POINTS AND VIEWS

Standing a loved one or a friend, or even an animal before a fabulous vista is a cultural staple of the holiday snapper. For me, apart from the “I/we was/were there” element, the juxtaposing of a human and or animal before vastness simultaneously humanises and accentuates the majesty of the given panorama. Painters have been doing the same thing since the days of the great Dutch and British landscape painters of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, from Van Ruisdael to Caspar David Friedrich.

Presented here are sadly no Friedrich’s, but this set of enhanced-photos from all my years of travel do nevertheless express something of that dramatic relationship between “us” and the landscapes we move within…

Fellow Worker at Yiftach - Israel
In 1978 I was a volunteer for the summer on Kibbutz Yiftach on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. This is the view from the north east corner of the kibbutz towards Mount Herman…

Simon at Slee Head - Kerry Coast - Ireland

This dates back to the late 70’s when my old mate Simon and I drove around Cork and Kerry in his old orange Datsun. This is Simon peering over the edge at Slea Head near Dingle on the Kerry coast (famous for being the location for the movie Ryan’s Daughter)…

On Gilboa - Israel

Taken around 1981, this is the summit of Mount Gilboa. The field of boulders could seem to bear witness to the power of David’s curse in his great lament for the fallen Saul and Jonathan that nothing should ever grow upon the mountain’s slopes again…

Friend above Ein-Kerem - Jerusalem
In 1980 I spent the summer with a friend in west Jerusalem. Every day for about a fortnight we walked into the forest above Ein Kerem to draw and paint. the scent of pine needles roasting on the ancient terraced slopes was intoxicating…
Les 2 Alps Bench
One my first trips abroad with my then-girlfriend Dido was a skiing trip to Les Deux Alpes. The skiing wasn’t up to all that much but the walk into the neighbouring valley was some compensation…
Dido by San Pedro River (Chile)
Walking back to San Pedro de Atacama after visiting the pre-Inca ruins of  Pukara de Quitor – the mighty Volcan Lincancabur stands proud in the distance…
Friend Marvelling at the Atacama in Bloom (Chile)
Later during the same 1991 trip we were privileged to witness the first serious rains over the the southern Atacama desert in 40 years. The subsequent desert blooming  was regarded by some Chileans as nature celebrating the beginning of the post-Pinochet era…
Dido and Friend on Road to Santiago (Chile).jpg
Santiago’s de Chile’s curse and glory are the walls of mountains which surround it; a pollution trap on the one hand and on the other – as can be seen from this picture taken on the road back from Valparaiso – beautiful on the eye…
Coursegoule - South of France
Coursegoules in southern France…
Dido at Point Sublime - Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
We started travelling to Australia regularly from 2007 thanks to Dido’s work. Here she is at the aptly named “Point Sublime” at the edge of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales…
Dido at Cardona (Catalonia)
And here’s Dido at the castle of Cardona (now a delightful parador) in the Catalan countryside…
Dido Approaching the Small Crator
And, from some 30 years after my stay on Kibbutz Yiftach, a set of images from Israel taken in the early 2010’s. Here’s Dido again approaching the edge of one of the Negev craters…
Dido at the Great Crater - Negev
And sitting at the edge of that crater…
Timna - Negev Desert
The Wilderness of Zin…
Golan - Above the Yabock Valley
And finally, from the “biblical south” to the “biblical north” – Hereford cattle notwithstanding – looking down from the Golan Heights (biblical Bashan) towards the valley of the River Jabock, of Jacob and Esau fame.
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MY GAL’ – THE FELLOW…*

One of my most visited posts was “Before We Met” ( https://adamhalevi777.com/2014/12/23/before-we-met/ ) – a photo record of my wife Dido’s career as a professional ballerina and model. Dido was injured out of the ballet in 1985, about four years before we met, and so very sadly, I never got to see her dance.

Nevertheless, I was privileged to witness Dido as she utilised the single-minded commitment and personal discipline she learned as a classical dancer to retrain; firstly as an occupational therapist (OT) and then later as a scientist specialising in the development of children’s brains. These qualities combined with her intelligence, imagination and wit meant that ballet’s loss has been a considerable gain for countless numbers of children with a range of conditions from autism to hemiplegia.

