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.
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.
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.
The spacious upgrade up from the Standard, with private bathrooms and heating.
A luxurious space featuring a low emission wood burning stoves for heating and private bathrooms.
The best option for families, these two-storey domes feature private bathrooms and private terraces.
The heart of the Camp, these four connected domes comprise the Dining Domes, Bar Dome, Reading area and patio.
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.
As someone who loves to read, I have always felt discouraged by the high prices of books here in Chile. The unfortunate effect of those prices has meant that books are not a common gift and seen as more of a luxury item, buffeted even further down the scale of desired items due to the popularity and ease of phones, computers and the internet.
Coming across Editorial Dansema, then, is something of a revelation. Well-priced kids books made in Chile? Umm yes please! Here I chat with Maike Pakroppa, the force behind the small business.
Ten Questions with Editorial Dansema/ Diez Preguntitas con Editorial Dansema
Who is Editorial Dansema/ Quien es Editorial Dansema?
We are a family company, created by parents thinking of their children. We know that, as parents, finding well-priced and good quality books in Chile can be a difficult job. The Leolibros format is very popular in Europe and has supported the reading of generations, and we though that by bringing it to Chile we could do the same here, showing parents that buying good books needn´t cost clp$5000 or more.
Somos una editorial familiar, creada por padres pensando en sus hijos. Sabemos, como padres, la difícil tarea de encontrar libros que sean económicos y de buena calidad. Vimos que los formatos de los Leolibros son famosos en Europa, y han aportado el gusto por la lectura a muchas generaciones. Nos gustaría que en Chile los padres vean que para comprar un libro entretenido no tienen que gastarse 5 mil pesos o más.
How did Editorial Dansema begin/ Como empezo Editorial Dansema?
I spent a lot of time cuddling and reading with my eldest son after he was born. We´d always read a book before bed and talk about it together. I have always loved to read and grew up with lots of books at home, so when I had children I wanted the same for them, something that could be fun for them as well as educational. My husband didn´t have the same interest in books as I did as he grew up without them, but eventually his enthusiasm for them began to grow as he witnessed us, and soon we began fighting over who would read the bedtime story! He would then read in Spanish and me in German, though I was always at an advantage because it was easy for me to find good books cheaply overseas, whereas he would struggle finding the same in Chile. From there the idea came to bring books in Spanish to Chile, so we acquired the licence to sell PIXI books here. PIXI is an integral part of German culture, something which nearly all Germans know. We want to offer the same extensive range of children´s books here, in the reach of everyone so that all children can grow up loving to read.
Cuando nació nuestro hijo mayor yo siempre disfruté leerle mucho. Pasamos mucho tiempo abrazados leyendo y conversando sobre los libros. Antes de acostarse siempre le leí una historia. Desde que fui niña siempre me han gustado los libros y siempre teníamos muchos en la casa. Quería pasar la misma pasión a mi hijo y además de ser un pasatiempo entretenido también es un pasatiempo educativo. Mi esposo no tenía la costumbre de leer por diversión, pero se dejó llevar por nuestro entusiasmo y empezamos literalmente a pelearnos los instantes de lectura por ejemplo antes de acostarse, él leyendo siempre en español y yo siempre leyendo en alemán. Pero yo siempre tuve la ventaja de tener una abundancia de libros buenos a precios muy alcanzables y mi esposo siempre terminó frustrado de su búsqueda de libros a cierto presupuesto en Chile. Es ahí cuando surgió la idea de llevar a Chile libros entretenidos, variados, coleccionables y a un buen precio. Adquirimos la licencia de los libros PIXI alemanes, que son ya parte integral de la cultura alemana y donde casi no hay alemán que no los conozca. Queremos ofrecer una extensa variedad de libros infantiles en este mismo formato, en un español latino y al alcance de todos, para que los niños puedan descubrir esa pasión por la lectura desde chiquititos.
Why do you think reading is important and why should it be promoted in Chile/ Por que es importante a leer y por que necesita ayuda en Chile?
Children, in general, love to read, and the more they do so, the more a love of reading will continue as they get older. This is something that is still little understood by adults here in Chile, and which should be promoted by the government, the educational sector and by businesses. Reading to children contributes, not only to a lifelong reading habit, but to the emotional development of the child. If you can spend quality time with your children, reading and discovering stories, you allow them to see from things from a different perspective. It has been proven that children who read often do better after they leave school, because their reading comprehenson has helped the to be more creative and with better memory skills, and able to acquire knowledge in a more natural way. This has been proven the world over in various studies.
