weeks flew past. It was very strange to be on Land again especially in such a developed country as Chile. We have to admit that we did enjoy browsing the Supermarkets and, for 2 anti-shoppers, we had fun wandering around the shops - Vicki even had her first haircut for over 18 months…
We knew that we had to sort out our Visas as you only get 90 days’ stay at a time and our time had started in Easter Island. You can either pay US$100 per person for an extension or you can nip over to Argentina. We thought we would do the latter so we took Monty to the local Vet to get a Health Certificate so that we could get a 14 day permit for him to go over the border. We then had to take this to the local SAG Office (the Chilean Agricultural Department). Unfortunately, when we got there, we found that we had been misinformed and that we should have reported Monty when we arrived at Valdivia 10 days earlier. Whoops… After much pleading by both Vicki & Marianne, the Officer agreed to come and inspect the Boat that afternoon. He arrived and agreed that Monty could stay but he had to undergo quarantine on the Boat for 21 days – he wouldn’t accept that he had been at Sea for nearly 4 months !! However, we weren’t going to argue as he could have just decided to put Monty down (we were ready to head back out to Sea in this eventuality)…
As we were planning to stay in Chile for a while, we decided to buy a Car and become semi-normal. We thought a Jeep would be a good idea as 4 wheel drive would be useful when we go skiing so we studied all the local papers to find something suitable. We ended up buying what is known as a Station Wagon (a Hyundai Galloper) but looks like a Bus and we have named it “La Bestia” (the Beast)!!
Maggy has 7 horses and, now we were mobile, we were able to visit her at the Farm and go riding which was a real bonus as learning to ride was on Roger’s “Bucket List” of things to do while on our sailing adventure.
Fundo Chacaipulli, Los Lagos
It turned out that Ian & Maggy were going back to the UK for 3 weeks in May and another 7 weeks in mid July and, once they’d given us a good looking over to check us out (strangely enough, they thought we were ok), they asked us if we would mind “Pet Sitting” the 2 Labradors, 2 cats, 7 horses plus a couple of fish whilst they were away… Well, what could we say ? We bit their arms off and agreed immediately !!
What an opportunity… We moved into their Farmhouse on the 29th April (which tied in nicely with the end of Monty’s quarantine) and spent 3 1/2 weeks living a life of luxury – Hot water out of a tap, a BATH and a Washing Machine plus we could ride whenever we wanted. Someone somewhere must love us !!
Roger even took advantage of Ian's static bicycle to try and get fitter...
Our Visas were now getting urgent so, as we were now on the Farm with responsibilities, we decided to nip over to Argentina for Lunch (as you do). The drive from Puyehue over the border to Ville Angostura was absolutely stunning and we got very excited thinking about our future trip down through Patagonia. All went to plan and we now have another 90 days’ permit.
When our Hosts returned, we moved into the Lodge to become neighbours. Monty was now in “Seventh Heaven” as he could play with his Girlfriends whenever he wanted but could escape for some rest when he was tired – Sahne is a bit energetic even for him !!!
Sadly, Roger’s Father passed away in February whilst we were on Easter Island so it wasn’t possible for him to fly back for the Funeral. Once we had settled into the Lodge, he flew back to the UK for a quick visit to see all his family. It was opportune that his trip to the UK coincided with Nellie’s Annual Golf Day in aid of the Williams Syndrome Foundation...
Not only did he play Golf but he also managed to win a prize albeit for "the person who had travelled the furthest to the Golf Course" !!!!
While he was away, Vicki and Monty enjoyed themselves being landlubbers and Monty has not only got much fitter but has become a “proper” Dog - fighting and racing with both Sahne and Mackay – he certainly sleeps well every night !!
Now that winter had definitely arrived, it was certainly a much better place for them to stay rather than on a very cold and wet El Vagabond.
Plus, of course, Vicki had the added bonus of being able to ride out with Maggy exploring parts of the Farm we hadn’t yet seen…
As soon as Roger came back from the UK, “World Cup Fever” took over Chile and it was football, football everywhere. All Chileans were officially given time off work to watch Chile play – courtesy of President Pinera... We bet everyone back home would love that !! Marianne & Tito kindly invited us to their home to watch the first England match (against the USA) as we don’t have a Television.
Whilst the match itself was rubbish, it was followed by a fantastic Chilean BBQ prepared by Judith (Marianne’s Mum) who is a wonderful cook.
The only problem was that we are used to being fast asleep by 10 pm and the Chileans don’t eat until about Midnight…
We drove up to Pucon for a long weekend in June to explore the Villarrica Volcano and to see what the Ski resort was like.
