Christmas Letter 2018
It was the night before Christmas…..
Last year as refugees from twenty-seven Canadian winters, Clive and I biked along the Carretera Austral through Patagonia. The Carretera is a 1,200km mainly gravel road. Had I known I was going to spend Christmas Eve miserably wet I would have planned better. The 23rd Dec our friend Pedro, from Rio, Clive and I pitched our tents in a wooden shelter by a lake. Just like British Columbia, rain hovered over the tree clad hills, water lapped on the shore, as we warmed ourselves by a fire. In the morning it rained. Not much was said as we packed our saddle bags and set off. After a couple of hours, the road steepened, dripping wet and weary we biked past a road workers shelter. Pablo and Annibal, student Chilean bikers popped their heads out. “Hi, it’s dry in here.” Full of smiles they looked as if they were having the best adventure ever. Fuelled up with milo powder mixed with yoghurt and their youthful exuberance, we biked on the wet ripio - gravel road - to the pass.
Tongues of snow descended from the gloom that obscured the summits. Waterfalls spilled over cliffs and snaked through the forest. We zipped our rain jackets up to our chins then hurtled down. Trembling, cold to the bone, I hugged my instant coffee and hot dogs purchased from a roadside food van. The rain trickled down my face as we biked the next 30 km of tarmac past more waterfalls and rushing rivers, breathing hard up the final uphill to the small village of Villa Amengual. I passed a hand painted sign for the Refugio Para Cicilista but we hoped to find better lodging for the night. We dripped around a small supermarcado with well stocked shelves. After knocking on several the bed and breakfasts we were disheartened to find there was no room at any inn.
Wet and close to hypothermic we headed to the Refugio. Once again Pablo and Annibal welcomed us with their big grins.
“Come in. There is a wood stove.” We entered a basic room, their bikes on one wall and mattresses on the floor. I held my wet back to warm stove.
“Come and meet the owner Inis. She lives across the hallway.”
“Hola! Make your selves at home,” she said beaming. “Yes I have hot shower. You can dry your stuff by the stove. I thought I was going to be on my own tonight. I will make a meal for you all.” Her place was so minimal I was touched by her kindness.
Clive headed back to the supermarket and returned with champagne, Chilean Merlot and snacks. Meanwhile, Lean and Manuel, Argentinian cyclists who we had met a week ago as they emerged from under their night under a bridge, joined us. We were with five cyclists, from Chile, Buenos Aires, Rio, Inis and her teenage son. Warm and dry we shared wine, laughter, chatting in Spanish and English. Wonderful aromas came from Inis’s kitchen as she and her son cooked. We sunk our teeth into juicy ribs, chicken, salads and the finest lemon meringue pie. To round off the night, Pablo played the guitar and sang Chilean folk songs.
Christmas Day after a delicious breakfast, we hugged Inis goodbye. Basking in her Chilean generosity we rode through the stunning Lago Torres Reserve with wild tall trees and snow covered peaks, our hearts full of gratitude for the true spirit of Christmas.
On our return we celebrated Clive’s 70 birthday with a family back country ski in perfect weather. Then a party. It was great that we all got together for this milestone.
The year continued with trips, canoeing down the Red Deer with Andrew and Shona in the May long weekend, hikes and backpacking here.
Clive went to Greenland with his friend Douglas, Andrea, and their son Leif. The trip was cut short when Leif had a serious problem with his one eye and had to rush back to medical care in Edinburgh via Reykjavik.
I met Clive in Scotland. I had a wonderful day with my niece and her three kids 9, 7 and 5 hiking their very first Munro – as Scottish mountains over 3000 feet are called. It was an international day with my nephew in law’s mom, Glynis and his brother, Kevin from South Africa. The kids were amazing – and romped up and down the mountain with hardly any complaints - impressive.
Then we were off to North Berwick for a beach day with my other two nieces and their 4 boys.
“I am loving this 110%” said 7 year old Lewis searching for crabs under the seaweed.
“I am 100% bored” said 5 year old Lucas. They had a great time climbing on the ancient walls of Tantallon Castle – a place of intense fighting 600 years or so ago – now surrounded with peaceful fields and looks over to the Bass Rock surrounded by swooping gannets.
After a five day sail around Mull with Douglas Anderson and time with friends, Clive and I took off to the French Pyrenees for a wee 15 day hiked. It was fantastic.
In spring Chris spent a month in Tibet on a ski trip – you can watch his adventure “Higher Truths” by Salomon TV. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hh_5xgyEtpc&feature=player_embedded&fbclid=IwAR0zv-tfjknsmlxBWfBbIstscNm7ewB7ZsbEpCyRGDfXI0oa3m65DZf3few
He followed this with 10 days trekking in Nepal then headed to Sri Lanka surf vacation. He and his girlfriend Jesse visited us in Oct on their way to the Baha. There was a big snow storm here. The roads were horrendous but they were on a mission and left with 6 inches of snow on their surf boards. Fortunately they made it to Calgary and then south where the roads improved. They looked very relaxed on their return 5 weeks later.
Shona and Andrew are enjoying living in Kimberly. She is an Environmental Officer monitoring water contaminated by the disused mine. We had some good times with them walking around their beautiful mountain town that is much quieter than this part of the world.
We plan to stay home this winter apart from a short trip in January to stay with a friend in Arizona and visit a Mexican Dentist!!
As the days shorten, the temperature drops we are enjoying the eating, skiing, skating and friendship season.