Those of you who have followed this blog know that the title turned out not to be entirely representative of our travels, as we never made it to Bolivia. That remains for another time. Since we’re starting on the next round of travels on April 15, I want to retire this banner and put up a new one.
Mar. 4, 2015
A gorgeous day, 19 C and sun. Big plans for our last day in Chile. Checked out of the house at noon with our hostess Sara, sister of the owner of the house (Marcela) who has emigrated to Norway with her husband.
Headed for Santiago on a brand new highway, the Acceso Sur. It ended before the line on the map ended and we were lost for a while, but found ourselves again and got to the center and parked. Had a great lunch at Bocanariz, a wine bar that has lots of wine by the glass in small (tasting) and full glass sizes. Jonathan had tongue/oxtail and I had rabbit in mustard sauce, pretty great for a last meal. After lunch we visited the Pueblito de los Dominicos, a faux village where craftsmen rent spaces where they can work as well as sell goods, as they choose. There is a wide range of goods and quality, but there were some exceptionally creative people making jewelry, woodwork, and woven goods. We chatted longest with an artist who makes jewelry but also sells work by two Mapuche families. They each produce metal jewelry based on traditional Mapuche designs. There were some long tupu/pins and metal breastplate-like neck pieces that were stunning.
By the time we got to the car we had very little time to get to the airport and no map that actually showed its location. By luck, intuition or divine intervention we made all the correct turns until Jonathan shouted “Aeropuerto!” (he’d seen an airport sign) and all was well. We got to the gate with time to have a coffee and spend the last of our Chilean pesos on chocolate bars. It seemed like we stood in line for ages (we did), and then we boarded (chaotic, crowded), and then we sat. The first announcement mentioned five minutes and routine maintenance check (why wasn’t this done earlier?), then the next and the next, each less accurate than the previous. This familiar story has a happy ending. After an hour and a half we left, arriving into Lima about an hour late. It would have been even later but for the 2 hour time difference between Santiago and Lima. We left at 9:40 pm Santiago time and arrived at 11:40 pm Lima time, but after 4 hours of travel.
March 5, 2015
It is even warmer in Lima than Santiago, but heavily overcast, part of the change from summer to fall in Peru. It warmed up and the sun came out, but by then we’d checked out of the Senorial, shopped at the Surquillo market and at Wong and were practically in Barranca. After being away for six weeks, Peru’s roads don’t seem as bad as I recalled, and the desert is more dramatic than ever. We went for our regular walk along the beach at 5 pm an then watched the sunset after 6 pm. Home again.
I plan to keep writing, but perhaps a bit less frequently. Thanks for following along with us.
Jonathan assembled a list of vineyards in our part of the Maipo Valley (Altos de Jahuel) that have web pages, participate in the network of wine tourism of the region, and for which he could divine their location. We set off in the late morning. Our first stop, Portal del Alto. It had a nice open area with parking, but that was it. The vineyard makes at least four categories of wine, a broad range of products including sparkling and late harvest wines. One blend is called “Four Reds”, suggesting they export to English speaking countries. Despite web information to the contrary they do not offer tours or tasting, though they do sell wine. The two women in the office seemed far too busy to host visitors. My conclusion, the company exports most of their production and is not interested in local publicity that might be generated by visits to the winery.
Next stop was Concha y Toro, a large winery with vineyards in several countries and an internationally recognized name. We’d avoided the large wineries in favor of those whose products were less likely to be available in the US, but we decided to visit Concha y Toros. They run a wide variety of tours and when we arrived we were impressed by the size of the grounds, parking area, wine shop, restaurant. They can host hundreds at a time. Fortunately for us, they only had two groups of about 16 that we saw, in addition to a couple of pairs or small groups.
