EcoCamp Patagonia

Wind swirls. Birds call. Sun shines.

Days are solitary steps, dripping water and mirror lakes. Nights are shared meals, laughter, and endless stars. Sleep is deep, dreams are heavy.

There are no words.

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Patagonia is magic, as I have already said. But so is this place – EcoCamp Patagonia – 33 domes that rise from Torres del Paine National Park like the rounded backs of ladybugs. This completely sustainable and eco-friendly hotel/camp hybrid has won plenty of awards and has been frequented by familiar faces such as Amyr Klink (Brazil), Laura Lisowski (UK), Ramon Navarro (Chile) and  Paz Bascuñán (Chile).  They sing its praises, all of them citing the deeply transformative experience that such a deep connection with nature (and such a forceful severing from modern technology) brings.

Standard Domes

Compact but comfortable, these tiny spaces have been designed to shade you from the harshness of the Patagonian elements while still making you feel as though you are outside.  This achieved through the sounds and air that move through the pods, through to the complete lack of electricity and mod-cons that so clutter city life. Shared bathrooms, perfect for solo visitors.

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Superior Domes

The spacious upgrade up from the Standard, with private bathrooms and heating.

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Suite Domes

A luxurious space featuring a low emission wood burning stoves for heating and private bathrooms.

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Loft Dome

The best option for families, these two-storey domes feature private bathrooms and private terraces.

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Yoga Dome

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Community Domes

The heart of the Camp, these four connected domes comprise the Dining Domes, Bar Dome, Reading area and patio.

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What To Do

Trekking, puma tracking, horseriding, photography, kayaking … the list is endless.  All you need is an open mind and a thirst for adventure.

How to Book:

Check out their webpage here

Instagram here

Twitter here

Facebook here

YouTube here

Rayuela, Christ & BBQ

I have surprised Manuel. His eyes don´t really believe me, his mouth forming a perfectly round O, followed by an exhalation of confused air.

The question had been a simple one, and my answer was nothing unusual, just a simple ¨no, I do not miss my home country because I feel at home here in Chile.¨ That is completely true – I love living here – but it always seems to catch the Chileans I meet off guard.

¨What about your family? ¨They always inevitably ask, followed by an exclamation of ¨But New Zealand is paradise! ¨.  But nothing I say ever convinces them, so I just change the subject quickly.

The day is a Saturday and I am in the small community of Calpún, four hours south of Santiago and an hour from the nearest city, Curicó.  Calpún is a blink-and-you´ll-miss-it sort of place, a scattering of houses that line a winding road in a tumble of colors.   Chickens squabble on the roadside and dash from passing cars, their clucking joining the whirring of tractors and scraping of shovels.  The wind blows fiercely east from the sea and causes wind dials to spin all morning and night in a cacophony of creaks and moans.  The afternoon – which it is right now – is made of summer sun and gentle breezes and, combined with the smell of the barbecue coals, makes for a moment of pure bliss.

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Calpun birds eye view

I have come to Calpún because it is the home of my partner´s family. Manuel´s son, David, was baptized today in the small church that dominates the village skyline.  Despite the countryside setting, we are all dolled up in our dresses and high heels, the men in suits and the children in bow ties and ribbons.  Chile is a predominately Catholic country, thanks to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in 1541, and baptisms are still a big deal.  Family from all across Chile have come today, arms piled high with presents wrapped up in blue paper. The ceremony itself is short and sweet; David barely makes a sound and his parents have been wearing smiles that light up the room (or at least rival the camera flashes).

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We are now in the house of Manuel´s brother, Tio Lucho.  ´Lucho´ is a common nickname for Luis, and part of a naming tendency that envelopes the whole country.  Fernando becomes ´Nano´, Francisco -´Pancho´, Felipe – ´Pipe´ … They join a whole host of diminutives that call attention to characteristics, such as ´Negra´ (black) and Flaco (skinny).

Lucho´s house is large with thin walls and naked of any furnishings alluding to grandeur, save for a few religious statues and dangling rosary beads.  In fact, as my mother-in-law Paola tells me, ¨the people don´t really care about that.  Our lives are spent outside¨.  This is, after all, primarily a farming community and a place that irks its living directly from the land.  The sauerkraut dripping all over our choripán (hot dog)? Homemade with cabbage from the garden.  The mayonnaise? Made just before using eggs from the chickens.  Even the salt comes from nearby Cáhuil, a group of ancient saltpans that are a blindingly vivid array of yellow, orange, brown and white.

 

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Gathering the salt in Cahuil.

