All you’ve Ever Wanted to Know about Dinosaurs in Chile

If you come to my house at 8pm each night, you will see three heads huddled over a hard-backed book with several ripped and sellotaped pages thanks to overeager small fingers.  You will likely hear my youngest son babble with excitement at certain pages, while the turning of (the majority of) others prompts my oldest to recite something like the following with perfect diction:

¨That’s Micropachycephalosaurus,¨  He will say (and I’m checking closely – he’s right!), ¨He’s really small and he eats plants and his name is the longest!¨

Sometimes I cannot believe how wondrous children are, the way their brains soak up information like ever-expanding sponges, and the remarkable ability they have to remember intricately the things that interest them (and seemingly not hear other things, like when its time to brush their teeth, tidy their toys away or leave me alone because I’m on the toilet!).  Children have that beautiful ability to find something amazing in the smallest things, like in a pile of freshly-fallen autumn leaves or a great big muddy puddle, and with so many of us in a constant battle against the dreaded clock, we could all take a leaf or two from their book.

But I digress because while this post could easily be about the wisdom of children (!), it is actually about the focus of my kids’ obsessions, specifically dinosaurs in Chile. Did you know Chile is some kind of palaeontological paradise?!  Honestly, it’s amazing so keep reading.

I encourage E’s love of dinosaurs. I think it’s wonderful that he can name 45 species, and it opens up a great discussion around geography, life/death, the circle of life, and the place humans – and all creatures – occupy in the grand scheme of things. I also love that it is his interest that is making me learn so much more about this amazing country, as well as the history of Earth itself, and I am incredibly excited to see where this goes.

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Let’s Begin! The Incredible Truth about Dinosaurs in Chile

(Paraphrased from this article in the Scientific American)

What once walked these lands? Mapusaurus was a carnivorous predator over 10 metres long that likely hunted in packs, and was named in honour of the Mapuche people. Two types of sauropods in the same family of Diplodocus have been discovered in Chile, as well as the footprints of the predator Giganotosaurus, bigger than T-Rex and the 2nd largest meat-eating dinosaur discovered anywhere in the world (beat only by Spinosaurus).  Carnotaurus (you may remember him from the Dinosaur movie and the soon-to-be-released, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) once lived in Calama, while Coelurosaur remains have been found at the site at Pichasca (Limari Valley).

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Right at the bottom of South America is one of the most important sites in South America for fossils. Here you can find the El Puesto excavation site, a place where the dirt crumbles underfoot beside hundreds of fossils. You might find a piece of rib cage here, a femur tip there, while further down whole skeletons have been uncovered.  This zone famously contains a 7km field of hadrosaur (duck-billed herbivore) remains that indicate they were partially burned in a bizarre wildfire. This site, along with others in the area such as Las Chinas and Cerro Guido, provides an unprecedented view into the world of 72-66 million years ago, a time which previously little was known.  What has been discovered in this area is gobsmacking. Titanosaurid sauropods, unique flowers (some perfectly preserved and 72 million years old – a feat considering the fragile nature of the petals), the oldest fossilized leaves in South America (including oak, lenga, and coihue), 40 types of plants, marine creatures, pollen, wood … A few steps to the left and you may come across marine reptiles, a few spots over you may uncover land mammals of the Cenozoic period.  Did you know that the forests of the Cretaceous period that once flourished in Antarctica were almost the same as the forests you can see today in modern day, Valdivia? 

Here scientists have also been able to study the effects of climate change during the end of the Cretacious period, including the 25m fall of the sea level over under a million years which allowed a bridge to form between South America and Antarctica.  Experts have noted that these bridges were important areas of evolution, giving rise to the new notion that climate change is the unique catalyst of new species.

Sites such as these are being studied by international teams funded mostly by Chile’s National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT).

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Introducing the Amazing, Chilesaurus, also known as the Missing Link

Chilesaurus diegosuarezi is its official name, but most of us will probably remember this unusual dinosaur because of the fact it was discovered in Chile – and the fact that this herbivore is so bizarre that it has been named the missing link between the evolution between herbivores and carnivores.

