Neener Neener Neener, we were here first

Trip Start Mar 31, 2010
Trip End Jul 29, 2010

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Where I stayed
La Fantastica Casa Olivieri

Flag of Chile  , Valparaíso,
Thursday, May 6, 2010

We're going to roll two cities into this entry: Vina Del Mar and Limache.

Vina Del Mar
Vina Del Mar is a clean city with many old private mansions that are now owned by the government and kept as museums.  Many of the extraordinarily rich families moved away after Valparaiso's industry started declining with the construction of the Panama Canal.  However, the city is still beautiful, well-manicured, and full of vacation homes and touristy hotels (the 5-star Sheraton on the coast has really nice bathrooms).  One of the centerpieces of the town is a flower clock (see picture).  It's a full working clock, the only pieces that aren't living are the hands.  We spent a day walking around the waterfront, beaches, castle-like buildings, and museums.

Among the orchards of citrus, fig, almonds, persimmons and, of course, a fejua bush, lies Casa Olivieri.  We were so happy to connect with them, and so grateful for their beautiful hospitality. (Sandro and Sam haven't seen the house yet, hence the title of this entry; they are planning a trip in June.)

Alejandra taught us a bunch of necessary life lessons: how to make a pisco sour, how to prepare fava beans, how to hang laundry (for us spoiled American dryer-users), how to dice an onion quickly, the quality difference between chopped vs minced empanada meat, and introduced us to our first Chilean "onces", literally translates to "elevens" and is the traditional evening tea with breads, jams, cheeses, and great conversations. Silvio is nearly a walking history book and added great knowledge in subjects ranging from politics, cars, and technology, to the efficiency of wood-fired stoves.

We hiked a day in La Campana national park; the largest hill of which Darwin climbed in 1836. We had read about the Kankan trees, which bear fruits only two months a year and exist only in two places in Chile, so we set off on a Kankan hunt. Four hours later we were at the top of the hill staring down at clusters of palm trees. Unfortunately, our nice pre-groomed trail ended there and we bush-whacked our way to the first palm. Finding no remnants of fruits here, we gained another dozen scratches on our arms and legs as we bush-whacked to another palm some hundred meters down the valley. Just as we were feeling entirely discouraged, we saw some little yellow fruit-like things. Score! Scratched and bruised, we filled our bag with the fruits of the Kankan and headed back up the valley (slightly easier on the way up) and cracked open a little tiny coconut with a sharp rock. Worth it!

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Dr.Dive on

Some odd fruits there. I've heard of Fejuas, but don't think I've ever had one, or have I? If you bump into a fruit called the Black Sapote in your travels, bring some seeds back into the US for me. I've only ever had them at a tropical fruit research station. When served with ice cream they taste like chocolate mousse. Enjoy the travels!

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