20 Things You Didn´t Know About Chile!

  1. Top Producer of Wine

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

2. Oldest Mummy in the World

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

3. UNESCO Sites

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

4. 6500km of Spectacular Coastline

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

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5. Driest Place on Earth

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

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Beautiful gift and souvenir ideas by Siski Green

6. Obligatory Flag Display

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

7. Fireworks Like You´ve Never Seen

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

8. Government UFO Research

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

9. Divorce + Abortion = Hot Topics

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

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10. Glass House Protest

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

11. Coffee Shops + Sex

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

12. Robinson Crusoe Inspiration

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

13. Really Amazing Trees

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

14. Largest Copper Reserves

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

15. Powerful Earthquakes

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

What to do

16. Moving Houses … the Traditional Way

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

17. Attached to Horses?

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

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18. Nobel Prize Winners

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

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19. 4000 Disappeared Under the Dictatorship

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

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20. Romantic History That Should Be A Movie

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

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

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

Chile in Photos

An Introduction to Musica Latina

Paranormal Chile Top 7

10 Common Misconceptions About Chile

The People of Tierra del Fuego

Fantastic Food, Fabulous Ferias!

Santiago is the heart of this nation – all foods end up here – and nowhere is this more obvious than the ubiquitous feria, or market.

The feria is my favorite thing to do here in Chile because there is no other place where you can delve right into the culture and discover what it really means  to be a local. They are a lifeforce for the people in the suburbs who use them everyday (except Monday) to stock up on  almost everything they might need, from fruit and vegetables to medicine, fresh fish or clothing. Stallholders begin in the wee hours, receiving deliveries and then setting up their spot for the day, of which aesthetics are key. Effort is put in to ensure their produce looks fresh and better than the neighbor’s offering, with everything from fake grass, realms of hanging garlic to delicious preparations of ceviche (seafood marinated in lemon juice) or pebre (a spicy tomato salsa mix) made to show off their ingredients to the max.

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NZD$20 (not including packaged items)

Food plays a key part in Chilean life. The indigenous of both northern and central Chile had a diet rich in potatoes, quinoa and meat from sources such as pudues, alpacas and llamas, well before the arrival of the Conquistadores. The Spanish then brought with them domestic livestock and ingredients that today make up traditional comida chilena, the very best of which is known as comida casera (homemade food).  Many of the dishes are simply prepared, which reflects Chile’s peasant past.  Dishes include the cilantro-heavy cazuela stew or lentejas (lentils),  while the hugely popular Corn Pie (Pastel de Choclo) mixes both meat and chicken. Beans (porotos) are so frequently consumed and traditional that there is a saying – “mas chileno que los porotos!”

Chile is also blessed to have the Humboldt Current drifting past it’s Pacific Ocean coastline, which brings a huge variety of sea dwelling creatures up from Antarctica. All year round you can enjoy seafood in delicious dishes, my favorites of which are Chupe de Jaivas and crab/prawn empanadas.  You know it must be good if it has been immortalized in poetry, which Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda actually did in his Caldillo de Congrio (Kingclip Chowder) poem.

I also find the feria to be a place where you can see real artisans at work, from the man who quickly wraps up the carton of eggs to the elderly gentlemen who will rapidly explain the medicinal or culinary uses of strange ingredients. Remember to shop around for the best prices (cheapest in the centre), watch your belongings, take small change (no big notes!) and use a portable shopper to cart your purchases (not just for nanas!).  Finally, stallholders will give you about a million small plastic bags for your purchases so it can be a good idea to take along a reusable bag or simply place things directly in your trolley – and therefore baffling them all!

Ask the locals where the day’s feria is when you are in the suburbs – they will likely be able to tell you! For a unique Santiago experience head to the bustling La Vega market in Recoleta wbere you can try comida chilena in La Vega Chica, or go for huge portions in the Tirso Molina.

Family Fun: Museo Interactivo Mirador

Do you know what has been on the To Do List forever? The Museo Interactivo Mirador, otherwise known as the MIM. Have you heard of it? You probably have, as it always tags along on any list regarding children’s activities in Santiago. But let me tell you, any place that goes by an abbreviation as cool as The MIM is going to pack a huge punch because this museum really delivers.

It knocks the socks off all the other museums in Chile, to be completely honest.

