S?bado, 26 de febrero de 2005
Hace un par de d?as nos enteramos -por la due?a del Hotel Chile-Espa?a, Adriana Padilla- del reportaje que apareci? en el diario THE AGE de Australia, efectuado por el periodista Michael Gordon que estuvo en la APEC realizada en Chile el a?o pasado. Periodista que se dio el tiempo para visitar Pichilemu durante casi una semana. Y tambi?n, para visitar el Museo de Colchagua y conocer los vinos del Valle de Colchagua y nuestra gastronom?a, seg?n lo se?ala en la nota.
Aqu? est? el reportaje -obviamente en ingl?s- que esperamos que alguien lo traduzca para los que no hablamos ni leemos ese idioma.


Hot waves, Chile waters
December 10, 2004

After covering a heated APEC leaders meeting in Santiago, The Age's national editor Michael Gordon cools off in Chile's surfers' paradise.
It is 40 minutes after the scheduled pick-up for my Chile surf adventure and I'm beginning to worry. I'm waiting in the foyer at Santiago's Inter-Continental Hotel. My duties here as a political reporter are over and I am anxious to find the water. But what is it they say about the best-laid plans?
And then Govind - a fit-looking Chilean wearing jeans, a T-shirt and thongs - emerges from the crowd of police and armed security men at the front of the hotel, spluttering heartfelt apologies.
He is sweating and stressed and soon I understand why. Govind the surfer had just been mistaken for a suspected terrorist, perhaps a suicide bomber, and accosted by over-zealous security guards.
It was the morning after last month's Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit. John Howard had left the hotel, but the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and a handful of other important foreigners had yet to check out.
When Govind came looking for me - pulling up at the back entrance of the hotel, his pick-up truck dusty from the 258-kilometre drive from the coastal town of Pichilemu - he became a person of intense interest.

