Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ramoncito y Yo

Say hello to Ramoncito. He is a 1977 Chevrolet van that somehow found his way to South America. He doesn't always work perfectly, but his motor is strong and reliable.  He has 3 manual gears that shift on the column. He thinks power steering is for sissies. His battery only lasts a few minutes with the lights on without running. His gearbox jams if you don't handle the shifter with care. Sure, he's not flawless, but his personality makes up for all his other quirks doubly.

It did not take me long to learn in Chile that, for windsurfing, it's really, really nice to have a set of wheels.  Sure. For a short trip, one could arrive and take a bus with all her gear to Matanzas and have a great chance of scoring some of the best port-tack days of their lives. But if one wants to spend a little more time exploring this country with thousands of kilometers of coastline, a vehicle can greatly facilitate.

The trouble is the cost of driving is fairly expensive in Chile. The discounted cost of renting a vehicle that can carry your gear is along the lines of $2000 a month. After that, the cost of gas is about double. If you want to go north or south, expect to pay a $5.00 toll every couple of hours. Getting around isn't cheap, unless you ride the bus. Then you are stuck at bus stations with a massive bag full of gear, hoping to hitch a ride to the beach.

But I was lucky. While in Maui I met a kitesurfer who connected me with a cousin who had this old van to rent. The price was going to be a fraction of what a normal car rental would cost. I was in luck.  As soon as I was shown a picture, I just had to drive it. When I arrived at the owner's house my excitement grew when I first saw him. I asked if he had a name. The owner grinned at me, "Ramoncito". Then Ramoncito wouldn't start.

Eventually we got him started and I set off on the nearly four hour trip to Pichilemu, sure that somewhere along the way he would just die. But that's not the case, when Ramoncito is getting to go on a trip, he's more dependable than most of the cars I've driven. Ramoncito felt like a companion as much as a car. He would help me discuss the best way to find my way when I was lost in the middle of a shady port town. When I spent a couple weeks in a town, it wasn't long before the locals would wave when they saw Ramoncito chugging down the street.

Ramoncito just has "buena onda". The loose translation for this is "good vibe", but it's a bit more versitle of a word, describing the moment, the experience, your mood and everything that's happening all at once. Whenever I parked, someone would walk by and smile at me and ask me a couple questions about my compadre.

So what is the meaning of Ramoncito? It's a nice familiar way of calling your friend named "Ramon" the nickname "little Ramon". (Some of my Chilean friends are kind enough to call me "gringuito" instead of "gringo".) I can't venture a guess as to what the name implies to a person who grew up in Chile. To me, I think Ramoncito would be that cool, older half brother who bought you beer when you were a teenager and gave you that big box of classic pornography when you graduated high school.

I returned Ramoncito to the owner yesterday and I gotta say -- I miss the dude.


Fish said...

Great story!

Any starboard tack sailing to be had there?

PeconicPuffin said...

You killed me with the ending...I was going to think of ways to get Little Ramon back to the states!

Oh well. The Legend of Ramoncito...

Catapulting Aaron said...


As far as I know the only strong winds they get in Chile during the summer on the coast are called the surazos and they come from the south. In the winter they get north winds sometimes associated with storms. People get out and sail them but I don't think with great frequency.

I'm looking forward to getting back to sail starboard tack... it's been like writing with my left hand the whole time down here.

CdnGuy said...

Oh, you guys with your preferred tacks. I haven't sailed enough waves to have a preference! Jealous.

PeconicPuffin said...

re: preferred tacks: ages ago I spent three weeks in Maui, and got my ass kicked every day except the day the wind blew Kona (port tack, which rarely happens there). I am a port tack sailor for most everything. All of a sudden I was comfortable, while people who were tearing up the waves the day before were struggling with beach starts...no kidding. An extreme example.
13 years later I still suck in the waves on starboard.

rebecca said...

nice story, aaron. sounds like a good romancito ;-)