Eager to continue my exposure to Latin America, I flew to Santiago, Chile with the plan of forming a long term team to go explore the huge beautiful continent of South America. And then who knows?
Rosibell has a toy poodle, Lukas who is registered as a ‘perro de assistencia’ (assistance dog). She has official paperwork that allows her to take Lukas places an ordinary pet would not be allowed. Lukas and Rosi are a tight team. Over a period of a few weeks, Lukas has seen fit to let me join the team. I’m honored.
Lukas is no ordinary lap dog. He is of the rare breed of Chilean Adventure Poodle (CAP). In fact this breed is so rare that he is the only member. He readily takes on challenges like ski lifts, downhill skiing, volcanic hot springs and exploring volcanic caves in Chile; exploring the desert sand dunes of Peru. I’ve been there. I’ve seen his unflinching desire to explore new things.
Lukas is a welcomed member of the team. Over time he will teach us to have courage in new situations.
I am still getting the hang of the Spanish language. It is a relatively easy language to learn. I speak it well enough to get by in simple cases. My problem is understanding the spoken language. As I am still thinking in English, my bandwidth is low, and the Spanish is too fast to translate in real time.
The first lesson in learning by immersion, is the importance of feedback. Let the speaker know that you don’t understand, that they are speaking too fast. When an important point has been made, repeat the understood message back to the speaker.
This is why Rosibell is so important. She is Peruvian with a permanent residence in Chile. She speaks and understands Spanish at full speed. She understands the local customs, the local slang.
The really cool part is that she really doesn’t know much English. This forces me to learn Spanish. Does this create moments of great misunderstanding? Yes clearly. We are getting used to it. The important backstop is Google Translate, which is not without problems of its own.
So, we have a challenge. We readily accept this. At least that’s my understanding. So far it’s working.
Rosi is a smart, honest person who is fun to be with. She has gone to cooking school and has had a lot of experience cooking for groups both large and small. I observe that she knows her way around the kitchen, that she knows the foods of many other cultures, and that she takes pleasure in showing her skills.
Rosi is saavy with computers and cell phones. For instance, she will quickly get the Google Maps display from her cell phone up on the rental car screen, so I can more easily navigate. She will also get the Netflix movie from her phone up on the hotel room screen.
When I first showed up in Santiago, she handed me a SIM chip for my phone which she already had enabled with data and phone service.
Rosi comes from a large family, four sisters and one brother. I have met them all. The family originates in Peru but has emigrated in part to Chile. Two of her sisters live here in Santiago, Chile. The others live in Peru. She also has many cousins, nephews, and nieces. I have been present at many of her family’s gatherings both in Santiago and Lima.
Rosi owns properties in Lima together with her brother Martin. Martin is in the construction business and is living in a house he built on one of the properties. It’s a nice place, I’ve been there.
Rosi is a permanent resident in Chile. She votes here in Chile. She carries a Peruvian passport which enables her to travel through much of the world without need of a visa. She knows the procedure for getting a dog on an airline flight to a foreign country.
It’s simple to describe. We will get a camper van, maybe modify a minivan at first. Each day or so, Rosi and Lukas will drive to a new location and set up camp. I will bicycle to meet them. That’s the basic routine.
We will make deviations (hotel, laundromat, hunker down in one spot for days or weeks) as needed. The trick is making it a comfortable routine for all involved. If we can keep it going for a few years, we might consider other variations; like switching continents, trading in the camper van for a sailboat worthy of an ocean crossing? We can dream.
The challenges in implementing this plan will keep us busy. First off, Rosibell will need to get a driver’s licence. This is a more serious thing in Chile than it is in the United States, She is hard at work on this.
Next step is getting a camper van. I think I could create a reasonable starter vehicle based on a Dodge Caravan. I would need to get access to some tools. The cool part about the DIY approach is one can easily modify it when the need arises.
These things take time. I am hoping we are ready to roll sometime in December, which is the start of summer in this hemisphere. It will be a good time to roll south into some cooler climates.
Meanwhile we have created a base station. Meaning we have a furnished apartment in Santiago, the largest city in Chile. I figure here it will be easy to get a hold of the equipment we will need to set up our expedition. There are also good bike lanes on many of the roads.
Santiago is also where Rosi has been living for a few years. Much of her family has migrated here from Peru as well. She has quite a network of friends and family here.
We seem to have an endless stream of invitations to dinner parties and birthday parties. Typically I am the only English speaking person attending. Though I have met several bilinguals that speak Quechua, an indigenous language of Peru.
I get lots of practice listening to spoken Spanish. Occasionally I can break into the discussion. The toughest part is understanding the humor. I still have lots to learn.
For Rosi’s Birthday, we went shopping for a more comfortable spot for Lukas to ride. The basket on Rosi’s handlebar seems best.
We are taking the opportunity to preview South America by going on outings by airline, rental car or both. So far we have gone downhill skiing and explored Cajon de Maipo, among other places near Santiago. Near Lima Peru we visited the ruins of an Incan city, the desert sand dunes of Ica, and the Natural Preserve of Paracas where they have wild penguins. That’s right, Penguins living in Paracas, just a thousand miles from the equator. We have also seen condors, which of course are much more common here in the Andes.
In a week or two we will drive a rental car over the Andes into Mendoza, Argentina. I particularly want to see what the roads look like, what services are available along the way, and how passable it would be on a bike.
One time we took a rental car into a National Park to find a poorly marked twenty mile dirt road which slowly degrades in quality to the point where it is impassable with the two wheel drive we rented.
The map shows many roads through the Andes. I get the feeling that only some of them are passable. Knowing what lies ahead is important. In the mountains, I will need to find paths that are written up in cycling blogs.
Further south in Chile the terrain becomes a patchwork of islands. In some places there are ferries. Other places appear to be a dead end, an island with only one way out. It will be another kind of puzzle to solve. Mistakes will be made. We will take care to enjoy everyone of them.