A los niños, en general, les encanta que les lean. Esta actividad contribuye en gran medida a la tarea de fomentar el gusto por la lectura en los niños. Pero falta crear conciencia en los adultos en Chile. Es algo que debería ser promovido por los gobiernos, el sector educacional, incluso desde las empresas. Leerles a los niños contribuye, no solo a crear un vínculo y hábito en los niños que les servirá para toda la vida, sino que aporta al crecimiento emocional y a la relación con ellos. Se puede pasar tiempo de calidad juntos con los niños y a través del contenido del libro, mostrarle la propia perspectiva y otras por supuesto. Está comprobado que los niños a los cuales se les lee constantemente les van mucho mejor después en el colegio, porque su comprensión de lectura aumenta considerablemente, y esto ayuda a adquirir el conocimiento de forma más natural. Se fomenta la creatividad en ellos y la memoria. Todo esto, no solo lo decimos nosotros, sino que lo respaldan estudios en todo el mundo.
Which is your favorite book from the collection/ Cual libro es tu favorito?
Our first collection is a mix of very different and entertaining stories, and it is difficult to choose one. My children love the classic ¨El Lobo y los Siete Cabritos¨ – all generations love the classics! My eldest son lost his first tooth recently and so loved to read ¨Maxi y el Diente Suelto¨. My two-year old twins always laugh a lot with ¨Jan y Leo: Pelotos Locos¨. Jan and Leo really want to play with their ball, but they have a very grumpy neighbour who does let them play until something very funny happens (read it to find out what!). I was born in a small town but I still learnt something when I read ¨Descrubre la Granja¨.
Nuestra primera colección de mix de historias tiene historias muy distintas y entretenidas. Es difícil elegir uno. Actualmente a mis hijos les encanta el clásico “El lobo y los siete cabritos”, parece que generación por generación los clásicos nunca fallan. A mi hijo mayor se le cayó su primer diente hace poco y encantó leer como pasó esta misma etapa Maxi con su diente suelto. Y mis gemelos de dos años siempre se ríen con Jan y Leo: Pelotas locas. Jan y Leo tienen unas tremendas ganas de jugar a la pelota, pero tienen un vecino que no los deja jugar hasta que sucede algo muy divertido. Yo nací en un pueblo chico, pero todavía me asombra aprender por ejemplo cuántos huevos pone una gallina en el libro “Descubre la granja”.
What is the publishing process like/ Como es el process para publicar libros?
So far we have only published the stories that we loved in German, which we have translated into Spanish and published in the special format of 10 x 10cms. We know that there are many more marvellous stories still to edit and bring to children, so we hope to work on publishing Chilean authors and illustrators.in 2018.
Estamos recién empezando y hasta ahora hemos publicado solamente las historias que nos encantaron en alemán y las traducimos al español en este formato especial de 10 x 10 cms. Pero sabemos que hay muchas historias maravillosas para editar y poner al alcance de todos los niños. Esperamos poder trabajar con editores, escritores e ilustradores chilenos y publicar sus ideas, a partir del 2018.
How has reception been in Chile/ Como ha sido la recepcion en Chile?
Right up until now we have had a very good reception. We know that this year (2017) has been particularly difficult for the sector, but the good price and quality of our books has helped with that. Each week we are improving our sales points and slowly we are becoming more recognized. Already we have sent out books outside of Santiago, purely by word of mouth alone.
Hasta el momento hemos tenido una muy buena recepción. Sabemos que este año 2017 ha sido particularmente difícil para el sector, pero la relación precio/calidad de nuestros libros se presenta como una oportunidad en estos momentos. Estamos semana a semana aumentando los puntos de venta y poco a poco haciéndonos más conocidos. Ya tenemos pedidos desde regiones y eso que ha sido sólo por el boca a boca.
What is the story behind PIXI books/ Cual es la historia de los libros PIXI?