It’s a befuddling creature from the Jurassic period, the size of a small horse which once populated Patagonia 145 million years ago. It is also one of the most important paleontological finds in history, believe it or not, with four almost complete and 8 partially complete skeletons discovered. In 2004 seven-year-old Diego Suarezi discovered the bones while out with his geologist parents near General Carerra Lake, close to the site of breathtaking Marble Caves.  What is interesting about Chilesaurus is that it is a theropod, part of the same family as Carnetaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex, but bizarrely vegetarian.  It had a beak, for starters, and flat teeth for plant-eating – curioser still it had fingers rather than claws, while still bearing the famous short arms of carnivores.

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Where to Get your Dino Fix in Chile

Until E fell in love with those Cretaceous critters, I had no idea there were so many dino-related excursions in Santiago.  There really is something universal about dinosaurs that kids love, isn’t there?

If you are happy to make a day of it, you can drive/bus/train out to Buin Zoo, a wonderfully-kept zoo about 45minutes from the city centre.  Unlike the widely criticized National Zoo over on Cerro San Cristobal, Buin Zoo has large enclosures, well-maintained grounds and excellent facilities for the whole family.  We love a trip here, although on our most recent trip we didn’t see a whole lot as we barely left the Dino Zoo.  Yes, fellow parents of the dino-obsessed, there really are a place where you can take your child to see life-sized models, and although it’s small, your child will absolutely love it.  Expect to see all the classics AND a giant sandpit to hunt for fossils in!

Closer to home and Santiago has two events on a limited run. The Santiago Planetarium has a showing of Dinosaurios al Atardecer, which explores the history of dinosaurs around the world (Spanish only) followed by a fun group activity.  I was pleasantly surprised by the Planetarium – it isn’t London or New York but it’s fun and E loved it (M did not so sit near the door if you go with small children in case you need to make a swift exit) and the activity was enjoyable for the whole family (we had a hard time getting Luis to leave).  There is a small toy shop with dinosaur/space related trinkets and it wasn’t expensive.  The Planetarium is just a short work from Estacion Central metro station right beside the Universidad de Santiago (USACH) but it has its own entrance.  This film runs until July 1st. NOTE: Do take care of your belongings around this metro station as it is extremely busy and be aware that this metro stop does not have a lift or escalator.

At the other end of town within the gorgeous Parque Araucano park (beside Parque Arauco Mall) you can find Big Bang Park + Chilesaurus, an indoor dinosaur extravaganza that is set to stay until September.  This is the perfect place to take your child to see huge replicas of their favourite dinosaur, including a dino dig and other fun activities. Star of the show is the moving, lifelike Chilesaurus, who your child will love.  Well worth it!

Further afield, in the 6th region to be exact, is the Route of Dinosaur Footprints (Ruta de las Huellas de Dinosaurios). At around 100km from Santiago and 70km from its nearest city (San Fernando), this is an endeavour for the obsessed or the adventurous but no matter who you are you will be left amazed by the visible footprints left by dinosaurs some 150 million years ago. Standing here, it is hard to imagine that the mountains you see before you used to be sea and that the 500 or so footprints dotted about are visible only due to the ash left by volcanic eruptions all those millions of years before.  The 2010 earthquake, one of the largest in world history, actually unearthed even more footprints, and the result is a spectacular journey back in time to a Chile that was very, very different. Promaucaes Outdoor leads guided tours around the area, lasting about three hours (around CLP$10,000), and the trip can be easily combined with a visit to the Termas del Flaco hot springs.  NOTE: both the tour and the hot springs operate only between October and May as the area is inaccessible in winter; you also will need to bring cash.

The Monumento Natural La Pichasca is the culmination of a gorgeous drive over azure reservoirs and past miles of grape-laden hills in the Limari Valley, just on the outskirts of the mining town, Ovalle (45 min from La Serena).  Here the fossils of ginormous Titanosaurus’ have been unearthed (not displayed in the park), as well as petrified forest, pre-Colombian cave paintings  NOTE: Pichasca is a long way from anything, so check opening times before you leave.  It also gets hot and sunny so pack plenty of water – enjoy!

So you Want a Dinosaur Birthday?

Eventosaurio, a small outfit inspired by their own kids’ love of dinosaurs, is all you need to make an original birthday party children will remember.  What child doesn’t want to meet a real, walking baby t-rex?  If you book Eventosaurio to your event, Rexy (and his handlers) will come for a visit – there’s no need to be scared because Rexy is fed beforehand and is only keen to play! You will learn all about dinosaurs during some fun activities before Rexy is unleashed on the partygoers (cue screams!) for some fun and games. Eventosaurio is not a cheap birthday rental and Rexy has some big dimensions, therefore needs quite a bit of space to move around, but if your child is dino-crazy like mine, their ecstatic faces make it all worth it.