We found that a tour was not required and that a wide variety of wines are available in 1/2 glass portions, a typical Chilean tasting size. Jonathan was looking for a good Carmenere to take back to Peru, so he tried a Carmenere and a blend without finding just the right thing. However, he was able to try just what he wanted. Often, a tasting includes 2-4 set wines and cannot be altered to let you try something that you would prefer to taste. We were seated in the restaurant, and the food looked delicious, though we decided not to stay for lunch. Too many wineries still to visit (Had we but known…). Thus, a huge wine company that we suspected would be uninterested in two casual visitors gave us a good experience in beautiful surroundings.
There’s not even a photo to share of our next stop, Vina William Fevre (corner of Hernan Prieto and Circ. Maximo Valdes, Alto Jahuel or Pirque), because it was a small structure that was shut, despite the sala de ventas sign. It was probably closed for lunch because it was 2 pm. We drove by much later and the doors were open but we did not stop, mostly because of what transpired in the interim.
We stopped in the shade for a picnic lunch before continuing on to our next stop, Vina Santa Alicia. We followed large brown signs to the left and the right for several miles toward the mountainside, each sign indicating “wine tourism”, “vineyards”, and other delights. Finally we arrived at the winery, a large facility with warehouses whose exterior is made to look like old fashioned houses, and signs indicating the sala de ventas (wine store). This was down a flight of stairs–we could smell the wine.
What we found at the bottom of the stairs was a bit of a disappointment. A tasting room, half of it stacked with cases of wine. A staff member who could provide a list of wines (prices not printed), though she pointed out that virtually 100% of their production is exported and what was for sale in Chile was in that room. When we asked about the elaborate signage that got us out to their relatively remote location, she said that the firm is building toward having tastings and regular visitors but is not prepared for visitors yet.
We had not run out of vineyards. Next was a pair of vineyards, Haras de Pirque and El Principal (same name as a nearby community). We followed one large brown and white sign after another across the Pirque Valley. When we pulled into the Haras de Pirque entry the two guards asked whether we had appointments. When we asked about tasting, they said the winery offered no visits at all. When we protested and pointed out the signs, they mentioned new owners, and one said that the signs were installed by the municipality and had nothing to do with the vineyards. Of course, they mentioned that in the future……blah blah. Somewhat disgruntled, we continued onward.
What proved to be the last stop was Vina El Principal, where it really looked like we were going to get to the end of the road at the base of a mountain.
The winery is just to the left of this sentence on the edge of the photo.
The grounds are extensive and the winery is in the distance off to the right. It is a very large operation. We stopped at the gate and spoke to a man who went to the phone. He returned to tell us that visits were only by appointment and besides, they weren’t having any. When we pointed out that we had emailed (no answer) and that the phone also went unanswered, he shrugged. He also pointed out that it was harvest season. We pointed out that in other regions, harvest season is the busiest time of the year for tourism. He looked mildly surprised. The office at the vineyard that deals with appointments consists of one person.
With that, we threw in the proverbial and by now not much wine-stained towel. Someone wants wine tourism, but it doesn’t seem to be the wineries, who appear to export close to 100% of their production and don’t have much interest in people who visit Chile in hopes of seeing the vines and trying wines in their home locations. How about that? If you want to taste wine, go to Argentina, or California. I’m not sure but I think Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa are into wine tourism, too. If you want Chilean wine, go to Binny’s. They do wine tastings.
Since the day had started at about 19 C (66F) and ended up at 30 C (86F), we went home, put our feet up and opened some of the wine we accumulated earlier in the week. Ahhhh.
We set out for Embalse El Yeso (Gypsum Dam), east of Santiago heading into the Andes. Since the last 22 km of the route are unpaved, I wasn’t sure how far we would get. Along the way is the Cascada de las Animas, an area that sounded like it would be good for bird watching, so we went to look for condors. Other birders reported seeing a variety of interesting and endemic species on this route.
This beautiful facility only offers guided activities, so we moved on. The artist/architect who created the center has a studio nearby and makes unique creative objects, up to and including houses at his Taller Pangal
Along the road we saw two new birds:
White browed ground tyrant. This internet photo shows the rufous patch on his head that was a good identifier:
Chimango caracara is common but it took us a while to identify it. They spend a lot of time on the ground–eating dead things, I believe.
