Ovalle & the Limari Valley

In 2014 I remember a disgusting pizza, a delicious juice made of papayas and sleeping on a rockhard hostel mattress with an unimpressed baby.  Oh and I narrowly avoided being pickpocketed too, apparently.

That was three years ago.  Fast forward to 2017 and I didn´t much relish the prospect of returning to the mining town, despite this time being paid to do so.  However I am now a guidebook writer and so one must weed through the bad in order to find something good.

And in 2017´s Ovalle, there is plenty of the good stuff.

There is the Valle del Encanto, for starters, a barren valley punctuated with rock art known as petroglyphs, made most likely by the El Molle people between 200-700AD.  There are also clusters of piedras tacitas, holes in the rockbed floor (you may remember Chile has the biggest site of these at Cerro Blanco), and a cavernous opening believed to have been used for bathing.  The canyon is also home to the loica (Long-Tailed Meadowlark), liebre (the European Hare, introduced as a game animal) and the degu, an inquisitive rodent endemic to Chile, among others.


Nearby the Valle del Encanto is the Viña Tabali and the Termas de Socos thermal spring resort, and all of these are part of the Limari Valley.  This region is where the majority of Chile´s muscat grapes are grown and harvested to make pisco by the country´s largest pisqueras, Capel and Control (look out for the ¨armed guards¨ signs at the orchard entrances!). The valley is achingly beautiful, much wider than its sister valley, the Elqui, but nowhere near as touristic .  As we drove around the sharp bends beside the Embalse Recoleta and over the wide rivers, we were really struck by how few cabañas and restaurants we saw.


It is in the heart of this valley (and quite a drive so be sure to check opening times before you leave) that you will find the Monumento Nacional Pichasca, a dry reserve containing the remains of a petrified forest and more petroglyphs.

The Plaza de Armas of Ovalle is interesting enough, but the real must-see of the town is the Museo del Limari which houses a small but impressive collection of artefacts found in the local area.  The pieces date back to the Diaguitas (1000-1536AD), Las Animas (800-1000AD), el Molle (200-700AD) and the Huentelauquen (1000-5000BC).  The museum is also housed in the former railway station, one of the first in South America.


Outside the Feria Modelo there is an original carriage which is open to visit when the Feria is open.


Where We Stayed

We stayed at Ovalle Suite Hostal Boutique a new addition in Ovalle and right in the center of town just a block from the Plaza de Armas.  For clp$40,000 we had a super king bed, breakfast, wifi and the most glorious shower – there were TWO showerheads and it was divine!!



Further Afield

Stop by the Fray Jorge national park, a luscious green oddity amongst the semi-arid landscape, for a picnic or do as we did (because Fray Jorge close at 13.30) and take a break at the Laguna Conchali on the outskirts of Los Vilos. This wetland is a great place to look for birds including (for you Dad!) the Chiloe Wigeon.


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And don´t forget to try one of the famous pastries from La Ligua!

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View from the road heading towards La Serena and Ovalle

Stay tuned for the next installment chronicling our trip to El Norte Chico!  Follow me on Instagram to see my favorite photos from the road – vlog coming soon!

If you liked this then you may also like:

Santiago Railway Museum;

Photos of Chile;


Sewell and Chile´s Mines



A Story of Sewell & of Chile´s Mines

A mine like Chuquicamata is no ordinary thing – a colossal, gargantuan beast that offers no sense of scale when reduced to a single word. While backpacking around Chile in his early twenties, Ernesto´Che´ Guevara was captivated and shocked by what he saw in Chile´s arid north, a feeling which stayed with him for many years and shaped his future path. As he wrote in 1952:

¨It is a beauty without grace, imposing and glacial.  As you come close to any part of the mine, the whole landscape seems to concentrate, giving a feeling of suffocation across the plain […] Chuquicamata is essentially a great copper mountain with 20-meter-high terraces cut into its enormous sides […] it would do well not to forget the lesson taught by the graveyards of the mines, containing only a small share of the immense number of people devoured by cave-ins, the silica and the hellish climate of the mountain.¨

– The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) p. 79-81

Today, mining is the main economic activity in Chile and one which attracts considerable foreign investment. In terms of minerals, Chile is unrivaled, with more ´geological potential reserves´ than any other nation on Earth (29.2% compared to 11.4% in its closest rival, Peru). Despite falling commodity prices, copper is still Chile´s greatest export of which it has 38% of the world´s reserves.  According to the Ministry of Mining, Chile is also the leading provider of nitrate, iodine, lithium, and the third largest producer of molybdenum and the fourth largest producer of silver.

Gold in Chile

Let us pause for a minute to think about how incredible gold is. The gold that we use and wear today is not of this Earth. Gold is essentially a byproduct of neutron stars colliding to create a supernova nucleosynthesis explosion, something present in the universe when our very own solar system was formed. Gold was there when Earth began, but it melted down into the Earth´s core.  That would have been the end of our relationship with gold had it not been for a great wave of asteroids that pelted the planet about 4 billion years ago. These asteroids brought gold with them, which then became part of the crust and mantle.  This is what we mine today, and Chile is the world´s 15th biggest producer.

Gold has always been prized. The Incas in particular craved gold which they used for everything and anything – the Temple of the Sun in Cuzco was all gold, for example – and when the Incas expanded their empire into Chile one of the first things that they did was set up placer mines, looking for stream-bed (alluvial) deposits.

When the Spanish finally made their way from Peru to found Santiago in the 1500´s, they had their eyes peeled for gold.  Do you remember Pedro de Valdivia from my earlier blog? All he wanted to do was conquer the land until the Strait of Magellan, but he couldn´t do this without financing.  So he captured local Picunche cacique, Michimalonco, and demanded to know where they had been getting the gold to pay their tribute to the Incas.  He was lead to the Marga Marga river, where he found evidence of mining, and swiftly created the Spanish´s´first gold mine in Chile.  

Chilean Nitrate

The War of the Pacific, or Guerra del Pacifico, has only popped up briefly in my blogs, but I should really write about it a bit more because it was such a pivotal moment in Chile´s history.  It took place between 1879 and 1883 when Bolivia, Chile and Peru clashed over ownership of the nitrate (and other mineral) rich desert.  Chilean Nitrate is essentially a type of salt found only in the north of Chile that was in demand for a variety of purposes.  At the time of the war, the desert was technically part of Bolivia though the area was filled with numerous foreign mining companies and mainly Chilean workers.  Chile won, ushering in an era of wealth that President Jose Manuel Balmaceda was eager to use to improve the country´s public infrastructure.  However this made many people unhappy and prompted the 1891 Civil War, resulting in Balmaceda´s suicide and a time of oligarchy in Chile. After the first World War, the demand for nitrate fell dramatically when the Germans invented a form of synthetic nitrate.  Mines began closing left, right and center, leading to huge waves of migration across the nation as people began searching for new work.  Cities such as Santiago and Antofogasta swelled, people forced to lump together in shocking conditions, living on top of each other in the same property, known as  cités and conventillos. 

Sewell: A World UNESCO Site

Sewell is an abandoned mining town more than 2000m above sea level and 60km east of Rancagua. Gold and Chilean Nitrate do not factor in to its story; in fact, this tale revolves around copper.  Copper is one of those amazing metals that occur naturally in nature – you have a chance of chancing upon some if your lucky. The human body is even made of a teensy bit of copper, and it can be found in many of the things we eat.  The world´s largest underground copper mine is located near Rancagua, a labyrinth of underground tunnels inside an extinct volcano that spirals for 2300km; if laid out straight, it would reach from Arica to Chillan.  No-one knows for sure how El Teniente began but certainly the local Picunches knew a thing or two about copper, according to various sources. Back in 1905, Chile was saying yes to as much foreign investment as it could, so when the Braden Copper Company proposed the expansion of El Teniente, Chile leaped. The Company built roads, a railway and the company town of Sewell to house both the concentration plant and its workers, which at its peak in 1968 had 15,000 residents.

Photo by Yorka Abarca

I turn now to my friend Yorka, the amateur photographer with the dizzying camera collection, to fill me in with some more information (all photos are hers).