Seasoned readers and followers of this blog may already be familiar with our trip to Chile through my series “Our Real Cartoon Adventure” (https://adamhalevi777.com/2014/12/31/chile-our-real-cartoon-adventure-part-1-of-10/ ). But, for those who are not in the know, I should explain that in that in 1991 Dido – then starting out as an OT – was awarded a generous Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to go to Chile to study the role of folk dance as a therapeutic tool to support social integration and participation for children with learning problems. As we had only been wed a few months, and as Dido would be gone for several months we decided that I would travel along, ostensibly (and actually to a significant degree) as her cameraman (still and video) and thus provide a visual record of her work.

All but one of the photos below are recreational however, and provide a happy record of our travels through that wonderful country, from Lago Chungara in the extreme north to Lago Llanquehue in the southern Lake District. What I particularly love about these pictures is the way they illustrate Dido’s adventurous spirit, her sense of fun, her incredible toughness and her beauty – inside and out. Moreover, they provide compelling evidence that there’s lots of life to be had beyond showbiz!

1-san-pedro-de-atacama
At San Pedro de Atacama
3-calama-atacama
A huge pipe-like thing outside Calama (Atacama)
4-cerro-unitas-atacama
Ballet in the Atacama
5-cerro-unitas-atacama
Glyph and Lady (Cerro Unitas – Atacama)
6-chungara
Altitude break at Chungara (alt 4517 m)
7-coquimbo
Lying down again at Coquimbo
8-la-serena
Racing the tanker…Pacific swim at La Serena
9-la-serena
Mi bella esposa neuva en La Serena
10-lago-llanquehue
Emerging from a near-freezing Lago Llanquehue
11-after-lago-llanquehue
A happy swimmer with Volcan Osorno in the background (Llanquehue – Chilean Lakes)

 

13-lago-todos-los-santos
A seriously cold Lago Todos Los Santos (Petrohue – Chilean Lakes)
15-hogar-in-santiago
At work with the kids in Santiago.

*In addition to being a Winston Churchill Fellow, Dido was recently made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts for her contributions to Neuroscience, Occupational Therapy and the Arts.

 

 

CHILE – OUR REAL CARTOON ADVENTURE (part 10 of 11)

(SEE PART 9 HERE:https://adamhalevi777.com/2015/02/16/chile-our-real-cartoon-adventure-part-8-of-11/

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A few hours following our brush with the youthful vigilantes our car broke down. The good news was that we had only just passed by a small town so the walk back for assistance wouldn’t be too long – the bad news, was that it was a Sunday and we didn’t have high expectations of finding a mechanic who would be working. As it happened, our ballet friend spoke good Spanish so Dido sent the two of us off back to town on foot while she stayed to mind the car.

The walk back to the town, including a fruitless hunt for a mechanic, took us around an hour I guess, and we were both in low spirits as we began the traipse back to Dido with the bad news. Our despair turned to puzzlement however as soon as our car came back into view. At first, we both thought that the shimmering heat-haze rising from the distant tarmac was playing tricks with our eyes: We thought we could see our car with its bonnet raised, and several motorcycles with flashing blue lights parked behind it; and then as our pace instinctively quickened and we got nearer, we thought we could make out two policemen ostentatiously directing traffic passed our car; and then (by now we had broken into a jog) we thought we could make out a line of traffic cones placed around our car. And as we got closer, and realised that our eyes were not deceiving us, our puzzlement was increased by the fact, that of Dido, there was absolutely not a trace…

When we reached the car, we passed by three parked police motorcycles, and approached the fist of the two cops directing the traffic. Our ballet friend asked him what had happened and he merely gestured with his head towards the front of the car and as we walked round we at last understood why Dido had apparently disappeared: In what remains one of the most surreal scenes of all our many weeks in Chile (which the drawing below barely does justice to) she was in fact immersed beneath the bonnet, leaning into the engine, together with a third policeman on he left and a man in bluejeans on her right.

What had apparently occurred was that twenty minutes after we left for the town, the three motorcycle cops appeared on the scene. After Dido – doing her “best blonde damsel in distress routine” – explained the problem one of them took a look under the bonnet and diagnosed a loose alternator belt. A few minutes later they hailed down a passing truck belonging to a local mechanic. Although he protested that it was his day off  and he was on his way to his mother’s for Sunday lunch they insisted that he fix our car first. He grumpily confirmed that it was the alternator belt, but that without the kit from his garage he would need two spare pairs of hands if he was to fix the problem in situ.

