Friday, March 13, 2009

We Left our Hearts in Chile...

Okay, now Nick has shown his true colors, and the pressure is ON to write good blog posts!! Lol, no no, I am just kidding...I am so excited that Nick has begun to write his own blogposts, because now this can really be the story of our journey, and not just my views on everything. :-)

As you know from Nick's blog, we spent last week in some Chilean wilderness...And it was such a beautiful week...

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the Ulaa caretaker, Martin. Ulaa is an organic farm, and Martin is its everything-man. He runs the farm, the log cabins that hold tourists and service workers, the kitchen, and all the other services for tourists and volunteers. He is truly a renaissance man! Check him out with his hardcore bow-and-arrow here (he was trying to hunt a wild pig for dinner...I'm not kidding!!):

Martin got us settled, and it didn't take long for us to feel at home...We stayed in the main lodge, which pretty much includes Martin's living quarters, two guest bedrooms, the dining room for tourists, and the communal kitchen. It was so, so cozy--wooden, warmed by a fire, and with a gigantic view of the lake. Oh my goodness, we felt like we had arrived in Heaven. (Immediately we began dreading leaving and plotting ways to innocently rip up our return tickets!!)

The first night we ate dinner and went to sleep, and woke up bright and early to begin a day on the farm. The day started on a bumpy ATV ride through the hills of Ulaa to the police station, where we got our passports stamped. On the way back, we grabbed berries from bushes along the dirt roads and ate them quickly while we zipped on the ATV. Martin asked Nick if he knew how to drive an ATV, and when Nick responded that he didn't, Martin said, "It is not hard, but there are secrets in the mountains." Oh my goodness...Apparently there were, because Martin steered us through some twists and turns I did not think would have been possible...

The rest of the day was spent learning the in's and out's of the farm--taking a hike, learning what grows in the garden, and picking produce for some of our meals! It was beautiful...The farm grows apples, pumpkins, onions, garlic, tomatoes, basil, lettuce, plums, blackberries, raspberries, potatoes, walnuts, and so much more...It was so exciting to pick fresh food and eat it in our meals, especially after reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. We kept saying to each other, "Barbara would be proud!"

We went to bed so tired that night, but feeling like every moment of the day was really used. It was quite a change for us from our usual bus run-around on the busy streets of Buenos Aires!

The next days brought more of the same...We picked more fruit, fed the chickens, and brushed the horse. We helped Martin make bread, and we made homemade jam from the blackberries we picked. We even took another ATV ride, this time both of us riding on the back of the same ATV, stealing holy-cow looks at each other as we sailed down hills and ducked under branches. (That really might have been my favorite part...The ATV's! Joder!!) For two of the nights there was a group of adventure fishing tourists from Spain staying at Ulaa, so we helped Martin cook and clean for the guests. It was a lot of fun!!!

But, alas, Saturday arrived, and it was time for us to depart...I have to admit, I was surprised to find our return bus tickets in one piece (I thought maybe Nick would rip them up when I wasn't looking!). So we sadly said goodbye to Ulaa and hopped into Claudio's motorboat to take us back to the Argentine border...Que lastima!!!

However, all is not lost...Ulaa is owned by the company we work for, the Enchanting Group, and it is part of our job now to recruit volunteers to go and stay and eat at Ulaa for free in exchange for help on the farm. Martin-the-renaissance-man can do a lot, but he can't do everything. He really needs help tending Ulaa's fields, so we are doing what we can to send out smoke signals and attract people to the farm. And we are going to return ourselves to Ulaa for the month of July to help Martin out in his farmwork!!!! The days will be short in July, as it will be the southern hemisphere's winter, so there will be about 6 hours of sunlight a day, which we will take advantage of (aprovechar!) by working outside. When it gets dark, we will have English classes for Martin, since he wants to learn English in order to better communicate with the anglophone tourists who come to Ulaa...It's the very least we could do in exchange for his patience with our Spanish (okay really, it's just my Spanish that requires patience!! :-) ) So we are really looking forward to July...Anyone who wants to join us, YOU ARE WANTED DESPERATELY!!!

So now we are back in BA, but we left a little bit of our hearts in Chile...Ah, alas! I have been doing some snooping of blogs in Chile to get the lowdown on this magical place, and I found one I really like. It is called La Gringuita Diaries, and it is a really great read about living in Santiago...Check it out if Chile piques your interest!!!

BUT, even though we really miss Ulaa, it is really nice to be back here in Buenos Aires because we only have a month and a half left here in the city, and we want to soak it up as much as we can...Plus, we have a very special visitor coming on Tuesday...CAITLIN CUNNINGHAM!! So aprovechar Buenos Aires we will...


Sara said...

Yay! Thanks for the link! I think I need to get to Ulaa.

Julia said...

Volunteering at Ulaa sounds great. Do you know if it's a member of WWOOF - it sounds like the same idea. I'm definitely interested!