Thursday September 13
This should be a short journal entry, since the main point of it is to simply show some pictures of the small town of Combarbala. But who knows where the story will lead?
We stopped here for one night on our way back to Santiago. We had originally intended to spend a few more days on the journey between here and a ski resort near Santiago, and by-pass the big city until later, but we had to change plans. We must visit the US embassy in Santiago to get Lynn's passport replaced. The embassy in Santiago is the only place in the entire country of Chile that a US citizen can go to replace a passport, and we desperately hope that this will be our one and only visit (to the embassy, that is....).
Combarbala is a very small town at the southern end of a gorgeously picturesque valley. Lynn picked it out of the guidebook, since it is the best (only?) place to buy carvings made from the unique local stone called combarbalita.
"What is combarbalita?" asks the tourist brochure that was given to us at one of the souvenir shops. Then, thank-goodness, the brochure proceeds to answer its own difficult and obscure question.
"Combarbalita is a semi-precious stone made of silicon, quartz, clay, copper, and silver oxide that has beautiful colors very similar to marble which is elaborated by artisans in different workshops of the city, making marvelous and fine works."
And I thought that I was the king of horridly twisted sentences, but in fairness, English is my native language.
I included some pictures of the luxurious Hosteria Beltran just to point out that, for our family, life in Chile is not all Termas and Beach Resorts. If it weren't for the smooshy beds (these having a consistency somewhere between that of a wet sponge and a sack of mashed potatoes), the entire experience of Hosteria Beltran would have been charming and comfortable. Well, it still was charming, in-spite of those budget-lodging beds. The rooms were clean enough so that we weren't in a hurry to turn off the lights, and the hot water was pretty warm, and the dueños (owners) were accommodating, jovial, and hospitable. They opened up the garden so we could park right next to our rooms and then leave the truck in the secure interior of their own little "gated community."
La dueña of Hosteria Beltran feeds the geese, chickens, and ducks.
Our rooms and the parking lot.
The swimming pool. I wonder when it last was full. Perhaps 10 years ago? Perhaps last summer?
The Plaza de Armas of Combarbala, featuring a fountain made of... combarbalita!
Here we are walking the streets of Combarbala, shopping for little figurines and candlesticks and necklaces and various other knick-knacks made out of pretty rock. About 20 pounds of such items (some of them quite nice) cost us about $60 US, a price even I can easily tolerate for such interesting and handsome hand-crafted works of art. Now if it doesn't cost three times as much to mail it all home, this will truly have been a bargain!
Passing a warm evening listening to the barnyard comings and goings of goats, donkeys, horses, and roosters can be a pleasant change of pace for a soft-skinned urbanite. Dogs are a different matter, and very familiar to people from all sorts of communities. Combarbala has the usual collection of street dogs loitering in the in Plaza de Armas. In addition, every household has one or more large canine security guards. I don't think any of the dogs sleep indoors.
So while the roosters stopped crowing and the goats stopped bleating well before we wanted to sleep, the dogs couldn't resist punctuating the middle of the night with a few riotous outbreaks. Sooner or later, one restless guardian heard or saw something-or-other and felt obligated to perform his duty with a series of threatening barks, growls, howls, or combination of all three. Then every single dog in Combarbala had to put in his or her own bark or two on the subject. Typically, it took a good 10 minutes or more for all of them to forget what the problem was and eventually calm down. This only happened two or three, or perhaps maybe four or five times, but not at all would have been better. A few roosters crowing at 5am is far more tolerable.
I only mention all this, because as I was lying there listening to the dogs, I was thinking about how this is most surely an every-night-of-the-year experience here in this little pueblo, and as I had noticed some nicely kept houses with pretty gardens, I couldn't help imagining what it would be like to live here (with some goats and chickens and geese and ducks and a donkey and perhaps even a horse or two). The Combarbalans certainly must have learned how to tolerate interrupted sleep - or ignore the frequent false alarms ringing throughout the night. Civilizations really aren't all that different. In New York city, it's the car alarms - in Combarbala, it's the dogs.