Chile 2011-2012

Super-short family visit to Chile

A big part of our busy Christmas schedule was the Chile-trip. We had had this trip on our minds for a long time, but by the twists and turns of life, the trip had just not materialized. I guess that the first idea was to go for X-mas 2010, but then we got engaged for the Lauritzen Bulkers project in Korea and didn't feel like making another hike across the Pacific. Second (loose) plan was to go for an extended trip around September - as part of a 6-month long vacation at the end of the project. But then this new project came up and we were shipped (!) to Norway on express post. So now we were left with option 3 - a short 12-day vacation inbetween Norway and Korea.

So you can imagine that it was a little hectic.... we arrived on December 27th and stayed with Paula's grandmother for 5 days. Then south to her uncle for 3 days, up to Rengo to her other uncle's farm for one night before returning to Santiago for the remaining 3 days. As always when we visit our family (Denmark or Chile), the order of the day is eat, drink and then eat a bit more! I have no objections to that.

Meeting up with the family at aunt Sole's house. Grandma, Michaela, Carlos, Sole, Paula and Candelaria.

And Caspar !

Enjoying the heat and the pool at Sole's house.

With Hector at San Christobal hill in the town centre

View of Santiago from the top of San Christobal

The gringo with South America's tallest building behind him (still under construction). Seems like a poor idea in a quake-prone country.

A Japanese garden on the way up San Christobal. This hill is a good and popular recreational area close to the centre of town. Many mountain bikers....

It was good to see everybody again after such a long time (it had been 3 years since our last visit). We found everybody in good health and spirit. Grandma was as fresh as ever and kept us company wherever we went. Her flat-mate Ismael keeps her young .... he has reached the age where life starts at 3pm and the night never ends. Out of University for the summer and done with his summer job, I guess he deserved a bit of the sweet life.

Paula's mother is keeping herself busy with the business in Valparaiso but still found time to spend with us in Santiago. Paula's father put aside everything and became our private taxi driver ! He works in Santiago, but was not so busy here at year end. Brother Hector has recently sold his house and will soon start looking for a new place to live. Chile appears to be going through a strong economic boom at the moment, and he is banking on a upcoming dip. I believe that he may have been looking into the crystal ball....

Benjamin decided to drop a bomb while we were there. The whole family were of the impression that he was content with his architecture studies, but out of the blue he announced that he would be changing to commercial engineering. Not by popular demand! The university fees are quite high, so the sponsor was not happy!

Cousin Ismael and Paula on our way out to the Tannenbaum Foundation. We quickly realized that text messaging had made it big in Chile - 3 years ago nobody even knew what a text message was and now people couldn't live without it!

On the bus to the Foundation with Ismael's friend Teresa. The bus system has undergone a big revolution these last years - for better of worse.

The foundation is headed by Paula's uncle Pedro. People with Down syndrome are working here making aprons and other printed textiles.

Ismael and Teresa were there to pick up their summer-job salaries - they had both sold aprons at various events during December.

Paula's new haircut.

New Years was celebrated in aunt Sole's house together with the cousins. A New Year celebration in Chile starts signuificantly later in the evening than a similar in Denmark. We were the first guests to arrive at 8pm and the last arrived at about 11pm - struggling to have time for dinner before going to see the fireworks. Private fireworks are not legal in Chile - luckily! I hate fireworks and they are the main reason why I have never really enjoyed New Years. In Copenhagen New Year is a battlefield and I always feel like a war journalist caught inbetween the trenches. Dodging rockets in the smokey streets. In Chile it is different. The fireworks are centralized and performed from a few select areas in town. People then gather on a convenient street or hill to enjoy the show from a safe distance. My style !

I would here like to add that contrary to public expectations, Paula and I stayed awake until 3am! Must be a new record for us ... party animals!

Carlos was the New Year's chef!

I was out with some real party animals !!!!

Benjamin charming the aunts !

Hehe ... everybody seems a little surprised here ... Tere, Pedro, Carlos and Grandma are all caught off-guard!

Maria Paz and Paula on a binge !

Ahhh - aren't they adorable ?!?!?

New Year's day we dragged grandma down to the car and started off towards Cauquenes (well - those of you who know grandma know that this is a thick lie .... as always she is the first to line up for an adventure!). The drive down to Cauwuenes is about 4 hours plus stops. And as always we have to stop at the fruit booths along the highway. This is the highlight of the trip, when we buy beautiful cherries, lemons, melons, oranges etc for pennies. Love it!

Heaven ... I'm in Heaven .....

Asi es Chile !

Turning off the highway and heading towards Cauquenes, we started to see some of the damage of the 2010 earthquake. Several houses were in ruins and uninhabited, although most homes had been either completely rebuilt or renovated. It has been two years, so I guess that this is the final stage and whatever is not repaired by now will never be repaired. The uncle's house at the farm had also collapsed during the quake, so we were met by a completely new house when we arrived at the farm at Quillay, 15km outside of Cauquenes. A beautiful house in the middle of the vineyard. I guess we could stay there for a few days ! Haha ...

Lorena showing off her new house

Late afternoon and we could hardly see the sun for the smoke. Still didn't keep us out of the pool as it was steaming hot.

Kike and I went up on the hill to get an idea of the extent of the fires.

It was still quite far away but upwind, so we couldn't relax.

