We’d been so impressed by Sunday’s tour to the coast that our group arranged for the same guide and driver to take us on Monday to see some of the Andes mountains. We packed a picnic lunch and took off after a little after 8. My dad saw a McDonald’s on the way out of Santiago, and was voting to stop, but at that point the driver was anxious to cover some ground.
Once out of town, we began steadily climbing, driving through little towns, with huge mountains getting ever closer up ahead. Except for the cactus and the larger scale of the mountains, it looked a lot like Idaho wilderness. It was beautiful, but in a familiar way that made me realize how lucky I am to live in Idaho, where such views are normal.
With many stops for photos and a side tour through a ‘haunted’ train tunnel (during which our driver turned off his headlights and drove for a few seconds in the dark, then laughed delightedly when I screamed protest), it took until noon to reach our destination. When we reached the hot springs, it was time for a picnic, more pictures, and a soak in the hot springs.
There were about 5 different pools at the hot springs, edged with sand bags and slick with mud on the bottom of each pool. Water in the highest pool felt hot enough to scald your skin if you stayed to long, while the lowest pool left you wishing for more heat. (Click on pictures to enlarge – photos at the hot springs taken by Sandra Shirk.)
The Shirk family needed to be back at the hotel by 4:30 to get to the airport in time that evening, so our stay there was relatively short, and stops on the way back were few. When the bumpy winding roads started to get the best of my stomach, I went to an empty bench seat in the back to nap my way past the carsickness. It didn’t seem too long until we were back in Santiago, with tall buildings flying past the side window once again.
Once back at the hotel, Ann, David and Sandra finished their packing, and we said our goodbyes. Though we who were remaining were looking forward to one more day of sightseeing, it was really sad to see part of our group leaving. We’d had a lot of fun together, and the past few days had been a really nice time of getting to know each other better.
Once they were sent off in a cab to the airport, it was time to turn my thoughts toward our evening plans. For years I’ve read the blog Casual Kitchen and in the processing of comments back and forth on each others’ blogs, Daniel Koontz and I have become friends. He and his wife live near NYC, but this spring they are living in Santiago. This surprising intersection of circumstances seemed too good an opportunity to pass up, so we decided to meet while we were all in Santiago.
Our initial plan was for John and me to meet Daniel and Laura at a restaurant someplace. But by this point on the trip our group had eaten out quite a few times, and I also thought it might be fun to arrange some kind of gathering which would include our whole group and give everyone a relaxed chance to talk and visit. After talking to John about the idea, I suggested that Daniel and Laura come over to our hotel for a spaghetti dinner, which invitation they happily accepted.
On impulse we also invited Gina, Erika’s host mom. She had been so gracious when entertaining our whole group at her home on Friday that I wanted to return the favor in a small way. She also accepted our invitation, and asked if she could bring her sister in law Leni, who was visiting her from Venezuela. Fun. It was shaping up to be a real party.
John and I had gotten spaghetti fixings at the grocery store the previous evening. That was a little adventure in itself. Turns out produce and bakery items are weighed and stamped right in that department, similar to the way deli items are marked in the U.S. And tomato sauce is hard to spot–it turns out it comes in foil packaging just like CapriSun juice drinks, except bigger.
Once I got cooking Monday evening, I realized that I didn’t buy garlic. Hopefully the addition of fresh tomatoes and fresh basil (I hope it was basil!) to the tomato sauce would make up for any lack of garlic. Everything else came together beautifully. My mom and Marcia loaned dishes, silverware, and chairs from their apartments. We chopped apples, bananas and prickly pear and tossed the fruit with yogurt for a simple fruit salad. We also had fresh tomato slices, bread bought piping hot the night before at the grocery store, and ice cream in the freezer for dessert. Erika’s wedding bouquet, trimmed down and put into a pretty bowl, made a perfect centerpiece for the large glass coffee table that would serve as our dinner table.
Daniel and Laura came right on time at 8PM and were a delight: interesting, friendly, and easy to talk to. Gina and Leni showed up just before 8:30. I was immediately grateful for Daniel and Laura’s good Spanish. Neither Gina nor Leni speak much English, and none of our remaining travel group knew much Spanish.
Daniel and Laura graciously hopped between languages, making group conversation possible. I was also grateful for my mom’s assistance with last-minute things in the kitchen, which freed me up to be a part of most conversations.
Conversation was lively and thought-provoking, ranging from Chile to the benefits of international travel to frugality to our adoption story. (I may have gotten a little long-winded there!)
There was barely a lull the whole evening, and when the whole thing finally wound down it was nearly midnight. I ended the evening amazed and grateful for the people and opportunities God has brought into my life. To be visiting Chile at all was amazing. To witness the wedding of our precious girl there. To get to know Israel’s family better on this trip. To get to entertain Erika’s host mom who has taken such good care of Erika. To get a chance to meet internet friends in Chile who normally live as far away from Chile as we do. To take an international trip with John’s mom and my parents. None of it was anything I ever expected to be able to do in my life, and yet here it all was in my lap.
We were missing our kids, and were ready to go home the next day. But I was so glad for this trip.