It seemed that, in common with their Guardia Civil Traffico cousins in Spain, the Chilean carabineros had an ethos that cars broken down on the highway must be got moving again at all costs. Hence, Dido coerced into immersing herself in car engine together with a policeman, holding on with all their combined might to a clamp, while the mechanic tightened the belt sufficiently for us to make it back to Santiago.

After many weeks in Chile we remained uncomfortable around the carabineros, and so it took a while for the fact to sink in that we owed those three cops an enormous debt of gratitude…

28 Atacama breakdown

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We met several wonderful people during our stay in Chile, and made some enduring friendships. Perhaps the most exotic and exciting person we met was Georgina Gubbins, an English-born woman with a truly international upbringing, who had ended up with Chile as her’s and her family’s primary home. Craftswoman, artist, author and  beautiful mother of three equally beautiful daughters Georgina was (and is still) one of those energetic people whose bristling enthusiasm is truly infectious, so that she has this knack of getting her friends to do things they wouldn’t normally consider in a month of Sundays.

I can’t quite recall what prompted Georgina to suggest we try going up in a glider over Santiago – bizarrely it might have had something to do with me telling her about the acute flying phobia I was suffering from at the time – but I can honestly say it was an activity which neither of us had ever before contemplated. Anyhow, one afternoon towards the end our trip, somehow, and before we knew what was going on, she had driven us to a Santiago gliding club and convinced us both to “have a go” in a powerless aircraft.

I should point out at this point, before readers get too alarmed that these were two-seater gliders, and that we were in the hands of experienced pilots. Nevertheless, as we were towed thousands of feet up into the sky by a single-engine biplane I’ve rarely felt a greater thrill.

Like most people who had only ever viewed them from terra firma I had always had two firm conceptions about gliders and gliding, both of which were dispelled the moment we were released from the towrope. Gliding is neither silent nor smooth; quite the opposite in fact! The air whistles and howls around the cockpit canopy, and the wind buffets and jolts the wings and fuselage with each and every movement of the aircraft for the entirety of the flight . So much so, that my pilot was forced to yelling at me when he wanted to point out all the gob-smacking sights and vistas beneath and around us.

Most of the flight was over Santiago’s sprawling eastern suburbs, but we also skimmed past the western edge of the neighboring Andean wall of snow-capped mountains, the tallest of which in the very far Argentinian distance was the mighty Aconcagua. Towards the end of the mini-voyage we flew over a large compound that comprised the dwelling of the retired dictator, Augosto Pinochet, and shortly after that the pilot gave me control of the glider. The picture below describes what happened next – or at least how it seemed to me at the time, when in my over-excited state I put the glider into a virtual role. Thankfully, my pilot was unfazed by my surprise maneuver  and instantly regained control to land us safely back at the gliding club.

My amateur aerobatics notwithstanding, the brief glide over the outskirts of Santiago remains a vivid and treasured memory from a trip already rich in awe-inspiring memories. Thank you Georgina!

(Readers interested in learning more about the remarkable Georgina Gubbins can visit her website here: http://www.georginagubbins.cl/)

 29 Rolling over Pinochet's house

30

So mortified was I from my disastrous jet-lag experience at the start of the trip at the  Italian restaurant  in Antofagasta, I still had misgivings about entering another such establishment  some ten weeks later. However, we’d reached that stage again where we were keen for an alternative to Chilean cooking and thus decided to chance our palettes on a highly-recommended uptown tratoria.

As things turned out the food was indeed excellent and I managed to avoid losing consciousness for the entire meal. But even if I had suffered a freak recurrence of that temporary narcolepsy I doubt very much that I would have actually fallen asleep at this particular restaurant; for this particular restaurant was “blessed” with the presence of a singing maitre d. And the singing maitre d didn’t merely sing the occasional refrain from a popular tune; he didn’t restrict himself to the odd verse from o sole mio; this was no mere gondola crooner; no, this guy fancied himself as the real, full-on, operatic deal.

The only time he stopped singing was when he had to talk to his guests, and even then he didn’t so much talk as warble in a form of recitative – whether recommending a wine or pointing out the way to the toilets.

