Taking on an active volcano, a new game, and some friendly locals over a week in Chile
An Unusual Chilean Game
Back in Pucon that evening, ambling home after a warming dinner, Tom and I noticed some animated locals with equally animated hand gestures lined up in a yard. Curious, we entered the front gate to discover that the locals were playing the Chilean game of rayuela, the grounds being home to their local club.
The rules of rayuela require one to toss a small metal disc down a pitch, trying to land it in a small hardened mud pit. If you land the disc on a bit of string running across the middle of the mud pit you get two points instead of one for just the mud pit. I'm not sure if rayuela players normally score to twelve but Pucon's certainly did - they'd found a couple of clock faces to keep score.
The enthusiastic locals invited the Aussie gringos to practise. The game looked pretty simple, but Tom and I struggled to get anything to land and stay anywhere near the mud pit. With the setting sun bringing a merciful end to our ignominious play, the hospitable rayuela players called it a day and invited us into the clubhouse, extending more kindness by plying us with fried chicken, bread and Chilean wine despite our utterances that we'd already eaten.
None of our hosts spoke English, and it was obvious that we didn't speak much Spanish. This was little deterrent to the group, which crowded around, very excited to talk to us, well before the wine had begun to take effect. A few basic answers to the group on what our names were and where we were from thankfully appeased most. A few others were more insistent, including a man who told me about 10 times that he'd painted the pictures on the wall, and I had to congratulate him as if I'd just heard it.
One kind man got me a chair to sit on, presumably so that I could ease up while fielding the ongoing questions. An older man promptly moved in and hovered above me, such that I had no room to move or get up. This was unfortunate, as the old man, towering above me, proceeded to mumble indecipherably while dribbling on me.
Another lively (if a little drunk) old woman who was about half Tom's height continued to pressure Tom to dance with her, to the folk music that now filled the clubhouse. We enjoyed a little dancing before saying goodbye to all 30 attendees, detaching ourselves from our warm hosts as we exited into the cold night air.
Rayeula events are probably not always this much fun, but for those that are interested, the following link provides a good short video (Spanish audio) of the game, showcasing a tournament in the northern coastal Chilean city of Iquique:
As an aside, the name of the company posting the video caught my attention - "Ciudad Extrema" which my very rudimentary Spanish tells me means something like "City Extreme" (My visit to Ciudad del Este in Paraguay wasn't a waste!). Now I don't want to be overly critical of a cool game, but the only extreme thing in that video was the first man's woollen cardigan. Wingsuit flying and base-jumping maybe haven't taken off there just yet.
After the Volcano blizzard and wine infused Rayuela Club partying of the prior day, a relaxing day was now in order, so we hopped on a bus to Termas Los Pozones (Los Pozones Hot Springs) for an unwinding soak.
There were few people around, leaving Tom and me to enjoy a soothing warm bath amidst the wooded scenery and gushing sounds of the passing Liucura River.
Finally realising that east-west travel is much more time effective than north-south travel in Chile, we managed to line up several interesting destinations all within relative proximity.
After Termas Los Pozones, the second was Valdivia, an historic town a few hours south-west, and close to the coast. This attractive riverside town was one of the most distant, but most heavily fortified towns of the Spanish empire, a town ruthlessly de-fortified by the highest magnitude earthquake ever recorded, the Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960. This catastrophic event was certainly a cause for reflection after having enjoyed the healing properties and utter relaxation that volcanic activity had brought me via my hot spring bath earlier in the day.
Valdivia was also Beatriz's home town, and as Tom had her contact details, bets were on as to which of us could impress her less with our underwhelming progress with the Spanish language.
Continue Reading: Part 3 of 3 link below