As we enter the dining area Uslar puts his fingers to his lips before we’ve time to even say good morning, and points to the lawn out front where what looks like a very stocky but small dog is grazing contentedly. This is our first sighting of a Pudu – a deer native to Patagonia. He (and I’m very much guessing that he’s a he) seemed very happy to be breakfasting here, which is a good sign as they apparently used to end up in the pot of many Chilotes. A few minutes later he’s disappeared amongst what look like giant rhubarb plants.
Amory helps us on with the kit for our mini kayaking expedition and ignoring the rain we make our way down to the river bank. Normally couples are encouraged to go out in the twin kayak, but this presents obvious communication issues in our case so we’re given one each. It’ll mean that we have to paddle twice as hard, but at least we can talk to each other, rather than relying on me trying to make arm signals, without submerging our boat. We tried that once in a Canadian canoe on the River Wye. Let’s just say, we were just about talking to each other by the time we got in the car to go home. The French couple who are camping at the bottom of the grassy slope set off ahead of us and sure enough they’re quickly out of sight, but we wanted to take our time as Uslar had said that we might see river otters if we were quiet enough. Fortunately there isn’t much wind at the moment so we keep our eyes peeled as we negotiate our way amongst the dead tree trunks. Unfortunately this then leads to a little incident where one of us manages to get their kayak stuck on top of one of these monsters. Whilst trying to stay calm and knowing full well that we’re probably being watched from the lodge, I curl my upper body around a nearby branch which is sticking up out of the water and with all my might try to shuffle the kayak into open water. This has no effect whatsoever so I start screaming for Rich to help me, anticipating that in the very near future I’m going to have to jump out and either drag the blooming kayak to shore, or leave it there and swim home. Rich is trying his damndest not to laugh but manages to free me and the kayak by pulling on the strap at the front. Oh the shame. I’m supposed to be proficient at this. Sod the otters, I’m going to look where I’m going from now on.
After paddling upstream the return trip merely involves sitting back and letting the current do all the hard work. It’s still raining, but we’ve never really noticed or minded rain when kayaking or wild swimming. We are starting to get a little chilly though so the cuppa and cake when we get back is very much appreciated, as is the hot solar shower. Water consumption is monitored closely. Fortunately we were spared being outed on a scoreboard as the software isn’t quite ready, phew! In the near future however they hope to be able to show exactly how much energy Hank (the wind turbine) generates, how much solar energy is produced, how much waste is created, how much water the well releases, how much Compostine the cat eats and so on. That way guests know exactly what sort of footprint they leave behind, and can, if they’re so inclined, make it a competition. We already know two Californians who are determined not to wash when they arrive in a few days, so that they can claim the crown.
By early afternoon the wind has really started to pick up so we take a long post-lunch nap. For me, that’s one of the best bits of going for a long walk or kayak – having tea and cake when you get in, then a hot shower and a snooze. Perfect. The weather takes a turn for the worse so the rest of the afternoon is spent reading, writing and day dreaming about having our own little cabin in Scotland. A little bolt hole in the middle of nowhere, with basic facilities but an absolutely stunning view. The landscape here at Chepu seems almost surreal. It reminds me of Norfolk, but we prefer hillier environs. There’s no doubt that Amory and Uslar have found their forever place though, and that they’re making a great success of the lodge. They’re helped in their endeavors by Alan. Originally hailing from Colombia but having spent a lot of time in the UK and elsewhere his accent is part South American, part Irish-Australian, despite him having never traveled to Ireland. Mind you, I’ve been mistaken for South African and Liverpudlian in the past. And I’m welsh.
We’re the 10th honeymoon couple to stay here so it’s decided that as Amory and Uslar got married less than a year ago that we should all celebrate over a glass of something bubbly, accompanied by one of Rich’s very tasty stir-fry’s. We’ve had to change into our thermals as it feels like we’re cooking outside even though we’re not. The dining area roof does not quite meet the walls so the biting wind cuts straight through, and the rain sounds like falling rocks hitting the ceiling. I don’t think we’ll be watching the sun set tonight.