Today we went xmas shopping. I tried to buy some combat pants, but they didn’t have any. I forgot to buy socks again, so my shopping trip was anything but successful. We met Vero’s mum, Senora Ligia, and together went to buy a few things, then we met some friends of Ligia’s – a blonde ladyl and her Argentinian husband, a man mountain with a handshake that crushed every bone in my hand. “English? Hooligan!” He bellowed, then roared with laughter. “Falklands.” I replied, in my mind. He was a nice chap though, very friendly as they all are, and he took me to an adventure shop to see if they had combat pants. They didn’t.
After shopping, we headed back to the house where we met Roddy and Grace, Grace’s son Alejandro, and Roddy and Grace’s new addition to the family, the cute 4 month old Santiago. We were all going to the Parque National El Avila today. Roddy had managed to get half a day off work for the trip, and he was going to drive. El Avila is a fantastic mountain range forming a natural east-west wall between the city and the sea. The place is home to an incredible diversity of life – howler monkeys, jaguars and mountain lions to name but a few. The last time I was here, over 2 years ago, I took the teleferico to the summit of El Avila, some 2175m high. This time, we were driving up. Such steep terrain could only be navigated by jeep, and the climb was exhilarating. We were stuck in traffic on the highway for a while, before turning down a tiny road, over a dirt track, past a military outpost, the we were in the park, and Roddy was doing a great job of navigating Vero’s jeep up and up the mountain. Grace was sat in the front with Santiago, who didn’t seem to mind the bumps and the blaring Latin music. Vero and I were in the back with Allehandro, who was shy, but warmed up later.
Vero and I wanted to stay in a Posado (a mountain lodge) for the night, and we found a suitable one eventually. It was like an old English farmhouse, with a roaring wood fire, for it was misty and cold outside. We hadn’t booked in advance, but the owner, who bore a startling resemblance to my friend Jonah, was very helpful and agreed to prepare a room for later. Grace fell in love with the place, and wanted to stay too, and begged Roddy to take a day of work. Roddy didn’t need much convincing, and so it was that we booked 2 rooms for the night, high up on the mountain, far away from the madness of the city. It was a cold, wet night, and we drove up to the top of the mountain, where a few hawker stalls were set up selling some traditional xmas food and drink, like poncho crema and an interesting wine made from raspberries, which had been brought over from Merida. We tried a few things and decided to buy a bottle of the sweet raspberry wine. We had a chocolate-filled churros, and then headed back to the posado. Latin music was blaring out of the old stone-brick country house, and people were dancing together in front of the roaring fire. We had a bottle of Chilean wine, which Jonah’s double said ‘never lets him down’ and the bottle of raspberry wine. Then we sat in front of the fire and drank and talked. It was a great evening, and I thought how nice it is that caraquenos have such a lovely escape just 30 minutes away from the city. We slept soundly and early, the crisp mountain air knocking us out and the fire now just embers. Lovely.