Yeah so chile has been great so far. We stayed a couple days in Santiago which is a pretty cool city. It’s neat to see old Spanish conquistador architecture juxtaposed to modern glass skyscrapers. The people have been truly friendly. In Santiago we did a free walking tour, hiked San Cristobal hill that overlooks the city which is backed by the snowcapped Andes, and slept a lot.
Mi espanol es muy malo. Aka my Spanish is really bad and next to few people speak English here, only hostel staff and other travellers usually. So I’m on the steep curve of learning Spanish. Chileano Spanish has a crazy accent too. They drop s’s all the time and even people who speak Spanish can’t understand because of all the slang etc. While it’s been a challenge it’s also very rewarding to come to an understanding with someone using sign language, broken Spanglish and patience.
The Longest Wave
After a few days of adjustment and a slightly difficult, but hilarious, attempt at the purchase of bus tickets we began our 2 month long journey south to Patagonia. First stop was Pichilemu, an unassuming coastal surf town with dirt roads, long black sand beaches and few people. Since we are here in the shoulder season we were the only ones staying in our hostel and most of the shops and restaurants were empty. That was a bit weird but not a concern as the weather was in the mid 20’s and the surf breaks weren’t crowded.It was nice to relax here and get some sun and surf. Punta del Lobos — translated to peak of the sea lions named for the two massive rocks that rise out of sea — is a point break that produces massive waves (10 m) all winter and surfable waves the rest of the time. It was here that I surfed the longest wave of my life.
Punta del Lobos
One day when the waves were the heaviest I’ve ever seen, Chilean surf legend Ramón Navarro was towed beyond the Punta del Lobos on a jet ski to ride these gargantuan waves. We watched from the point with a humbling appreciation for the power of the ocean and with respect for the skill and guts these surfers have. As a set of waves rolled in they rolled over the top of these eight story waves like rubber duckies in an angry bowl of soup. As the perfect wave rolls in Ramón starts to paddle into the wave which picks him up as if a giant hand reaches up from the sea to push him forwards down the wave.
Ramón Navarro Droppin´ in Steep
As the wave breaks the surfer is faced with looking straight down 10 m and drops in as if falling off a building. Unfortunately this one wave was too steep and as Ramón drops in, the board comes out from under his feet. He bails while near the top and falls into the face of the wave which continues upwards and breaks, dropping Ramón over the 10 m water fall and god only knows how far deep under water as the wave slams back into the Ocean. He’s underwater for at least 15 seconds until he emerges to catch a breath, only to have 3 successive waves of the same size crash on top of him while the jet ski stands-by helplessly until Ramón is pushed far enough to where the jet ski can come rescue him… The jet ski rips in to grab him quickly before the next wave swallows them both up and then bolts towards shore. Curiously the jet ski stops for a few seconds once out of the break and we all wonder if he is conscious, but after a few seconds you see that he’s fine and then… the jet ski heads out towards the waves again and drops Ramón off as he prepares for another wave.
Our last adventure in Pichilemu had us riding horses north of the town along the rugged wind swept coast towards a ‘ruggo’, a simple home built on the beach. The owner is an artesinal fisherman living a subsistence lifestyle. When we arrived we were introduced by a friend we met in town and were greeted warmly by a man in his forties wearing a ball cap and smiling brightly at the site of an old friend and new visitors. See, Phillipe lives by himself, doesn’t have many neighbours and doesn’t see people as often as you or I.
Phillipe´s Rugged Beach House
We were immediately prepared an amazing seafood soup of the days catch, some sort of barnacle/mussel and squid. It was served cold and raw in an amazingly delicious broth. Actually, it was delicious until I added a minute amount of his home made hot sauce. As soon as I put it in the soup Phillipe shouted ‘oh!’ and began to watch me very intently. As I drew the spoon to my mouth I nervously wondered what I had in store. Dave asked me if I was ok as all the blood drained from my face and my sinuses began running immediately. That shit was muy picante.
That night he toured us around his property, showing us his garden where he grows all the vegetables he needs. He showed us his stables where he keeps his horses, his collection of 10 different wetsuits that he uses for diving for fish and kelp and lastly the spear gun he uses to catch fish in excess of 10 lbs.
Phillipe is a self-proclaimed pirate and anarchist. He lives off the grid with solar panels, and lives a traditional lifestyle. Selling kelp that he dives for is his main source of income, which is apparently fairly lucrative. His house was completely destroyed in the 2010 tsunami that brought the ocean 10 m higher than normal, washing away everything. Since then he has completely rebuilt his house on the beach, so close to the ocean that a really high tide floods underneath his porch. Phillipe left a lasting impression on me, his traditional knowledge and audacity to live such a lifestyle forces you to ask questions you didn’t think to ask. I could see the appeal, as Phillipe and I looked out at the ocean and beach and he said “todos para mi”