However, despite the fertile abundance of the land, Calpún is struggling. My partner´s family would love to live here but there is no work and competition is high.  Instead, they live in Chile´s capital, Santiago, where they earn meagre pesos as a taxi driver and housekeeper (referred to as a nana). Many of the relatives attending the baptism, including Manuel himself, have also left the area to follow work opportunities elsewhere, including to the mines that dominate the northern desert.

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These fields supply Santiago`s markets.

¨When I was a child, there were two Calpúns.¨ My father-in-law is telling me now amidst a row of bobbing heads ¨Upper and Lower.  There were lots of people then before everyone left for Santiago, and the wealthier people lived in the Upper part while we lived here, in Lower Calpún.¨

¨Yes,¨ Tio Lucho agrees, ¨and Calpún was known as the place of the Blue-Eyed People – it was unusual to have blue eyes because of our ancestral ties with the Mapuches, who are traditionally dark.¨

 

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The river beside Calpun

Mapuche is the collective name of the indigenous people that historically occupied the areas south of Santiago until Patagonia. They are famous for withstanding the advance of the Spanish in the Arauco War, and today are a marginalized group.

 

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Mapuche mural from Curepto.

 

¨I had sixteen brothers and sisters¨ A woman I don´t know by name joins the conversation, ¨I don´t know how my mother did it because I have two kids of my own and I can´t imagine having any more!¨

There is a moment of laughter than my father in law says, ¨I played with my ball each and every day – it went everywhere with me! And I remember Paola, even though she was just a girl then, and she was always running, running everywhere with that light hair flying behind her.¨

My mother-in-law smiles shyly. ¨I loved to run and walk.  One year I was chosen to enter a big race, all the way in Curepto.  I was so nervous because I thought I wouldn´t be very good, but I WON!  I got a huge ribbon and I got to be in the summer festival that year.  It was one of the happiest moments of my life.¨

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Family antics in Calpun.

 

The conversation continues for a while and then turns to rayuela. Rayuela has been declared the national sport by two Chilean presidents and is traditionally played during las fiestas patrias, the celebration of Chilean independence that occurs the week of September 18.  This is the date when Chile united to seek independence (but not the date it formally received it, which was February 12, 1818).  According to the Chilean National Library, some 80,000 people choose to play the game in their free time, and there is even a national Rayuela Day, which occurs each year on July 19. To play the game, teams take turns throwing a metal tejo, which weighs around 1 kilo, onto a line drawn in an inclined clay box. If you hit the line you get double points, and the game can go on indefinitely. Lucho sets this up now and, using a piece of string and a stone, the game begins.

 

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At Tio Lucho`s house.

 

A few hours later and it is still going.  The wine has also made its appearance, a full-bodied red hailing from the nearby Maule Valley.  This valley is the largest wine producing area in Chile and grows excellent grapes thanks to the Mediterranean climate and varying soil compositions. Many of the wineries are organic and have a sustainable focus, the most characteristic varietal being carmenere, a grape once thought to have been extinct worldwide after a devastating plague swept through Europe in 1867.

¨Out here in the country, we prefer to drink red wine because it is the wine we have always drunk,¨  Lucho is telling me, ¨for Catholics it is associated with the blood of Christ¨.

There is music now too, courtesy of a live band playing an eclectic mix of Chilean cumbia, Mexican rancheras and traditional cueca. My father-in-law takes the hand of Paola as a song they love begins, and as their knees knock together they sway to the sound of their own laughter. The air has also thickened with smoke, the barbecue mingling with cigarettes (the World Health Organization reports that 34% of the population smoke).

 

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Dancing the cueca in Vichuquen.

 

¨Si es Chileno, es bueno¨ Manuel appears beside me, If it´s Chilean, it´s good. ¨Do you really not miss your country? ¨

I pause for a moment, then shake my head. Right now, beneath the crystal clear stars and beside these wonderful people, the moment is pretty close to perfect.

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If You Go:

Stay: at the Casa Roja in Lilco, 5 minutes from Lake Vichuquén and ten minutes from the Pacific Ocean.  This is also the site of the Oro de Torca olive grove and olive oil press.  From here you can make daytrips to the surfing town of Pichelemu, the salt flats of Cáhuil, the city of Santa Cruz, and the wineries of the Colchagua and Maule valleys. Birdwatchers can head to Laguna Torca.

Book your stay through Airbnb here.

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Birdwatching at Laguna Torca

 

 

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Prefiero Chileno: Local Shopping Guide

This year, I made a conscious effort to buy local, and I would say that about 80% of my Christmas shopping this year ended up being gifts made in Chile.  This drive to support small has been all over the internet lately, particularly on Instagram, where a whole movement has started using the hashtag #prefierochileno.  To read why to support local, read my Directory of Local Businesses where I whip out a few facts to convince you.