First of all, the parking is free AND there’s a guard whom you’re not expected to tip (both firsts in Santiago!). Secondly it’s located inside an immacutely maintained park that is chocka with things to see. And third upon entering you will discover that this museum takes it’s customers seriously because there is disabled and pushchair access to everything (ramps and a lift), lots of loos and benches, plus there is so much staff that you couldn’t get lost even if you tried.

Entering the museum is like stepping into a madhouse … and every child’s fantasy. There are knobs and levers and buttons to push at every turn, glowing lights and loud noises. Areas are divided to cover all the scientific spectrum, from Nutricion & Life and Electromagnetism, to Art & Science and Robotics. While my 3 year old and 34 year old had a ball, there is also a sensory section for wee ones too, which is thoughtfully sectioned off from where all the bigger kids play. We loved the watery wonders inside the Sala Fluidos where you can play with giant bubbles, and the Sala Tierra where you can make a tsunami and watch an earthquake knock down a (tiny) building. There is even a 3D cinema.

I’m sure you are wondering what the catch is. There aren’t really any, only a couple of grievances that can’t really be helped. Tickets are not that cheap particularly as children 2 and over pay, although the effort put into this place is surely worth the cost. It’s also quite a way from downtown Santiago, being located in La Granja, and you need to walk 8 blocks from the nearest metro station (Estacion Mirador).  You also need to share the museum with hundreds of overenthusiastic children, none of whom are the slightest bit interested in the well signposted explanations regarding each exhibit (in fact if you have a newborn like us, or if you’re a bit of a germaphobe, take some sanitizer or baby wipes as there are a lot of hands touching everything before you).  The museum is also GINORMOUS. After almost four hours we still only explored the first floor and saw almost none of the surrounding park so plan it as a day visit.And whatever you do, do NOT leave without first venturing through the multicolored “jellyfish” outside (I have no remembrance of what it really is but it is amazing).

Verdict: A fantastic trip for the whole family even if you don’t speak Spanish, and one of the best museums I’ve ever been to.  Really world class.

The Nitty Gritty:

Children (2+): $2.700

Adults: $3.900

Discount for senior citizens and students (ID required)

Shop selling science kits etc on site

Two food options

Lockers to leave your stuff

Information available in Spanish only.

Wednesday has half price entry!

Children below age 14 must enter with an adult.

Click here for the website.

For more Family Fun Day ideas please click here and here or here. .

Wonderlust

I love taking photos, and anyone who is friends with me on Facebook or Instagram will know that! I really enjoy looking back because, as the years pass, it can be hard to remember the million and one sights and emotions that are experienced when you travel.  Here are my favorite travel shots I have taken – may they awaken the travel lust within you!

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On the way to Embalse el Yeso, in Cajon del Maipo, CHILE

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View from Frutillar, CHILE

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Valparaiso
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Shooting stars in the UFO capital of CHILE, Cochiguaz
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On the outskirts of Puerto Varas, CHILE
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Cute faces near Ovalle, CHILE

 

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The beauty of this shot couldn’t distract us from the unsavory conditions these people were living in, Chiloe, CHILE
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There was something about this little girl in Huanchaco, PERU, that made me want to photograph her. She had so much pinache for a toddler, and amongst the bustle of the wharf she just seemed to ooze character
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Religious progression in Lima’s Plaza de Armas, PERU
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This was taken in the famous cathedral in Lima’s Plaza de Armas. I had a really strange feeling the whole time I walked around – like I had to get out! This photos encapsulates exactly that. PERU
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From that same church in Lima, PERU. I like the blurry, dark quality in the photo.
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This is one of my favorite photos of all time. In Huanchaco, PERU, we stumbled upon a colorful parade full of school children. While they laughed and piroutted, this person was carrying on a normal conversation, decked out in finery, in front of a stunning backdrop.
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Making dosas in Cochin, INDIA
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After arguing with a local that these birds were not eagles but vultures, I snapped this. Orcha, INDIA
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One of my strongest memories of India is of the trains. Nothing shows you the real India like travelling on trains, especially alongside friendly locals who like to wiggle your toes while you sleep on the bunks. This is also the best place to drink chai and eat! INDIA
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Looking out over sprawling Mumbai, INDIA
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I wonder what these children are up to now. This was taken after our presence in Rola, Gujarat, emptied an entire school!! INDIA
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The holy city – Varanasi, INDIA.
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Cochin, INDIA
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A big walk around the spectacular village of Hampi, INDIA, brought this spectaular shot.
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Hill station near Ooty, INDIA
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Varkala, INDIA. The most beautiful spot to just stay and stay and stay …
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Jodhpur, one of my favorite cities in INDIA
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Watching the sunrise in Hampi, INDIA

