Sunday, June 14, Vicuna & Pisco, Chile
Lucia, the lovely owner of Hostal Valle Hermoso, puts on a fantastic breakfast which includes the scrumptious locally-grown avocado and papaya from the valley, as well as those famous Chilean grapes that go into producing some of the best red wine on earth. Wilson and I chat for a couple of hours over breakfast in Lucia's beautiful 100-year-old casona, built by her grandfather.
Joys of modern technology: I watch live tweet updates of Riga United Ladies, the team I coach in Latvia, as they take on Daugavpils in the quarter finals of the Latvian national women's cup, 13,342 kilometres away. It is a resounding 5-0 victory. Congratulations to John Whitmore and Ieva Bidermane for guiding us into the semi finals! Special mention to Liene Vaciete too, for breaking her goal drought with two goals!
It's a low key minibus trip out to Pisco which, as the name suggests, is home to Chile's most famous pisco distilleries. The Elqui Valley is reminiscent of Morocco's Atlas Mountains while its one-horse, one-church villages are high on personality and low on stress. There's an intangible positive energy to this whole magical valley, impossible to summarise in words perhaps unless you were Gabriel Mistral, born in Vicuna and ending her distinguished life a Nobel Prize winner.
It's a road movie day as myself and Wilson chat for hours about our travel experiences and future aspirations, the Elqui Valley fulfilling the scenic backdrop to our ramblings.
Back in laid back Vicuna it's a double header of football with my favourite Copa 2011 team - Venezuela - upsetting more fancied opposition as they beat Colombia 1-0, and then Brasil overcoming Peru 2-1 in the 92nd minute of a game that without Neymar they surely would've lost. As the 20 degrees of mid-afternoon drops like a free-falling rock towards zero, I chat to some Argentine fans who are as ever greatly disappointed by the under achievements of their super talented squad. A good result against Uruguay next week, I tell them, and they can finally start believing.
The night ends with me retiring to my bedroom after saying goodbye to my two new friends: Lucia and Wilson. Wilson has been brilliant company for 24 hours and would've made an ideal travel partner had I been travelling north tomorrow, while Lucia must rate as one of the most genuine, lovely hosts I've had in all my years of travel. It says it all about her that as I close my bedroom door, I find she has prepared breakfast and a thermos flask of coffee for my 6am start.
Sometimes travel is much more about the people than the places you go, the backdrop simply serving as a canvas for travellers to share their thoughts and tales, while enjoying new adventures with strangers.