Check out websites Bendito and Creado en Chile to browse an assorted collection of locally made gifts, and don´t forget to use the hashtag when you share your photos!  You can also visit markets such as Mercado Mastica and places such as Barrio Italia (my favorite place in the world) and Pueblito Los Dominicos.  The following list of my favorite businesses are either ones I have personally bought from or that are on my radar, and all meet either made in Chile, designed in Chile or based in Chile criteria.

Let´s Go Christmas Shopping!!

  1. Painstakingly intricate maps, cushions and other trinkets handpainted by dedicated local artists at Mappin.
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Chile Urdido by Cote Bobillier. Photo: Mappin
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Nuestra Casa by Michelle Lasalvia. Photo: Mappin

2) Beautiful scarves, socks, bibs for adults and children by Vuelvo al Sur.

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Gloves featuring the Chucao. Photo: Vuelvo al Sur
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Mug featuring a huemul. Photo: Vuelvo al Sur

3) The LeoLibros book set, a varied collection of short stories in Spanish that seek to encourage a love of reading that will last a lifetime, by Editorial Dansema.

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4) Stackable crayons made for little hands that are non-toxic and won´t stain (or permanently mark your walls)? Sounds like an amazing gift for the whee ones!  Visit Hello Kiddo to get your hands on a set of Playon Crayons. Photos by Hello Kiddo.

5) Beautiful furniture made in Santiago by Blom and made with local materials including Lingue, Coigue and Encina. I am coveting everything especially their headboards. All photos by Blom.

6) 7 Colores is a recent discovery, and one of the finds that has most impressed me during my time in Chile. This small shop is in Barrio Italia and is the most beautiful treasure trove of handpainted gifts, all featuring Chilean flora and fauna. Staff are incredibly passionate about animals and they even publish their own wildlife magazine (in Spanish only); their goal is a simple one: to introduce Chile´s creatures and plants to the people and inspire their love and respect.

7) OBOLO chocolate have just opened their store in Barrio Italia, and here you also can see them making their delicious organic creations through the window that peeps into the factory. OBOLO, which is the creation of Mark Gerrits (USA) and his (Chilean) wife, is a wonderful example of how a business can create opportunities and deliver an excellent product; OBOLO is winning awards all over the world and produces only 70% cacao creations, sourced from small-scale growers in Peru that Mark has worked with for years.  All photos by OBOLO Chocolate.

8) One of my favorite businesses of all time would be Karun, which designs sunglasses made recycled jeans and fishing nets cleared from Chilean coastlines. Read more about their business here.

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Photo: Karunworld

9) TTANTI watches made from fallen trees in Patagonia. These are luxury, quality timepieces that suit both men and women.

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Photo: TTANTI

10) Ñirre Bebe is the work of a mum from Southern Chile, and her clothes for children are stunning. E is now completely in love with the zorro/ñirre/fox.  Read my interview here.

11) La Pituka is my favorite business in Chile. I love to exercise in their leggings, I also love to go to work with them on, and I love that now they are offering Chile-themed designs as well. They also make tshirts, underwear, sweatshirts and socks – kids included.

12) Apicola del Alba is my go-to for Made in Chile (in Curacavi!) skincare.  I use the face moisturiser every day and also their chamomile-based shampoo. They make various things including aromatherapy oils and vitamins.

13) Ramonas are beautifully-designed shoes for women (how I´d love a pair of their boots, Santa!) that are sold in Paris (Parque Arauco), the local fashion store Paes (Centro Comercial Lo Castillo, local 206) and via social media. These are cult favorite shoes so get a pair now! Photos: Ramonas

14) La Coetzina   you may remember from my blog the other day, but Adel gets another shout out because her things make me drool, seriously. I can´t wait to get my order in time for Christmas next week!! Photos by La Coetzina.

15) Attilio & Mochi is a small, independent vineyard located on the way to Tunquen and the creation of passionate winemakers, Angela and Marcos. Their range of wines perfectly encapsulate the spirit of the area and they also do tours and tastings if you want to make an afternoon of it.

 

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Photo: Attilio & Mochi

16) Kruz Toca Madera is where I am (pretty sure) my Christmas present will be coming from this year. These products are made in Chile using wood from fallen trees, they don´t use any plastic and plant a tree for every tree they use as part of their endeavour to make Patagonia clean and green.  Photos: Kruz Toca Madera.

