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Monday, November 27, 2006

ADVENTURES IN CHILE: ISLA NEGRA, Neruda´s refuge

SATURDAY, NOV 25, con´td

We caught an early busy Saturday morning from Cartagena to Isla Negra which is just a few miles up the coast. This is Pablo Neruda´s most extravagant house.

The house is located on a rocky headland overlooking the Pacific. The original stone buildings were erected in the late 30´s and were completed in the 1950´s. Neruda added to it bit by bit including various rooms to hold all his eccentric collections. During the junta, when Neruda was dying of cancer, the miitary stormed the house but it has been mainly preserved just as it was, intact with his marvelous collections (even more fantastical than those at La Chascona). It is exactly as it was when Neruda ad Mailde lived there, even to the place settings at the dining room table : place mats of sailing ships and one (the captains) of nautical instruments. "I am the captain and the guest are my crew," he would say. In the middle of the table is a large crystal brandy snifter still containing brandy, because Neruda lost the key to open it.

This house is also built to resemble a ship like the other two, even to the low doorways, and being so near the crashing waves of the ocean it has a realistic effect. Neruda´s impressive collection of ships figureheads decorate nearly every room as well there are masks and other wooden carvings from various places in the world. An entire room is devoted to his massive shell collection, even the tusk of a narwhal which he brought from Norway. The bedroom impressed me with its windows facing the sea and the bed at an angle so the ocean could be clearly viewed.
An interesting side note: Neruda was actually afraid of the sea and never traveled by boat unless necessary. He instead had bought a small wooden hull boat which sits on the rocks beside the house and here he would entertain his friends with drinks while viewing the sea from the shore.

Neruda and his third wife Matilde are both buried here at Isla Negra. He died in Sept 1973 and she died in 1983. Their tomb faces the ocean and is on a round stone platform surrounded by beds of flowers.

After our interesting tour of the house we caught another country bone shaking jitney bus on to the town of
San Antonio where Cecilia needed to do some business. This is Chile´s largest sea port so there were many fishig boats in the harbour, though only a couple of larger ships. We strolled along the pedestrain wharf with the townsfolk and looked over the souvenier shops. We didn´t realize it but there´s a sea lion refuge just down the quay. We browsed around the town and ate lunch at a very interesting fish cafe that was full of curios like Neruda´s house, including big portraits of Victor Jarra (the poet-singer who was murdered during the junta), Che Guevera, Pablo Neruda and Salvadore Allende.
"The owner is a Communist," Cecilia said. I had already ugess that and thought immediatly that this was the sort of place Anibal would have enjoyed.

Then we caught the bus back to Cartagena and took the friendly taxi up to Cecilía´s house.
Tomorrow we´re going to the beach, maybe to swim, though the waves look pretty daunting and it´s not quite as hot here as it is in the city.

NEXT: A DAY AT THE BEACH AND THEN BACK HOME

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