Soon he was surrounded by armed men with very big dogs. The truck was searched and the machete discovered under the back seat - for "cutting wood or making a sandwich" (his explanation) - hadn't helped.
Eventually, the 38-year-old veteran waterman convinced the police that his intentions were not only lawful but patriotic: he was picking up an APEC visitor to show off the wonders of the Chilean coast.
It is another 40 minutes before Govind, who grew up in Santiago and speaks very good English, begins to relax and fill me in on the history of surfing in the Land of the Long Left. He recalls the early days when, 20 years ago, almost the whole village turned out to watch in awe as he and others surfed the wave called La Puntilla (Little Point) for the first time. Surfing had come late to these parts.
I had found Govind through the internet at www.globalsurfguides.com, which described him as "the ultimate Mr Nice Guy", a man who would share his secret spots and help you find some of the most beautiful waves in the world. And it was true.
It is lunchtime when he drops me off at the laidback and friendly Hotel Chile Espa?a - a long way from the nervous luxury of the Inter-Continental. The first impression as I walk around the town and to the beach, reinforced with each day of my stay, is that I am visiting the Chilean equivalent of Byron Bay, circa 1968.
There are obvious differences - the sand is grey/black, the waves are breaking to the left instead of the right and everyone speaks Spanish. The common denominators are the casual demeanour of the locals, the lack of development, the stunning beauty of the beach, the hilly, timbered, rural backdrop and the ridiculously low price of property.
After a siesta, Govind, whose full name is Jose Antonio Hernandez, returns and we drive the six kilometres south to Punta de Lobos, the most famous break in the area, described aptly on the wannasurf.com website as "for experienced surfers only ...
The entry to the break, as you will figure out, requires perfect timing otherwise you could be bashed against some serious rocks". So I would learn.
We pull on our wetsuits at Govind's shack and I follow as he jogs the 300 metres to the cliff top, then skips down its face with all the agility of a frisky young llama. He stretches while I catch up before we attach leg ropes and paddle across a foaming channel to the edge of two massive rocks.
The next phase is relatively easy. Climb up and negotiate the slippery surface to the outer edge, walk around the base of the two mountainous rocks and stroll through ankle-deep water to the edge of the launch pad.
Then you see it: a relatively flat, weed-covered surface about half a cricket pitch in length that leads to the jump-off spot. The trick is to wait for a set of big waves, time your jump with the arrival of the first smaller wave and paddle as fast as you can out of the impact zone.
I follow Govind, whose nickname roughly translates to "awareness" - he says it is supposed to be ironic, though his actions suggest otherwise. I make it in and soon we are surfing overhead waves with half a dozen local surfers. Paying respect to them and the ocean, I'm cautious, but one long, adrenalin-charged ride, adjusting trim to maximise speed, is enough to justify the entire trip. That and the APEC talks, of course.
Getting back on dry land is much easier: simply paddle into the bay and climb the cliff face to Govind's hut. Before we leave, I walk back to the cliff overlooking the two massive rocks and notice a cross that honours Roberto Galvez, a boyhood friend of Govind, who died trying to climb one of the rocks.
Back at Pichilemu, I am served by Ramone at an otherwise empty restaurant and enjoy a fine meal of reineta, a flat fish caught earlier in the day, served with salad and rice and a very pleasant local white wine. The cost is less than $15 and Ramone dutifully returns the next night with the remains of my half bottle.
Day two:
Keen to restore his reputation for punctuality, Govind arrives 10 minutes early to take me on a tour of the other nearby breaks. His favourite is Infiernillo (Little Hell), half a kilometre out of town. It's big but a little blown out, so we surf at La Puntilla: smaller than last night, but fun.
Before lunch I "talk" with the affable local fishermen. (Much waving of arms. I speak very little Spanish. They speak no English at all.) They are preparing their nets after hauling in the morning's catch of mainly sea bass, reineta and crabs. After a siesta, it is back to Punta de Lobos where the swell is a little smaller, around four to five feet, and the surface is like glass. With the tide a little lower, getting in is easy.
From the middle of the break, it occurs to me that the two massive rocks bear an uncanny resemblance to the heads of two gorillas who are either staring each other down or about to kiss. I decide that the mood of the gorillas reflects the disposition of the ocean.
Today they are in good spirits and so am I.
Day three:
Govind reports that the best surfing options will be this afternoon, so in the morning we set off for Santa Cruz, about an hour's drive away, to the wine district. The town is big and the main hotel, the impressive Santa Cruz Plaza, overlooks the city square and backs on to a very good museum. Here, a 20-minute video with English translation gives a thumb-nail sketch of Chile's rich and sometimes bloody history.
The cool, frost-free nights, dry, sun-drenched days and fertile soils of the region provide perfect conditions for the vineyards that make up the Colchagua Wine Route. We visit the Vina Bisquertt estate and buy an inexpensive bottle of sauvignon blanc that delivers on the promise of being "elegant, crisp and fruity on the palate".
Then it's back to Pichilemu to prepare for another assault on Punta de Lobos. The swell has picked up and entering the water is, once again, a test of ticker as well as agility. As we wait for our moment, Govind confides with a grin that he has been swept across the rocks several times. You picked a fine time to tell me, I think to myself.
Day four:
With waves up to eight feet at Punta de Lobos, Govind suggests this is the day to visit the ranch, a vast property about 90 minutes away. On the way, we pass cowboys on horseback and the odd erratic motorist. "Those cowboys only swapped their horses for cars a few years ago," he says. "They can't drive."
Further south in September, he tells me, it is possible to ski in the mountains in the morning and go surfing in the afternoon.
Well inside the ranch, we drive to the place called Puertecillo, another spectacular beach that is popular with campers and can be crowded on weekends. Today there is only one other surfer and he explains that he is wearing a helmet because he has seven exposed fractures in his skull. In broken English he adds: "If I hit my head, I die."
On the hill, behind our picnic spot, a man from Easter Island is camping and carving a huge and impressive totem pole with a hammer and a chisel.
After we enjoy the hamper packed by Govind's partner, Karla, who makes jewellery from local seeds, shells and fibres, we return to Pichilemu. A couple of hours later, I am awoken from my siesta by a very excited Govind. Punta de Lobos is on again. "Pump it up!" he says, which I suspect will be his epitaph. On the way, he announces that he has the title for my story: "The APEC Surfer". The waves are great.
Day five:
It had to happen. After making our way towards the treacherous Punta de Lobos jump-off rock, I hesitate for a second when Govind says: "Go!" It is too late to jump in and there is no time to retreat. Suddenly, helplessly, I'm sliding across the smooth surface of the rock face in a mass of white water, using my body to protect my board.
I wait while a set of maybe six big waves pounds the take-off area, then pluck the courage to jump in. Safe in the water, I count myself lucky, suffering only a few bruises, a small cut and a serious loss of confidence.
Out in the line-up, the surfers are in high spirits, oblivious to my mishap. There is lots of Spanish banter and laughter and the word "classico" punctuates almost every sentence. The waves are good, and I recover enough to enjoy them before Govind suggests a treat: a seafood banquet at the neighbouring town, where Karla's mum is one of the cooks.
When Karla hears of my mishap, she remarks how fortunate I am. A Japanese surfer recently lost all his front teeth when he was dragged across the rock-face, she says.
Back at Punta de Lobos, the waves are still pumping, but we are both spent from the morning session and lunch and decide just to watch. Govind tells his good mate Nano of my morning ordeal and Nano pats me on the shoulder, smiles, and remarks that I have now had the total experience. "We all have our scars," he says.
Tomorrow it will be time to go home and, as he drops me off, I ask Govind the plan for the morning. "Manana? Manana we surf, and surf, and surf." And we do.
Day six:
Punta de Lobos is perfect for our last surf, though the "weekend warriors" have arrived from Santiago and the break is more crowded. Today the gorillas are smiling on me and the ocean. It is glassy and big and, with the lower tide, getting in is a breeze.
Later, on the drive from Pichilemu to the airport, we pass three very large tarantulas ambling across the road and dozens of stalls selling huge, organically grown strawberries.
Govind asks me to describe my Chile experience in a word and I suggest "bello" (beautiful). "Yes", he replies, "bello and barato (beautiful and cheap)".
We chat about the area's future and Govind talks of the need to strike a balance between the development that will provide employment for those who are now in school and protection of the fragile environment.
"I love it here. It's perfection," he says, before admitting he does have a plan if the place should one day become unrecognisable. "If it becomes too crowded surfing here, I'll go down south and find a hiding place in the ocean."
FAST FACTS
Getting there: Lan Chile (Qantas co-chair) flies three times a week out of Sydney. 11,332km, fares range from $2782 return.
Globalsurfguides.com offer five, seven and 10-day packages with Govind as guide, including airport pick-up and drop-off and accommodation.
The season: The best time for weather and surf is usually October through to May. The peak season in Pichilemu is January-February.
Visas: No visa required for Chile.
Meals: Huge choice of restaurants in Pichilemu. $US20 a day would easily cover meals.
Currency: $A1 equals 452 Chilean Pesos
Other activities: Wind surfing, kite surfing, horse riding, wine tasting, shopping for handcrafts.
Publicante Pichilemunews @ 0:46
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