Chile Diary – 16

The Native Returns

Friday, 9th April 2010

It’s a cold, cold day today! For me, it’s winter even though the Chilean calendar says it’s still Autumn. A chill wind started to blow last night and it was mucho frio. I had hoped for a sunny day as I have promised to put mehndi on Gabriela’s hands. The cold has got to my back and one spot, on the right, is acting up. I’m resting it out and hopefully, I’ll be able to keep my side of the promise.

Gabriela is a pretty, young and vivacious waitress at Manchester. She knows a bit of English so we talk whenever she has a moment to spare. Yesterday, she learned that I was from India and got all excited about henna art. Her grandfather is Arabic and he has given her some henna.

I’m not sure about the quality of the henna powder nor do I know how to apply mehndi (henna) with a wooden pen. That’s how the Arabs do it. In India, we use a cone filled with the mehndi paste which makes it easier to make the intricate designs.

Anyway, I’ve asked her to make a paste with the henna using a bit of water, lemon juice, and sugar. We use eucalyptus oil too while applying mehndi. But, Eucalyptus oil or any other essential oil is out of the question for her. In all probability, it won’t be available or then too expensive.

But it all depends on my back.

Last night, Ranjit found a beautiful apartment. It’s on 4 Norte, very central to the shopping areas and the spot where the office cab picks them up. The most important thing is it is on the first level. Second, it is bigger in area than the present one, which is spacious, and it falls cheaper too. Since I won’t be here when they move into the new place, I plan on seeing it before I leave. But one has to fix an appointment with the property dealer first.  So now, it rests on the dealer and the landlord.

On another note, on Sunday, we have an invitation from my friend Roxanna. They’re having an ‘asado’ (aka barbecue) at home and we have been invited too. I’m looking forward to that. I’ll tell you about it when we get back.

12th April, Monday, 2010


Our gracious hostess…

The morning dawned grey and cold but the sun has put his hat on and is out now. Our lunch was fun even though it wasn’t an asado, as planned. I’m sure the joy would have doubled if I knew the language. I could have enjoyed the jokes more. Jokes can be made and understood better if not translated. A lot of the humor is lost in translation.

There were only two people who knew English; Gabriel and Raphael. Later in the evening, Gonzalo joined us. He also knows English. But there wasn’t much conversation because he walloped his food and got into the Table Tennis fray! Still, it was enjoyable. Roxanna is such a warm hostess and there was nothing left wanting in her hospitality.


And it was a sumptuous meal… finger-licking good!

The food was made by her and the menu was: Mango sour (a pisco drink with mango juice) and freshly baked queso-olive empanadas for starters. The meal consisted: Baked pineapple chicken in a cheesy sauce, Beef pot roast, whole fried potatoes, fresh salad, Chilean pan (bread) washed down with a choice of wines, Sprite or orange juice. Dessert was a choice of three ice creams. This delectable fare was served in the patio which opens onto the lawn. Great ambiance too!

Post lunch, the boys got into table tennis matches as we, the girls, watched and cheered. Roxanna kept up a steady supply of cold drinks and iced water. Our wonderful lunch ended on a high note of joie de vivre on Sunday.



Prime seats for the TT match…:D

Back at the apartment, the high notes mellowed as Ranjit and Manu got into their usual routine: phone, serials, movies mode which made any kind of conversation unwelcome. So I watched some TV, then occupied myself with turkey (pavo) empanadas.

This entailed cooking the ground turkey which would be the filling in the empanadas. I kneaded and rolled my way through the dough and folded and sealed the filling in the empanadas. Then I wrapped them in cling wrap and stored them in the freezer; When needed, heat some oil and fry.

We were to go back to the GH, but Manu went to bed so I decided to stay the night at the apartment. Good decision; I get the advantage of the net!

Tomorrow morning, I make one last visit to Roxanna’s place. She has, so sweetly, offered to color my hair before I leave. Honestly, no one has ever offered to do it even when I wasn’t able to go to the salon due to my back problems. I feel so nice and blessed with her friendship. That’s it for now.

This brings me to the end of my Chile Diary.

I fly out on the 14th of April. I know I’ll miss this beautiful city. Despite the constant fears of tremors and quakes I experienced, I’ll miss the “como estas?  and “Estoy bien!”



Mehndi…….. Henna is called mehndi in India. It is applied in intricate designs on the hands, feet and even as temporary tattoos these days. Applying mehndi is a custom on many festivals and an important tradition of Indian marriages where the bride’s arms, hands, feet, and calves (at times) are covered with finely executed patterns.


Far From The Madding Crowd

I awoke to this sight outside my window…it was a work in progress!



Photo: Joy Clarkson


The work progressed as I went about brushing my teeth, calling room service for a cup of tea…



Photo: Joy Clarkson


When the tea arrived….awesome sunrise!



Volcano Osorno, Puerta Varas – an active one, my sentry on the horizon. Photo: Joy Clarkson


“Who would then deny that when I am sipping tea in my (tea)room I am swallowing the whole universe with it and that this very moment of my lifting my bowl to my lips is eternity itself transcending time and space?” (D.T. Suzuki)


We were down South…Puerto Varas. It had been a long trip, involving a fairly long drive to Santiago to catch a flight to Puerto Montt. From Puerto Montt, we hired a car and drove all the way through a picturesque landscape to reach Puerto Varas. Some of my pictures are really good (not professional by any measure!) considering I clicked them with a mobile phone. I’m quite happy about that…including the selfie above!


Unfortunately, we decided to spend the day in this quaint, pretty city on Labour Day! Practically the whole place was shut down. Even the theatre on the lake was closed, not because of Labour Day. It was not the season to stage anything! The edifice looked beautiful standing half way in the huge lake. Frutillar lies on the banks of Lake Llanquihue, the largest lake in Chile. It is also called The City of Music.