In the morning the air had cleared up

The vines looked good ... approved.

Paula and Lorena checking out a piece of land we had our eyes on ....

Three helicopters were kept busy with the fire in the pine forest. A fire in a pine forest is difficult to extinguish as it will continue "underground" and pop up hundreds of meters away after you think that you have put it out. Several thousands of hectares were lost along with one human life and who knows how many animals.

Evaluating the situation together with Rodrigo - Lorena's brother-in-law

Still, life went on

Stemming up the one-year old plants

During our first walk around the farm, we noticed that several fires had started around the farm. The air was thick of smoke and ashes were falling on the ground (and into the pool, which a much more serious matter). Initially Paula's uncle Kike wasn't too worried as only one fire was upwind of his farm and the highway was between the fire and the farm. But only a few hours later the whole house (except Paula and I who were away in happy dreamland) were up and about as the fire had crossed the highway and was on it's way towards the farm. So the neighbors got together at 3am to make fire belts while the fire itself was fought and stopped only 2 km upwind. Next day we went out to assess the damage. The fire was still raging in the pine forest across the highway. 3 helicopters were sharing their time between 2-3 fires, but they were having a hard time keeping up with the flames. One of the fires had reached the town limits of Cauquenes before it was stopped by fire belts. On our side of the highway the neighbors had fought the fire all night and had succeeded in putting it out. In town we could see fire brigades from Valparaiso 4-500km away, the helicopters were assisted by the forestry ministry, the military and - so we were told - Argentinian fire fighters. Cauquenes was in all the news and I even read about it on a Danish online newspaper. Around Cauquenes 8 fires were raging and in Torres del Paine in Patagonia 13000 hectares burned down when two tourists wanted to burn their used toilet paper !

The word on the street was that the fires were intentional and that it was the act of the opposition, in order to create chaos for the government! To me this all sounded like a bit too conspiratorial, but I guess one should never completely write off the stupidity of Homo Sapiens, so who knows ??

Another trip in the neighborhood to asses the damage

It was still burning but luckily the wind had dropped a little

The fires lasted about 3-4 days before they were under control.

An evening on the porch - discussing the fires.

Lorena's father Ruperto came by for a visit. He now lives in Talca - about one hour away.

Due to the nearby fires we did not want to leave the farm for too long at a time. So we were stuck on a vineyard with mounds of fruit and plenty of wine ! Bummer ....

After a few days of good living and excellent company, we headed north again. We had a date with Paula's other uncle Pedro at his farm in Rengo. Since our last visit, Pedro has planted even more grapes on the steep slopes of the mountains. Together with the 40 hectares of walnut trees in the valley, this makes for a very spectacular farm. I love going for walks or rides here!

View of the farm in Rengo

Afternoon walk of the property. Here through the olive fields on the hill side

Few places do you find grapes in steep slopes like here

It's hard work to cultivate these hill sides and almost everything has to be done by hand. But the views are spectacular.

Simon, the Great Dane, was just a puppy when we visited last.

A view of the Olive trees on the hill and the walnuts in the flats. The grapes to the right.

This was recently planted last time we were here and now they were harvesting from the same vines. The grapes grow well here but the cost of providing water this high up is also considerable.

There is still room for expansion ... I am sure that this place will be claimed next time we go.

A proud walnut tree owner !

Chilling out at the pond

And what a view!

The farm house half-collapsed during the earthquake, so this had been rebuilt since our last visit. It seems that every time we visit we are met by a new house. Last time the culprit was a fire, which burnt the house down to the ground. But I think that of all the different houses we have seen on the hill, this one is the winner. A glass of wine on the new deck ... niiice !

The view from the new deck

Fantastic place for a sundowner!

The house anno 2012

The girls !

Off for a morning ride

There are plenty of fine horses on the farm.

Last time we did this on motorbike - that was also an adventure!

The dogs follow Pedro wherever he goes.

Did you lose your hat ???!

Pedro's horse was an energetic young and not so sure-footed one. It didn't like this steep section one bit!

I heard it through the grape vine ...!

Last stop - and we had circled the farm

And there it is - the pond, the walnuts (or parts of them), the vines, the olives, the hills and the house (almost in the middle of the photo)

Grandma posing by the pool side.

At the cafe in the village. A surprising gem.

Three generations

Back in Santiago we only had time for a few more reunions - one with Paula's old schoolmates and another with Paula's father's side of the family. The last one was held a brother Hector's newly sold house, where we were treated to a traditional Chilean BBQ ! Yummy!

Oh .. and a great trip to Cajon del Maipo - Paula has promised me a trip there for the last 10 years and now it finally came about!

The school gang

Benjamin with his 50cm of meet at the Cajon del Maipo restaurant. (he didn't finish it)

Speaking about finished...

Mari came for a visit with her daughter Lorena

BBQ at Hector's house

Isabel was the chef of the day.

The Garreton side of the family

Fernando, Camila (Benjamin's girlfriend) and Benjamin

I was the swim teacher for 5 minutes. Great success!

Last lunch party in Chile this time around

We stayed most of the time in Grandma's apartment, so I am sure that she was looking forward to some peace and quiet!

More food

Tia Nena, Grandma, Paula and Paty

In the airport

See you next time !

Bye for now - Peder, Pilar, Hector, Nicole, Paula, Grandma, Benjamin and Isabel