Our good friends’ wedding took place in the mountains of Argentina last November, and it was great motivation to do the big trip to South America.
From Oahu it takes plenty of time, money, and energy to get to Mendoza. Traveling with a little guy (5 years old at the time) was interesting too. We had about $50 worth of healthy snacks in our bag, a bunch of dried fruits and crunchy health food store things. When we got into customs in Santiago, thirty hours in, I was stinky with B.O. (pakalolo armpits) and we were waiting in a long line of foreigners, 4 a.m. in the basement of this huge international airport, crunching away on our dried apples and different snacks.
Along came the dogs with their sniffing abilities, and when they honed in on us, I assumed it was from my body odor. But no. They had honed in on our dried snacks. Five hundred dollar fine to go through customs with those sorts of contraband. Yikes. The Chileans were super polite. We didn’t have to pay a fine, just toss the snacks in the trash (pay the entrance fee) and walk on through.
We got to Mendoza, Argentina later that day, and had a great stay up in the high country. A land of vineyards.
The people of Argentina were super friendly and welcoming. We had good adventures, good food, and plenty of vino.
The day before the wedding a big group of us drove an hour or two up into the Andes and had an adventure day. White water rafting, Horse back riding, Aukai got to do a zip line over the river. All good fun.
The wedding was interesting. It started with a religious ceremony in the neighborhood church. Very formal. Very Catholic. The groom spoke not a lick of Spanish and did well smiling and nodding throughout.
Afterwards we headed a bit out of town, there was a 2nd ceremony which was the ‘state’ one, and seemed more complicated than the first.
Then a very nice evening spread. Parties in Argentina don’t really begin until after 10 pm. And we didn’t get home until well after mid night. Aukai, our 5 year old son, did the best out of the thee of us in partying hard the whole time.
A few days later we headed for Chile.
My good friend Ramon wasn’t sure when exactly we were to arrive at the airport. He wasn’t even positive which day. But he waited amazingly patient just outside the international terminal and spotted us as we stepped outside.
His home is a solid 3 hour drive from Santiago. He lives just south of Pichilemu, in front of his home wave Punta de Lobos.
On the drive west he told me that there’d be some waves during our stay. An off season swell of some sort. “You have good Luck. We get to surf Lobos. Maybe good.”
Surfing wasn’t the main priority, but it sounded great to have a sneaky swell. Ramon and I have had very parallel surfing lives. Though he’s a bit more competitive, and had made surfing his livelihood, we’ve come of age in big waves side by side. We’ve had great surf sessions together over the last ten or twelve years, and our lives have been blessed with good adventures and good friends.
Our families are similar.
We pulled into his driveway and found Inti, so excited to see us. Ramon’s 3 dogs so good and happy, and Paloma, his woman, super welcoming and in tune with my woman, Noelani.
They welcomed us into their home, and were as amazing of hosts as possible.
It’s not easy to squeeze two families into tight proximities and have everything flow perfectly. The little kids, with language barriers, and both boys with strong personalities spent the whole time battling and sussing each other out. I think they’ll be good friends in ten or twelve years, but they were kind of nuts as 5 and 3 year olds.
We surfed a couple sessions and then, a few days later the real swell began to fill in. It was better than expected. We were down in Pichilemu, the women shopping, Ramon and I and the kids just hanging out, when Ramon got a couple calls saying that Lobos was getting really good. We had lunch, our excitement rising, and headed home to suit up and choose boards.
The waves were around fifteen feet. We used Waimea boards. Brand new Fletcher Chounard guns. Beautiful equipment. Ramon has top of the line Patagonia wetsuits (one of his main sponsors), we suited up and headed for the beach.
It’s not easy to describe a surf session like this. World class waves. Sunny skies. Perfect conditions. Big challenging surf… We had two skis in the water. Nono, Ramon’s main water safety, worked while we surfed. Punta de Lobos is a huge point break, and when the waves are small the current is impressive. When the waves are large the current is almost impossible to paddle against.
I’m not usually a jet ski user. They’re not really necessary on Oahu. But with the distance we were covering with each wave ridden, and the intensity of the current sliding past the point, I was overjoyed to have Nono fly to the inside and pick me up after every wave and rocket back way outside the point. It was a dream session. Big beautiful waves and a happy, light crowd.
We surfed for five hours. That’s a lot when you’re in your 30’s. A lot of adrenaline. A lot of chi.
I had surfed great waves in Chile in previous adventures, but this was my first time getting big Lobos, and according to Ramon and the locals, I got it good. Not as big as it can get. But beautiful, not bone chilling cold (November is heading into the southern hemisphere’s summer), and lovely conditions.
In Chile you can drive for days getting from one place to another. We tried not to spend too much time in the car, but we did have a great day trip south to Ukun. We went interior, just over a small mountain, and had a chance to spend some time in the warm beauty of an area of old farm houses, a giant lake, countless fruit trees, and a completely different feel from anything we’re used to. Thousands of acres of peaceful green. No pavement. Nothing of city. Just rural farm land, flowers and fruit. The type of place that is pure tranquility.
Ramon had told me years earlier of the old house and the lake, and I was impressed when I experienced it.
On Oahu it’s almost impossible to find anything close. The vastness and simplicity.