Dave and Cathy's Family Blog

October 30, 2013

Chile 2013 – Santiago, Pucon, Patagonia (Coihaique), Papudo, Rancagua

Filed under: 2013 Chile — dave9169 @ 11:03 pm

In the above gallery are the 50 images I posted to Facebook, but below are pages where you’ll find even more images of my trip to Chile (just over 200 photos total), including:

Also, if you’re interested here are links to the pictures I took back in 1988 and 2006 — you’ll see many of the same characters here, only younger and much younger:

A Recap of My Trip to Chile

Sometimes a series of coincidental events come together and present you with an opportunity that you can either choose to ignore or you can follow the signs, break your routine, and embark on a new adventure. The impetus for my particular adventure came when three things happened within a few days of each other: 1) my parents booked a two-month trip to Chile; 2) things at work slowed down and my company asked all employees to take 2 weeks off; 3) I got a message from Travelzoo letting me know that flights to South America were being discounted 30% during the month of October. Within days of this sequence of events happening, I booked my trip to Chile, setting myself up for what would become a wonderful trip.

Doing Things for the First Time

Since my first solo trip to Chile when I was 18, I have been back to Chile six times — four times on my own and twice with Cathy. The primary purpose for my visits has always been to see my aunts and cousins, but I also like to try and do a few new things when I go. This trip had plenty of that as I vacationed with my parents for 4 days in Pucon/Villarica, climbed an active volcano, visited Patagonia, biked with my cousin through the beach side communities of Papudo and Zapallar, and stayed the night at my aunt’s place in Coya de Rancagua which is in the foothills of the Cordillera in the Andes (note that foothills is a bit of a misnomer as these “hills” looked more like full fledged mountains to me).

Visiting Aunt and Cousins in Coya
On the third day of my stay in Chile my cousin Renata, the same one I toured New York with in 2012, and her boyfriend picked me up to go see her mom (my aunt Pamela) and sister (also named Pamela and my cousin as well) in Coya de Rancagua. We all ate almuerzo together. Typically, almuerzo is the biggest meal of the day and served at around 2:00 PM. My aunt and her husband Raul fed us very well. We ate empanadas as appetizers before moving on to the main course of a traditional Chilean BBQ (sausages and meats simply seasoned with salt and pepper) accompanied by grilled asparagus, and four different salads (potato, corn, tomato, and lettuce). In addition, we all imbibed generous amounts of Chilean wine.

Just before dusk, my aunt and Raul took me on a walk to a nearby estate which serves as a retreat for diplomats and guests when they visit this region of Chile. The estate includes a main house and guest house styled to mirror what houses looked like in the US when the house was built by a US copper mining company back in the 20s. This is where I was able to take some nice shots of my aunt and Raul, as well as the hundreds of blue and lavender lupines in the garden.

I really enjoyed my time with Raul and my aunt. Raul and I nerded out talking about cameras and photography, while my aunt and I swapped stories about our families. My aunt Pamela is a great story teller and I can easily spend hours listening to her tales and asking her questions about the past and how we’ve gotten to where we are now on our life’s journey. I also remember my aunt as a key figure in my life when I was 10 years old — that was the age I was when my parents uprooted us from the US to go live in Chile. She made my transition to school life easier there as I remember stopping by her house on the way home from school every day where she treated me with the love and affection she still shows me to this day. Gracias tia!

Villarica/Pucon Trip & Volcano Climb
Villarica/Pucon is always a special place for me. Sure there is the natural beauty of lake Villarica and the imposing snow-capped Villarica volcano, but for me the connection to this place begins with the solo trip I took to Chile in 1988 with my cousin Boris. As I mentioned before, when I was 10 years old, my parents took us to live in Chile because they thought they wanted to make a life for themselves there. However, that experiment only lasted a year (or a little less than that) and the following year we returned to the US. I mention this because I would not return to Chile again until my 1988 visit. During that trip, I reconnected with all my aunts and cousins and also met new family. In addition, I visited new places like Pucon and Villarica and had the kind of fun with my cousin that only two young teens could have ;-).

In 2006, I visited this region with my dad because his friend Nano had moved there. On that visit, it was my turn to show my dad something new since this was an area of Chile that he had never been to before. I even took him out hiking with Nano, something my dad never does because as he says, “that is a waste of time.” Those who know my dad know that he would much rather be in his home working on his garden, garage or home improvement project. After the hike, however, he confessed to really enjoying the experience.

On my latest trip, I got to travel to a place I love with both my folks — it was the first vacation the three of us had taken together in Chile and we all enjoyed it immensely. I also commemorated the occasion by deciding to do something new there myself: climb the Villarica volcano. It took more than 4 hours to climb the snow-capped summit. If you do it, I definitely recommend doing it with a climbing company — they provide the guides and gear to climb the volcano “somewhat” safely. I say somewhat because you could still go out there and die if you lose your footing during the climb and go sliding down the mountain. The guides give you an ice pick that you’re supposed to use in a very specific manner should you find yourself tumbling down the mountain. The only problem with this tool is that if you use it the wrong way, you’ll lose your grip on it and find yourself tumbling helplessly to your demise. Also, the guides give you the instruction on how to use the ice pick in an emergency visually, but since nobody in our group practiced the technique I suspect that the likelihood of someone using the tool the right way in an emergency situation would be quite low.