At first, both the novelty of the experience, and the fact he did have a decent enough little tenor voice meant that we didn’t find the singing too intrusive upon our dining – which was after all, our primary reason for being at the tratoria. But after about half-an-hour it began to irk, and then it began to grate, until by the time he warbled to us the deserts of the day we were ready to throttle him – but then something much better happened.

A diner at a neighbouring table, with a far bigger and better tenor voice decided to sing back at the maitre d. The maitre d in turn, not getting the message, and not knowing when he was beaten sang back – louder! This then descended into an all out competition, culminating in the two men not so much singing at each other, but actually screaming. It ended eventually- much to the relief of everyone in the restaurant – when the maitre d’s voice finally cracked, breaking down into a pathetic croak…

30 Duel of the tenors

CHILE – OUR REAL CARTOON ADVENTURE (part 2 of 11)

(SEE PART 1 HERE: https://adamhalevi777.com/2014/12/31/chile-our-real-cartoon-adventure-part-1-of-11/)

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On our second night in Santiago we were taken out to supper by one of Dido’s contacts at Sename (Chile’s National Youth Service – responsible for the protection of the legal rights of children and adolescents, among other things). He had helped Dido plan her trip from the UK and would be her main facilitator while we were in Chile. A warm and exuberant young man as I recall and, accompanied by his equally charming fiancee, he gave us a lovely night out on the town. This was to be the first of many enjoyable dining experiences throughout our long trip, highlighted by our host’s impromptu collaboration – on vocals and percussion – with a passing guitar-playing serenader. What the performance lacked in fine harmonies and tunefulness  it more than made up for with sheer gusto and enthusiasm…

4 Accompanying the serenade

5

The next day we went to the Sename HQ in Santiago for a meeting with our host of the previous evening. The two things to bear in mind at this point in the proceedings are that Dido’s Spanish was still embryonic and we were a young European couple entering a complex devoted to issues related to parent-less children. However, neither of these two key factors prepared us for what was about to happen when we found ourselves sitting in an office opposite a smiling, affable woman who we assumed was our friend’s secretary. We must have been sitting with this kindly lady for about five minutes exchanging what we thought were pleasantries – her in pigeon English and Dido in pigeon Spanish – when the office door finally opened. But, instead of seeing our friend, a grinning nurse (at least she was wearing a nurse-type uniform) walked in holding a bonny baby boy in her outstretched arms. Before we knew or understood the mix-up in progress, Dido found herself with said bonny baby boy sitting on her lap smiling expectantly into her eyes. Then, after a moment or two we realised that we had been misdirected to the adoptions section of the building instead of our contact’s admin’ office. Eventually, our friend appeared and cleared up the confusion. But, as we left her office, the lady, asked us if we wouldn’t like the baby in any case, even suggesting that we could pick him up at the end of our stay in Chile. She was serious…

5 One to Go!

6

Dido’s first port of call was the small Atacama Desert town of San Pedro – just over 1000 miles north of Santiago. We decided to use the same mode of transport that most Chileans used then for such long journeys – the famous Tramaca coach. Being only the start of the trip we were as-yet uncertain of how our funds would hold out, so rather than travel in the relative luxury of the cama bus with their lauded 1st class aircraft seats and cocktails, and airline-style meals served by attentive stewards, we opted for the regular-seated bus. We would be traveling to San Pedro in three stages, stopping first for a day at the port of Antofagasta – a journey of twenty-five hours. Initially, apart from the stunningly beautiful landscapes we motored through, there was nothing remarkable about the coach journey itself. But then we stopped for a  driver’s rest break and it was like no driver’s rest break on any coach journey we had ever encountered before. As the doors of the coach opened a virtual caravan of peddlers and food sellers streamed onto the vehicle, offering assorted newspapers and magazines, all sorts of drinks, from fresh juices to beer and tasty things to eat. Most delicious of all were the empanadas, fried and baked – reminiscent of Cornish pasties – filled with either cheese, tuna or meat. And there were also huge, green, sweet ripe palta – known to just about everyone else in the world beyond the borders of Chile and Peru as avocado…

6 The Tramaca experience

CHILE – OUR REAL CARTOON ADVENTURE (part 1 of 11)

In November of 1991 my wife Dido won a Winston Churchill Traveling Fellowship to Chile to study the role of folk dance as a therapeutic tool for children with learning problems. Because it was going to be a long trip – about three months in all – and we had been married less than a year we decided that I would go along too. As it happened, Dido required her work with the kids to be recorded and as I had some experience with cameras she appointed me her video cameraman.