¨These people lived comfortably in the middle of nowhere. It was a fun city to live in with a pool, social club, cinema, bowling – a bit like Valparaiso but in the Andes. The museum is impressive. Inside there´s an impressive collection of copper-made antiques, from Egypt to India – it’s like wow!¨


Sewell is also known as the Ciudad de las Escaleras (City of Stairs) because, being carved into the side of the mountain, it has a unique pedestrian interior of paths and stairways that show great skill.  Life in Sewell was good, with all the facilities and infrastructure you would expect to find in a thriving town, however there were a few things that were not so great. In the early days, conditions were rough. Miners were always dying, especially children younger than 12 who were among the many workers. Many of them slept inside the tunnels or died in accidents that could have been avoided with better training (many were country folk who did things like defrost sticks of dynamite over open flame, according to Company accounts).  Initially, until 1920, people were paid with fichas, special chips that worked only in the company store. In 1919 the entire population of Sewell striked and refused to work until their needs were met, their working day was decreased to 8 hours and their unions recognized.


A type of apartheid also existed in the town, with the wealthier expats from the United States (who had high ranking jobs and did not work as miners) living separated from the Chileans who they were told not to socialize with. The workers were also expected to be completely dry as all alcohol was strictly prohibited although this didn´t stop the ´guachucheros´ from piling their donkeys high with liquor and traversing to Sewell from the Cajon del Maipo. People were also unhappy about the fact that they could never buy their houses because they were always going to be owned by the Company.   Sadly, in 1945, El Teniente suffered the worst mining accident in Chile´s history, known as El Humo, when a fire trapped workers and killed 355 people, who died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Inside one of the houses.  Photo by Yorka Abarca.

Sewell was abandoned during the 1970´s when it became more efficient for people to live in Rancagua. Both Sewell and El Teniente passed to Chilean ownership in 1971. Sewell began to be demolished, taking the total buildings down from 100 to 38. until it was decided to preserve the site as a national monument.  It was declared a UNESCO spot in 2006.


Los 33

It is worth closing this chapter on Chile´s mines and minerals with a brief look at an occasion that was broadcast around the world.  In 2010 Chile appeared on my local news in New Zealand when a cave in the San Jose gold-copper mine, near Copiapo (in Chile´s Norte Chico region), had collapsed, trapping 33 men a startling 700m underground.  Seventeen days later, a handwritten note saying ¨Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33¨ was pulled attached to a drill bit, sent down exploratory boreholes by Codelco, the state-owned mining company that took over rescue duty from the mine´s owner, San Esteban Mining Company. The latter had had issues before. Over a period of twelve years, the mine had received various fines for being geographically unstable, suffered various accidents and even 8 deaths in the lead up to the 2010 events.

The whole world – some one billion people in fact – watched a miracle unfold on their tv screens.  On 13 October 2010, 69 days after the collapse, each man was rescued from their dark vigil below, relieved from the depths thanks to a specially designed capsule.  It was a rescue that saw three drilling teams, NASA, the Chilean government and twelve corporations from around the world work together to a tune of US$20 million, money put forth by San Esteban, the Chilean government and private benefactors. Amazingly, all 33 men were alive and their tearful reunions with their family (and sunshine) was recorded for the whole world to see.

During their time in the belly of the Earth, the miners rationed the food and water that was stocked in the mine, fiercely.  One teaspoon of canned fish, two cookies and some water were all that they had to initially live on, dispensed by Mario Sepulveda, who became the group´s unofficial leader during confinement.  After their supplies ran out, they turned to the industrial water used for cleaning and scavenged through rubbish bins, all the while listening – and praying – for rescue.

Much has been made of the love triangle between miner Yonni Barrios, his wife Marta Salinas, and his mistress Susana Valenzuela.  While running a grocery store with his wife ten years before, Barrios had met Valenzuela and begun an affair. Salinas found out and swiftly kicked him out, though they never officially divorced (which seems to be common in Chile despite divorce now being legal).  Fast forward to the 2010 accident when Barrios told rescue staff to deal with his mistress rather than his wife. Huge drama ensued, and Valenzuela was banned from Camp Hope, the makeshift encampment where loved ones would communicate with the miners. When Barrios emerged from the capsule, he was embraced by Valenzuela despite asking for his wife to also be present (she refused).  The pair still live together today, in a poblacion in Copiapo.

If this sounds like it could make a good movie, you would be right.  Los 33 is a collaboration between Chile and the USA that premiered in 2015 and stars Antonio Banderas and Juliette Binoche (I´ve not seen it yet!).

Shockingly, no charges were laid against San Esteban Mining Company when investigation concluded in 2013.The miners have not received compensation and many of them suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome; Barrios in particular also suffers from a lung condition called silicosis.

The Nitty Gritty

The official page for Sewell is here.

Only select tour operators can visit Sewell. Here is the TripAdvisor link where you can make your own mind up.  Yorka visited the town with Circulo Patrimonial and had a great experience.

Read: Mira Tu published by Felicidad/Aplaplac/Heuders based on the TV series (available in all good bookstores as its a popular book).

If you liked this, have a look at:

The Stories Behind Santiago Place Names

5 More Names You´ll Recognize in Chile

The Original People of Cerro Blanco

20 Things You Didn´t Know About Chile

The Original People of Tierra del Fuego




Quintessence Alpaca Farm

The gate of this farm is colossal – and no wonder, considering that inside is one of the world´s leading alpaca farms.  In front, there are alfalfa fields as far as the eye can see, right up to the looming hills that characterize so much of Chile.  On the day we visited, these fields were being harvested for the alpacas to eat, the tractors rolling over the proud grasses with a gentle hum.



Upon entering the farm, it is clear that the alpaca is the star. You see them straight away, dainty heads upon tall necks peering over the low fences that corral them in to their paddocks and stables, their eyes alert and docile beneath lustrous lashes. Maria Herlinda de la Garza is the operator of the farm, first pulled into the alpaca world by her then-employer, grocery store mogul, Charlie Fitzmorris, who owned an alpaca farm in Chile and wanted to export to the United States.  After his death, Maria decided to continue working with alpacas because, as she writes on the website, ¨I had fallen in love with Alpacas and their amazing fiber … Their fleece has become my passion¨.


Quintessence was the result, a success by all definitions of the word, that today exports to some 15 countries around the globe.  They have bred some of the finest animals in the world, and have processed their fibres down to a shocking 12.5 microns, a measurement that is incredibly fine.


According to their website, Quintessence aims to ¨to create a social responsible  and sustainable company that will safe guard the environment while creating community jobs among local women and men of great skill and experience in this sector of the industry.¨

A tour of the farm can be in English or Spanish, and takes you around the entire grounds including the mill, culminating in the store which contains clothes, accessories and wool processed and created on the farm.


What IS an alpaca?

There are two breeds of this South American camelid that closely resemble their more familiar – and larger – cousin, the llama. Unlike the llama, they were never domesticated to do heavy duty as a beast of burden but instead have always prized for their fibre, which comes in an astonishing 52 natural colors (as classified in Peru) and their meat. Their fibre (it is not called wool) contains no lanolin and is famed for its soft and luxurious quality that is somewhat akin to hair. The process for obtaining the fibre is similar to getting sheep wool, and the animals are sheared each spring; adults produce between 1420-2550 grams of fine quality fibre and then around 1420–2840 grams of second and third quality fibre.  After being shorn, the fibre is selected due to its color, size and quality, then all its impurities are removed.  It is then washed, spun and dyed with cochinilla, or natural dye.  Interestingly, alpacas never overgraze, and consume around 75% less food and water each day than cows and horses.  They also traditionally live side by side with the Quechua and Aymara people, and this co-dependence is said to be one of perfect balance.


Why farm alpacas? Because the fibre is …

Warm, thanks to microscopic air particles that provide insulation suitable for all weather because it breathes.

Light, thanks again to those microscopic air particles.

Strong, because the alpaca is accustomed to living in an extreme environment (the Andes mountains) and this passes over into its fleece, making it last longer than most other fabrics like wool, cashmere and silk.

