home away from home

Meet Victor and Sylvia, our Chilean family for the day.

We had just arrived in Puerto Natales off the Transbordadora Austral Broom ferry from Puerto Yungay. The last forty hours was a collection of motoring through Patagonia fjords, peering out the windows at the unreachable Chilean coast, and napping in ferry chairs. Prior to this trip, we had just spent two weeks in Southern Patagonia cycling the Careterra Austral. Let’s just say, we were awe-inspired, but also looking for a nice place to relax and rest before we returned to Santiago for a flight home.

Somehow, in the last few hours of our ferry ride, I was connected with a gentleman on the ferry by the name of Victor. He spoke Spanish and I… imperfectly attempted to reply. We were reluctant to commit to any accommodation before we looked at anything. But by what I heard, Victor was offering a “familiar” place for us to stay when we arrived. Turns out that was the most perfect explanation he could have ever used.

We rode up to Victor and Sylvia’s modest home on the south side of town. It was a rancher-style house with a large antenna; Victor took up CB radio dispatch in his retirement.

We were welcomed with coffee, tea, cake, bread, jam and I am pretty sure if I asked for anything they would track that down too. It then became clear that we were staying with them in their family home. The living room, kitchen, and our bedrooms had photos of their children and grandchildren. The house was filled with ornaments, porcelain elephants, and Jesus figurines. An excess of clocks in various shapes and sizes were scattered throughout the walls and side tables.

We sat in their narrow sunroom off the kitchen. The walls in this room were filled with photos of other house guests. Not their trip photos, family, or decorative art; but photos of people who had stayed with them and experienced their hospitality. There were photos of families from Switzerland, Mexico, Brazil among others. Victor pulled each picture off one by one and proudly described each family’s unique story and how they ended up at their place. If that doesn’t illustrate these two’s devotion to hospitality and their immense act of friendship, I don’t know what does.

We spent the early evening at a few bars and restaurants as it had been a long time since we were in a “big city.” When we returned to our “hospedaje,” a customary term for a familiar lodging, that evening, we were surprised to find that Victor and Sylvia had prepared a whole roast chicken and a beautiful salad for dinner. This detail was clearly lost in translation. Victor sat us down on the couch, poured us tall glasses of wine, and shared more photos of his family and postcards from other places in Chile.

I am sure at this point it is no surprise, but in the morning we were welcomed with an enormous breakfast spread. It was a delicious assortment of fresh fruit, bread with melted cheese, tomatoes and sliced meat; coffee, tea and cake.

Unfortunately due to our quick itinerary, we had to say goodbye quicker than we hoped. It had only been 20 hours in Victor and Sylvia’s home, but it felt like we had known them for a lot more. We gifted them a bottle of a wine and they were completely stunned. Victor wouldn’t let us leave empty handed and he took me into their pantry and started offering bottles of oil, canned vegetables, and beans in return.

Victor and Sylvia’s approach to welcoming foreigners was not unnoticed in us. We vowed to return home and share our house with as many people as possible. If everybody could offer 1/100th of the kindness we experienced in Puerto Natales, this world would be a profoundly better place.

Victor and Sylia are without a doubt, some of thegoodpeople.