 

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Annapurna Ciruit, NEPAL
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Detouring from the track, Annapurna Circuit, NEPAL
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Annapurna Circuit, NEPAL
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Honestly, I don’t remember too much from this day – the second to last of the ascent on the Annapurna Circuit, NEPAL. It was so intense and actually much more difficult than the final day walking up.

 

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Walking to the nothernmost point of NEW ZEALAND, Cape Reinga
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Having a rest, Cape Reina, NEW ZEALAND

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My home town, Kerikeri NEW ZEALAND, also the site of NZ’s oldest buildings!

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Cruising around the Hokianga and getting caught behind a cow traffic jam is a common occurence in rural NEW ZEALAND

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View from my house in Kerikeri, NEW ZEALAND

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Where my parents live and where Emilio was raised for his first 9 months, Totara North, NEW ZEALAND

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Stonehenge, ENGLAND. I like that this photo seems so dark, because there is something really strange about this place.

 

It´s Rush Hour & I´m On The Metro

It’s 7pm and the platform is packed. People are waiting anxiously, inching forward alarmingly close to the edge with eyes peeled to the left. The train sounds in the near distance and they ready themselves at the same time as the metro guards spread their arms and shout to stay back. There is only one word to describe what comes next: battle.  The doors open and there is a swarm of commuters descending from the carriage … while fighting the ferocious onslaught of those trying to get on. There’s pushing and shoving, people shouting “weon” and once inside (if you make it that is) there is no room to even lift a finger and all manner of things pressed into your bottom.

The metro has a bad reputation amongst locals and foreigners here but it’s fair to say that in (most) countries travel during rush hour is a hectic and trying time. It’s true that the above picture is commonplace and it’s also true that it’s near impossible to find a space if you are disabled, with children or with a pushchair. People are already stressed by the time they arrive on the platform thanks to Santiago’s long working day, and just waiting to use your ticket/Bip card can take half an hour in some stations (looking at you Tobalaba!).

Last night we had to use the metro at exactly that time –  and with Emilio. Sometimes there is just no other option. The yellow line was extraordinarily busy. No-one offered us a seat, which is rare because someone usually does.  In their defense they probably couldn’t see us over the sea of bobbing heads … and also because they were all taken by middle aged ladies (the WORST culprits for doing the usual eye-avoiding/I’m asleep/I-can-see-you-but-don’t-care-trick). Some people motioned for us to sit down when one of the not-that-old ladies vacated but by then we were getting off at the next stop. At Santa Ana the swarm pushed into Emilio so much that he got very scared but the people around us pushed back to move everyone away from us. When we arrived at Los Heroes it would have been impossible for us to disembark if it hadn’t been for all the people who helped part a path for us and shouted to be careful of the guagua. On the platform it was madness but everyone that saw us gave us a wide berth.

This is something that I think often goes overlooked. For every person pushing, there are five more who will try and help and this goes for the buses and taxis too!. I have found the men to be more helpful than the women (generally), that people nearly always give me a seat without prompting outside of the rush hour, and that often the most helpful people to Luis or myself are the most unsavoury looking men. I also have to point out there has been immense improvement since I was here in 2012. During rush hour there are trains every minute, there are lots of people working to help you, and the Ruta Verde/Roja help make the trip a lot faster. It’s also worth pointing out that in a country where (most) things are privatized, the metro line is state-run – I’m sure TranSantiago would love to have a piece of that pie too because it must be a goldmine of income! The lines are constantly being repaired, lifts are being put in, carriages have been designated as preferential, and drivers are well-trained (its no easy feat to get the job either). A week or so ago, I lost my balance on the metro (darn dizziness!) and then had a full-blown panic attack.  I cannot speak highly enough of the young guard  who calmed me down, offered to call me an ambulance and then walked me across the station to wait for Luis to rescue me – and he spoke English! I dread to think how much worse it would have been if he wasn’t there, or not as easy to find.

