Rants & Raves

Road Trip to Copiapo

This weekend we decided to hit the road, departing from Pisco Elqui (where we have been living in Chile, in case that is news to you!):

(view from our home’s porch, up the valley):


The valley behind leads down from our town towards the sea and the "city" of La Serena…


… (which is in the IV Region of Chile) to head north towards Copiapo, capital of the III Region.  A gorgeous drive on the new "coast highway" in the III Region, about 200 miles of "dirt" road that drives like a dream–we could make 60mph+ for long stretches at a time.  We saw 3 cars all day on Saturday, and literally 100s of miles of gorgeous beaches with few to no people on them.  Here’s the road… sometimes straight as an arrow for 20-30 miles at a time.


the view out the window was captivating, and although we saw many "vicuna xsing" signs, we didn’t see any (vicunas are like llamas… wild in this part of the country)


Did I mention, the beaches were EMPTY?  Here’s our car parked at the national park parking lot… gorgeous dunes, not a soul in sight!


At our northernmost point, we hit "Bahia Inglesa", a lovely beach resort with 150 full time inhabitants.  There were about 50-60 beach goers there on the saturday, presumably from the nearby Copiapo and Caldera cities (towns of 50,000 or less, 90  minutes drive from this isolated beach):



We stayed in the hamlet of Huasco one night, caught the local children’s halloween costume parade, apparently becoming very popular down here in the southern hemisphere.



we hit a local market for fresh produce on our way back home; Cristina’s keen sense of haggling, developed in Beijing and in Chinese, has transitioned marvelously to the Chile/Spanish…


and then arrived home sweet home.  All the best from the entire family, from Pisco Elqui Chile (sorry, couldn’t get a picture of all four of us yet–we’ll keep working on that!)


Rants & Raves

We are here!

Which is where? Pisco Elqui, of the Valle del Elqui, about 6-7 hours north of Santiago, due east of La Serena, close to the Andean border with Argentina.  Beautiful, dry and warm climate.  A throwback to the 70s with Chilean hippies, lots of crochet, and a very non-commercial yet tourist friendly ambiance.  Tiny.  It is 1% the size of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, with the same blend of colonial/rural/mestizo look and feel with a reverence for nature and new age spirituality. No gringo owned art galleries, no outrageously gorgeous jewelry stores, but a handful of tiny shops with local artisanal products, some really cute restaurants, cabins for rent, horses and lots of vineyards.  This is the center for Pisco; two brands that come from the region are Capel and Mistral, the latter taking its name from the famous poet Gabriela who hailed from the region. Not far from here is an organic winery. The valley also houses a couple state-of-the-art observatories with the some biggest telescopes in the world. Can’t wait to check them out, but for the time being, looking at the stars with the naked eye is pretty phenomenal–even with a moon, you can see shooting stars and globs of constellations, 300 days a year.
We live in a funky house that was probably built 100 years ago, but renovated with Balinese flair by Justin, son of Ximena, friend of Jane and Emilio. Justin and his wife Cony lived in India and Bali pre-babies. They’ve been here around 6 years. Very creative folks with cute kids and lots of interests. With others in their community, they helped start up a Waldorf school, part of a branch of alternative schools based on German philosopher Rudolf Steiner’s alternative beliefs about children’s development and education. One of our reasons for coming to Elqui (sight unseen for both of us) was our belief that this nurturing school environment would be the most stress-free way to get the kids immersed in Spanish.  So far, both kids come home jubilant and go to school excited to see what will unfold. It’s only a 10 minute walk and a big part of my day has been getting them both there and back (their days start and end at different times).
That says a lot about the pace of our lives.  There’s not a lot to do or anywhere to go, which is just fine by us.  Forest has been productive in a little office he set up here at the house. When the boys come home we all have lunch at 2, Chilean style.
October has always been my favorite month and Fall always felt like renewal to me, but on the flip side of the seasons, starting Spring on the flip side of life after Beijing, in our own topsy turvy way it all feels right.