Follow them on Facebook here and Instagram here.

Hope you enjoyed this dino-tastic article! If you are new to my blog, please feel free to have a nosey through – I may get a bit honest at times but hopefully you find something that strikes a chord. If you want to read about some other fun facts about Chile, have a read of this article, or for ideas about what to do with kids in Santiago take a look here. As always, if you liked what you read please give it a ´like´ and don’t forget to subscribe to my feed to keep up to date with new posts. I am always looking for new content, so if you have an idea for a story please send me an email to helen@queridarecoleta.com

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For the Love of Bread: Meet La Farine Pan a La Antigua

Chile is having a love affair with bread.

This country adores its pancito. People line up morning and evening to buy the day´s haul, scrounging about in bottomless bins for the freshest options before placing that ubiquitous yellow bag on the scale to be weighed. From the traditional panaderia, where they make four roll marrequetas that are cooked with water in the oven to create a crispy crust (read an amazing article about it here) through to amasanderias where they prepare all other types of Chilean bread like the humble hallulla or (my favorite) pan amasado, bread really is a staple part of the daily life here – best enjoyed with lashings of avocado, olive oil, lemon juice and salt.  And of course no lunch outing would be complete without a free bread basket and pebre.

It makes sense, then, to draw attention to a small place making big waves in the bread world.  La Farine – Pan a la Antigua is located in Curacavi, just outside of Santiago near by Kross ¨preservative-free¨brewery and Apicola del Alba natural cosmetics (and maker of my favorite conditioner ever).  I found them because Casa Luz, one of my favorite restaurants in Santiago, has used their bread and highlighted them on Instagram. They have just opened up their new store and make a great side stop on your way to Valparaiso or the Casablanca Valley.  Let´s find out a little more shall we?

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Ten Questions with Josefina from La Farine – Pan a la Antigua

1.Who is La Farine/ Quien es La Farine?

We are a family that decided to learn the trade, from the art of making bread to how to sell this ancestral product in Curacavi.  We are a 6 person team with the whole family involved: Daniel, Josefina, Pia, Miel, Violeta and Hernan.  Each person has a different role to play.

La Farine es una familia que decidio aprender el oficio, desde el arte de hacer el pan hasta como vender este ancestral producto en Curacavi.  Somos un equipo de 6: Daniel, Josefina, Pia, Miel, Violeta y Hernan. Toda la familia involucrada, cada uno cumpliendo roles en los diferentes momentes de esta actividad. 

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2. Do you have any family history making bread/ Tienes una historia de familia trabajando con el pan?

Not at all. Daniel is a chef and life was slowly taking him down the bread path, and then after an adventure in France we realized that we wanted to dedicate our life to it.  We are creating a family tradition.

No para nada. Daniel es cocinero y la vida lentamente lo fue llevando por el camino del pan, ahora en nuestra ultima aventura por Francia nos dimos cuenta de que realmente era lo que nos quieramos dedicar. Estamos creando una tradicion familiar. 

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3. What is the motivation behind the store/Que es la motivacion de la tienda?

Our daily motivation is to make good bread, to recover the most that we can from this ancient tradition and to reach more people eery day, so that they change the bread that they normally eat for something that is more nutritious, with intense flavour and aroma.

Nuestra motivacion diaria es elaborar un buen pan, recuperar en lo que mas se pueda esta tan antigua tecnica y poder llegar dia a dia a mas personas, que la gente cambie el pan que consme normalmente y se atreva a comer un pan realmente nutritivo, con sabor y aromas intensos.

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4. What type of bread do you make/Que tipos de pan venden?

We make bread from all over the world as well as some of Daniel´s own recipes. We make country bread loaves, Batard, Brioche, Bagels, Rye (40% rye flour) Pan with olives or chocolate, hamburger buns, Focaccia, Pizza, Fig & Nut, Turmeric & Cranberry … and anything else our customers ask for. The interesting thing is that we use sourdough and we are always seeking to perfect our product.