The pressure on the metro during rush hour is intense and I really hope that that improves with all the new lines being put in. Do you know what I wish you could get here? Those badges that show if you need a seat or extra help – there are alot of disabilities that make no outward change to your appearance. For me, it’s very difficult for me to stand on something that is moving or even using stairs – made doubly worse if I’m holding Emilio! It really makes me feel for those amongst us who really need assistence. I don’t think Santiago provides well for the disabled (or am I wrong) and the ultimate day would be when they set aside a whole carriage for those of us with pushchairs or wheelchairs. Sure would help me avoid dirty looks when I have to use the lift!

Househunting in Batuco

Yesterday we drove around Lampa and Batuco again in search of house options. I should say in search of liveable house options.  We have a very small budget to play around with but we have to use the subsidio or we will lose it,  We have had to come to terms with the fact that we will either get the land but not the house, or we will get a semi-properly constructed house but not the space. Yesterday was pretty dismal. To recap:

House 1 – refused to be viewed. Owner said the only option was to buy it based on how it looked from the road. Then he abruptly disappeared. This attitude has been pretty consistent with our experiences so far, with people barking “just look from the road” down the phone or hanging up because they can’t be bothered going through the effort of showing someone the house. This goes back to customer service in general here, which I have pointed out a few times: it just doesn’t exist.

House 2 – was completely enclosed. The entrance was a wire cage and the sitting area was completely windowless and dark. There was not a spec of light anywhere in the house. The yard was also enclosed and flled with junk all balancing precariously on top of one another. You reached the top floor via a steep staircase that was completely exposed to the elements. I left this one feeling incredibly depressed because I was struggling to find any redeeming qualities, or even common ground with the owner. I just cannot understand who would want to live like that? It couldn’t be for a lack of money as the entire house was outfitted in quality goods and flat screen televisions. I just don’t get it.

House 3 – this mood persisted with the third house, that had a lot of land but a barely-there house. We didn’t enter this one, just looked from the road as the elderly gentleman who lived there never came to the door. This one almost made me cry. Absolutely everywhere I looked was filled with mountains of junk: in front of the house, to the side of the house, in the house … one would barely be able to squeeze through the gate because of all the rusty chair frames, broken toys, tyres, metal sheets etc. This was clearly the home of a hermit who ( I deduced in a moment of Freudian expertise) was burying himself away from the world. Luis agreed that he maybe had some issues, but the unfortunate fact is that EVERYWHERE we looked we witnessed this same thing. People are not throwing broken things away, instead just pile them up in mountains in their gardens to spoil beneath the rain, wind and sun. Beautiful spaces of green are spoilt by paper and plastic rubbish, ruining what would be lovely surroundings. What is going on here??

House 4 – we suddenly left the dusty streets of what I had assumed was all of Batuco and entered a poblacion, a residential area where all the houses looked the same. The roads were narrow and busy, and there was row after row of white, 2-storey houses. House 4 was built relatively well and would only need minor tweaking. The living space was small but the bedrooms and kitchen were large, and there was plenty of space outside to make a patio and tiny garden. The house was behind a fence and the street was gated. We could easily see ourselves living there and it was well within our budget, with room to spare to make the minor adjustments it needed. We looked up and the air was clean and clear. But the area was not so good, we had to admit. Flaites do seem to exist everywhere. We will probably buy this house, but I highly doubt I’ll want to make the commute to Santiago every day. It feels very, very far away.

House 5 – we didn’t enter. It was in Lampa, a small town that I really like. I get good vibes in Lampa. But the house we saw had no outside space, the area was very poor, and we saw people selling pasta base. Nearby was house 6 but we couldn’t go in as it is occupied by renters, who were very rude to us and the owner said were likely to make problems about leaving.

So there you go! We desperately want to get out of the city and into the fresh air. Maybe plant some veges. We are going to look at Melipilla next, which is much further away but a nicer area. It’s a scary thought to think about living somewhere else, especially with a toddler. It makes me realise how much of a home we have made for ourselves in Recoleta, the barrio I hated at first but have now come to love. I’d be very interested in hearing anyone’s stories about their big move, especially if its to someplace away from Santiago. So get commenting!

Yo Me Pare el Taxi

I was lazy and took a taxi home today. In my defense it was freezing and erring on the dodgy side to walk home. I jumped in at Baquedano and, as per usual, the driver locked the doors.

