Santiago, Chile - part two of two, wherein...

Trip Start Jan 26, 2007
Trip End Feb 06, 2008

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines

Flag of Chile  ,
Monday, March 5, 2007

Part two of two, wherein Eric travels with another colleague of Dad's to el Campo, or the countryside outside Santiago.

The Casablanca valley is a lush, cultivated valley filled with vineyards and orchards of many different types. The valley is the official sister 'city' of Napa Valley, California, because of the similarities in climate, crop, and almost everything else. Hot in the daytime and cool at night - this temperature difference, combined with a dryish climate and mild winters, creates delicious grapes for wine and crops for eating.

Nestled in an inlet of the Casablanca valley lies Casablanca Organics, or Campo Santa Cecilia - the organic apple orchards of Emilio and Cecilia, friends of my parents. The inlet is gorgeous. Arid, but plant-filled, hills bubble up around the skinny valley where rows upon rows of grapes and apple trees are stacked and squeezed. Emilio and Cecilia's manor is a stunning white house, immaculate in presentation. They have a pool which looks like it could be on the cover of Conde Nast Traveler or some other posh magazine. Their son has designed and helped build three houses on the hill above for each of their three children, making this land a place for family for years to come. Their son (Also Emilio, I think they say Bisemilio or misemilio when referring to a Jr.) has a family of a wife and two daughters (one 8mo. old). He spends his days building, designing more things, and blazing wild trails in the hills with shovels and saws etc. His network of trails is quite impressive - I hiked them for a few hours on Sunday.

Emilio and Cecilia took me to lunch (which happens at around 3-4pm in Chile) at another idyllic vineyard. We sat outside in the dry hot shade of the vineyard restaurant's front patio. We spoke in Spanish and English. My Spanish is getting a bit better, but only when the conversation is at a manageable pace and the person speaking to me is doing so with basic, friendly vocabulary.

Emilio and Cecilia grow apples - 30k bushels of them this year, to be exported to the US, UK, and Germany. Their methods are not even traditionally organic - they are of a new science, Agricology, in which an ecosystem is built around your crop in order to produce great produce, that is economically viable, and is good for the environment and community around you. The science of the ecosystem must be understood at all levels, from the soil's microbiology to the valley's macroclimate. Instead of using pesticides, competing natural enemies of pests are introduced and helped to thrive. Instead of using synthesized nitrogen, compost is used, and natural grasses are encouraged to grow amongst the trees. Instead of killing weeds, competing species are cultivated that also provide benefit to the apple trees. All very interesting stuff. New pruning methods and spacing patterns are being used to increase the yield to match that of conventional apple farming. Soon enough, organic apple farms may be producing equal levels of superior product at a lower cost to the environment. Great.

Emilio took me into Valparaiso, which is a city with a whole lot of flavor. Valpo used to be just like San Francisco, a major port city filled with expats and bustling with economy. This was back before the Panama Canal, when Valpo served as a stopover port for the product being shipped to fuel the California Gold Rush. As such, there are old, dirty streets where financial powerhouse firms used to broker deals and shipping companies used to manage their massive business channels. On the cliffs and hills above the semicircle of the port shore are thousands upon thousands of multicolored houses with eclectic styles from Europe and South America and beyond. Graffiti covers cement wherever it can, but is almost universally amazingly artistic, thought provoking, or politically relevant. One crumbling brick wall has a replica of the famous Time magazine cover of the Syrian (?) green-eyed, veiled girl, who was later found and photographed again.

Slightly north of Valpo on the shore are the neighborhoods of Vina del Mar and Renaca, where rich Santiagans used to summer while watching the antarctic swells of the Pacific. Renaca has unique architecture - on the steep hills ascending from the beach, Apartment buildings have been laid. It is as if a 20-story building was built straight up and then pushed over like a Jenga tower... The buildings rise like staircases from the shore to the peak of the hills. The Pacific swell... a beautiful swell. I recognized it immediately and thought of home. The bay of Valpo/etc. curves around to the south just like Monterey Bay, and the swells and the sounds and the look of the ocean is so similar to that of California. After this enlightening experience, I feel that I could identify the waves of the Pacific in a heartbeat if contrasted with waves of other oceans of the world.

That night, we had a Parrilla (BBQ) at Bisemilio's house. Delicious sausage and a huge slab of beef. We sat on the porch overlooking the valley and listened to reggae while drinking beer and chatting. What a wonderful night. Also, there was a lunar eclipse. Very peaceful, all in all. We descended the 150m or so to the main villa to go to sleep, and in the morning I hiked after a hearty breakfast. Then, we relaxed and ate another delicious lunch in the shade - traditional Italian spaghetti. Emilio and I swam for a while and took in some sun.

We headed back to Santiago at around 8pm, and my awesome weekend concluded. I will go to Pucon this week before my flight next Monday to La Paz.
Slideshow Report as Spam
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • You must enter a comment
  • You must enter your name
  • You must enter a valid name (" & < > \ / are not accepted).
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: