Sunday, 31 July 2011

Be careful what you wish for.

With all the driving around Argentina and showing guests around Valparaíso, the kids were exhausted and asked that we don’t go anywhere this weekend.  We promised them that no matter what we’d spend the weekend in the apartment.
Saturday was a day for Spring cleaning the apartment and taking stock of our accumulated assets for the past six months.  By Sunday afternoon when I said I was going out to buy some bread Indiana asked if she could come too.  The novelty of being home all weekend had worn off and she was ready for an outing.  Never had a jaunt up the cerro appeared so inviting.  A quick survey at the end of the weekend reveled that four out of four Harpers like going out at the weekend.

Perhaps we are clinging onto our British heritage too firmly but we haven’t seen a single eggcup here.  How does one eat one’s dippy eggs without an eggcup?  The usual method is to make a collar from a cereal box.  Not the most durable method but it works none the less.

During a visit to el baño I noticed the hot water heater seemed to be on a bit of a tilt.  As mentioned previously, the 90 degree right angle was not imported to Valparaíso until the late 1960s, some sixty years after this house was built.  It is impossible to retrofit the 90 degree right angle but it is possible to pass an apple to someone at the other end of the table by just letting go of the apple and letting it roll.  The gas heater is held on by two nails and is a metre off the ground.  One of the nails had bent and the heater was only held in place by one nail and the head of the second one.  If the heater falls it would rip out the gas line and the water pipe, which would cause a fair amount of damage.
We’ve since secured the heater in place.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Beware the sign.

There is a lot of road works happening around our cerro at the moment.  The normal way to install a road works sign is for two men to attack the pavement with a crow bar, dig a hole out and cement the sign in.

The posts are usually timber and when the sign is no longer needed the post is simply snapped at ground level and the stump is pulverised until it is level with the footpath.  Note the word usually.

There are numerous metal stumps waiting to trip unsuspecting tourists.

A veces (sometimes), the post is left like some sort of Vampire trap.  I don’t think Workplace Health and Safety has quite made it to Valparaíso yet. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Film is the new black.

We’ve been here long enough now that we’ve become accustomed to the art and architecture.  Since we’ve started having visitors we have been taking time to rediscover our cerro.  We’re lucky to live in an area with many great shops and one of our favourites is Hiperfocal
The kids have never seen a film negative and Alberto, the owner, explained the process of covering material with a light sensitive emulsion then placing a negative over the cloth and letting sunlight develop a print onto the fabric.

After the print has developed it is brought inside and the emulsion is washed off.  This is very similar to how photos were originally developed but instead of using photographic paper, Alberto uses cloth.

Alberto has photographed many famous places in Valparaíso and his prints make a great souvenir.  We asked him to develop one of our photos of Indiana and Truce and it turned out amazing.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Why the long face?

Some things are learned from books and some things are learned from experience.  Another friend, Theresa, is staying with us for a little while before she starts exploring Chile.  We took her to the fruit market and caught the trolley bus home.  It was a double length trolley bus, the type that pivots in the middle and looks so long that you feel like you should be carrying your passport to cross halfway.  We pressed the bell and the bus stopped and our group alighted.  I was walking down the steps when the doors started closing.  Obviously the driver hadn’t seen me.
Operating at Matrix bullet time I rationalised that the doors would bounce open when they felt the resistance of a human pushing through the doors.  It’s true these buses were made about 60 years ago but surely they’ve introduced tourist sensing devices for closing doors.  By the time the rubber seals were pushing on my ears I realised two things.  1.  Hydraulic doors are stronger than a man.  2.  This bus didn’t have tourist sensing devices for the door.  This is something I would have preferred learning from a book.
A quick search of my memory banks and I could not remember any phrases from the Lonely Planet South American Phrasebook for, “Excuse me Mr Bus Driver but my head is stuck in the doors.”  Some of the shopping ended up on the outside of the bus and Theresa politely took the bag of avocadoes that had almost been made into guacamole. 

Talluah and I left the girls in Theresa’s care and went out sin niñas to Boris’ birthday party.  Boris had a 90s, blue theme going which involved decorations adorned with The Smurfs.  In Spanish they are known as Los Pitufos.  An equally bizarre name but because we grew up with The Smurfs, Los Pitufos just seems odd.
As part of Chilean culture the party invites said for a 9:30 start but we arrived early to chat with Boris and his family while it was still quiet.  Talluah has advanced so much with her Spanish that she laughed in the right places and made others laugh.
There seems to be a tradition that the birthday person has to eat some of the cake before it is cut and invariably it ends up on their face.  Perhaps this is the best way to eat cake.  We danced to music from the 90s trying to see who could recognise the song first.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Wrapping up Argentina.

After dinner in Mendoza the girls fell asleep in the back seat while we drove towards the border.  About 20 km south of Uspallata we pulled over on the side of the road.  We were rocked to sleep by a -3 degree wind that blew all night long.  We were snug and warm in the camper but had to put on our Arctic clothes for the dash to the cab.  Truce is suffering from constant static electricity and her hair has Medusa like qualities.  We take turns dressing her with her polyester jacket as she has electrocuted each one of us indiscriminately.  She manages to generate enough sparks to jump-start a truck.