17) Olive oil from Oro de Torca, a small family-run farm based near Laguna Torca, makes for one of the best gifts for foodies – they are even classed as the best fine olive oil in the Southern Hemisphere (Sol DÓro gold medal winner).  As an aside, they are also hosting Camp MakeMake which looks to be an amazing experience for kids this summer!

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Photo: Oro de Torca

18) Hubbard & Smith sausages are made with love and care by Kate Smith. She follows traditional recipes and offers Cumberland sausages, Hot Italian, English Breakfast and more, as well as bacon and ham. Photos: Hubbard and Smith.

19) RM Arte y Deco is a store that I stumbled upon in Barrio Italia and just loved. Staffed by the artist, Raul Montecino himself, there are beautiful paintings, laminated copies and tshirts he has stamped with his designs.

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20) Pajarito de Mimbre creates stories, toys and gifts based upon the animals of Chile. In our house we love El Large Viaje del Pequeño Pudu, a book that is as much educational as it is fun. Photos: Pajarito de Mimbre

21) Last on the list but equally deserving of mention, is Woligu, a new venture of handmade leather straps for cameras and guitars. Send a WhatsApp to: +56991377445

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Photo: Woligu

Did you like this? Give me some love if you did!! Please share your photos to Instagram using the hashtag #prefierochileno and don´t forget to let me know of any other businesses to check out! Finally have a WONDERFUL Christmas – thank you all for reading!!

La Serena & the Elqui Valley Photo Diary

Laguna Conchali

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Stopping outside of La Ligua for some of their Chile-famous pastries
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Manjar-filled delight
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Laguna Conchali, outside of Los Vilos. A great spot for bird watching.
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Birds to spot: Chiloe Wigeon, Cinnamon Teal, Great Egret, Chilean Mockingbird, White-Tailed Kite, White-Tuted Grebe, and more.

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Turbines everywhere on the way between Los Vilos and La Serena

La Serena

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The Japanese Garden
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Cueca Brava in the Mercado La Recova

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Eating papayas makes a delicious way to spend your time in La Serena!

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Inside the Museo Arqueologico

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The La Serena Lighthouse

Vicuña

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Death mask of Gabriela Mistral, South America´s first Nobel Prize winner, and who was born in Vicuña.  The town also has a museum dedicated to her life and achievements.

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Checking out the Pisquera Aba distillery
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Pisco with Maqui, a berry found in the south of Argentina and Chile. Que RICO!
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Visiting the stars with Alfa Aldea. Highly recommended.
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Only Spring and we are already swimming! We found our cabaña on Yapo – no middle man to pay and great prices!

Villa Seca + Paihuano

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Sun-baked goods in Villa Seca! Love to see all that solar energy being put to good use.
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Copao is a fruit endemic to Chile that comes from the Eulychnia acida cactus. The Elqui Valley is a great place to try it, along with deliciously cold and fresh fruit juices.

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Pisco Elqui

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Fundo Los Nichos, one of the few family owned distilleries in the area. Support small!

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More blogs like this:

Ovalle & the Limari Valley;

Punta de Choros ;

Sewell;

Chile in Photos;

Copiapo & Desierto Florido;

Beautiful Photos by Photographer Yorka;

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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.

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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!¨

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

Meet Ñirre Bebe: Kids Clothes with Style

Seeing as though I am trying to always support small Chilean businesses, it makes sense that this applies to my family, too. I have two boys that drive me crazy I love more than carrot cake, Obolo chocolate and Indian spices combined, something which is all consuming but also strangely isolating.  Pretty much all of my sons´ clothes have been loved before (and will be loved again – just not by me!) which is a good thing because, as any parent in any country will know, if you listen to all the magazines and help books you apparently need a truckload of expensive stuff just to survive year 1.

It goes without saying that sometimes I want my kids to look stylish but since the buggers grow so fast and get so dirty, I also have to find gear that is economical but that doesn´t skimp on quality.

Enter Ñirre Bebe.

I have been coveting one of their fox emblazoned tshirts for E ever since it first popped up in my Instagram feed. The fox, or ñirre in Mapundungun (and zorro in Spanish), is an animal that I am quite fond of because it always reminds me of the south of Chile, where I´ve  often seen them scavenging by the road.

We have two hats, a pair of pants (for M) and E´s tshirt. The material of the clothes is quite thick with a bit of stretch and actually feels incredibly luxurious. To say I am impressed with everything would be an understatement – I am already preparing to buy more!

Ñirre Bebe is fronted by Johanna Fuentes and I recommend following her on Instagram because the photos are just gorgeous.  I am so excited to reveal a little bit more about this #smallchileanbusiness so let´s get reading!

