We spent close to a week in Valdivia. I took the micro to the coast, about 15 miles away, and explored an old fort turned museum. One of the curators was studying English and asked me to translate a number of signs and displays. I was happy that my Spanish had improved enough to do that. The old canons were beautiful, and I loved the old sandstone blocks that were quarried locally to build the barracks. They were built in the late 1700s and the bay was the site of a great naval battle between Lord Cochrane who was hired by England to defeat the Spanish and help Chile in the war of liberation. Valdivia was a great port where gold from nearby mines was exported and treasures from the far east and around the horn of the straits of Magellan were imported. It was the greatest port in South America at the time, and had 4 forts, several towers, and other defensive structures in place to take out potential enemies. The rain adds to the mystique. I spent the day translating technical military terms into English and listening to huge raindrops pelt against the roof. Later, I walked a mile or 2 along the coast road, caught another bus, and ended up at a beautiful beach with a waterfall dropping into the ocean. I spied a couple gathering slate stones and asked if they needed help. They said yes, and we collected 2 armfulls of stepping stones for their garden and walked them up the steep cliff. They offered me a ride back to Valdivia. It turns out they are financiers and live a bit south in Rio Allegre or something like that. In any case, I enjoyed their company and it was a good opportunity to practice my Spanish, both comprehension and conversation. I enjoyed the botanical garden in Valdivia, part of the Univ of Chile Austral. It is huge and hosts trees native to Valdivias forests, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, as well as familiar friends from the north like Sequoia sempivirens and Metasequoia from China. I was heartened to see my friends again, and took the opportunity to hug new tree friends from this part of the world. Trees give me such a sense of grounding and deep happiness, especially when I hug them. I also explored the arboretum and site of animal husbandry on the campus, as well as the Park Saval, a beautiful treelined park with a large lagoon and black necked swans. I loved the forest on the hill above the lagoon and walked back and forth through the trees imagining that I was in a dark forest in the depths of Eastern Europe. In any case, I enjoyed Valdivia immensely. There are seals and sea lions that wait on the pier for fish entrails from the local fish market, and kelp seaweed cakes, shellfish with lemon and cilantro, smoked fish including salmon, ahi, the local hot picante paprika like seasoning, and other delicacies. I hope to return one day.