Hacemos panes del mundo y recetas improvisadas por Daniel. Hogazas Pan de Campo, Baguette de tradicion, Batard, Brioche, Bagels, Moldes de centeno al 40%, Pan con Aceituna, pan Higo Nuez, Hogazas Curcuma & Cranberries, Pan de Chocolate, Pan de Hamburguesa, Focaccia, Pizzas … y tambien lo que nos pidan nuestros clientes. Lo interesante es que utilamos masa madre y prefermentos. El intenta perfeccionar el producto constantemente.

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5. Which bread is your favorite/Cuales tipos de pan son tus favoritos?

The sourdough with linseed and the baguette.

Hogaza integral centeno y baguette de tradicion.

6. Which bread is very ¨chilean¨ to you and why do Chileans stereotypically eat so much of it/ Cual pan para ti es muy ´chileno´ y por que los chilenos comen tanto?

The truth is that I don´t know why Chileans eat so much bread – we have the second highest consumption in the world – and the bread that we eat is not very healthy with an infinity of ingredients that generate sicknesses and obesity. Of our breads, none are Chilean as our inspiration is linked to cultures far from Chile where there exist more varieties and a different culture of bread-making.

La verdad que no se como los chilenos comen tanto pan – somos el segundo pais qe come mas pan el mundo y comemos un pan muy poco saludable, con una infinidad de ingredientes que lo unico que logran son generar enfermedades y obesidad. De nuestros panes, la verdad es que ninguno es Chileno, nuestra inspiracion esta muy ligada a culturas lejos de Chile donde existen mas variedades y una cultura de pan diferente.

7. What makes your bread special/ Por que tu pan es especial?

What I think makes our bread special (and all those who make these types of breads) is that we take our time seriously, respect processes to the letter, love what we do and are constantly inspired by master bakers from all over the world. The use of the sourdough gives the bread that something special: it gives greater durability, flavor and aroma as well as being easier to digest. For example, we have customers who are intolerant to gluten but who can eat our bread. This type of bread was invented more than 4,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt and we are simply recovering some of the oldest techniques in the world.

Lo que yo creo que hace especial tanto a nuestro pan como al de todos los que hacen este mismo tipo de panificacion es que nos tomamos enserio el tiempo, respetamos los procesos al pie de la letra, amamos lo que hacemos y no inspiramos constantemente por maestros panaderos alrededor del mundo. El uso de la masa madre le otorga un valor especial al pan. Le otorga mayor durabilidad, sabor y aromas mas intensos. Mucho mas facil de digerir. Por ejemplo tenemos clientes que son intolerantes al gluten pero pueden consumir nuestro tipo de pan. Nosotros no inventamos este tipo de pan especial, lo inventaron los egipcios hace mas de 4.000 años, Lo que nosotros hacemos es simplemente recuperar la tecnica de unos de los oficios mas antiguos del mundo.

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8. And now for some general questions! Where is your favorite place for food in Chile/ Donde esta tu lugar favorito para comer en Chile?

The island of Chiloe. where I discovered the culinary traditions that are still maintained there, as well as their myths and legends.

En Chiloe, descubri que la tradicion culinaria se mantiene en esas tierras. Asi como sus mitos y leyendas.

9. And your favorite place you have visited in Chile/ Donde esta tu lugar favorito en Chile?

The south of Chile.

El sur de Chile.

10. What is next for La Farine/ Que quieres para el futuro para La Farine?

The truth is that we don´t think that far into the future as we are 100% focused on doing a good job in the present.  I think that time will show us new paths and options, but in essence we will always be following the same goal – to make good bread.

But if we are dreaming, we would love to be able to plant our own wild wheat, make our flour and be completely self-sufficient.

La verdad es que no pensamos tanto en el futuro de la farine , estamos 100 % enfocados en hacer un buen trabajo en el presente, creo que el tiempo nos ira mostrando nuevos caminos y opciones, y que en escencia sigamos siendo siempre los mismos y con el mismo objetivo , hacer un buen pan.

Pero si se trata de soñar, nos encantaria poder sembrar nuestra propia variedad de trigo salvaje, tener nuestra harina y ser completamente autosuficientes.

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The Nitty Gritty

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They deliver twice a month to Rasavant (Casa de las Artes, Cuerpo y Terapia), La Pinta 2972, Las Condes (Metro Colon). Follow their amazing account on Instagram to be up to date with future drop off dates!

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