Luxurious in texture, a product of its environment, that is soft and comforting. Amazingly, the alpaca fibre can be processed without any chemicals.


The Nitty Gritty

Website and blog here


Parcela 14 La Estancilla, Casilla 73,

Llay Llay  V Región Chile

Cel: +56 9 934 57300

Cel2: +56 9 836 11715

Tours: Miles & Smiles Chile (us!) offer private tours in English or Spanish to Quintessence that can be combined with either Olmue or La Campana National Park. Visit our website here.


Despite Santiago being such a big city, it is fairly easy to escape and find yourself a sliver of nature for the day.  Some ideas:

Santuario de la Naturaleza

Aguas San Ramon (Parque Cordillera)

Rio Clarillo 

Lago Rapel

Lago Peñuelas

La Campana National Park, the place where you can find yourself walking beneath endangered Chilean Palms, rustling some 40m above like tantalizing dinosaur food, each one hundreds of years old (and my personal favorite).

5 (more) Names You´ll Recognize if you Live in Chile

Due to the popularity of the initial 5 Names article, I decided to follow up with a few more recent entries which you are bound to recognize if you spend some time in Chile.  The following are snapshots of cultural icons that have made an important impact upon the country and its national identity.   

Gabriela Mistral  (1889-1957)

Gabriela Mistral was born Lucila de María Godoy Alcayaga in 1889 in Vicuña, a small settlement in the Elqui Valley, and was the daughter of a teacher and dressmaker. She became passionate about encouraging the educational development of children and so became a teacher, becoming first a teaching assistant at the age of 15. Her early poems were born after starting at the Escuela Normal de Preceptoras de La Serena, where she became heavily discouraged by the rigidity of the conservative system.  In 1910 she headed to Santiago to teach at the Escuela de Barranca before passing special exams that led her to traveling different schools across Chile, including to Temuco, where she met Pablo Neruda (and who famously introduced her to Russian literature). Between August 1904 and September 1910, the local press of the La Serena area began publishing her poetry; in 1909 Mistral´s romance with Romerlio Ureta ended when he committed suicide and this affected her so much that she began to write about life and death in a way unique to previous Latin American entries.  Her poems honoring the dead, Sonetos de la muerte (1914), made her particularly famous in Latin America, but it was in 1922 that the collection Desolación [Despair] was published, to great international accolade. Mistral played an important role on the international stage, and was involved in the League of Nations, received multiple honorary degrees, was in cultural societies of various countries (such as the United States), and she taught Spanish Literature at numerous universities outside of Chile.  Mistral was the first Latin American recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1945.

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Pablo Neruda was born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto in Parral, in the region of Maule. His father worked for the railway and his mother was a teacher, although she died not long after Neruda was born. He was raised in the southern city of Temuco, and as a youth he met Gabriela Mistral, who was at the time the principal of a secondary school for girls.  In 1920 he began writing for ¨Selva Austral¨, a literary journal, under the pen name Pablo Neruda, a name he chose to honor the Czech poet, Jan Neruda (1834-1891). In 1924 he published his most lauded work, Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada.  In addition to writing, Neruda studied French and Pedagogy at the Universidad de Chile, and between 1927-1935 he traveled to various countries overseeing honorary consulships for the Chilean government. During this time he published a surreal collection of poems, Residencia en la tierra (1933), which elevated him internationally.  In 1950, while he was living in Mexico, he published Canto General, which spoke about the entirety of South America and its people. In 1943 Neruda came back to Chile to live, and in 1945 he joined the Communist Party; in 1947 his protests placed him in sufficient danger that he had to go into hiding until 1949, when he left Chile. His work titled Las Uvas y el Viento (1954) is considered to be a diary of his political activities during his exile.

In 1950, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, awarded ¨for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent’s destiny and dreams”.

Violeta Parra (1917-1967)

Violeta Parra is someone that I studied during my university years and someone that I personally admire the work of.  Born in San Carlos near Chillan, Parra began singing with her sister at the age of 17, before being sent to school in Santiago. She married in 1938 and the influence of her husband, Luis Cereceda, led her to becoming involved in the socialist movement of the time. In 1949, she married Luis Arce and toured Argentina with her family playing music in circuses. In 1952 Parra began to compose her own songs based upon traditional folk music, and later started to teach music at various universities around Chile. Her music began to be published which made her very popular, and she met Pablo Neruda, who in 1970 dedicated the poem¨Elegia para Cantar¨ to her. Parra´s popularity grew and she was invited to Poland to participate in an international festival, prompting her to move to Paris to perform in nightclubs. Over the years, Parra lived, traveled and worked in various places, and in 1962 she started a relationship with a flautist from Belgium called Gilbert Favre. In 1965 she returned to live in Chile, set up her own peña (community center for the arts and political activism) in La Reina and suffered through the demise of her relationship with Favre, who moved to Bolivia, prompting the song Run Run Se Fue Pal Norte.

Her most famous song, Gracias a la Vida, was written after her relationship with Favre ended. It was released on her final album, Las Últimas Composiciones (1966), and is considered by many to be a suicide note.  Violeta Parra shot herself in the head in 1967, leaving behind an extensive legacy of not only artwork but art work too, as you can see in the Museo Violeta Parra.

Victor Jara (1932-1973)

Victor Jara was born in Lonquen to a poor family and worked from a young age. He was raised by his mother, who was a self-taught singer, guitar and piano player, after his father left to find work and never returned.  She died when Jara was 15 at which time he began to study accounting and later to become a priest before leaving to enter the military.  After a few years, he began to study theatre which led him to meet Violeta Parra, who inspired him to explore Chilean folk music with the group Cuncumen.  His first album was released in 1966, Canto a lo humano, and by 1970 he was working full-time as a musician.

After visiting Cuba and the Soviet Union in the 1960´s, Jara joined the Communist Party of Chile and began using his music to address the political situation of the time.  He backed Salvador Allende, organized cultural events in support of the Socialist government, and later became a teacher at what is now called the Universidad de Santiago.

On September 11 1973, Allende died during the coup d´etat led by Augusto Pinochet, and Jara sought refuge in the university. The next day he was taken prisoner alongside thousands of other people who were believed to be involved with the left, and held in National Stadium.  Victor Jara was tortured, had his hands broken and told to play the guitar and then shot in the head, his body struck by over 40 bullets.  His body was placed at the entrance to the stadium beside others who had been murdered; civil servants found him and alerted his wife Joan who held a brief secret burial before fleeing the country.  His murderers were eventually charged, some 42 years later.

Jorge Gonzalez (1964 – )

Jorge Gonzalez was the lead vocalist, bassist and song writer of the Chilean band, Los Prisoneros.  The band formed in 1979 in the Santiago suburb of San Miguel, and today are considered as one of Chile´s most influential musical exports in Latin America. The band formed while still in high school and were signed to EMI Records in 1985, and mixed a variety of styles to form New Chilean Pop, a marked difference from the earlier folk-inspired music that was popular. Their songs were controversial to say the least, and criticized everything from societal attitudes (as you can see in the link below) to politics.

The band has broken up and reformed various times; in 1989 band member Claudia Narea found love letters from Gonzalez (who was married) to his wife, and not long after Gonzalez attempted to commit suicide. The band (going through multiple member changes) definitively broke up in 2006, and Gonzalez has rejected and received various offers at a solo career, and formed the now-disbanded Los Updates with his wife in 2006.

More Information

Visit the Museo Violeta Parra to see a collection of her works, including the original manuscript of Gracias a la Vida.

Violeta Para´s former guitar and manuscript

Visit the Museo de la Memoria to learn more about Chile´s dictatorship.

Visit the Museo a Cielo Abierto, which Jorge Gonzalez was involved in and which includes a mural of Los Prisoneros.


If you liked this, have a look at:

20 Things You Didn´t Know About Chile

Chile in Photos

An Introduction to Musica Latina

Paranormal Chile Top 7

10 Common Misconceptions About Chile

The People of Tierra del Fuego


Autumn Giveaway!!