“Why do taxi drivers do that?” I asked him, purely to spark a conversation.

“Because people on the street open the doors.” He responded.

“Has that happened when you have been driving?”

“Of course. It happens all the time, in all parts of Santiago, especially when people are talking on their cell phones. They open the door and snatch it. So now I always make sure the doors are locked, especially because passengers start blaming me if I don’t”

Five minutes later and we had established my life story, including a detailed account of my relationship with Luis and the birth of Emilio (in a pool, if you are also interested). We had touched on numerous other topics and were now sharing photos of our children at the traffic light.

“This is Jaime’s fifth birthday party” he shows me now, and I am blown away by the effort. There was a huge altar of balloons (like at Elisa’s party), personally drawn Minion balloons, Minion decorations and food mountains splayed across two tables. I told the taxi driver his son looked like a happy boy, and he really did.

This is not the first time taxi drivers have proudly shown me pictures of their children. I don’t know what it is, but saying I have a son seems to break alot of boundaries that previously used to hinder me. Not long ago I had a driver from Peru take me down Hernando de Aguirre and personally tried to find Luis a cheaper taxi to rent on the internet (and consequently made me late for work!).  Another time I got into a taxi at the same time as a fire engine siren was sounding, and the taxista proudly showed me his volunteer ID hanging from the visor.

“When the alarm sounds do you have to go running?” I asked him.

“No no no, this was in the United States, ten years ago! I was a voluntary firefighter there for twenty years but I stopped when they began changing all the regulations as it made the job so complicated. Now I just drive the taxi, but my heart is with the bomberos.”

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Speaking of bomberos, not long ago I had a former carabinero driving my taxi. He was a policeman all his life but was now retired, and drove the taxi for some extra income. Unlike all other taxistas, his health was covered by his pension and didnt need to live “day by day.”

I asked him what the biggest problem was in Santiago today.

“Definately the delincuentes, without a doubt. They are the bane of this city.” An answer which I am sure surprised no-one.

I am also offered endless advice from taxistas who are usually the first to admit that everyone in their profession is out to con tourists. I spoke to a very lovely driver the other week in Conchali who used to drive Santiago buses before they changed to TranSantiago (“it all went downhill then” he confides conspiratorially).

“Always watch for the note swapping.  That’s the big one. That and driving the wrong way. Oh yes, they will try anything! Listen to me, mi reina, be careful in the taxi!!”

Maybe I have been taken for a ride alot in the taxi – I have no idea – but generally I get taken where I want to go the right way. I’ve had the “you’ve given me a 1000 instead of 10000” once and occcasionally I get a grumpy man who is clearly in need of a new profession. Once I even had a woman driver – and she was nice as pie – and only worked until 9pm when it became too dangerous. It is dangerous at night, while in the day it’s agonizingly slow and poorly paid. But its a job and there are so many drivers who genuinely love meeting gringos and learning about their (odd) ways. Hands on heart – and I know I’m biased – but I think Santiago has friendly and courteous drivers (for the most part). I’d love to hear your stories though – i know some people have great taxi tales!

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Chile: Muy Interesante!

History is as interesting as we make it. Sometimes its all too easy to lose sight of that when too many words and fancy gringo lingo get in the way. So here are a few tidbits that I consider muy interesante presented with the least amount of mumbo jumbo as I can manage. Enjoy!

* In Quinta Normal there lived a people that we know virtually nothing about

That mean’s no-one knows what they were called, their language or their beliefs.  We know they that lived because, in 1976, archaelogists dug up the remains of their burial sites. What we do know is that they existed around 180BC, smoked pipes and decorated their lips (in the same manner as Amazonian natives). It is also believed that they were the first people south of the Atacama who practiced agriculture.

* 2000 women died in a huge fire in the Iglesia de la Compania, Santiago

Thanks to the actions of an overly-ambitiious priest who brought in 7000 candles and filled the church with flammable tappestries. On that fateful night of 1863, the priest was overheard leaving the church muttering “prudencia, prudencia”  after lighting the candles. The church was so packed in the festival dedicated to Mary that when the fire began, the crowds waiting outside were too immense to let people pass.