The books were created in 1954 in Germany by Editorial Carlsen and are known as PIXi in Europe. More than 450 million copies have been sold in Germany alone, with some 13 milllion sold each year. More than 2000 titles and 200 series´ have been published, holding the Guiness World Record as the company with the most illustrated books sold worldwide. They have been translated into Arabic, Albanian, Cantonese, Croatian, English, French, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Mandarin, Macedonian, Polish, Swedesh and Serbian, and now (by us), Spanish.
Los libros fueron creados en 1954 en Alemania por la Editorial Carlsen y son conocidos por su marca PIXI en Europa. Más de 450 millones de ejemplares han sido vendidos desde que salieron a la venta los primeros Pixis sólo en Alemania, y se venden en promedio 13 millones de ejemplares por año. Más de 2.000 títulos y más de 200 series se han publicado hasta el momento y está actualmente postulando para los Record Guiness como la serie de libros ilustrados más exitosa de todos los tiempos. Hasta ahora los “Pixi-libros” han sido traducidos al: inglés, francés, holandés, danés, finlandés, polaco, sueco, serbio, albanés, árabe, chino, croata, macedonio y chino mandarín. Ahora, a partir del 2017 al español en Chile.
Now for something more general! Where is your favorite place in Chile / Donde esta tu lugar favorito en Chile?
I fell in love with Quintay at first sight. When I went for the first time you still had to go along a dirt road; it has changed a lot since then and not always for the better – it´s more popular and busy now but it remains a place that I love to escape to for the day from Santiago. We dream of having a house there one day, with a view of that marvellous sea!
Me enamoré de Quintay a primera visita. Cuando fui por primera vez todavía había camino de tierra para llegar a este maravilloso pueblo. Cambió mucho desde ahí y no todo para mejor, es mucho más popular y frecuentado ahora, pero sigue siendo nuestro escape por el día de Santiago y soñamos con tener una casa con vista al mar ahí algún día.
Where is your favorite restaurant/ Donde esta tu restaurant favorito?
Unfortunately, my favorite restaurant, Alto Peru, closed while we were abroad and I still haven´t found a replacement! But, in general, I love the wharf at Quintay: fresh seafood, good service and the best view.
Lamentablemente, mi restaurante favorito Alto Peru cerró mientras estuvimos viviendo en el extranjero. Todavía no he encontrado un reemplazo. Pero, en general, me encanta la caleta de Quintay para comer: pescados y mariscos frescos, buen servicio y con la mejor vista al mar.
What is next for Editorial Dansema/ Que es el proximo para Editorial Dansema?
We want to develop the format of our books and include technology so that we offer something innovative, practical, functional, easy to use and collect and, above all, with attractive and well-priced content so that adults and children alike learn to love reading.
Queremos innovar aún más en el formato de los libros y vincularlos con la tecnología (específicamente la de realidad aumentada) para que sean innovadores, prácticos, funcionales, fáciles de llevar, coleccionables y sobre todo que tengan un contenido atractivo a un precio conveniente, para fomentar en los niños y sus papás la lectura por gusto.
Each Spring a wonderful event happens: the annual open day at the Club de Planeadores (Aerodromo) de Vitacura. Normally a private spot for pilots, it transforms every November into an all-day extravaganza for the whole family. From helicopters you can hop into and explore, gliders, small planes and stands featuring all of Chile´s armed forces, the free event caters to all aviation fanatics from about 10am until around 6pm. This year there were hourly shows and even helicopter rides on offer too, from $20,000 for 20 minutes in the sky.
We really enjoyed learning about the SSOT Project (Sistema Satelital de Observacion de la Tierra) which is operated by the Chilean Air Force (Fuerza Aerea de Chile). The project has put a satellite developed by ASTRIUM (France) into the atmosphere above Chile to monitor and (eventually) predict trends across the areas most pertinent to Chile, namely, volcanic activity, seismic activity, forest fires and land mapping. Find out more here.
Tip: there isn´t much shade so come prepared with hats and sunblock, and this year none of the food trucks sold water (only soft drinks).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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).
I am currently reading the most amazing book, ´The Omnivores Dilemma´ by Michael Pollan. In it, Pollan explores the production of – and costs behind – our food, from the realms of industrial agriculture, organic farms and small providers, right through to exploring the acts of foraging (see below) and hunting. This is an eye opening book and one that raises many questions, particularly because Pollan himself is such an accomplished writer and researcher.
