A crown in a week
"Remember, the hats will fall apart in the rain!" Our hat seller explained, showing us how to wear them wrapped in a plastic bag.
We stepped out the door as the first few drops of what would be the making of a very wet day started to fall, and headed for the stables at Viu Manent vineyard for a riding lesson. Rodrigo, our tutor was excellent and we learnt a lot in a couple of hours. By now it was raining cats, dogs, llamas, you name it! - hard to recognise the semi-arid Colchagua Valley I had visited with my mother in April. Luckily we had arranged for a friendly taxi driver to collect us and take us to our next stop, the Lapostolle vineyard.
Lapostolle was founded in 1994 by Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle, a descendent of the family which created the Grand Marnier liqueur brand in France, and her husband Cyril de Bournet. The winery is state of the art, built into the hillside and the ultimate in wine kidology. Hand picked, hand sorted organic bio-dynamic grapes are hand pressed, gravity filtered and matured over eighteen months in new French oak barrels. The end product? A limited edition, prize winning bottle priced at US$120 with a simple label which makes no claims. It was good... but that good?
The likes of you and me buy the five quid bottle (£1 for the wine, £4 for the reputation earned by the exclusive line), thinking it's going to be a great bottle of wine and it probably is. This wine is mass produced at the other Lapostolle vineyard, just down the road. Machine harvested, machine pressed, nothing organic, but at least you know it doesn't contain fingernail dirt.
The Lapostolle wine altar in a cross shaped room
By eleven that night we were sheltering under a tin shack by the side of the motorway waiting for the bus to Valdivia. Amazingly, it stopped.
We arrived back on Friday 9th June, in time for the monthly meeting of the 'Brothers of the Coast' which is ALWAYS (so we are told) held on the first Friday of the month... with the exception of this meeting, the last meeting and the one before that, etc.
'Brothers of the Coast' is an international movement of sailors who dress up as buccaneers, sing songs, drink too much and generally have a lot of fun. Franco is privileged to have been invited to attend the meetings (women are 'captives' and not allowed) and I'm keen that he earns his tricorn before we leave Chile. (Behind every successful pirate, there is a scheming wench.) Raoul called by, the meeting had been postponed until the following Saturday, so instead he invited us to his house and cooked 'pulmay', a speciality from his home, the Island of Chiloe. ‘Pulmay' is the famous 'curanto' cooked in a pot rather than a hole in the ground.
Pulmay ingredients; several types of seashell, chicken, smoked pork, potatoes, onions, one tomato, coriander and wine
A bit of everything is tied into a bundle, ready for the pot
While the pulmay simmered away, Luis and Jorge prepared pisco sour, the national drink. Raoul’s cousin Jorge arrived just in time to sample it.
Franco and I knew that Raoul and his cousin Jorge had spent six months last year sailing Raoul’s boat Malulu back from Spain where he had bought it.
“Nice to be that close to a cousin.” We’d thought.
We hadn’t realised they had only just met. Raoul had been looking for crew. Jorge put him in touch with his mate Jorge, originally from Chiloe. Within minutes of meeting they had worked out that they were cousins through their mothers’ side. They are like chalk and cheese. Raoul is tall, pale, with European features, and given his 78 years, is living life to the full, and dangerously. Jorge is short, broad, brown, looks as native American as they come and had a full time job on his hands keeping Raoul safe and out of trouble.
Franco, Luis the club painter, Jorge from Cheddar, Raoul, Kath and Larry our Canadian friend
Raoul started telling us a story. It was about Shackleton’s ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. He explained how the Endurance had been crushed by the ice, and the men had made it to Elephant Island. We all knew the tale and I wondered where he was going with it. He mentioned the epic boat journey to South Georgia then at last he came to the point:
"Back in South America, Shackleton attempted three rescue missions but each time he was forced to turn back. He persuaded the Chilean Government to provide the Yelcho (a 36.5 meter steam tug) under Captain Pardo.
With Shackleton aboard, the Yelcho sailed on 25 August 1916 from Punta Arenas. By now the Antarctic winter was at its height, and ice conditions were difficult as the Yelcho neared Elephant Island. On 30 August 1916 the 22 men on Elephant Island were rescued and the Yelcho returned to Punta Arenas to an enthusiastic reception from the population and the Chilean Naval authorities.”
Raoul disappeared for a moment and returned with the wheel of the Yelcho (a prized possession which he intends to donate to the naval museum).
Raoul with the wheel of the Yelcho
By Unknown - http://www.histarmar.com.ar/Naufragios/2%20Canal%20Beagle/05-CB.htm, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17682521
One of my teeth had started hurting so I went to the dentist. It had cracked from top to bottom, exactly like its opposite number which was extracted in the Falklands. The only option was root canal treatment and a crown. As we were departing for the USA a week later, our excellent dentist pulled out all the stops and fitted me with a perfect colour matching crown in a week.