25 Things Every Mama in Chile Should Do

I was recently gifted a bar of Obolo Chocolate (blog coming soon!). I took the kids to bed, had a steamy shower (with my favorite product ever – see below), put on some fresh pajamas then sat down and took my time eating it. Each bite was delicious and for a split chocolate-y second, I felt myself completely relax – in other words I mellowed and the mellowing was glorious. I aim to reach this ¨mellow point¨ every week because I believe it is so important to never forget that, although we are mothers, we are still women with our own needs, dreams, fears and wants. What follows is my list of recommendations to get you smiling, enjoying Chile or helping another to feel happy.

25 Things Mamas in Chile Should Do

  1. Tell one person about the amazing work of Adopta Perro Santiago. Originally started by Suzie Beaven but now continued by Helen and a team of volunteers, they rescue and care for Santiago street dogs before finding them their forever-home. Santiago (and much of Chile) has a real issue with dogs living on the streets, often abandoned and in need of urgent care. To battle this, there has been a movement away from buying dogs in favor of adoption but there is still some way to go. In fact, our own dog Luna was previously homeless (read her story here).  The team at Adopta Perro are currently rebuilding their dog shelter after recently losing their land, and currently house their dogs in either temporary foster homes or in dog shelters that they pay for out of pocket. Add them on Facebook to see their current work or send a PM to see how you can help.


Meet Sweetie. She is called that because she is super friendly. She is about 2 and needs a family to love.
Meet Jack. He is 18 months old and ready for cuddles!


Meet Charlie Browne.  He´s about 4 and is looking for a home

2. Go on a date night! And it really needs to be at night, underneath the stars, so that you feel like a grown up, and you absolutely must wear that [clothes item you´d forgotten]. There are so many options! Try Zully in Barrio Concha y Toro if you like your table strewn with rose petals; visit Como Agua para Chocolate in Bellavista if you want food to be your aphrodisiac; or stop at Casa Luz in Barro Italia for stunningly presented dishes in a beautiful spot.

3. Invest in something that makes you feel amazing. For me that is Ro´s Argan Body Conditioner by Lush.  While I am not a fan of Rose, this product is my must-have because it smells divine and lingers on your skin long after the shower has finished, making you feel soft, moisturized and (dare I say it) oh so sexy!  For a bit of face pampering, I can´t fault their Full of Grace facial serum that smooths my skin like nothing else.

My current go-to´s by Lush (don´t say it – I know I have an addiction!)

4. Eat chocolate!! And by chocolate I mean the organic cacao delights made by Obolo, a small award-winning business started by an American expat called Mark. Cacao is really a wonder ingredient, full of magnesium, calcium, iron and antioxidants that can help stabilize your mood and lift you up when you stumble into those dark spots of your mind. But I´m sure you didn´t really need a reason, right?

5. Take your kids somewhere to get their creative juices flowing. I believe that the only reason I can write well is because I love to read and creating a love for reading is something that I think is so important for children as it nurtures so many skills while also being something calming and fun. A fellow expat who shares this belief is Danielle, and she is doing something amazing to promote kids reading in English, something called Little Readers Book Club. Take your kids along to one of the sessions but for those of you who can´t, perhaps try bringing books into your life a bit more, whether by including a story as part of the bedtime routine or by gifting books on birthdays.  For Spanish-language books, check out Pajarito de Mimbre – they really are a gift that keep giving!  Another brilliant spot for kids is the MIM (Museo Interactivo Mirador) museum, in La Granja, which is an interactive madhouse that will entertain the whole family.

6. Find something small you love in each day.  This technique really helped me after my first year in Recoleta, when it felt like all I saw was peeling paint and dog poop, and all I heard was car horns. I tried to find something small that I liked in the area around me and, after a while, all that peeling paint et al started to disappear. I started walking around noticing all the character all the houses had, how bright and colorful they were, and all the other little things I´d previously been blind to.  In fact, I wrote a blog about it – this one – and it was all the positive feedback that prompted me to go on this blogging journey!

I am now at home where I live, but I don´t always like it.  I do love that out of all the places to live in in Santiago, we live in an area with amazing history and amazing food.  Even more amazing is the spectacular work being put in by @SomosCerroBlanco to keep the culture of the pueblos originarios alive.

7. Take on the hard water battle that is destroying your hair … and win. Step 1: buy a water filter. These last about 6 months, are inexpensive to buy and make a huge difference to your water quality. Step 2: buy Godiva shampoo + conditioner.  This shampoo comes as a solid bar, which means you save on packaging, and lasts forever. It also smells divinely like jasmine and softens your hair like NO OTHER shampoo I have tried here in Chile (I have tried so many).

I tried really hard to make a ¨creative¨ photo and this epic fail is the result! On the left is my Godiva shampoo bar and on the right is the pink The Plumps solid conditioner.

8. Visit one museum for a culture hit! The Pre-Colombino Museum is amazing for anthropology buffs like me, but you might also enjoy the Fashion Museum (Museo de la Moda) in Vitacura or the Open Sky Museum (Museo a Cielo Abierto) that displays street art on the sides of apartment blocks in San Miguel.

9. Support local – support Chilean wine! Do I really need to give you a reason?! Visit Matetic to make a day of it or check out Attilio & Mochi to see what passionate winemaking looks like. Or just buy a bottle (or two) and enjoy a night in.

10. Put aside time for just you. You might like to go for a coffee or cake with a friend (try Pasteleria Lalaleeulu), but for me I like to have some time alone, to either talk with myself and make sense of the jumble that is my brain, or simply to just be in silence. My happy place is the shower; this is the place where I get all my best ideas like the plot line for my book, songs or things like Organizacion Ojos Abiertos. I love things that make me feel and smell good (hence my slight Lush obsession) and I recommend Hecho con Amor Natural, a small venture just starting out that creates handmade soaps and relaxing bathsalts.

My citrus soap from Hecho con Amor Natural

11. Order a family portrait … in watercolor! Siski makes the most fantastic paintings that you will always treasure (along with a treasure trove of other beautiful things).

12. Feed your family something that has known the touch of grass and sunlight, even if it is just every now and then (which is what we do). We buy a couple of whole chickens from Stefanie at Agricola Tinajacura and then stock up the freezer with homemade stock.

Photo: Agricola Tinajacura

13. Smile! And smile even if there is no-one else around. Smiling is so much more than just the movement of your face – it has the ability to influence your mood and make you feel good.  Have a read here.


14. Take your makeup off before you go to bed. This step is even more important when you live in a polluted city like Santiago. I recommend Weleda 2-in-1 Cleanser + Toner which is made from all natural ingredients. I also recommend Weleda Cold Cream which is much more luxurious and creamy than it sounds, and one of the best moisturizers I have ever tried.

15. Go somewhere – anywhere – and hold your partner´s hand. Doing this always makes me feel happy.


16. Take a moment to be just with your kids, without any distractions.  In our house this means either coloring pictures of Thomas the Tank, playing with Thomas the Tank, dancing to music of Thomas the Tank or making up our own Thomas the Tank songs (E is a tad into Thomas) but it really can be anything. For my work I am constantly on the computer or on my phone and its really important to me for my children to see me give them attention, just for them.  Even better if you go outside into nature.

Here we are taking some time out on Cerro Blanco, where we were learning all about the people of the Pueblos Originarios.

17. Remember that there is always someone out there who has it a little bit harder.  Read: Santiago´s Children.

18. Know about, share and perhaps get involved in the amazing efforts of Abrazame. This is a social effort run by volunteers that aims to bring love, care and opportunities to babies, children and women who have been abandoned or left orphaned. One of their many amazing objectives is to visit babies in hospitals to cuddle, play with them and give them love.  According to Abrazame, some 200 babies are orphaned  and more than children 40,000 abused each year, and more than 11,000 live in orphanages. Anyone can apply to help: fill out the form here.


19. Kit your kids out in style with handmade designs from IvL – Hecho con Amor.

20. Have patience.  They say it is a virtue.

21. Go on a day trip. My favorite place is La Campana National Park but you are in Chile – this country has everything you could want and more!  If you do head to La Campana, combine it with a visit to the Alpaca Farm at Quintessence, one of the largest and most acclaimed in the world.