(I have linked to the Book Depository site, as this is where I buy all my books unless it´s for my Kindle. Over the last few years, I have never had any issues ordering to Chile and arrival times range between two weeks to three months, depending on how functional the postal network is at the time, as well as how Customs are working given they continuously strike).
Here in Chile, a nation where UHT milk reigns supreme (read my essay here) and where the battle against soft drink is real, we are both blessed and unlucky. We are unlucky because the murkier side of food production, namely big business, has got its claws firmly sunk in to everyday society, at least in Santiago anyway (essay here). How else do you explain the proliferation of fizzy drinks at every meal and the goody bags overflowing with lollies at each birthday party (at a recent birthday party E sat down at the table to his individual paper plate laden with different packets of biscuits, chocolates, cakes, candies, as well as being surrounded by bowls of various chips, lollies, and other unusually colorful things).
We are blessed because – as I keep saying over and over – it is still possible to buy nearly all that you need in the local feria, (market), a place which forms the vital breath of the outer lying comunas, including right here in Recoleta. We shop from this ragged tumble of stalls each week, sometimes more than once, and it is there that we fill up our reusable bags and pull-behind shopping trolley (the most practical shopping invention, and one unfortunately relegated to the elderly in New Zealand). It is here where Chile shows itself at its most exotic, the place where I feel all manner of emotion, from being humbled, surprised and even uneasy as I walk past realms of fruit and vegetables, deciding which stall vendor best deserves my hard-earned pesos.
This is a country that produces in its truest sense,where even in the starkest of places you can find life springing forth with more colors than a Monet painting (i.e. the Desierto Florido in the Atacama). And it helps the rest of the world grow food too, in the form of fertilizer composed of Chilean Nitrate (NaNO3) which is found only in the deserts of Northern Chile. For a foodstuff a little more direct, that you can apply directly to your plate at the dinner table, you can use sea salt, famously harvested near Pichelemu, in a tiny place called Cahuil.
To some, a trip to this patchwork of colorful pools beside an estuary marks no big occasion, but to others (like myself) this is a trip into the heart of food, for is there another ingredient more essential to a meal than salt? Salt is one of the five primary tastes humans have evolved to recognize, and its addition can help the release of certain molecules into the air, heightening a dish´s aroma, while also overriding bitterness and balancing other flavors. It also helps to balance fluids inside your body, and contains two of the most essential elements for all living creatures on the planet, namely chloride and sodium ions.
Salt has also been recorded as far back as our records go, to preserve food that would otherwise decay and become hazardous to eat, and the indigenous of Chile were no different. The original inhabitants of the Barrancas area, where the Cahuil saltpans are today, worked this spot for hundreds of years, taking advantage of this naturally salty river flowing on its way to the Pacific Ocean. Close to this meeting point are the ´cuarteles´, networks of various pools measuring 20 square meters each, all with different levels of water that will eventually evaporate to leave behind salt. The process begins in spring once the rains have finished and the estuary decreases in water level, allowing the pools to be cleaned. The water then re-enters, decanting via small gates between each pool, and by the time summer rolls around the salt is ready to be extracted, although this is a highly sensitive process that depends upon humidity, rain and other external conditions. The pools, with their different levels of water, therefore place the salt at a different proximity to the mud, thereby creating different types of salt. There is the ´flor de sal´ which is very fine, and then the ´espumilla´, or regular sea salt, while the bottom layers are used for things like leather tanning and the removal of snow on roads.
The saltpans of Cahuil have been declared a ´Living Human Treasure´, a remarkable slice of culture and history that you can take home with you in the form of bathing or cooking salt, available with a variety of additions such as merken, seaweed and smoked salmon. For me, this is a spot where you can immerse yourself in nature which swims and flies all around you; it is here where I have seen more birds than anywhere else in Chile, so if you are a budding ornithologist you should put this place on your list.
The Nitty Gritty
How To Visit Cahuil:
Open all year round and completely free; though production begins from September and finishes in March. It is located 2km south of Cahuil in the sector of Barrancas. Check out the map here.
