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Monday, November 27, 2006

ADVENTURES IN CHILE: CARTAGENA, A Weekend at the Coast

SATURDDAY, Nov 25/06

Last night (Friday) we caught the 6 pm bus to Cartagena, a lovely trip through the Chilean countryside to the coast. Acres of vineyards, orchards and farmland, sleek beautiful horse grazing in the fields. The highways are excellent, the bus service effient and comfortable. The country buses have the front cab shut off so you can´t bother the driver. The assistant comes through selling cold pop and at one stop a girl got on with a basket of goodies. Bus fares between towns are very cheap (about $45 return).

We got to Cartagena after about an hour and half, then waited in the town square while Cecilia got us a cab- Coming up the hill to the house she asked if we had sleeping bags and did we mind sleeping on the floor? Of course we said it ws okay, though I´ll admit I was somewhat surprised. But it turned out her house is huge, 3 bedrooms and a loft. (She´s such a tease!) The house is located high up on the hillside overlooking the San Sebastian River delta and valley with a panoramic view of the coast. You can hear the ocean from the house and the view is magnificent. We head have our own rooms. Cecilia´s is in the loft and up there she has has made an interesting retreat with a lot of curiosities and mementos she´s collected and some of her own paintings. We teased her that it is "Cecilia Neruda´s" house. It is there she has made the memorial to Anibal, with various photos of him and a little table with mementos including the small box of his ashes. I brought a white candle embedded with seashells to place on the shrine.

This is such a special time for me. I happen to rememer that several months before he learned he had cancer, Anibal told me that he was trying to get a ticket home to Chile, in particular he was planning to go to Cartagena where he said his ´family´had a house. (I know that Cecilia had urged him to come there as he could live there undisturbed because she only goes to the coast on some weekends, the she plans to retire there. Apparantly one of his brothers also had a place in the town.) Such a turn of fate that it is I who have come to Cartagena, and he never did return.

Cartagena is a small town (the part where Cecilia lives iso like a village and in fact reminded me somewhat of being up in Lala in Greece, looking down toward the sea at Karystos. The town is, as Cecilia described it ¨for the poor people¨and also for ¨the golden years people¨. It isn´t a fancy resort area and so not popular with tourists or the wealthier chileans.

The house is large, built up on stilts to take advantage of the spectacular view. Cecila said she first bought the lot ¨for cheap" and about 8 years ago started to build the main floor, later adding the loft. All around it are gardens and grape vine and there´s a large porch wrapping around so you can see the view from every side. Certainly a beautiful "refuge" and one she built and paid for herself, no help from anyone.

I am amazed by this woman, her generous loving heart, her resiliance, her strength and will'power to do all she has done. It is such a joy to know her and to think I actually did get to meet her after having read about her in the book about th exiles. (Anibal did not talk much if at all about her and only because she came to see him when he was dying did I get to meet her) We have talked a bit about their days together working in the shanty town, before the junta.
"We were young and idealistic then," she said. And they made many personal sacrfices because of it.

After our busy week sighseeing in Santiago we are looking forward to a relaxing weekend here at the Coast.

NEXT: ISLA NEGRA, NERUDA´S REFUGE

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