22. Go on a BubDate (yes, I am still trying to make this word happen). Some recommended places where you can let your nuggets run wild while you sit serenely back with a coffee include: Coco Cafe (Providencia), Cafe Tropa (Providencia), and Gluck (Vitacura).

23. Support small and local! Click here to see my directory of providers.

24. Enter this Giveaway before you go to win a trip to Viña Aquitania. All you have to do is ¨like¨ my Facebook page to be in the draw to win.  This is my way of saying thank you to readers for continually showing support for my blog!  It will be drawn Friday 9th June and you get a double entry if you follow me on Instagram too @querida_recoleta.

essentials25. Tell someone – anyone – that you love them. Send a text, email your mum, cover your child´s face in kisses, but whatever you do do it now. and tell them to pass it on.


What would you add to this list? Please share and don´t forget to follow me to stay tuned for more blogs like this one. 

Autumn Giveaway!! (1)

5 Names You´ll Recognize If You Live In Chile

I am writing a book about Chilean history (add emoji of choice here).

Now, now – was that an inward groan I hear? You don´t actually have to be concerned because Chile has the most passionate, romantic and make-it-a-movie-now history I have ever heard.  Some of the principal characters are actually names that you will recognize if you live here or travel a bit.  So here is a brief overview that is not boring at all!

Spanish ships (Museo Historico Nacional)

Pedro de Valdivia (1500-1553)

Is a name you will surely recognize if you take the metro or venture south to the quaint university city of Valdivia.  Valdivia was from a good family in Spain who fought in various European battles as a soldier before heading to the New World where he became friends with Francisco Pizarro in Peru. In 1540 began his way south to Chile, a land barely traversed, with a handful of indigenous servants, Spanish soldiers and his mistress, Ines de Suarez.  In 1541, he officially founded the city of Santiago from atop Cerro Huelen (which is known as Santa Lucia today) but he was always looking to the south, wanting to take this area so that the Spanish had control of the Strait of Magallanes, as well as the possibility of finding gold. In 1547 Valdivia was detained and sent to Lima (Peru) to face various charges, one of those being his illicit romance with widow, Ines; Valdivia was a married Catholic man with a wife and children back home in Spain. He was pardoned but told to marry off Ines, and he did so to one of his captains, Rodrigo de Quiroga. After this he was named as Governor of Chile and returned to the country, continuing to fight the various indigenous tribes of the south. In 1553 he was captured in Tucapel and his death has been widely speculated upon. Some myths say he was tortured for many days before having his heart eaten, others say he was forced to drink molten gold, and many of them state that Valdivia was killed by his former manservant, a Mapuche boy Valdivia had kidnapped years earlier, Lautaro.

Portrait located in the Museo Historico Nacional
The Death of Valdivia (Museo Historico Nacional)

Ines de Suarez (1507-1580)

Ines de Suarez has been the subject of several books and her romance with Valdivia has been the focus of several local miniseries´.  She was born in Spain, not far from Valdivia, and some theorists believe that the pair had previously known in each other before meeting in Peru. She was born to a humble family and married a Spanish soldier, Juan de Malaga, who was sent to Peru. Tired of waiting for him and having gone a while without news, Suarez begged some priests to be allowed to go to the New World to search for him (women were not allowed to travel there alone). They agreed, and she arrived first in the Carribean before changing ships to eventually arrive in Lima in 1537. Here she learnt that Juan was dead, and was given a place to live and some indigenous servants while making a living as a seamstress. She met Valdivia and they began their relationship, and when Valdivia was sent to Chile she begged to accompany him. Valdivia had to ask permission from Francisco Pizarro, who officially took her on as domestic help. Pizarro famously wrote her a letter commending her bravery to join the expedition, which she did so as the only woman. Suarez has been recognized as finding water in the desert when the soldiers were dying of thirst, as well as uncovering plots to kill Valdivia by his own soldiers. Once in Santiago, she founded the first Church, a shrine to Montserrat upon Cerro Huechuraba (today´s Cerro Blanco) and led the Spanish to victory during the uprising of local Picunche + Inca residents, headed by the toki, Michimalonco, as Valdivia was fighting in the South. During this battle, Suarez argued to decapitate the seven caciques the Spanish held prisoner, which some were reluctant to do thinking it would be better to use them to bargain with. In the end they went with Suarez´s plan, and she famously cut the heads off herself. This demoralized Michimalonco and the battle was eventually won by the Spanish.  After being married off to Quiroga, Suarez is said to have lived a quiet life on the encomienda Valdivia gave her, respected by all for her religious piety, and she died at the age of 80, the oldest of all the original conquistadors.  Quiroga was elected mayor 3 times and eventually became Governor of Chile, placing the pair in the upper class society that eventually became established in the city.

Ines de Suarez, depicted decapitating the caciques in Santiago (Museo Historico Nacional)
The area of La Chimba (Recoleta), where religion was first introduced in Chile. This painting from Museo Historico Nacional depicts the Mapocho river at Puente Cal y Canto.
Aerial view of La Chimba today

Lautaro (1553-1557)

This is a name that many – Chilean and Mapuche – hold dear. Some may be surprised to note that this wasn´t actually his name, but the one given to him by the Spanish upon finding Leftraru hard to pronounce.  Leftraru was born in the area of Tirua, close to the Nahuelbuta mountains, and was the son of a lonko.  When he was around 11, he was captured by the Spanish – some say by Valdivia himself, who was attracted to his appearance and bravery, the idea being that one day he would return to his people and convince them to lay down their weapons. Leftraru became Valdivia´s personal servant, and it is believed that Valdivia treated him very well, teaching him all about the ways of the Spanish as well as their tactics in war.  After fighting beside Valdivia during the Battles of Andalien and Penco, Lautaro became convinced it was time to escape the Spanish and in 1550 he did so. After undertaking training, he reappeared in the history as a toki, during the Battle of Tucapel in 1553 and destroyed the settlement of Concepcion. It is here that he is said to have captured and killed Valdivia. Leftraru is credited as teaching the uniting Mapuche people about the ways and weaknesses of the Spanish, and began to lead them towards Santiago.  However, Leftraru began to make enemies among the Mapuche, and was betrayed on the hills beside the Matequito river, who was surprised in the night and killed in the doorway of his ruka.  The poet Alonso de Ercilla, who came to Chile after this occurred, wrote about the existence of his wife Guacolda, a beautiful woman who fought at his side and who died of a broken heart after he died.

Mural beside the Mapuche Museum, Curarrehue


Like Leftraru, Caupolican suffered a name change from the Spanish: Kalfulikan was his actual name.  Kalfulikan has gone down in history due to playing an important role in the poem, La Araucana, and is one of the most famous historical figures from the Arauco War.   He became Toki in 1557 after the death of Leftraru, a role he had for one year before famously being impaled in a gory and well-publicized death meant to scare the Mapuches into finishing their resistance. In order to become chief of all the united tribes, Kalfulikan had to demonstrate his strength to the caciques, which included Colo Colo.  To do this, he famously held a thick tree trunk on his shoulders for two days and one night. According to the writer Fernando Alegria, he he had one son who was blind in one eye that his wife Fresia famously threw at his feet when he was captured,  refusing to raise the child of a man who could allow himself to be captured. Ercilla writes that Kalfulikan fought to the very end, and actually jumped upon the spike himself.

Death of Caupolican with Fresia (Museo Historico Nacional)


Colo Colo

Where I live, I hear this word every week, as it has become immortalized forever as the name of a popular local soccer team.  During the Arauco War, Colo Colo was a Mapuche Toki leading his people between 1560 until 1563.  Before being appointed, Colo Colo was a much respected warrior who is believed to have nominated Caupolican to try out for the role of Toki and presided over the council that chose him. Today he is considered to be a symbol of bravery.  The year of his time as toki as well as his death, is disputed.