The kids wanted to play a while in the park so we indulged them. Apart from the swings and slides, they were fascinated by an iron sculpture of a piano. They hopped onto the bench and sang “Do…re…me…fa…so…la…!” to imaginary music they tapped out of the metal keys!

FullSizeRender (3)


The weather went against us too. The dark rain clouds gathered low and heavy and soon we felt the first drops on our faces.



“It started as a fine drizzle.” Photo: Joy Clarkson


It started as a fine drizzle so we hung around a while in the park, looking for a cafeteria that was open among the few that lined the street.


FullSizeRender (4)

While I appreciated the information, I had no clue why this board was put up in the park.


Good for us, a couple of cafeterias were open. Just as it started to pour, we spotted one which was close by and we scooted into the welcoming warmth, literally and figuratively, of this lovely cafeteria. The lady here had the most delicious Nueces Kuchen. (walnut pie)

FullSizeRender (4)

Back at the hotel, I saw signs that it had been a heavy downpour in Varas too. I saw tarpaulin spread across the roof of one of the lounges/rooms and held down with small rocks, stones, and slabs. This was a sight I hadn’t seen for over four decades. The last time being in my home country when I was a kid!


Measures to prevent seepage/leakage



Before we left Puerto Varas, to return home, we visited Frutillar once again and found this delightful cafeteria called Duendes del Lago (Elves of the Lake) And not for nothing was it so called. We entered to find a fairytale kind of atmosphere with elves in all shapes and sizes lurking, hanging, sitting, standing in corners, shelves, a magazine rack…and the kid’s corner was the cutest! One of the twins commented that it looked like, “Billy Bam Bam’s house.” The sandwiches and cakes/pies were good too!

Elves of the Lake


Petrohue & Los Saltos del Petrohue

Our next road trip took us to Petrohue. We wanted to visit the waterfalls and take the kiddies on a boat ride on the lake – Lago Todos Los Santos. It was once again a drive through the most scenic landscapes.

A walk up a winding path leading to the waterfalls opened up to a breathtaking view…but I must admit I was disappointed by the falls. I guess the rains hadn’t flooded the streams yet or whatever, it wasn’t the falls that engaged me! Volcano Osorno, an imposing figure on the horizon, hogged my attention, more so because of its seeming nearness,  as did the black basaltic rocks against a backdrop of rich green foliage and green, glassy water.



The contrast of the reflecting green of foliage and blue of the sky in the water was stunning

To say it was windy would be an understatement. The wind was very strong and whipped around and I was pushed back and found myself pressing forward to resist the force. Certainly not a good place to click a selfie FullSizeRender (2)

We walked back down the winding path and drove out to the Petrohue Lodge, where we intended to have lunch. But before that a boat ride on the lake. A ‘First’ for the twins, for the record! Fortunately, we had the entire boat, a big one, to ourselves for thirty minutes and the kids had a free run around…up and down!


Petrohue Lodge was very good as far as the food was concerned…had some amazing soup too! But service left a lot to desire…three of us even got splashed nice and proper with pineapple juice! But, I guess such accidents occur at times…nevertheless, service had a lot of room for improvement.


We took a break from driving around for a day and did a spot of shopping, in Varas, for mementos, to carry back with us. The next day we decided to visit Chiloe. We drove to Chacao where we boarded a ferry, car and all, to cross the Chacao channel to Chiloe.


Our pre-planned destination was Anton. However, we made an impulsive detour to follow the Circuito de las Iglesias – Circuit of the Churches. It was a drive to remember. We drove and drove and drove – up and down a winding dirt road for over an hour and still no Iglesia or Iglesias popped into sight! To make matters worse we even got caught in a funeral procession which blocked the whole narrow road, leaving us no option but to crawl behind the slow procession of hearse and cars. To cut a long story short…we decided to turn back when the road narrowed so much that we realized going forward would cut off our option of abandoning the quest. So, we backed and did an about turn and set our sights on Anton instead. Thankfully the weather was just fine even though the drive wasn’t!

I decided to enjoy the drive by looking out the window and soaking in the beauty of the countryside…the “campo” landscape and houses.

To sum up Chiloe – a belief was re-enforced that there’s someone up there looking out for me and the family. The detour was a blessing in disguise. By the time we retraced our way and turned onto the highway to Anton, events unknown to us were hotting up near the city. We were twenty-five minutes away from our destination when we encountered a roadblock. Black smoke was billowing up from burning tyres in the middle of the road. The pescadores (fishermen) had blocked the highway. We made a hasty retreat before things became ugly. Blessing in disguise!

How was it a blessing? We learned that the blockade carried on for a week or so. So if we hadn’t gone on our wild goose chase we’d have made it into Anton before the roadblock and we would have been stuck there! With little kids in tow, that would have been a terribly difficult situation and an extremely expensive one too. So, we, a very disappointed but grateful group of tired travellers, boarded the ferry once again and made our way back to our lovely hotel in Varas…and a delicious dinner at the hotel restaurant prepared by Chef Miguel.

But the experience wasn’t without its soothing touches. I found the countryside very calm and tranquil.


FullSizeRender (6)

Retired not abandoned!


It was time to head back, vacation was over. We would drive to Puerto Montt, and take a flight to Santiago and from there a one and a half hour drive would reach us back to base. As the luggage was being loaded in the car, I looked out at the view spread out in front of the hotel. I saw the huge cross that stood over the city…stark against the grey, gloomy day sky, unlike the night when it would shine against a dark sky reflecting the lights that shone on it. I said adios to this beautiful city that stood in the shadow of the cross.

FullSizeRender (8)


Like with all the other vacations….As great as the family getaway was… was wonderful to be back home!