What The Family Thought:
You cannot use a pushchair or wheelchair if you want to explore between the pools as the paths are not very wide, however the pools are not deep so they are suitable for toddlers to walk around (with supervision). My 3 year old son really enjoyed himself. There is not much else to do in the area although it is geared up for summer visitors in the form of cabañas, probably to house the streams of Santiaguinos who escape the city in the hotter months to relax by the beach. Cahuil makes an excellent day trip from the Colchagua Valley or from Pichelemu.
Where You Can Shop:
Agricola Tinajacura sells pasture raised chickens that live glorious lives beneath the sun (they are fed a mixed grain), beside grass-fed lamb. The chickens (both laying and broiler) are moved outside from 3 weeks of age, where they live always on the grass, which supplements their diet with bugs and flowers, an area which they spend less than 24 hours on a time (so no living on top of their waste and more ground gets fertilized). The lambs eat only grass and the land is untouched by fertilizer. The animals receive no hormones.
Santiago & Viña Organic Pastured Cowshare is run by expat, Frank Szabo, where you can order a percentage of grass-fed beef cuts. Orders are in bulk and killing takes place at selected times during the year.
La Paloma Saludable delivers fresh milk and eggs from the farm as well as a plethora of organic foodstuffs. Email orders only.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
From the wild open spaces to the starry sky, the snug fields of green tucked between snow-capped mountains and the raw expanse of open ocean, Chile has got to be one of the world´s most beautiful specimens of Planet Earth. It seems only fitting, then, that it is also a country taking the business model and embedding it with an environmental conscience (as we have seen with TTANTI and Apicola del Alba). This next business is one that is setting a new benchmark in the fashion world by merging concepts of sustainability and responsibility with quality eyewear in a way that is quite simply revolutionary. Enter Karun World, sunglasses and glasses made ´from a different point of view´ which I am so excited to feature on my blog because I love the concept, all that they stand for and the sunglasses themselves which are effortlessly stylish and unique. Here are some reasons why they should be on your radar too.
They symbolize a new vision
The philosophy governing Karun is that their products form symbols of a new way of being; a new way of thinking of ourselves and how we view the world around us. As founder Thomas Kimber says, ¨it´s clear the world needs a big change. I don´t pretend to change the world by making sunglasses, but prove that we are able to make the best products in a completely different way that respects the planet¨. They follow a circular and regenerative model, aiming to prove that it is possible to manufacture products that are high in quality and that have a lower impact upon the environment than the usual extractive methods that define the norm. They also see themselves as much than just a company, in fact their Kickstarter page states ¨ Everything we do is a reflection of the dream of a great group of people sharing similar values and way of life. We are working as hard as we can to prove through example that we can change the way we interact with ourselves and our planet¨.
They look to nature for inspiration
Karun is inspired by the wilds of Patagonia and means ´to be nature´ in Mapundungun, the common language spoken by the Mapuche indigenous people. This rugged landscape at the southern end of Chile is a place known for its beauty and raw energy, and this is channelled into the designs. They don´t focus upon inventing new things, instead they look to nature to inspire them.
They are revolutionizing eyewear
Karun is a Chilean business that is revolutionary. Their first collection (Wood) used fallen trees in Patagonia, carefully selecting them rather than cutting any down, to create unique eyewear that embraced the differences found in each specimen. After this they teamed up Bureo, a company creating skateboards made from recycled fishing nets sourced from Chile, to make the first glasses in the world made from 100% recycled fishing nets using recycling programme Net Positiva. Discarded fishing nets cause around 10% of plastic pollution in our oceans and cause major damage to sea ecosystems and marine creatures. Net Positiva was developed by Bureo and launched in Chile in 2014, where it collected some 3000kg of discarded fishing nets in just six months. Net Positiva works across the USA and Chile to clean up coastlines, and are engaged with various non-profits that remove ocean pollution.
Now Karun bring you The Clothing Collection. This collection highlights the issue of waste in the fashion industry, where items are mass produced and quickly discarded by consumers. Jeans are some of the contaminating, with around 3 billion pairs produced annually, of which 80% then end up in landfills. From there greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane are released which cause considerable damage to our soils and water. The Clothing Collection is the world´s first eyewear made using recycled jeans, combining 75% recycled jeans and 25% bio-resin. Karun have partnered with Balloon Latam, where a portion of sales from each pair of sunglasses goes towards entrepreneurs in the Llanquihue Lake region of Chile. Balloon Latam works across Latin America to help develop local economies in a way that is respectful of each community´s identity, cultural conditions and productive possibilities. The designs in this collection are influenced by native Chilean birds such as the Chucao, which is native to the south and known for its emblematic sound, the red-breasted Loica (Long-Tailed Meadowlark) and the crested Kuru, or Magellanic Woodpecker. Karun has been lauded everywhere, from Cosmopolitan to CNN and GQ.