I’m still looking for the little guy with the white patch at the end of the tail….
We got all the way up to the lake without seeing any condors. Well, we might have seen a condor but it ducked behind a mountainside. The road to the Embalse El Yeso was a bit hazardous:
We saw lots of evidence of rock falls and flooding.
There was scenery all over the place, including a glacier. We’d wanted to see a glacier in Patagonia, but it involves more hiking than we could do. We were driving up the valley when I saw a glacier while I was scoping for condors.
We made it to the reservoir. The name of the river, dam and reservoir, El Yeso, refer to the principal product of the area, gypsum, and explains the cavalcade of trucks going both ways that disrupts birders (and others). There is a cement plant at the junction of the unpaved and paved roads, too. It shows the conflict between environment and economy. The dam belongs to Aguas Andinas, Santiago’s water company, and a banner at Cascada de las Animas says “No more hydropower in the Alto Maipo,” alluding to plans to expand some aspect of the operation at the dam.
Man-made and low on water (down a few meters) it may be, but the reservoir is bright blue and attracts birds–can we ask for more? I don’t know whether there are any fish.
The view was spectacular, and about 5 minutes after I photographed the mountains the mist moved in and covered the far peak.
After our picnic and a bit of strolling around, we turned back. We’d seen a few birds but no condors, and decided they might be slightly lower where there would be more food–the landscape is pretty bare around the dam and reservoir. Jonathan drove and I scouted for condors. We got down to roughly the area where we thought we’d seen one in the morning. A bit greener than the reservoir, a few grazing animals, with very steep mountainsides:
This is where we spotted two condors and pulled over to watch them soar. They circled back and forth for a while, giving us a chance to identify their rectangular shape with wings spread, a flash of white on the back and neck. A third condor was so high that it appeared only when I was looking at the others, a tiny flying spot in the background. We watched until they flew so high there was little to see. Condors in the wild, how about that?
The condors were definitely a high point, because we got back into Buin at rush hour on the afternoon of the first day of school and the line in the supermarket was approximately 4 billion people long. It took an hour to buy water and cookies, but the vision of condors helped.
We made the rounds of street markets today. The La Vega market was by far the largest and operates every day. This is Jonathan’s favorite kind of market, food….
The passageways were very narrow and almost everyone pulls a half-filled shopping trolley behind them, or pushes a stroller, or a bicycle. My favorite was the barrel-chested, white haired man in bike shorts, striped jersey and helmet, earbuds in place, pushing his bike down the aisle–to buy eggs. I assume he knew how to get them home, but I wondered.
The La Vega market has every kind of shopper, as many men as women, both sellers and buyers.
After stocking up on fruit, vegetables, meat, dried fruit, peanuts, olives and pickles, we returned to stow all our shopping in the car, before going on to the next market.
The Franklin Market functions only on Sunday, and spreads down the sides of the streets, Franklin, Bio Bio and others, as well as in a number of roofed “gallerias” that consist of rows of stalls. i was interested in “antiguedades” which includes anything perceived as old. This turned out to be a broader group of things than I’d hoped, as it included lots of used books, plastic toys, and old hardware (Jonathan liked that). We realized that we chose the most crowded Sunday of the year (or one of them) because school starts tomorrow for most young Chileans and families were out to catch up on their school shopping, and their random shopping. It was a crush like the weekend before Christmas on a narrow sidewalk outside Best Buy. But there were bright spots:
The streets were jammed with cars, most of them not moving. After failing to find anything that we absolutely had to have, we walked until we found cars moving and a cab to go on to our next stop. LUNCH. We planned to go to a wine-tasting cafe and found it at the correct address, but closed. We took a break at a sidewalk restaurant, enjoying the Lastarria neighborhood, a pleasant mix of new and old. A few weekend market stalls cover a small plaza and we added a stop there to our stroll.