It was a bit early in the season but Monty did get to play in snow for the first time.
Pucon is a small quaint Town and looks a bit like a Postcard, set in the shadow of the Volcano and by the shores of the Lago Villarrica.
It was absolutely chucking it down when we arrived and, having driven around the Town for the fifth time, we nearly ended up in the most expensive Hotel as that was the only one that would allow Monty to stay. Luckily, being a tad mean, we kept looking and found a lovely little Cabana on the outskirts right by the Lake which meant that we could stay twice as long for half the money. If it hadn’t been raining so hard, we would have had a fantastic view!!! Instead, we watched another disappointing England game…
We drove back via a very scenic route around Lago Villarrica (which is the most visited of all Chile’s Lakes and is very beautiful - even in the rain), Lago Calafquen and Lago Pangipulli – we were gradually ticking off all the lakes in the beautiful Lake District. Strange really as neither of us have ever been to the UK’s Lake District…
We got back to the Farm just in time for Ian & Maggy to head North to Santiago on “Bee Business” and for a week we had the Farm to ourselves again. This week saw the worst rain we have ever seen – non stop for 6 days including 2 power cuts and also an Earthquake registering 5.6 on the Richter scale which nobody except us seemed too fussed about!!
Upon their return we celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary with a delightful Lunch at a Restaurant in Futrono with a fantastic view over the Lago Ranco – the second largest Lake in the region covering over 400 square kilometres.
Isla Huapi, the largest Island in the middle of the Lake, is a Mapuche Reserve with two separate communities who only meet twice a year – at the full moon in January and again at the full moon in June. This ‘great council’ lasts for 24 hours and decides all matters affecting the island’s 2 communities with much beating of drums (kultrun) and blowing of pipes (trutruca).
It was now early July and we returned to Valdivia to check on El Vagabond for a few days (which was very cold and wet) and also to get Monty’s ‘Rabies Titration Test’ done in anticipation of our trip to New Zealand next year.
The Vet is a really nice Man who also has a Boat in the Yacht Club and Monty was as "pleased as Punch" when he was presented with a bright red bandage to match his little red coat...
Roger’s Birthday was looming (where had the time gone?) so we decided to go across the border to Bariloche in Argentina for a week’s holiday.
Bariloche is recognised as the Premier Ski Resort in South America and it was really quite weird to be out on the Ski Slopes in mid July celebrating his Birthday – a bit different from the last few years lazing around in the sunshine…
The snow was very poor compared to Breckenridge but I guess that we have just been spoilt with our Colorado adventure – at least we didn’t return with another Puppy this time!!!
As well as being a ski resort, Bariloche is famous for it’s Chocolate and, unsurprisingly, Vicki was like the proverbial ‘kid in the sweetshop’ and had an absolute ball in the Chocolaterias tasting chocolate, more chocolate and yet even more chocolate… When she could eat no more, we returned across the border and stopped off on the way home at the Chilean Ski Resort of Antillanca which is sited on the West side of the Casablanca Volcano.
A much smaller resort than Bariloche, it was very friendly and had much better and deeper snow than we had seen elsewhere.
We returned to the Farm for a couple of days and then it was time to get back to Valdivia to haul El Vagabond out of the water and get a few jobs done rather than leave everything until the last minute in September. Thankfully, there were no nasty surprises. Even our bottom was relatively clean and the paint from Grenada was still hanging on – it was worth that third coat…
We checked all our sails and made a note of all the minor repairs whilst trying to work out whether we would be able to fix them ourselves by hand as there were no sail repairers in the area.
Luckily, Marianne was to hand and she arranged with the Yacht Club for a Sailmaker to come down from Concepcion (about 500 miles North) for a few days – what a result. Yet again, we wondered what we would have done without her help.
After 3 years of using a LeadLine and treading very carefully around all those Caribbean Reefs, we finally had a new Depthsounder fitted - yep, really.... It just needs Roger to wire it up now so, with any luck, it may be up and running by the time we hit the Polynesian Islands next year !!
We stayed out on the hard for a week doing all those niggly little jobs you have to do while out of the water. We then popped her back in as we decided that she was probably safer in the water than on land with the ongoing threat of Earthquakes. There was also the added bonus of being situated in a freshwater River.
We moved back to the Farm on 22nd July just in time for Ian & Maggy to fly back to the UK for 7 weeks. The time just flew past and we really don’t know where it went !!
We walked the dogs every day for about 5 miles – yes, Monty is now the fittest Havanese in the World and no longer just a “handbag dog”. He can now chase Hares with the best of them although it has to be said that he isn’t quite as fast as Sahne or Mackay but they have slightly longer legs…
We also managed to get out for a few Horse Rides whilst dodging the rain and Roger’s riding skills have improved dramatically.