All safety concerns aside, six of us — an Austrian, a Swiss couple, a Spaniard, and another American of Latin American descent — attempted the climb and all of us made it back. Also, while I know people have died on the Villarica volcano climb, I believe the tour group I chose has never lost a customer so that helped allay some of my safety concerns ;-). The best part about the climb however, is the descent because you get to literally slide down the mountain on your butt (toboggan-style) for most of the way. I do not have any picture of this because I did not want to ruin my camera during the fast descents, but I believe one or two of my fellow climbers may have taken a picture which I will post to the site if I get a copy.

I spent the rest of my time in Villarica/Pucon reminiscing with my parents and Nano as they have so much history together. My dad moved to the US in his twenties with Nano’s brother Mario. Nano also split a shipping container with my parents because he also moved his family out to Chile at the same time my parents did in 1980. The only difference between Nano any my parents is that he decided to stay there with his family while my parents did not. Nano also has a son and daughter around the same age as my sister and me. His daughter lives and works in Miami, while his son made a life for himself in Chile. It is a nice parallel universe of sorts and always makes me wonder: what if my parents had stayed in Chile and I had created a life for myself there as well? One of those “what ifs” of the universe.

Windy, Cold, and Beautiful Central Patagonia
In his childhood, my dad spent his summers in the small farming town of Chillan with his aunt and uncle on their farm. I think this is where my dad’s love for the countryside and farming life was born. He is in many ways a farmer at heart, something that is evident when you see the way he tends and cares for the vegetable garden and fruit trees in his backyard. It was also in Chillan that he formed a strong friendship with his cousin Amila. Amila would later go on to have a daughter, Madeleine, and two boys, all of whom I met on that 1988 trip when I traveled down to see them in Concepcion on nothing more than my dad’s word that these were good peeps. And in one of those following the footsteps of the father moments I became and remain good friends with Madeleine — so much so that I chose her name as my daughter’s middle name.

A few years ago, Madeleine and her husband Rodrigo moved from Concepcion to Coihaique (in central Patagonia), which was a big move for them since they had lived in Concepcion for their entire lives. They moved to Coihaique because they were both offered full time jobs there and although it’s been an adjustment for them, moving from the second largest city in Chile to one that is just a fraction of the size, they both seem genuinely happy to be there now. What also makes the transition easier for them is that my aunt Amila and her husband come and visit them often. And they don’t just visit, they actually help quite a bit with the care of their twin grand daughters — they take them to school, feed them, pick them up from school, and play and interact with them. I swear they are the coolest grandparents because they do so much with them and don’t seem bored doing it. Quite the opposite, they are attentive and engage with them in so many positive ways.

As luck would have it, my visit to Coihaique coincided with a visit from my aunt Amila who quickly turned into the role of caretaker for the entire family. That meant that she cooked all kinds of great dishes for us, showered me with lots of love and attention, told me stories of her childhood and her relationship with my dad, and, by caring so much for us, she made it possible for me to see a lot of the surrounding area with Madeleine and Rodrigo.

Rodrigo even took me fly fishing. It was windy and cold outside, but the trip out to the lake allowed me to absorb the raw natural beauty that exists in this part of the country. We took two nice drives (well four if you count the trip from the airport to town and back) during my time there where we stopped and took pictures of the surroundings which included lakes surrounded by lush green meadows and glaciated valleys bordered by snow-capped mountain peaks. Since it was spring time we also saw gauchos herding cows, young foals grazing in the meadows, and plenty of sheep nursing their little lambs.

I could have definitely stayed here much longer to explore the surrounding areas but this was simply a quick visit to see family. Next time, I will have to plan an extended stay, preferably in the summer when it’s not so cold.

Bike Ride and Family BBQ in Papudo
The last leg of my trip included a brief two-day stay in Santiago where I got to see cousins Renata, Mauricio, and David as well as Tia Angelica before heading out with my cousin Julio’s family to his beach side condo in Papudo. I’ve known Julio for years and he is the eldest of only two male cousins I have on my dad’s side of the family. He is Boris’ brother and the one who encouraged Boris and me to take that trip together in 1988 to visit Pucon and Villarica. Julio has also always provided me with a home base for any time I come to visit Chile. To partially return the favor, I agreed to purchase a road bike for him here in the states and lug it with me on my flight to Chile.

In Papudo, we put that road bike to good use as we went on a 20 mile bike ride through Papudo and Zapallar on a road that resembles our pacific coast highway. It was the first time the two of us have biked together in our lives. I followed Julio on a mountain bike while he tried out his new toy. He did fine, but about half way through we switched bikes because he was not used to the stiff road bike seat. This was our scenic coastline excursion before the big family BBQ.

At the BBQ, I reunited with my parents as well as my aunt Licha and all her other kids (Karen and Vivi) — the only one who couldn’t make it was Boris, but I managed to connect with him in Santiago the day before for an entire afternoon where relived some of our past moments over almuerzo and also caught up on our current lives.

I actually extended my stay in Chile by a few days so that we could all be together at this BBQ, which is something I’m glad I did. There is something about coming back to the same place over the years that is really special. You see many of the same people, but everyone is at different stages in their lives. I looked at my cousins’ kids, people I had known as babies toddlers or young adolescents, and marveled at how most of them were now young adults getting ready to embark on their own careers or journeys of self-discovery. I looked at my cousins and my aunts, all older now, just like myself, but so full of kindness and understanding and so willing to share their stories with me and make me feel like I belonged in this world and could stay with them there forever if I only said the word. And that’s how we spent the afternoon: eating, drinking, and sharing on a sunny spring day…multiple generations bound together by love.

1 Comment »

  1. When your current apartment lease expires, we would happily welcome you in LA!

    Comment by pucon weather february — January 21, 2019 @ 11:48 pm

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