Their eyewear is special
The materials are 100% Chilean and designed in Chile, and are put together using the finest technology in Italy. The sunglasses use Zeiss official lenses which offer complete protection from UVA/UVB rays, and are available in either grey or amber, or as optical lenses. They contain German stainless steel spring hinges and have no added chemicals. The current collection come with a hardcase container made from jeans and fully recycled cardboard packaging.
How You Can Get a Pair
Karun are currently seeking funding via Kickstarter, a global crowdfunding platform that got their other designs off the ground. The campaign ends in late July, and the first 500 models will be completed by August. In October all the models will have been completed to be delivered by November.
We woke from our slumber to the sound of shrieks and squeals of delight piercing the usual quiet of the early morning. Outside our windows, children were jumping up with arms outstretched to catch the lightly falling snowflakes, touching down on hair that had never before felt its icy touch. The dark sky looked as though it had been painted, shafts of pink and white blurring together to create something that was at times beautiful but at other times surreal and eerie.
The snow that fell in the wee hours of the 15th July was something of a rare occurrence. It certainly had not snowed in recent memory here in Recoleta. According to the website Weather, snow is ¨slightly more common than snow in Los Angeles. The two cities are at similar latitudes, surrounded by mountains and bordered by water to the west¨. As a result (in typical Santiago fashion given it also can´t cope with rain) the city nearly fell apart. A worker died trying to clear ice, others were injured by a fallen power line while – mindbogglingly – 337,000 were hit by power cuts, lasting for days in some areas. My friend Yorka (with the mad photography skills) was at the Bahai Temple in Peñalolen, and reports that some 9,000 people showed up to enjoy the snow there … and destroyed the temple gardens and facilities in the process resulting in temple closure.
The girl is standing beside a bench strewn with leather, knives and paper. Her brow is furrowed with concentration, lips pursed, as she deftly follows the thin lines that dance their way across the dyed hide in her hand. The light is dim and the air is musty, tainted by an odor that harkens back to a time before shopping malls, a time when each store´s bounty was not churned out by an unknown´s hands but instead painstakingly created, borne of passion, time and skill. The girl is making shoes, art.
Shoe making today is a heavily manufactured process where the various stages of production are divided in a factory and shared by a multitude of workers; more often than not, the shoes we buy in mega stores are the result of industrial sweatshops in countries such as China. Originally, however, this process was undertaken by just one – known as a cordwainer – who would oversee the entire production and perform the various 68 to 390 steps themselves, along with some 15 different techniques.
Enter Padre Nuestro, a tiny store in Ñuñoa that is outfitted by just one man and his apprentice, a design alumni now pursuing shoemaking. She has been training for four months but the apprenticeship will take her several years.
A pair of shoes is the result of an arduous process. First shoes are designed, followed by the preparation of lasts and the cutting and stamping of the leather. The pieces are then dyed, sewn, fitted to the last to form for several weeks, and finally assembled. The process doesn´t end here, as the sole has to be hammered into shape and the shoe then has to be ´finished´ which may include burnishing, rasping, smoothing, and other techniques.
At Padre Nuestro, your feet are measured and a mold is found that best matches your foot. Over the course of around one month, your shoes are handmade by this two-person team, with the end result a pair of shoes that have been made for no-one else but you.
There is currently a waiting list of around two months at Padre Nuestro. The store sells shoes for men only.
Photos reproduced with permission from Padre Nuestro
The Nitty Gritty
Address: Tegualda 1517, local 1, Factoria Tegualda, Ñuñoa. Metro Santa Isabel
Tip: while you are here, pop next door to Silvestre Bistro to take advantage of the Wild Food Movement that has come to Santiago! Great prices, ambiance, service and delicious food!! Barrio Italia is a fantastic place to go shopping, plus you are supporting local small businesses and keeping traditions – just like at Padre Nustro – – alive.