Saturday, 12 November 2011

Travels, Asados & More Travels. Oh, And Construction, Too.

As you can probably tell from the title of this post, I've had a pretty busy few weeks. Actually, it's been more of a very, very busy 2 weeks...I was ill with a succession of colds and chest infections for almost a month after coming back from Ecuador so I got behind on pretty much everything I had to do, including blogging...

Here's what I've been up to:

-Caro came to visit for a few days. I picked her up from the airport first thing in the morning and we immediately drove up to Cajon de Maipo. I've never been before and always wanted to. It's beautiful up there...the drive takes you high up into the mountains and we ended up at the Termas de Colina. They're probably just about worth the $6 mil entrance fee, especially if you take a picnic and make a half day of it (we didn't). You need to go as early as possible- we got there at 10am on a Thursday. When we left at midday, it was starting to get busy. Weekends must be a nightmare.

It's a beautiful drive up.

The thermal waters, when empty of people, are really quite nice.

On the Saturday, we had an asado at my house, the first of the season. As usual, a load more people turned up than invited, but as I know this always happens, we were well prepared with a 4kg hunk of Uruguayan fillet steak. So good.


-Caro left on Sunday night and then on Monday morning I headed up to Elqui Valley with photographer friend, Matt Wilson, in the role of assistant (which mainly meant driving, something I'm always happy to do). Elqui is, without doubt, my favourite place I've been to in Chile and somewhere I think I could quite happily move to if the opportunity arose (I very much doubt it ever will). It has everything I love about Chile...stunning scenery, wine, pisco, great food (lots of goat!) and beautiful (and beautifully preserved) Colonial architecture. Perhaps one day I'll be able to afford a holiday home up there in which to spend a few months a year. One day...

It was a really fun trip. On the first day, we spotted an open gate leading up into a vineyard. Now, to me, an open gate is an invitation in so we drove up...and up...and kept on heading up until we reached the very top of the mountain. The views of the valley were incredible and I found my dream Elqui home. Unfortunately, it's in the middle of a privately owned vineyard so no chance of getting my hands on it. But it's a falling down adobe house (just my kind of thing) with the most amazing views.

Whilst Matt was getting the images he needed, I was wondering whether there'd be an irate property owner at the bottom waiting to shout at us for entering his land without permission. There wasn't. And, to be honest, there almost never is. If you have a decent car, people tend not to ask questions. I've seen so many properties for sale in Chile by car and no one bats an eyelid when you drive around- they just assume you have permission...

On the last night, we drove up to the hippy community of Cochiguaz. I'd heard there was a big, sacred rock up there covered in petroglyphs. Apparently, it's the magnetic centre of the southern hemisphere and has the exact opposite co-ordinates as the magnetic centre of the northern hemisphere, in Tibet. I don't really believe much of this but the rock itself was pretty cool. And it was even cooler when the sun went down and it was lit only by the light of the 99% full moon. I have to say it was kind of humbling being there in the middle of the night knowing that hundreds of years before, both the Incas and Diaguitas saw this rock as an important part of their culture.

The sacred rock up in Cochiguaz.

The lovely church in Pisco Elqui.

River shots by a professional.

The images come out like this (that's me on the rock)...

For more images like this, check out Matt's Elqui blog. And don't use his pictures without permission, or you'll get sued.

Crumbling old bridge. The one built to replace it, 20 metres down the road, is not in much better condition, to be honest.

Dream Elqui house...the views are just amazing.

Here it is from higher up.

Looking down on Montegrande from the top of the mountain.

Matt taking his snappy-snaps.

And here's a video of the drive back down (with references to The Fast Show and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels). It was a pretty narrow track with sheer drops to the side. Very fun.

A cloudy sunset looking up the valley.

Last rays of sunshine on the mountains, taken from the cabaña.

On the way back down from the valley towards La Serena you have to go past the huge reservoir, Embalse Puclaro. The water level is worrying low as we've had 3 or 4 extremely dry Winters. This old vineyard used to be completely underwater. It's an incredibly eerie place and the dead vines reminded me of Day of the Triffids.

And the house renovation/new construction is continuing apace. I am truly fortunate to have the builders I do down here in Colchagua. I've seen the nightmare that many people go through with builders here and I've not had a single problem with these guys (I've known and worked with them for over 2 years now). During my 4 days away in Elqui, the house moved forward so much- the reinforced concrete pillars are being poured and the rafters for the roof of the old part of the house are done. Only the electrician can put me behind schedule...and I have a suspicion he will. We shall see...


  1. Hello from Paris, France ! I remember so well the asados when I was living in Chile ( I am a Chilean travel writer, living now in Paris...). Your story brought back many beautiful memories; Thanks for sharing & hasta luego,
    Francisca Mattéoli

  2. I've never been to Chile but if given a chance, I would surely come and visit this place. Those photos look very compelling. I wonder if there are small villas or hotels in this place just like the Thailand villas we had when we went to Thailand. They were just small yet very compelling. Anyway, I look forward to visiting this country soon.

  3. It's good to spend a holiday in this kind of place. It's new, fun and surely an adventurous place to visit. The photos are very enticing indeed. I wonder if Montegrande has a lot of apartments that offer holiday accommodation. I wish I could visit Chile in the future.

  4. I agree. This place looks very compelling. I would love to spend my holidays in this very beautiful place as well. Sunshine and sunset will surely give a greater view. I love staying in a place where nature and beaches are among the top spots. This is the reason why I visited Australia last summer. I also enjoyed the Kimberley Accommodation I got from the Kimberley Club. Anyway, I wish I could come and visit the country of Chile soon.

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