Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Travel: Chile: From Deserts to the Roaring Seas

Mont Gras Winery
Mont Gras Winery
After learning that they were planning on building 5 dams in the southern part of Chile;  this winter, we traveled to the country that has the driest desert in the world as well as dramatic fjords and serene channels.  Chile, is a country with an endless bounty of colorful citrus fruits and fresh vegetables. We went through enchanted forest like those of Bavaria to crystal clear blue lakes.

We landed in the capital Santiago, and our friend Jose picked us up to his beach condo in Viña del Mar (vineyard by the sea). There, we spent most of our time in one of the most fun city in Chile, unique in all of Latin America, Valparaíso.

From the flat city center riding up an incline elevator takes you to a to a very different city above.  Filled with tiny stores, talented artisans and quaint cafes.  We could not take enough pictures of this city. No wonder it is named the Top 10 cities for artistic inspiration.

We took a 5 hour
leisurely drive toward the south to Colchagua Valley beginning at the foothills of the Andes Mountains and reaching west to the Pacific Ocean. It looks much like Napa Valley with its ubiquitous vineyards, valley floor river and tree-studded foothills vs. Alsace, France where I have also spent one summer with historic quaint towns. Overall, Colchagua is an oasis of rural calm with just enough sophistication to whet the wine traveler’s appetite. 

Thanks to our GPS, which lead us to drive unpaved rocky hilly roads and left us with a tenth of gas tank through a dense fog and storm, we finally arrived in  Pucón. There we trekked to Huerquehue National Park.  The volcano's crater spends most of its day billowing smoke - and on clear nights it gives off an eerie red glow.

Passing  through the "lake district" with picturesque the towns of Valdivia, Puerto Varas and Osorno.  This fertile region is rich for Mapuche culture, existed before the Conquistadors arrival that now make up only 4% of Chilean population.

As we drove down further south, the greener it gets.  It's so perfectly laid-back, you’ll start to feel a little sueño (sleepy) with all the adventures  from rafting to climbing, from hiking to hot-springs hopping, visiting neighboring colonial towns to sipping mate.  Crossing half hour ride with a ferry-end of Pan American Highway (Ruta 5), we reached archipelago of Chiloe.  For the nature lover, this opens up opportunities to see the multitude of wildlife found in these waters including penguins, dolphins, seabirds and sea lions.  

Can't beat these fresh scallops w garlic and permesan

Fresh Scallops (Marcado Pescaderia of Santiago)
As for my next blog, part II of Chile, I will be boasting of some of the most dramatic landscapes and its unique cuisines from the "end of Earth", Patagonia. The region comprises the southern section of the Andes  mountains to the southwest towards the Pacific ocean.

Places to stay  
Colchagua Wine Valley:
where the loyalties like Queen Elizabeth to Cary Grant had stayed

Please check out our for more beautiful panoramas of Chile