Monday, February 6, 2017

Chile Trip Report

I have returned from my two week trip to Chile.  I had a wonderful time, but I seemed to come back with a severe case of lazy blogger.  So I set a goal to post this trip update while watching the Super Bowl game. My team is not playing so I am watching for the commercials.  And if I am typing I will not be eating greasy finger food snacks. Right?  So here goes.
 It was wonderful to see my oldest son again and to have him give us a tour of the South American country where he has been living and working for the last year. It was the trip of a lifetime.
The  base for our many excursions was Santiago, the capital city and home for half the country’s population.   It is miles and miles of grey concrete buildings interspersed with occasional  buildings and churches built  many hundreds of years ago and the Andes Mountains towering in the east.

We spent the first few days in the city visiting the markets, museums and historical sites. My favorite museum was  the  Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombro, It is devoted to the indigenous people of Chile  and had some of the finest pre-Columbian  pottery, jewelry and textiles  I have ever seen.

Female Figures

Vase with Rattles in legs. Used in Ceremonies
Statue of god wearing a flayed skin of a human. Gave me chills

The textile exhibit was my favorite, but it was displayed in a  room with special lighting and no pictures were permitted. I bought the exhibition guide which was very good, showing the actual stitching, weaving or knitting technique used to create the fabrics.

Our first trip out of the city was  to the Concho De Toro winery, via the Metro and a local bus.  Concho de Toro is the number 2 wine company in the world behind Gallo. Best winery tour I have ever been on. You can walk in a special section of the vineyard where all varieties of their grapes are growing and taste the grapes right off the vine. I posed by the grapes used to make a Chilean brandy called Picso.

The wine cellars are old and underground. There are three generous wine tastings as part of the tour, and the complimentary wine glasses even made it back to the US in my suitcase.

On New Years Eve I followed a  Chilean New Years  tradition guaranteed to bring me happiness and good times in the new year.
You wear yellow underwear inside-out until midnight when you put them on properly. Ideally the underwear should have been given to you as a gift. And no, underwear that used to be white and is now yellow from being unwashed so long does NOT count.

  Mine was purchased from a street vendor and worn inside out until midnight  when I put them on correctly. 
Street vendor - yellow good luck underwear

Well not exactly midnight because we walked a couple blocks from my son’s apartment to the main Av Liberator Bernardo O’ Higgins to join hundreds of Chilean families celebrate the new year. Kids shot off  huge tubes of  confetti   and adults  drank champagne.  Standing in a huge crowd of people in Jan wearing  shorts and a tank top and  watching fireworks was a unique experience for this  northern hemispherian.

On News Years day we flew to Easter Island. I have wanted to visit this place since I was in grade school.  My elementary  school had only two educational movies and we saw them  multiple times a year.  One was a black and white movie about Easter Island and the over 800 huge carved heads , moais found all over the island.    The island is 3000 miles or a 5 hour flight from Santiago, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with nothing nearby. The natives of this island have  Polynesian ancestors and speak that language. The majority of the island is a national park, with only one small town. First stop after getting off the plane is not luggage pickup, but the park kiosk in the airport to buy park admission tickets (cash only)  We stayed in a small but modern cabana a couple blocks from the town of Hanga Roa.  It is a beautiful, clean island. The weather was gorgeous  80’s, light breeze and no humidity.   The moai are everywhere and awe inspiring .

We  climbed to the top one of four volcano cones on the island for an great view of the water filled cone (crater lake and the sea beyond.

Locals put on “Cultural” dance shows.  Very fun. The dancers wear authentic attire and many of the tattoos are real. I enjoyed watching these guys dance.

The band wore the same lack type of clothing. When the stocky band leader  proudly walked across the stage to his seat and I saw the large circular tattoos he had on his butt cheeks, I almost lost it. The girl dancers had some fantastic hip action. Son #1 got pulled up on stage for the audience participation dance. The girls removed his shirt, but let him keep his pants on.  Wheh! Mom was getting a little uncomfortable.

We returning to Santiago for a few days to wash clothes and rest up and then we flew north to the city of Calama and traveled by bus to  the town San Pedro de Atacama.