At Puente del Inca we pulled over to have a play in the snow.  At 2,700 metres we had almost stopped noticing how often our ears had popped.  The Puente del Inca is a natural bridge over the river Vacas and was once a Thermal Spa until an avalanche took out the resort.

There is an assortment of souvenirs that can be bought here but perhaps none so tacky as these items that have been placed in the thermal waters and covered in minerals.  The idea sounds novel enough but some of the items don’t really have anything to do with the original inhabitants.

This is the first time we have seen snow as a family and even though we were not appropriately dressed we went and played in the snow.

We highly recommend, we loved having the freedom to be able to stop whenever we wanted to with our campervan.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

A walk in the park.

Day 5
Chile only has long life milk for sale and this affects the quality of their ice creams and chocolates.  We drove into Mendoza with hopes of Artisan ice creams and chocolates made with fresh milk.  Our first port of call was the Parque San Martin were we attempted to have lunch by the lagoon but the gale force winds sent us scampering for shelter in our camper van.

We needed to stretch our legs and rugged up for an expedition around the lake.  The girls were running along this little retaining wall. Indiana tried to pass Truce and fell off the path and used a lamp post as emergency brakes.  She had a three centimetre cut just below her hairline bleeding very nicely.  Talluah pinched the cut shut and pressed a frozen burger patty on Indy’s forehead to slow down the blood flow.  I think this is the first time someone has had brain freeze from a frozen burger.

At the park’s information office I put on my best Spanish accent.
Mi hija cae y cortar aqui.  ¿Dondé esta el mas cercano hospital?
With the magic of the internet I’ll change the subtitles to English.
My daughter fell and cut here (pointing to forehead).  Where is the nearest hospital?
“How many people?” asks the man at the information desk.
Just one.  My daughter.  Is there some sort of limit on the number of people allowed to be hurt in one day?
“This one is nearby,” says Mr Information and shows me a camping brochure.
No.  Hospital.  Horsepetal.  Hospetarl.  Hospitál.  Perhaps my accent was off.  Later I realised that he thought I was saying hospedaje which is a type of hotel here.

He showed us two hospitals on our tourist map and we ended up in downtown Mendoza and decided that even if we did find the hospital this is not where we wanted to be.  We went to the central hospital and after doing two laps to find the entrance parked and went in.

Ignore the one-legged homeless man sleeping in the doorway.  The receptionist managed to look up from his YouTube viewing long enough to tell us they don’t treat children there.  An English speaking doctor came out and told us where the children’s hospital was but not before looking at the cut.  Even though they don’t treat children he felt the need to see if the cut had sealed or not.  I don’t know what his plan was if he made it start bleeding again.  Luckily it remained closed.  Talluah was ready to punch him.  She had just spent an hour compressing the cut only to have a curious doctor try to pry it open while Indy winced.  Off we went to the Children’s hospital.

We were shocked with the central hospital but the children’s hospital was another eye opener.  Talluah and I both whispered to the girls as we walked in “Don’t touch anything and try not to breathe”.  Talluah went to reception and was given a number.  We were 40th in line.  We looked at the cut.  It had sealed up nicely and we decided that we would let nature look after this one and kept a band aide on it.  Unfortunately, all this hospital running around meant that we missed out on ice cream and chocolates but we did enjoy some great Argentinean steaks.

It’s been several days since Indiana’s fall and the cut seems to be healing on it’s own.  We’re keeping a close eye on it and when she’s older she can pull her fringe back and show her South American battle scar.

Saturday, 16 July 2011


Day 4.
Waking up at Ischigualasto is like waking up in next door to The Flintstones.  (the reference was completely lost on our kids).  We joined the convoy of other tourists for a three hour tour of this rare landscape.

The beauty of this place is that time, wind and rain have sculpted rock formations that resemble many familiar objects.  Fossils are also uncovered on a regular basis and the first stop in the tour is the see a plant fossil in situ.  It is very humbling to look at the remains of a plant that grew millions of years ago and realise that the human race is only a dot when looking at the history of the world.

Cancha de bochas (lawn bowls) is a natural phenomenon where almost perfectly formed spheres are slowly exposed.  As the park rangers find these balls they place them together.  No one actually knows exactly how they are made.  The guide asked everyone to be quiet for a moment to listen to the earth.   It’s not often that we experience complete silence in our lives.

The best way to visit Ischigualasto is with your own vehicle and this is the reason we hired the camper from .  It gave us accommodation and freedom to see central Argentina.  While heading back towards San Agustin we saw this little stream and pulled over for a play and an early dinner, something you can’t do when you’re on a bus.

We made it back to Caucete after nightfall.  This is the town we stayed in on the way out to Ischigualasto.  This time though we didn’t park under a tree or as close to the highway as last time.  We found a nice quiet corner near a brick wall in a service station car park and slept comfortably until the early hours of the morning when a freight train went through town and honked its horn at all 16 intersections.