Street mural, Curepto


Where To Find Out More

Visit: Museo Historico Nacional, located in the Plaza de Armas, and the original location of the first Spanish camp (believed to have once been an Incan village). There isn´t too much in the way of 16th century relics but the museum is well stocked, there are audio guides, you can visit the bell tower on certain days and there are often exhibitions.

Read: Ines of My Soul by bestselling Chilean author, Isabel Allende, or go back to the original documents recorded by Alonso de Ericilla during his two years in Chile and recorded daily during his time in 3 battles.  His epic poem, La Araucana, was composed for the King and is considered to be one of the greatest works in Spanish of all time.

What The Words Mean:

Cacique – Mapuche leaders who held a position of authority and leadership in their community; sent during war to negotiate with the Spanish

Conquistador – Spanish conquerers

Encomienda – land given by the Spanish crown with a specified number of natives working on it, whom were chosen by local indigenous leaders. Encomenderos, or the owner of the Encomienda, were meant to protect them, teach them Spanish and the Christian faith.

Lonco – community chief

Ruka – Mapuche house

Toki – Mapundungun word meaning the elected leader of the tribes during times of war. There are three types of toki: Toki, Inan Toki and finally Ñidol Toki, the commander in chief of all the united tribes.

Mapuche ceremonial mask, Curarrehue
Mapuche statue, Museo Historico Nacional

Did you like this post? Check out some of my other blogs:

20 Things You Didn´t Know About Chile

Chile in Photos

An Introduction to Musica Latina

Paranormal Chile Top 7

10 Common Misconceptions About Chile

The People of Tierra del Fuego


20 Things You Didn´t Know About Chile!

  1. Top Producer of Wine

Chile is the world´s fifth largest exporter of wine and the ninth largest producer. There are 14 different wine growing areas producing 10 million hectolitres each year – all thanks to Chile´s unique microclimate, secluded position between mountain and sea AND the ingenious of Spanish conquistadors who brought the first vines over in 1554. My favorite spots? Check out Casas del Bosque for something grandAttilio & Mochi for something special, Matetic for something fun, Emiliana for something organic, Bodegas RE for something small and Santa Rita for something close to Santiago.

2. Oldest Mummy in the World

The oldest known mummy to have been excavated was found right here in Chile´s Camarones Valley, and dates back to 5050B.C.  The mummy was a child who was part of the Chinchorro culture.

3. UNESCO Sites

Chile is blessed to have five cultural UNESCO sites that will transport you in time and blow your mind. Don´t miss the historic section of Valparaiso, the island of Chiloe (specifically the churches), Rapa Nui National Park (Easter Island), Humberstone & Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (former mine) and Sewell (former mining town).

4. 6500km of Spectacular Coastline

That makes Chile one of the world´s longest countries, which is made all the more obvious when you take into consideration that it´s also one of the narrowest at just over 200km wide. The water is frigid though, thanks to the Humboldt Current which makes its way up from Antarctica, bringing with it an incredible bounty of seafood that makes Chile famous. Close to Santiago, a good option to visit is the small fishing village of Horcon, which clings precariously to the shore.


5. Driest Place on Earth

Is the Atacama Desert, which has an average annual rainfall of 0.05mm with soil that has been compared to Mars.  In 2003, scientists published in the journal Science that there were no signs of life in the Yungay region, and as such this area has been used by NASA to test instruments for possible missions to Mars. This beautiful desert also provides one of the clearest places to view the night sky and is filled with observatories, including two major sites opereated by the European Southern Observatory.  There are also geoglyphs such as the Atacama Giant, which is the largest prehistoric anthropomorphic figure in the world at 119m high.

GuanacoChartTansy (1)
Beautiful gift and souvenir ideas by Siski Green

6. Obligatory Flag Display

Each year during Fiestas Patrias, Chile´s national holiday celebrating the country´s independence, it is compulsory to hang a Chilean flag from every public building. If not, you face a fine!

7. Fireworks Like You´ve Never Seen

South Ameria´s largest fireworks display occurs each New Years Eve in Valparaiso. In 2007, the Guinness Book of Records recorded a display of a whopping 16,000 fireworks!

8. Government UFO Research

Chile is one of the world´s few countries to boast a government supported organization researching UFO´s. In fact, the paranormal has become normal in Chile; the town of San Clemente has an 19 mile ´UFO trail´ although a sighting guarantee is slim: “In no way can we guarantee that a tourist coming to San Clemente will see a UFO” states Chile´s official tourism board, Sernatur.

9. Divorce + Abortion = Hot Topics

Divorce was legalized in 2005 and has one of the world´s lowest rates of divorce, while abortion is still illegal and a topic of debate politically. Chile is classed as a Catholic country.


10. Glass House Protest

In 2000, an actress took up residence in a temporary glass house in the center of Santiago. This provocative display was to prompt discussion about the double standards surrounding morality in Chile and to protest against cafe con piernas (below).

11. Coffee Shops + Sex

Cafe con Piernas are traditional coffee shops sparked during Chile´s dictatorship, where you order your coffee from scantily dressed women. There are various levels of nudity on display depending on where you go.

12. Robinson Crusoe Inspiration

This classic novel was inspired after Daniel Defoe read the story of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor, who was marooned on the Juan Fernandez islands for four years.

13. Really Amazing Trees

The Alerce tree, found in the south of Chile, is recorded to grow as much as 4000 years old making it one of the world´s most ancient trees.  Meanwhile, the Chilean Palm is the biggest palm species in the world but it´s also one of the rarest – check out La Campana to see amazing natural palm forests.

14. Largest Copper Reserves

Chile has the world´s largest copper reserves and is the largest exporter. It is also has the second largest reserve of lithium along with sizeable reserves of iron, silver, zinc, coal, gold and iodine.

15. Powerful Earthquakes

In 1960, the world´s largest recorded earthquake struck southern Chile, measuring 9.5. and killing some 1,500 people.  Make sure you are prepared by reading this.

What to do

16. Moving Houses … the Traditional Way

On the island of Chiloe, people get together to perform minga, where communities gather to pop a house on tree trunks and move it to a new site by oxen.

17. Attached to Horses?

The term huaso, which today refers to the Chilean cowboy, comes from the Mapuche (indigenous culture) word for shoulders. Why? They had never seen horses before when the conquistadors arrived, and so thought man and horse were joined.


18. Nobel Prize Winners

Chile is known as a country of poets, and for good reason. Pablo Neruda was a famous politician and poet who won the prize for literature back in 1971, and is known for such works as Twenty Love Poems and Heights of Machu Picchu. Interestingly, his former school principal was none other than Gabriela Mistral, who was the first Latin American writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1945.


19. 4000 Disappeared Under the Dictatorship

During the dictatorship, led by CIA-backed Augusto Pinochet, 4000 people are said to have been executed or ¨disappeared¨. A million more fled the country while hundreds of thousands were detained or tortured. Pinochet was influenced by a group of Chilean economists who studied at the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman, free market guru; they became known as the Chicago Boys. You can find out more at the Memory + Human Rights Museum located at metro Quinta Normal.  The General Cemetery in Recoleta (metro Cementerios) also contains a field dedicated to those killed, with a series of unmarked graves.


20. Romantic History That Should Be A Movie

The early colonization of Chile is nothing short of movie-worthy. Spanish-born Pedro de Valdivia lead a team of men from Peru into (what is today) Chile, dodging murder attempts by his fellow team leader. Valdivia brought with him Ines de Suarez, a widow who he is rumoured to have known in Spain … despite being a married Catholic to a woman in Spain. Once in Chile, they founded the city of Santiago, despite facing numerous uprisings from the local Incan/Picuenche communities. When Valdivia was away, an uprising nearly defeated the Spanish but Ines de Suarez rallied the troops and decided to boost moral by cutting off the heads of the 7 tribal leaders they were holding prisoner (and hoping to barter their freedom with). Her move paid off and the natives were defeated. Valdivia brought to Santiago a young Mapuche boy, Lautaro, as his personal groom but during one battle Lautaro switched sides and passed on valuable information to the rebelling indigenous Mapuche who had united under the leadership of Caupolican. Lautaro became a leader and it is thanks to his intimate knowledge of the Spanish that led to the capture of Valdivia, who was killed in unknown circumstances. His death came after he´d been ordered to give up longtime love, Ines, who had been married off to one of his Captains in 1549. His wife had been en route to Chile when he died.  Interestingly, the popular local soccer team Colo Colo is named after the Mapuche leader Colo Colo, who was instrumental in the appointing of Caupolican to tribal leader. Have a read of the much beloved poem, La Araucanawritten by Alonso de Ercilla, which details the Spanish conquest of Chile and was published in 1569.

