Exploring the Chilean Countryside

Chile is rich in natural resources and natural beauty. We’ve enjoyed getting out of Santiago to visit the countryside.

Domuduras Toquihua

One of the most exciting weekends in the tiny hamlet of Toquihua is when the rodeo comes to town!  Toquihua is Marcelo's home town, so he was our host.

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Chilean cowboys, named "huasos",   came to the rodeo in droves to represent their teams in a bull riding competition. Jan made a new friend since she liked his chaps.

Jan and Chilean Cowboy

The bull riding was super challenging. We were glad that no one we know depends on this sport to make money!  But, these huasos do – and they gave it their all.

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To win maximum points, each cowboy tried to make three moves on the bull. First, he had to ride the bull out of the shoot. The bulls were not excited about this prospect and they tried to buck the rider off.

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Then each rider crossed his hands on the saddle, and performed a 180-degree turn, flipping around so they faced the rear of the bull. Not everyone was successful with this maneuver and instead ended up on the dirt.

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The final stage is to take the bull down to the dirt and remove the saddle. Even fewer huasos completed this task.

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We watched the “preliminary” round. The top scorers advanced to the semi finals the next day, and then the finals were on the third day. Also, in the center of the bull ring during an intermission, these two young local dancers performed the “cueca”, the national dance of Chile. Not sure this was designed to do in the mud!

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It was a warm and sunny day – perfect for the rodeo!  We were lucky to get an up-close-and-personal tour. Since it was Easter, we enjoyed visiting with Marcelo's family and even hosting an egg hunt for the kids.

Jan at rodeo

Cascada de Animas

In the nearby Maipo valley, we spent the night at a “new age” resort, where we enjoyed staying in a Yurt and hiking to the falls. The legend of the falls states that the initial explorers of this area saw water nymphs in these falls, and this legend gave the falls their name.

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The resort was warm and cozy – and the restaurant did not disappoint!

Santa Rita Winery

At this winery in Buin ,which you can reach via the Santiago Metro and a short bus ride, we enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and the yummy wine.

A highlight of this winery is their (free) museum, which dramatically displayed an enormous collection of Chilean artifacts. We especially liked the wood stirrups.

As we recall, we've previously purchased the wine from Santa RIta at Trader Joe’s! Neither the wine nor the visitor experience is low-end!

Empanadas From Roadside Stands

Many locals along the main road in the Maipo Valley sell empanadas (and other local treats) to travelers. This woman had just baked these empanadas de “pino” -- onion-based, but always with an olive so watch for the pit -- in her wood-fired outdoor oven. Warm and delicious.

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Concepcion

The second-largest city in Chile is the home to Independence Plaza – where Bernardo O'Higgins signed the Chilean Declaration of Independence. We traveled here last weekend by sleeper bus (a 6-hour ride) for a business engagement and enjoyed visiting the main square.

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El Chiflón del Diablo

Lota, a town 45 kilometers from Concepcion hosts an old coal mine that is open to tourists. We joined a tour of 15 other visitors and discovered that the mine is actually under the ocean. An ex-miner led us down into the mine in an old German elevator and then we walked in the mine to end up 850 meters under the Pacific Ocean.

Never before had a hard hat been more valuable!  In other underground visits to mines or caves, we’ve felt that the hard hats were just for show – or to protect one’s head from dripping water or falling debris. But here, they were worth their weight in gold, as we kept bumping our head on the ceiling of the mine!

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We had to crouch very low to maneuver along the trails in the mine. I guess the guide may have mentioned this (in Chilean Spanish), but we were surprised!

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The life of a miner in the 1800’s was pretty bleak.

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The bathroom facilities would not meet US code!

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And, Ed was glad to be able to stand up straight upon exiting the mine!

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We were once again glad that no one we know has to make money as a coal miner in this type of mine!  This view of Chilean history was very interesting. The mine was the setting of a 2002 movie, Sub Terra, based on a book about the history of this mine. We look forward to watching it (with English subtitles) when we return to the US.

For the movie, an authentic turn-of-the-century mining village was reconstructed. Also, Ed was captivated by the rusting equipment near the mine entry and took lots of photos.

The amount of variety in the Chilean countryside is amazing. Since the country is 2700 miles long (and never more than 150 miles wide), almost every type of ecosystem is represented. This results in endless opportunities for exploration.

 

5 thoughts on “Exploring the Chilean Countryside

  1. Betsy davis

    I loved seeing all your pics. Jan, your rodeo friend is quite the hunk. I can't believe you went underground in a Chilean mine. You are officially my canaries down the mind shaft designees but after seeing the "restroom" you are on your own!

    Can't see what you experience next .

    Betsy

    Reply
  2. Good morning Jan and Ed!! What a great set of pictures. I think the last one of Ed was telling -- his look said 'I am NEVER going back in THERE'. 🙂

    Thanks for all of your journaling -- will you be back in California this fall?? I would love to pick your brain about your African volunteer work, and the Stanford-affiliated work in general.

    Cheers,

    Barb

    Reply
    1. Jan

      Post author

      You're right! He was "one and done" for the mine tour. And, yes, we'll be back in the US this fall. Just booked Stanford football season tickets. I'll be happy to chat about everything! Looking forward to it.

      Reply
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