Naomi Lindfield is the person in charge of all things Italian Skedaddle wise and she has recently returned from helping to guide our tour through the Lake District of Chile and Argentina. Here is her write-up about her time away.
So what was so special about this place?
As much as I love running biking trips in Italy and Asia I was well overdue for a visit to South America. So when I had the opportunity to help guide the Skedaddle tour through the Lake District of Chile and Argentina than runs over Christmas and New Year I jumped at the chance!
Me and Skedaddle go back some 13 years and over the years I’ve always loved seeing the photos from the trips and have learnt so much about the area from chatting to customers and guides and listening to their amazing stories.
Skedaddle group at the Lakeside
Not to mention the fact that Skedaddle came into being following Paul and Andrew’s trip across South America when they spent a good chunk of time in Chile and Argentina. I had also heard also about the legendary Luciano and the folklore that surrounds him. An Italian-Chileno character who is the support person for the tours and was my rival in Skedaddle picnic making. So many clients had come onto our trips in Italy and raved about Luciano’s picnics. How could it be? Was he really that special?
Skedaddle Chile – Ernesto, Naomi and Luciano
Ernesto, who runs the Skedaddle trips in Chile warned me about Luciano; “Once he starts talking, it is difficult to stop him!” and he was right! I had my first encounter with him in Puerto Varas, on the day we had to do the pick-up from the airport when a gentle elderly man arrived with a big minibus with a bike trailer in hot-pursuit that I was to learn later that he had proudly constructed.
Luciano & Ernesto at the airport – Check out the original branding!!
Maybe because we are both Italian, but more likely is he’s simply just a lovely, lovely chap he immediately warmed to me and I was soon hearing the ins and outs of his life with Skedaddle. By the time we were at the airport (and the journey is relatively short), he had told me all about the initial Skedaddle trips with Ian back in 2000, trips with Dan (who now runs things down in Spain for Skedaddle) and more recently Steve Woods. Poor Ernesto!! He looked at us resigned to the fact he wasn’t going to get a word in edgeways over the next two weeks and with a wry smile told us “ I think I need to learn Italian”.
Luciano always seems to be doing something, whether it’s cleaning the van, loading bikes, making things for lunch or generally just making sure everyone is having the best time possible. He has enviable energy and spice for life that belies his age and I was amazed to be told he was in his late sixties! He confessed that his wife was not keen for him to go off driving the minibus and lugging the trailer around loaded with bikes as he was past retirement age and kept telling him he should be at home helping out with grandchildren and gardening….like that is going to happen!!
Luciano and his beloved van and trailer
Luciano is a free spirit, he loves his role as support driver, loves looking after clients and loves with an unbridled passion his homeland. When he proudly brought out the original Skedaddle logo at Puerto Montt Airport to welcome the clients to Chile, it really sank in that he has been around Skedaddle for quite some time and I felt honoured to be running a trip with him and Ernesto.
Ernesto hits the trails
Over the two weeks together, we shared many stories of Skedaddle life in Chile, funny events, romances, and problems he’d managed to fix in his own inimitable way. I was touched when he confessed, that he considered Steve Woods like his own son: “Lui e’ come figlio mio, gli voglio bene a quello Steve”, he would say. Steve had spent many months out in South America running the trips with Luciano and Ernesto and a special bond had certainly developed between them. More poignant in that Luciano speaks little English and Steve’s Spanish was let’s say ‘conversational at best’. They did not need too many words to be able to work together or for Steve to spend time with Luciano’s family down in Chiloe.
Skedaddlers head to Argentina
Luciano certainly knows his way around and knows every twist and turn of the route. He and Skedaddle have been visiting most of the properties here for over a decade and he seems to know absolutely everyone and is good friends the accommodation owners. At breakfast he would say to me, “see that girl over there? I knew here when she just started working here 11 years ago.”
It was not unusual that he would stop along the way during transfers for a chat with someone from a shop or small café/restaurant, to drop off a bottle of wine as a present and he was welcomed in true Chileno style with a huge hug, slap on the back and kiss on the cheek. When shopping for supplies, he knew the best place to go and buy fruit and vegetables, and would select only the very best, being choosy if the avocados were not soft enough or the bananas not quite ripe enough.
Luciano checks out the local ‘produce’…
He and Ernesto make the perfect partnership, Ernesto’s calm and caring attention to clients with Luciano’s knowledge of places and people. About his picnics? Well, I might not be competitive on the bike but I am when it comes to my picnics and I reckon it was a tie for whose are the best, now I just need to persuade Luciano’s wife to let him come to Sardinia to sample mine and help out on one of our trips.
I did learn some great new recipes along the way including his signature guacamole with grated carrot and crushed peanuts. Now I’m not sure I can justify adding it to our Italian picnics (the avocados need to be just perfect you see and Chilean!) but they are certainly a centre-piece to Luciano’s picnics in Chile and I hope will be for many, many years to come.
One of Luciano’s magical picnic spots
My experience in Chile and Argentina was like going from one Skedaddle home to another. Ernesto and Luciano were true Skedaddle family, not only in carrying out the trip in all that it entails, but in the attention to detail they have, their caring for the customers and the professional way they go about things. Wrapped in this was a South American Skedaddleness that they have absorbed from UK guides over the years and wrapped in a Chilean friendliness that is genuinely addictive.
Luciano’s Palta for the Picnic Recipe
– Take a couple of the best avocados (paltas) in Chile, cut them in half and scoop out the soft flesh and place in bowl. Vigorously mash with a folk and squeeze the juices of two lemons onto the avocado and continue to mash. The lemons (pip and all!) will stop the avocado turning brown.
– Grate 2-3 carrots.
– Grab yourself a handful of peanuts and chop roughly.
Finally mix all the ingredients into a bowl with with a drop of olive oil plus salt and pepper to taste.
Works great as a side to a salad and is a brilliant spread in sandwiches and of course a lovely dip with nachos!!