A true oasis in the middle of one of the Atacama desert, one of the driest in  the world, it is surrounded by other worldly landscapes.

We visited salt flats with lagoons full of flamingos,

Young Family Portrait - 1970's record album style

valleys of steaming geysers,

and little dusty towns where these guys  wandered the streets.

Llamas on the hoof

One of their friends was in a pen outside a shop that offered classes in  wool dying and spinning.  I would have loved to have had time to take some classes. Llama kabobs were available at one of the tour stops.

Llama kabobs

We flew back to Santiago and then off again on a  two hour bus ride to visit Valparaiso and  Vina del Mar, the twin cities of Chile’s Central coast.  Though they share a harbor, they are very different. Valparaiso has colorful houses on steep hills, like San Francisco.

Our hostel was at the top of one of them . We took the funicular as high as it would go and then we had to walk.  While we huffed and puffed our way to the top we admired the gorgeous street art on many of the buildings.

Vina Del Mar  has a nice beach, but the water was about 50 degrees. Son # 2 gamely went in and played in the waves for about 10 minutes and came out mumbling about “body parts retracting and nipples that could cut steel”.  All because he wanted to be able to say he had swum in the Pacific Ocean. 

 The food was good.  I ate lots of fish, either grilled or as ceviche.  Beef was also  plentiful, which my guys liked. Potatoes were served with everything.  I am not a potato fan.  The markets had a wonderful variety of fruits and vegetables as it was summertime.  Chile exports  a lot of fruit and wine.  The peaches and blueberries I have in my kitchen now came from Chile.  But I was amused to see a USA  sticker  on the apples I bought in Santiago. Wines from the vineyards around Santiago were inexpensive and excellent.  And I drank my share of Pisco Sours, a Peruvian/Chilean cocktail made with brandy, lime juice, simple syrup and egg whites. 

My travel wardrobe worked well.  I loved my cross body bag with water bottle compartment. It probably marked me as a tourist, but boy did I need that water bottle in the desert. Most women in Santiago,  no matter what size or shape, wore tight leggings or jeans with longer sleeveless tops.  So I fit right in. Outside of the city  I wore my reversible shorts to death, mostly on the dark side but occasional on the white side. The garment I wore the most, that I threw in the suitcase at the last minute, was a tencel "denim" shirt. It worked great as lightweight protection from the sun and as a layering piece for warmth in the evening.

Sorry, but there was no sewing related sightseeing or shopping.   Back to regular blog programming in the next post.


  1. Wow, that looks like a great trip. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What an awesome trip! It looks like you were really able to experience the culture, which I always enjoy the most when traveling.

  3. What a great trip! I had to laugh so hard about the 70s record album style family portrait :)

  4. what a great trip, you saw so much! and Easter Island. like you that fascinated me when I was in school. So interesting to see Valparaiso - doing some research I found that my great-great grandmother came to SF from Valparaiso around the gold rush so now I would really love to go to Chile. Also love that "album photo" of your family, perfect!

  5. This sounds like an wonderful trip. Thank you for the update. And, I love the family photo :-D

  6. What a fantastic travelogue! I've got to put Chile on my list of places to visit now. I love the New Year's Eve underwear tradition!

  7. Your photos take me right back to my trip in Chile... I was looking at the pictures of the dancers on Easter Island to see if I recognised them.... LOL. They were memorable!!! And you were so lucky to see flamingos in the Atacama... I didn't see them :( Looks like you enjoyed your trip as much as I did! Awesome!

  8. Great trip recap and photos! I love those colorful buildings.

  9. Looks like a fantastic trip with lots of great memories, the 70's album cover family portrait is fab!

  10. thanks for sharing. Sounds like an interesting place.

  11. Thanks for the wonderful travelogue and pictures of a lovely family. It all sounds great.

  12. Your trip of a lifetime is a blog post of a lifetime! Amazing views of your trip; thank you for publishing this.

  13. That sounds like a wonderful trip especially the trip to Easter Island . I have read that the society on the island collapsed after they cut down all the trees and that the weather changes as a result and then caused famine . Di you find out anything about the mystery of what happened on the island ?