Don´t forget that I am writing a weekly fictional story about this very history. Read the first chapter here.

What are your favorite facts about Chile? Here are some other posts you might enjoy:

Chile in Photos

An Introduction to Musica Latina

Paranormal Chile Top 7

10 Common Misconceptions About Chile

The People of Tierra del Fuego

Photo:Trish Shaw

How to be Earthquake Savvy

Chile has a lot of earthquakes.

Science tells us we can to thank the subduction fault off of Chile´s coast that is constantly busy.  This sees the Nazca plate pushing against the South American plate, causing wonders (like the Andes mountain range) and unpredictable conditions such as earthquakes.

Personal experience tells us that these jaw-dropping, bone-shaking and arm-clutching  phenomenon are frightening spectacles of Mother Nature´s power.

Here are a couple of facts:

  • There is no proven way to predict an earthquake. This is because there are consistent signs for scientists to measure.  Scientists monitor activity history in order to predict patters, and use sediment samples to gauge when earthquakes have occurred. They then try to track the ´seismic circle´ which is believed to last some 600 years.
  • Earthquakes can be measured in different ways. The Richter Scale was developed in 1934 and is based upon the amplitude of the largest wave (using a seismometer) and the difference between the distance and the seismometer; this scale was specific to California (United States). However, it does not give accurate information for larger quakes. Enter the Moment Magnitude Scale, MW, which measures ´moment´. According to Michigan Technological University, ¨Moment is a product of the distance a fault moved and the force required to move it¨ and this is the only reliable way to measure larger-scale events.
  • ´Earthquake lights´ are a strange phenomenon that are often confused with UFO´s. These strange lights are believed to be emitted from the earth when rocks are under stress.
  • Animals often change behavior right before a quake. Dogs, for example, will often bark and howl seconds before the ground begins to shake while catfish are noted to begin to thrash erratically due to changes in electric fields.
  • An earthquake is no singular event because they come to say hello in groups. Not only can you expect aftershocks, but foreshocks as well.
  • You can track earthquakes using websites and apps which verify recorded earthquakes, seismic activity and can alert you to possible risks.

    Things are going to go topsy turvy. Photo: Trish Shaw

On February 27 2010, Chile experienced the one of the largest quakes in recorded history. This monsterquake struck the coast Chile at 3.34am, 200miles southwest of Santiago and 22 miles below the Pacific Ocean´s surface.  It also triggered a tsunami and the various aftershocks were big, some as much as 6.9 in magnitude. In total some 500 people lost their lives, and around 2.2million were affected. In Santiago, buildings collapsed, whole suburbs lost electricity and water, and a fire in a chemical plant caused many evacuations.  The International Airport suffered damage and was closed for 72 hours, while elsewhere in Chile damage was recorded as extensive, including a major bridge in Concepcion which collapsed.

My friend Felipe remembers this day well.

¨I was driving home from a party when I felt something slight. I recall saying I thought something was about to happen … and then it hit. I was afraid – the ground was moving like the sea, cables were crashing down, everyone was screaming. But it was afterwards when the real chaos began. Cars were crashing into each other as people tried to get home, all public transport stopped, everyone everywhere was terrified for their loved ones. I remember giving people lifts home because there was no other way for them to travel. There was also a lot of fear afterwards because we had no electricity for days and everyone was worried about having their homes robbed. I live in Quilicura and all the streets set up their own neighborhood watches.  We´d light bonfires and patrol the road to make sure no-one was breaking in or hurting anyone.¨

As huge as this earthquake was, it is not the biggest. That accolade goes to Chile as well, when a mindboggling 9.5 magnitude rumble struck Valdivia on May 22 1960. This is the largest earthquake that we know of, since recording began in the early 1900´s.  Although powerful foreshocks (7.0) sent many people outside (it was the afternoon), the Chilean government states that around 2 million people lost their homes.  Deaths from this disaster are disputed, ranging from as low as 490 and rising to 6000, the majority of which were due to the subsequent tsunami.  Tsunamis traveled across the Pacific Ocean at 200mph, causing changes in the sea level all across the Pacific and and damage in California, Easter Island and Samoa, and killing hundreds of people across Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines.

As frightening as all this sounds (and I know it does), earthquakes are a way of life in Chile and you get used to them fast. In fact, anything less than a 7 is usually referred to as a temblor because terremoto (earthquake) is only reserved for the big stuff. Although many Chileans remain a little traumatized since the shock of 2010, many others barely bat an eyelid; follow their advice – they know what to do.

What to do


  1. Mobile phone lines will probably go down. Sending messages using an internet service such as WhatsApp is a better way to stay in touch. Having a radio at home is a good way to keep up to date with information. Try to avoid using your phone unless it is an emergency
  2. It is an idea to include a fire extinguisher in your emergency kit, along with all first aid supplies
  3. STAY CALM! Your calmness will help others around you to calm down, especially children
  4. Don´t forget your pets
  5. After an earthquake, be careful of broken glass, faulty gas/water/electrical connections. Check them and if faulty, turn off (learn how to do this in advance). If you smell gas, open windows and doors and consider reporting it to the authorities
  6. Avoid matches and flame – remember there are aftershocks after the main earthquake
  7. If you are driving, stop the car but stay inside until the shaking stops
  8. During the earthquake, your biggest danger is something falling on you so LOOK UP! Be careful of power lines, bridges, scaffolding, tall buildings. Try to get to an open space. If you are inside, take cover under a table or desk or go to a wall near the center of the building. Stay away from windows and open doors.  If you go outside, remember to wedge your door open
  9. Follow the evacuation or emergency procedures of your building, school or workplace
  10. Include in your emergency supplies enough food and non-perishable water for two weeks, along with batteries, hygiene supplies, a torch and blankets.
  11. Avoid coastal areas such as beaches due to the risk of tsunamis. If you are at the coasts, follow the evacuation route shown or take to higher ground

how to beearthquake savvy

If you liked this, you may also like to check out my guide to the Chilean Recluse Spider here.

Supporting Small: Local Business Directory

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The magazine Forbes writes that small businesses are impressive when you think ¨about the time, commitment and labour these hard working individuals contribute to make their business both come to life and stay alive¨ (Sep 2 2014). Many of us do not think consciously about where we shop, but it deserves some thought. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Your improving the local economy: when you buy local, the money is more likely to stay in the community.
  2. You develop a connection with the people behind the business. You are more likely to find help when you need it and receive better customer service (they depend more on their public profile, for starters).  To them you are not a random customer but a valued customer.
  3. You are stimulating the production of more local jobs
  4. You help working parents have the opportunity to set their own hours, have more time with their family and have the potential to expand their earnings.
  5. Small businesses, rather than chains, have been shown to increase innovation and lower prices over the long term.
  6. You help to keep traditions alive, for example when you choose to buy artesenal products, and are more likely to buy something that was the product of love and interest rather than about furthering a company´s bottom line.  You are also more likely to increase product diversity – if you ask for something you are more likely to receive it from a small business.
  7. You will also feel good knowing that you are helping people to support themselves, particularly in a place like Santiago where costs are high and wages are love, and chain stores are on the increase.

For those of you who are in Chile, here are some local providers you could consider purchasing from the next time.


Algarrobo: Apartment Overlooking Canelillo Beach

Beautiful apartment that sleeps six and beside a pine forest filled with walking trails. Contact Taryn on +569 9 799 5258.

Horcon: Chile´s Best Kept Secret Beachfront Apartment

The 2 bedroom apartment, which comfortably sleeps up to 6 people, is located in the region of Valparaiso just a 2 hour drive from Santiago.  Visit the Airbnb site here.