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So cute! Photo: Ñirre Bebe

Ten Questions with Ñirre Bebe

Who is Ñirre Bebe and what is the story behind the store/Quien es Ñirre Bebe y como empezo la tienda?

Ñirre is a venture from the 9th region that is headed by Johanna Fuentes (me); I am an artist.  The objective of the brand is to create modern clothes at the forefront of trends for infants and children up to 4 years. Priority is given to monocromatic tones to create an urban look for modern children.

Ñirre es un emprendimiento de la novena región el cual es llevado a cabo por la Artista Visual Johanna Fuentes (yo).  El objetivo de esta marca es crear ropa moderna, a la vanguardia de tendencias internacionales, para bebés y niños de hasta 4 años, privilegiando los tonos monocromomáticos en sus confecciones, es un estilo inspirado en lo urbano para chicos modernos. Ñirre empezó en Junio del año 2015 en la ciudad de Villarrica (antes teníamos otro nombre). 

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Photo: Ñirre Bebe

What does ñirre mean and why did you choose this name/Que significa ñirre y por que tiene ese nombre?

 Ñirre is a Mapundungun word for ´fox´, which is the language of my people, the Mapuches. This name was proposed by my mother, who is a dressmaker and a big influence on my work. We grew up beneath her sewing machine, which she in turn learnt from her mother, and I remember watching one grandmother using her old Singer machine while the other would be weaving on the loom (telar) while we watched, intruding or as we say, ¨echando a perder¨.  Later I studied Visual Arts which really helped me, such as with shades, materials, and above all, creation.

Ñirre proviene del Mapudungun, el pueblo originario del cual pertenezco y significa   “Zorro”  y el nombre lo propuso mi madre, ella es modista, y gran influencia en mi    trabajo, nosotros crecimos bajo una máquina de coser, ella aprendió de mi abuela,  en mi caso ellas son la gran influencia una de mis abuelas cosía en su antigua Singer, la otra tejía a telar, y aprendimos mirando, intruseando como decimos… “echando a perder”. Luego estudie Artes visuales, lo cual me ayudo sin duda a complementar, tanto en la utilización de tonalidades y materialidad, pero sobre todo la creación.  

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Photo: Ñirre Bebe

Which are your favorite products/Cuales son tus productos favoritos?

I don´t have a favorite, but I do really like to make products for newborns due to their details and small size.

No tengo un producto fijo, pero sin duda lo que mas me gusta confeccionar es la talla RN (recien nacido), ya sea por las detalles, y por el tamaño de la prenda que es minima.

Where are you based/Donde vives?

In Villarica, in the 9th region.

En Villarica, novena region.

Where is your favorite place in Chile/Donde esta tu lugar favorito en Chile?

The commune of San Juan de la Costa, in the province of Osorno, where I lived and worked for more than a year for the Fundacion Superacion de la Pobreza (Overoming Poverty Foundation).  This was one of the best experiences I have ever had because of the people, the landscape, the permanent contact with nature, the fact that you can cross the street and reach the sea … I now return every summer with my partner.

Provincia de Osorno, comuna San Juan de la Costa, vivi y trabje ahi durante mas de un año, para la Fundacion Superacion de la Pobreza y fue sin duda una de las mejores experienciias que he tenido.  Su gente, los paisajes, estar en contacto permanente con la naturaleza, cruzar la calle y llegar al mar es lejos, lo mejor … vuelvo todos los veranos ahora con mi compañero.

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Photo: Ñirre Bebe

Do you have a favorite place to eat in Chile/Donde esta tu lugar favorito para comer en Chile?

The truth is that I don´t have a favorite place as I prefer homecooked food, but if we are on holiday in San Juan then I like to visit Glorimar, which is in Bahia Mansa.

La verdad no tengo uno fijo favorito, me gusta la comida hecha en casa, pero si cuando vamos de vacaciones al sur, San Juan esta Glorimar (la señora Gloria cocina con mano de monja) queda en Bahia Mansa.

What is next for Ñirre Bebe/Que es proximo para la empresa?

Next we will register our brand, mainly to stop plagiarism, and we hope that this summer we will have an online platform where we sell online. And of course we will have new designs coming out!

Estamos proximos a registar nuestra marca, para evitar plagios principalmente, y esperamos para este verano contar una plataforma online, en donde vendamos en linea y no a pedido. Los nuevos diseños estan saliendo siempre.

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Photo: Ñirre Bebe

 

The Nitty Gritty

Instagram here

Facebook here

Whatsapp: +569-65540276

How to buy: Send Johanna a message through Facebook or Whatsapp to organize your order. You can see the many (amazing) items via the Facebook store.