Our final shopping salvo was a short walk through a park and over a bridge to a small crafts market in an area called Bellavista. I believe we visited this market on our previous brief trip to Chile, and it was just what I was looking for. After a bit of shopping we wrapped up our day, amazed to have gotten around the city to four different places.
Setting out cross country to get to Melipilla by the “back route” we discovered that Google Earth has some alignment issues and occasionally requires careful interpretation. We only backtracked a bit, and saw a great roadside shrine in a huge eucalyptus tree.
That was before we got hopelessly lost. Finally regained our route and made it to Melipilla, a fraction of our planned circuit to a national park. Things went better after that and we saw lots of the countryside, including a few father/son duos on horseback. Interesting to see that many riders use some traditional Chilean items of caballero (horseback rider) clothing (hat, short jacket, belt, short boots).
We stopped to buy water near the turnoff for the park, and the woman behind the counter said that admission to the park was only by previous appointment–the neighbors were concerned about visitors. She indicated where the turn was and we went on but missed the turn entirely. It was a lovely drive and we returned to our base in Buin through the southern portion of the Maipo Valley and Rancagua.
Less than an hour west of Santiago is the Casablanca Valley wine region, best known for the white wines Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, and red Pinot Noir. We headed out that way because the representative of the Ruta de Vinos Casablanca responded to Jonathan’s email with a list of wineries that have tastings and do not require an advance reservation. The list was long, about eight vineyards, but our objective was to be able to keep going if a winery was not offering tastings or we decided not to visit.
Veramonte was the first winery on our list that we got to and we were happy to find that as promised, they offered wine tastings without a reservation. We bought a bottle of the Veramonte sauvignon blanc 2014, and the Primus Carmenere 2011. The grapes for the Carmenere come from the Colchagua Valley, though the wine is made at the winery in Casablanca.
Emiliana, north side of the road just a bit further along. We chatted with our host, Ramon, about the wines and he gave us the name of the distributor for Peru, to see whether we could find any there. We were seated with a young man (Jean-Benoit) who turned out to be from Montreal, traveling in the wine country of Chile. By the end of our tasting and chatting, we asked where he was off to next and found that he’d arrived by taxi with plans to continue on to other wineries as best he could. We offered to take him along with us since he had been good company. We shared our car picnic (air conditioning in the car), and then went on to the next winery.
We tasted four organic wines including Signos de Origen (white blend), and Coyam (red blend). JH bought a bottle of Coyam. The website says we also tasted wines from the Adobe and Nova, their other lines.
Quintay, north side of the highway after Veramonte, did not have tastings available because they had groups with reservations coming in. They offered us a tasting an hour later, but we kept moving.
Vinamar was on the south side of the road up against a hill, great view out over vineyards. From the highway you tend not to notice Vinamar because the Indomita winery main building is higher on the hillside and larger. (Indomita either didn’t have tastings or was too expensive). Here we had a sparkling rose, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and a cabernet sauvignon. My favorite was the sauvignon blanc, which I believe we all liked.
Getting to the William Cole vineyard involved turning off toward Tapihue and going to Km 4.5. We found it without trouble but they were not offering tastings, so we got back on the road. By now it was 3 pm, so we decided to try one more on the list.
We chose Casas del Bosque as our last stop because it was described as in Casablanca. The rest of the directions said turn onto Padre Hurtado and follow the signs. These took us back out of town, but we did find the vineyard. They have a large restaurant that was busy and also had a number of tastings underway, and a nice gift shop to browse in while you waited for your place to be ready. Our hostess was an interesting young woman who spoke creditable English, and when I asked her about it, she said she learned at school and had never been out of Chile. She hopes to study abroad in France, where she has some relatives in the wine industry. Jean-Benoit encouraged her to learn French and go for it. She answered all our questions, even after being somewhat intimidated by our collective knowledge of wine and languages, but when Jonathan asked whether he could try Carmenere that wasn’t on our tour, she agreed and even opened a new bottle. No one has been as gracious.
With that, we dropped Jean Benoit in the center of Casablanca and headed for home/Buin. It was almost 7pm by the time we arrived, but it was a great day.