When we arrived in the country, Chile had been a democracy about the same length of time that we had been married, so this was a dramatic voyage of discovery in more ways than one. In fact, looking back on that trip now after nearly a quarter of century, I think that Dido and I agree that it remains one of the two or three most remarkable experiences of our time together.

We had decided to keep a written journal of the trip even before we left England, but within a few days of our arrival so many weird and wonderful – not to mention hysterical – things had happened to us that I decided to record the most amusing and surreal in a series of cartoons.

Presented here are those  thirty-three pictures – made literally on the hoof; on trains, on buses and even on planes as we traveled the length (there is no breadth) of one the world’s most spectacular, most beautiful and most crazy countries.

These pictures are a humorous and very affectionate record of all aspects of the then new democratic Chile through the eyes of two wide-eyed newly-weds.

In the words of Inti Illimani – “VIVA CHILE”!!

1 Arriving at Santiago Airport

When we arrived at Santiago Airport we were virtually kidnapped by a trolley porter who then took us through the red channel. When we were then searched by fearsome looking Carabineros and I couldn’t find the paperwork for the large video camera in my possession. My explanation that the camera was not new and the property of the Ealing Educational Authority failed to impress the policemen who then separated me from Dido and escorted me – with the camera – to a small room by the side of the customs hall. Once in the room they told me to sit down on a low wooden chair in the corner and to keep the camera on my lap. There was a glass window in the middle of the opposite wall through which I could see a very worried Dido still standing among all our ransacked baggage and suit cases. For about twenty minutes I was left alone with one Carabinero, who stood leaning against the door just staring at me expressionlessly. Then two more policemen entered the room and – ignoring me completely – turned on a TV fixed to a bracket suspended from the low ceiling. There was a football match on and soon all three men were totally engrossed, occasionally shouting at the screen. At first I’d been too frightened by my predicament to take much notice of the game, but as the minutes passed I realised it was an international game and one of the teams was Chile. And then, as fear turned to boredom I began to watch the match too until I finally recognised one of the Chilean players. Without thinking, at the moment I recalled his name I blurted out it out, “Ivan Zamorano!” The three jackbooted Carabineros all instantly turned to look at me with looks of amazement on their faces. Then, one of them who spoke English asked me, “Zamorano! You know him?” “Of course! He plays in Italy for Internazionale” I replied, then added, lying through my teeth, “He’s one of my favourite players. I’m a big fan!” And with that it was as if I had turned on a switch. Next thing I knew, the three men were all smiles and charm personified and I was being escorted back to Dido, with our camera and sent on our way. Who says football is just a game…2 Cerro San Cristobal above the smog - SantiagoThe first thing you noticed upon arrival in Santiago back in 1991 (I’m sure it’s improved by now) is an all pervading smell from the heavy smog, trapped over the city by the surrounding mountains. The smell was distinct and highly reminiscent of burnt cooking oil. The only way to be outside and escape the smog was to climb the famous Cerro San Cristobal hill that rises some 300 meters above the city. However, the problem with this was that the climb was steep and until one emerged from the polluted air very painful on the lungs. Still, the rewards were both clean air, and once at the top, beneath the statue of the Virgin Mary, stunning views of the Andes rising above the city like a sheer and mighty snow-capped parapet.

3 A typical Santiago bus experience

There must have been many culprits responsible for Santiago’s poor air quality back then, but I guess the greatest contribution were the hundreds (if not thousands) of small buses speeding about all over town, belching great gobs of black sooty exhaust from their tin chimneys. More daunting than their exhaust though, at least to the newly arrived foreign traveler was negotiating how to use the things. Each minibus had its own peculiar route scrawled on its side in barely legible graffiti-like writing. Then, once one had decided to gamble on a particular vehicle, and waved it down – there didn’t seem to be any official bus-stops – one had to literally leap on before the impatient driver lurched off almost immediately. On several occasions either I or Dido were too slow and ended up being dragged along the curb, holding onto the door rail for dear life.