It’s easy to forget there’s a Chile outside of Santiago. This is a city where there are monstrous edificios springing up in every street, where strikes happen almost weekly and where these days you can find almost anything. Hard as it is to believe, there is a world outside of Santiago.
And that world is Chile lindo! Have I been living in a hole the last few years? Chile is absolutely gorgeous just half an hour outside its capital. Last week we travelled to Melipilla, an old, sprawling city that climbs up the hills Coquimbo-style and that would be charming if it weren’t for the hourly traffic jams. Here we visited some truly dismal properties but at least they had fabulous views (they were in the poblacion up said hill). Unlike Batuco, Melipilla seemed to have a “quieter” pace so we liked it a lot more. I think we have decided once and for all that Lampa and Batuco – within our price range – is just not going to work.
We drove through fields of different greens interspersed with shocking displays of yellow – weeds I assume but what beautiful weeds! In New Zealand we have gorse that slices your skin open; in Chile they have weeds so bright and cheerful they blind you. What I love about Chile is that this is a country that grows, from a capital that has prospered beyond belief to a countryside that is overflowing with eggs, strawberries, fresh milk and bread. The roadsides are lined with flowers, fences are laced with creeping vines and people lunch under patios with falling grapes. Oh, and they live beside vineyards. What a life!
Lago Rapel is just two hours from Santiago and is a popular domestic holiday spot. It’s not really a lake at all but a dammed river, and a drive around is always close to the luscious river. We found a lovely property but it needed alot of work. Would you believe that the woman currently renting it pays only 30,000 pesos a month! And she lives in PARADISE I tell you! I’m starting to think that we’ve been taken for a ride in Santiago, with its extortionate prices, smoggy air and social issues. A friend of mine actually runs a farm with “happy” free-range animals and sells their products – you can find out more here.
The creme de la creme was Huique, about 20mins south of Lago Rapel This was a small town where all our familial dreams came true. It’s a small place, bigger than a pueblo but definately not a city, with one main street and lots of houses. What impressed us (besides the scenic rivers around it) was its wealth of history: this was the home of one Chile’s richest families, the Eyzaguirre’s, who had a sprawling hacienda that today still stands. There’s a large public park, a museum and a lovely, well-maintained church. Seriously, visit this place – its only half an hour from Pichelemu.
I always knew Chile was lovely but I think what surprised me was how much beauty there was so close to Santiago. I think we often forget what we have right on our doorstep and go off searching for paradise in one of Chile’s extremes, without realising the good time we can have at a fraction of the distance (and cost). The 6th region is famed for its wineries, and every town seemed to have a different Concha y Toro vineyard. Although my blog is primarily concerned with my life here in Santiago – for I am now Santiaguina – I hope that soon I can use some of my entries to share more stories from the rest of Chilito lindo.