Quintay: Apartment with Sea View

Located in a private, gated community, this is a fantastic and impeccably styled ground floor apartment available to rent.

Tunquen: La Mirage Parador

Bed & Breakfast available throughout the summer months in the Algarrobo region, perfect for romantic getaways.  Visit the site here.

Valparaiso: Winebox Valparaiso

This project is all about urban rejuvenation and represents the first tourism project in the historic Mariposas neighborhood. The hotel is constructed from 25 recycled 40ft High Cube shipping containers, insulated entirely with recycled materials with all furniture and decorations made from recycled materials recovered from Chile’s wine industry. 


Abstract Art: Hoda Madi

An artist, photographer and amateur astronomer, Hoda creates jaw dropping abstract art paintings using materials such as sand. Visit the website here.

Fine Art: Olivos Art Studio

Claudia and Sergio are from Chile and Mexico respectively, and create paintings using various styles. The Essence of the Mapuche exhibit is of particular note. Visit the webpage here.

Hair + Makeup VIÑA DEL MAR: Haley Mahannah 

A stylist, professional hairdresser and makeup artist based in Viña, Hayley does private jobs as well as working out of a salon.

Hair Removal: Sugar Me Up

Hair removal using a technique known as sugaring.  Speaks English!

Handmade Gifts: Woolful Rebellion

Beautiful gift ideas made by a fellow expat. Read my blog here or email barahonasarai@gmail.com.

Jewellery: Indre Bar

Minimalist gemstone necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Visit the Etsy store here or send a message to indre.b@gmail.com

Jewellery Watches: TTANTI Watches

Ttanti is a watch brand that ensures the sustainable use of resources involving craftsmanship. We use Swiss movements to ensure excellent performance. We invite you to know our history. Visit the website here.

Photography: Sibylla Michelle Photography

Portrait photographer from the UK, responsible for the most stunning bridal, pregnancy and newborn photos I´ve ever seen. See her website here and read my blog here.

Souvenirs + Paintings: Siski Kalla

Siski creates unique gifts with her watercolour paintings, from bespoke tea towels featuring Chile´s wonders, through to kids growth charts and customizable world maps.  Read my blog here.


Art: Andrea Adresic Art

Former art teacher and professional painter, Andrea holds exhibitions as well as fun art classes for adults and children.

Dance + Yoga: Dhatri, Yoga + Ayurveda

Learn Bharatnatyam and Odissi, classical dances from India with Usha Vikas. Isha also offers Indian tribal paintings. These classes are conducted at Dhatri (yoga y Ayurveda). Dhatri also offers classes in yoga and Ayurveda therapies.

Language: Russian Language Classes

Russian language classes for work, tourism and every day use. Private and group classes available, as well as Skype.

Sewing + Fabric Art: Stitch Lounge Santiago

Join a growing community of students learning the craft of sewing with various workshops designed for various ability levels. Visit the website here.


Agricola Tinajacura

This family-run business describes themselves as a farm following holistic methods and as such you will find they produce happy chickens, free range eggs, wool products and lamb without any antibiotics or hormones. See the website here.

Anouk Boutique Bakery

Anouk follows traditional recipes from Holland to make by hand authentic breads using natural ingredients.

Attilio & Mochi Tunquen + Sucre Wines

The couple label themselves as passionate winemakers, who ¨generate very small and limited batches […]so we can personally take care and execute ourselves in all stages of winemaking, and allow for the characteristics we like, that make them so unique.¨ See their website here.

Happy Hummus Happy Food

How can you pass up the chance to eat some happy hummus?  100% natural and homemade hummus with free delivery to many comunas.

Hubbard & Smith

Bacon and sausages exquisitely prepared using traditional recipes and locally sourced ingredients. Visit the website here.

Jimbo´s Pie Shop

Enjoy the quintessential Antipodean foodstuff – the humble pie – made with love by Aussie expat James.

Los Locos Tacos IQUIQUE

Mexican food served with traditional tortillas in the northern city of Iquique. A great option for those needing something fast and delicious; catering available.

Pasteleria Lalaleelu

Amy and Young have burst onto the food scene with a cafe and cake shop to rival all others. Don´t leave without a bag of their caramel popcorn. Read my blog and see their website here.

Polka Tortas y Pasteles

Stunning decorated cakes exquisitely made for every occasion.

Sabor con Sentido

Healthy condiments for your food prepared the natural way.  Visit their website here.

Santiago City Bees

Pure honey sourced from 16 bee hives in Santiago.

South Indian Flavors

Homemade south Indian food using traditional fermentation methods and prepared with ingredients brought from India.

Tu Picada Santiago

A small catering startup specializing in everything from traditional BBQ, pizza parties right through to romantic candle lit dinners.


Acupuncture: Guillermo Toro Madrid


Dentistry: HP Implantologia Dental Office

English and Spanish speaking dentist located in Providencia, specializing in implants.

Homeopath: Caitlin Wheat

Certified in Australia, Caitlin speaks both English and Spanish and offers treatments for various conditions, particularly digestive health.

Massage: Injeet Singh

Ayuvedic and sports massage by Injeet, who also does massage at the Santiago Marriott Hotel. He does house calls.

Massage: Taralee Walling
✋Over 18 years of experience
✋Professional and confidential
✋Trained and certified in the U.S.(900+ hours)
✋I specialize in Relaxation, Deep Tissue, Neuromuscular/Trigger Point Therapy, Pre and postnatal massage
✋30.000 one hour. 45.000 1.5 hours.

Contact +56 9 76024562 and email: momentaralee@gmail.com


Activities: Little Readers Book Club and Kids Playing in English

Neither businesses per se but professionally run and full of fun for young children. Experience the joys of reading, arts and crafts in English with Danielle.

Clothes: Hecho Con Amor

Clothes and accessories designed and made by hand (and love). See the website here.

Dresses: Mi Odette

Beautiful and unique girls dresses brought from Russia. Visit the website here.

Food: Smiley Kids

Organic food for babies and children made with their healthy development in mind.Visit the website here.


Organizational Development + Data Analysis: MyDO

Classes, workshops, as well as a variety of consulting services focusing on personnel selection, organizational studies and training. English and Spanish speaking.  Visit the website here.

Handyman: Dial A Tradie

24/7 emergency Gasfitting, Thermofusion, Electrical and Maintenance Company servicing Santiago.

Law: Maximo Aguirre

Contact Maximo with your legal questions on +56988944396 or send him an email to maximoarayaaguirre@gmail.com.  He is taking private cases.

Life + Business Coach: Michelle Clarke

Michelle Clarke is an Executive Coach who works with individuals and leaders of influence. Her clients are already-successful, high-achieving individuals who want to sustain their contribution in this world – professionally, personally, holistically. Visit her webpage here.

Community: Discover Chile

Join Chile´s largest expat forum as a corporate partner (and market your business exclusively) or use it for yourself and make the most of your time in Chile (free). Visit the website here.

Private Detective: Salgado Investigations

Salgado Investigations is a private investigators agency based in Chile, acting for lawyers, insurers, retail, and private clients. Founded by Jorge Salgado-Reyes, we offer bespoke private investigators Chile services across the private and commercial sectors with more than 17 years experience.

Website Design: Mukul Matey

I am personally recommending Mukul for all your website needs. He fixed and improved our own site (milesandsmileschile) and has always been helpful, courteous, professional, on time (which is hard to find in a website developer) and with lots of ideas to help us be better. Mukul really knows what he is talking about and has also designed websites for many people I know.


Campervans: Soul Vans

Campervan rental based in Santiago and Puerto Montt founded in 2015 and today boasting a range of comfortable and fully equipped campers.

Tourism CONCEPCION: Lle Chile

Tourism and consulting business specializing in study tours in the 8th region along with relocation consulting services. Visit the website here.

Tours + Transfers: Miles & Smiles Chile

Boutique tour and transfer company offering private, customizable tours in English and Spanish. Visit the website here.

Transfers: RS Transit

Private transportation service to airport, hotels, business conferences and events.