* The most beautiful bird you will see in Chile is a Loica

The local indigenous believed that its song signalled coming misfortune, while the Spanish were so taken by “la finessa del rojo de su pecha” that they wrote that nothing else like it existed.  The striking red is said to be the remnants of the blood of a hunter who, when he tried to shoot the bird, backfired into his face instead. As he lay dying, the Loica brought him water and poured it into his mouth, thus staining his chest with the hunter’s blood.

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My one and only shot of a Loica!

* The Chilenismo “Chanchunco City” has historical roots:

It originally meant “plenty of water” in Mapundungun and signified the area that is today Quinta Normal. Alameda was originally a river that joined with the Mapocho to form an oasis at Chanchunco. This area has always been settled (remember the first fact above?)

* Alonso de Ovalle described being in awe of Santiago’s monstrous apples and strawberries that were the size of human hands

That fact is self-explanatory – Santiago is and always has been a land ofwondrous fruit!

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The work of the Spaniard Alonso de Ovalle should be compulsory reading for everyone

* Violeta Parra created a poetic language to incite revolution

This song will most likely baffle even the most fluent of Spanish-speakers, best ask a Chilean to translate it for you. It is a work of both art and genius. I say gracias por la Violeta

If you have any fun facts, please share them!

Recoleta Styles

A short post today to enlighten you on the styling etiquette that normally applies if your young and from my neighborhood:

Women

  1. Long, long hair – as long as possible – that ideally should be straight and bear the remnants of blonde hair dye.
  2. Perfume that will leave a lingering whiff in your wake
  3. Crop top and bare midriff – your weight is of no importance!
  4. Leggings (ideally with knickers shining through)
  5. Another option is patterned leggings
  6. Tennis shoes (because their practical and aesthetically pleasing)
  7. The only form of address should be “o’e”
  8. the world genuinely wants to hear what you want to say … so speak up!

Men

  1. Tennis shoes
  2. sports labels!
  3.  trousers with three side stripes (real Adidas or not – no importa)
  4. baseball cap
  5.  phone
  6. When you walk you should think of lizard so that you slither. This is where the baggy adidas pants will come in handy – you will notice that you can swish about.
  7. Hanging in packs is the way to go, particularly on street corners
  8. The only way to travel is by bus – because no-one expects you to pay!

NOTE: no disprespect was intended by the production of this post 🙂

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Paranomormal Chile Top 7

I love anything that is out of the ordinary.  So when I read today that “Chile is one of the few countries on earth that has a government-supported UFO research organization” (Journey Latin America), I thought I would compile my top picks for the adventurous traveller.  Here we go!

1). El Enladrillado

This is an elevated spot so well-known for “UFO landings” that numerous books argue that its smooth volcanic slabs are too perfectly cut to be made by our mortal hands.  It now forms part of San Clemente’s “UFO Trail” which opened in 2008 and takes in several sights of the Reserva Nacional Altos de Lircay, including Colburn Lake.  Read more here

2). Cochiguaz

Lonely Planet describes this secluded spot in the Elqui Valley as Chile’s new-age hotspot.  This is a spot that is said to be continually haunted by the extraterrestrial, as well as home to numerous powerful leylines and assorted cosmic energies. This is a great spot in nature as it is little visited unlike the rest of the Elqui Valley, and the numerous therapies on offer mean that it is an unbeatable location to unwind and relax.

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3). Valle del Encanto Petroglyphs

A stroll through this secluded and quiet landscape will introduce you to numerous Chilean flora and fauna, as well as many excellently preserved pre-Colombian rock drawings, many of which depict non-human entities. There are also giant slabs filled with holes known as tacitas.  The valley is located outside of Ovalle.

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4). Geoglifos Chug Chug

Worth a visit if you make it to San Pedro de Atacama, these geoglyphs are believed to depict a visitor from another planet.

5). El Gigante de Atacama

Located east of Iquique, this sight is said to be the largest representation of a person in the world and is said to date back to AD900. It has an owl-like head with vertical rays reaching to the sky and bears an appearance of shock.

6). San Pedro Mummies

The world’s oldest mummies can be found in Museo Arqueológico de San Miguel de Azapa, and date to BC7200.  For photos, have a look here.

7). Museo Precolombino de Arte, Santiago

Definately worth a visit to make up your own mind about whether South America’s original people were visited by extraterrestials. The museum is excellent.

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