Madaru moto - motorbike adventures in South America
Day 96: There were three Germans staying in the dormitory room; last night we hatched a plan to visit the Punta Arenas Cemetery. I actually like cemeteries, because I like history, I don't find them morbid at all; the one in Punta Arenas is actually listed as a local attraction. So we three set off; on the way it started sleeting, and a stray dog followed us from the street the entire time.
Inside the well-kept cemetery there were named streets and tree-lined avenues.
There were also wall-to-wall nichos, rented spaces with just enough room to place a coffin in.
A metal ladder slid on rails to provide access to the upper levels.
Some spaces appeared to hold couples
A tombstone featuring a faceless angel
This headstone with an English epitaph is all the more pitiful when you read it marks the grave of an infant girl.
Many graves looked to have been recently visited and tidied up, probably for Mother's Day, celebrated in Chile only 6 days ago.
Which makes it all the more poignant when you see handwritten signs like the one below, which translates as Happy Mothers' Day, I Love You a Lot.
The tradition of marking the exact hour of passing - hora fatal - is common; note the hands of the clock
You can deduce what the deceased liked in their life from the ornaments in their tombs. There was one who was obviously a soccer coach, entombed with pennants and a team jersey; another who was a sailing afficianado, with model boats and a model lighthouse. I'm guessing the person inside this niche was a Guns 'n Roses fan.
Next came an unexpected but well-frequented memorial, dedicated to El Indio Desconocido - 'The Unknown Indian'. Note the statue and numerous plaques.
Click on the image below to see it in high resolution:
The votive plaques gave thanks for miracles performed and wishes fulfilled. This one gives thanks for the return of a boy who had disappeared, but was returned.
This one reads: "Thank you, little Indian, for protecting us - Ruiz- Munoz family"
While I watched, an elderly woman came, said a prayer, and left something beside the statue.
The tradition began in the 1950s, and actually involves the death of a white man and a native Patagonian, who both died in the 1940s, according to this online article.
Yet more interesting memorials lay just around the corner. This one, topped by an iron eagle, is to Admiral Graf Spee and a naval battle fought between Germany and England in 1914.
It is interesting to note the German inscription mentions Falklandinseln while the Spanish one mentions Islas Malvinas. The plaque commemorates the more than 1800 German servicemen killed in action when they attacked British coal-loading port in the Falkland Islands during the First World War; four ships were lost, 2 were captured and Admiral Spee himself was killed. More info on this all but forgotten naval battle here.
One of our group, Fabian, himself German, alongside the memorial.
Another German memorial separate to the other one
An ornate mausoleumn
This is what those trees look like when they die
That evening we had a kind of party in Patagonia House. Here are two of the Germans, Fabian and Gaby, who later went out disco-dancing with some Chileans also staying at the hostel, despite the frigid conditions, and the fact they were going to Tierra del Fuego to see the penguins early the next day. Gaby asked me to come to the disco bar but it never entered my mind - it was too cold, and I was too old!
But I did lend her my Russian hat and thick jacket.
When they came back from Tierra del Fuego the following evening they brought this 'souvenir' - nobody could tell if was as sheep, guanaco or a deer.
EEEK! Its the skull of a UPA - an Unidentified Patagonian Animal!
Its nasal cavities were interesting - maybe indicating a good sense of smell?
I took a photo of this sign, because it is a good example of a subtle translation error.
The next day was the 21st of May - and another public holiday in Chile, the Dia de las Glorias Navales, remembering an 1879 naval battle against Peru.
I will always remember it as another day waiting for my bike to be fixed - it has been 3 weeks now - and the day the snow fell and stayed on the ground. Getting out of here on a bike is looking more and more riskier with each passing day...
The main delay now with my bike was the bore: the machine shop had no cast iron of the right size. Ironically, the man who was to bore the cylinder was Miguel, who rescued me with his pick up truck, and is a shop machinist. Each day I went to the workshop to check up on progress. I needed the exercise and Ricky liked to practise his English. Here is Ricky and Luis, one of his mechanics.
They listened to a local station called Radio Futuro, ('Radio Future') but the music that station played seemed like all old 1970s and 80s songs, many of them in English, from the UK and US. I almost fell over backwards when I heard Real Life's Send Me An Angel coming out of the speakers, another surprise was Devo's Whip It. Old gringo songs live on in Patagonia!
Atwakey still waiting for a new bore.
Here is an East-European Country bike Ricky was working on with a Rotax belt-driven engine and weird exhaust muffler.
My engine was still in pieces...
While the tow-truck shop outside Ricky's workshop was doing brisk business: accidents due to ice had begun, and it seemed each day a new smashed vehicle was parked out front.
I began to worry... what if the snow and ice settles, as its surely will any day now...how will I be able to get out of Patagonia?
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Text and photos copyright © Glen David Short 2012
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