Roger made a few day trips back to El Vagabond to check on her and complete some odd jobs. (We couldn’t both go as Sahne was like Houdini and, despite Roger spending days trying to make the outdoor pen ‘Sahne- proof’, she still managed to escape seconds after we put her in it)…
We went out for Lunch on a number of occasions including a typical Chilean lunch with Marianne’s family at her parents’ home and a Peruvian meal in Osorno with Marianne & Tito to celebrate Peru’s Independence (Tito is Peruvian). We also made a couple of trips to Pangipulli (about 30 miles away) to try out their Restaurants. This is known as the ‘Town of Roses’ and has about 14,000 rose bushes lining the streets. It also has an excellent ‘Artesan Shop’ and we added to our rapidly expanding collection of handmade wooden items – as you do!!
By far, the most unusual was a visit we made to ‘Montana Magica’ a Hotel situated in the Huilo Huilo National Park which actually has a Waterfall running down the outside of the building.
We had a fantastic meal and then walked through the Park to see the famous ‘Saltos del Huilo Huilo’ a powerful torrent forced through a ten-meter-wide green cleft in the rock to deafening effect.
Unfortunately, we did not get to ski on the Mocho-Choshuenco Volcano as the weather was just too cloudy.
One of the benefits of baby-sitting a Farm is that you get to use the large Farmhouse kitchen and we soon got used to eating homemade bread every day and it was fantastic to be able to cook fresh food without a tin in sight – a far cry from our sailing trip from Panama !!
Vicki even found the time to make copious amounts of Chutney (thank you Will for your recipe) and Soup (not to mention her Chocolate Truffles) and Roger taught himself how to make Cottage Pie which is just as tasty as his Curry (thanks go to Kate & Joe for their assistance).
We also hosted a traditional English ‘Roast Beef & Yorkshire Puddings’ Sunday Lunch for Marianne and her family.
The highlight of our stay happened on the 6th September. The day started normally and we were heading out across the Horse field for our morning walk with the Dogs when we counted 5 horses lying down, 2 standing up and another ‘lump’ on the ground.
As we got closer, we realised that the ‘lump’ was in fact a newly born Foal. We had thought that Claire was getting a little “tubby” but were still surprised by this arrival… a gorgeous little Chestnut boy.
We subsequently spent the next hour and a half watching him wobble about on his spindly little legs.
Vicki couldn’t wait to call Maggy and tell her the news. When Maggy returned a week later, she christened the little fellow “Vagabundo” which really made our day.
As is quite obvious, we really enjoyed our ‘land time’ and we cannot thank Ian & Maggy enough for their generous hospitality. Unfortunately, all good things have to end and we were very sad when it became time to leave. To be honest, it was a good job we had to be in Puerto Montt for Jan & Ken’s visit otherwise we would probably still be trying to drag ourselves away !!
We left the Farm on 19th September with a car stuffed to the limits with most of our worldly goods (we left our skis and a few other bits and bobs behind so that we have to return next year)!!! When we got to Valdivia and looked at the ‘stuff’ and looked at El Vagabond we weren’t sure that it would all go back on board but Roger managed to wave his ‘stowage wand’ and it all miraculously disappeared…
Our next job was to move El Vagabond next door to ‘Alwoplast Boat Yard’ as our ongoing dispute with Raymarine had finally been resolved and Alwoplast were fitting our brand new Autohelm Drive Unit. Following our various fiascos since the Drive was fitted in Panama, we had been e-mailing Raymarine with a Warranty Claim as Protecsa in Panama refused to communicate with us and would not provide any kind of refund. The ‘head honcho’ from Raymarine’s South American Sales force finally got involved and took instant action and the new Unit arrived at the beginning of September. We no longer hate Raymarine, just their Panamanian agent Protecsa – DON’T ever shop there – the guy is a Rogue and totally untrustworthy. Ronald at Alwoplast is a really nice chap and got us sorted out within a couple of days with a really solid bracket which looks like it might hold on a bit longer than the last one…
Since we have been in Valdivia, we have been promising ourselves a visit to the local Cerveceria and we finally managed to find time. The ‘Kuntsmann’ Brewery brews proper ‘Beer’ rather than Lager and they have various types including a ‘Miel’ (honey) brew.
Well, it’s now 29th September and we have only a few more days before we untie and start heading South. Jan & Ken (Mizen) are due to arrive in Puerto Montt on 15th October and we just can’t be late…