KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Ilsa Negra, not really an island at all, was the favorite home of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. We first heard of Neruda when we watched the enchanting movie Il Postino, an Italian movie about a postman who is hired to deliver mail to the poet when he was exiled from Chile because of his political beliefs. In the movie, Neruda lives at the top of a steep bluff and the volume of mail he receives is enough to warrant the hiring of a postman for his mail alone. The climb is so strenuous on a bicycle that the postman must rest for some time each day and Neruda befriends him. The postman is in love with a village beauty, and the poet teaches him poems with which to charm his love.
Neruda built three homes in Chile, one in Santiago near the foot of the funicular lift we visited on Cerro San Cristobal, the second in Valparaiso, and the third on the coast about an hour and a half from Valparaiso. Ilsa was his favorite home. It was just a stone cabin when he purchased it in the 1950s but he built several additions to create a writing studio and to house his vast collections of ship figureheads, glass bottles, shells, and masks and nautical instruments. We were not allowed to take photographs inside the house; too bad because the figureheads were amazing. The scenery along the rocky headland was gripping, especially on the overcast day we were there. I loved the playful fish motifs along the base of some of the buildings. Each fish was different, each created using local stones collected along the beach.
We had a great lunch just before touring the Neruda museum. The drinks were so strong we got totally ‘pisco-ed’ and snoozed most of the way back to Valparaiso on the bus.