Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 2: Deep into the Andes

AM: Our night at Dona Pola was just fine. The weather changed rather drastically overnight, from hot and sunny to cool and cloudy. The clouds have broken up a bit since we awoke, but it's still cool. Breakfast here was better than expected: bread, ham, cheese, a dish of eggs, yogurt, cereal, coffee and tea. Considering the average Chilean breakfast is a piece of bread and tea or coffee, this made my morning. I always wind up grumpy here from lack of enough breakfast food.

Right now we are stopped along the side of the road next to a poll marked "9" because it's the one place in town where you can find a cell phone signal.

Nick has to make some phone calls for the farm, so we're camped out here for a while. Attractive place, right?

PM: Once again, trying to cross into Argentina was a giant failure for me. We took a very long dirt road into the Alto Bio-Bio. The deeper we went, the more it was like going back in time. The population ceased to be Hispanic and became entirely Native American-- Pehuenche (Peh-wen-chay) to be exact. Most people traveled here by foot or by horse. We encountered only a few cars the whole time into the forest. I thought the trip would be more searching for a volcano, but we couldn't see it most of the time. However, the experience of seeing a native population set outside of the modern world was worth the sacrifice of the volcano.

At one point, we actually stumbled upon a group of Pehuenche people gathered in what looked at first like a festival. As we drove slowly by, we realized that in fact we were witnessing a religious ceremony, possibly a rain dance. They approached our car and spoke to Nick's uncle, and we only stayed a minute. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos as they asked us not to take any and we obliged. But the ceremony looked and sounded exactly how you might expect. Around a fire, there were men in elaborate costumes and headdresses dancing to accompany a beating drum along with the occasional blast of a horn. There was chanting and a group gathered around the edges. We felt that we were intruding in this intimate ceremony, so we drove on, but it was thrilling to stumble upon a completely authentic and foreign atmosphere.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Day 1: to the Bio-Bio

Today we left Santiago around 10:30am. It took us a few hours to reach our lunch destination in Maule--just south of the city of Talca. We dined at Los Ganaderos and had a HUGE lunch of steaks and salads. The rest of the drive was a bit of a blur as I fell asleep quite a lot in the car. We found our hotel, deep in the Bio-Bio valley located between Santa Barbara and Ralco: Dona Pola was the name (I don't know who Dona Pola is). It was rather like a state park cabin/camp site with small but clean rooms, a pool, lots of river access, and quite a few animals around-- when we pulled in, there was a pair of llamas chomping on the grass. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of them because when I came out with the camera, they were gone.

After settling our things in the room, we had a quick dinner in the hotel dining room. Lionel wanted to see the Volcano Collaqui at sunset, so we ate fast and jumped into the car to drive up. The road became dubious after a short time, though, so we turned around.

We stopped in the small town of Ralco to ask a police officer about road conditions. To my surprise, although we had committed no infraction and were just asking a question, he asked for the vehicle registration and driver information. He took the materials into the station for several minutes to check them! I found this very intrusive and uncomfortable. In any event, we did get our information which we will use tomorrow to drive up the volcano.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Heading out again...

Well, we're absolutely crazy. We got home from the US on Wednesday morning. Thursday, Nick and his dad went to the farm until yesterday. Tomorrow (Sunday) we are leaving for another week to go on a road trip to the semi-south. I'm still jetlagged from the last trip! I realized a few minutes ago that I had to pack yet and pack for 7 days on top of that! Ahhhh. If I come back in one piece, I will be impressed. Anyhow, if I come back in one piece, I'll probably be shredded by the cats who wonder if I've run away already considering how little they've seen of me in the past month.

We are headed to the Bio-Bio valley, which is the beginning of the volcano & lakes district in Chile. We are staying in a variety of places around several volcanoes, visiting glacier lakes, and hopefully taking a dip in some hot springs. We'll even be in Los Angeles (er, Chile). Trips with Nick's dad are always adventurous, so I'm looking forward to having some stories.

The computer is not coming with us because we don't want to leave it in a hotel room or the car, so look for limited blog posts from internet cafes or possibly my phone. I will also post pictures to my Facebook account (and if you're not friends with me on Facebook yet, look me up at http://www.facebook.com/stefinitely ). Well, off to bed... have to be on the road in 10 hours...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Back from the US

Unfortunately, this post isn't going to have a good story or a moral at the end, or even be very interesting to read. I just want to post what a great time I had back home with everyone. My policy was to say "Yes" to every invitation that I could and as a result, I pretty much did not sleep for 2.5 weeks. Helping that along was the fantastic coffee that I got to drink-- what an awesome cup that very first one after getting home was.

Christmas was a great time being surrounded by family. It was fantastic to see my parents, brothers, SIL, niece and nephew who are growing so fast, grandpa, aunts and uncles. I am especially grateful to my awesome friends.... I could make a list that would make the Academy start playing music to shuffle me offstage. But really it was great to be in a totally comfortable environment for the first time in months. Although I am still completely sleep deprived, I feel entirely recharged by all the time I spent with everyone I love and somewhere I understand. I feel ready to take on Chile again and come back knowing more Spanish than I did when I first came, and understanding more of the city in which I live.

So what's coming up in 2010 for the Rural World? Next week Nick and I are going with his dad and uncle on a trip to the "Sort-of-South"-- about 6 or 8 hours south of Santiago but not anywhere near Patagonia. We are going to visit some hot springs and volcanos. Yay geology! In February, my sister-in-law will be in town for a few weeks. I look forward to harvest season this fall, and even Chilean winter (it will be nice to have a cozy, cool, rainy day!). I will be in the US in July and again for part of Aug and Sept. The Australia trip to buy sheep embryos is still on the books but I have a LOT of work ahead of me to make it happen--ie lots of planning and trying to get financing.

The thing I wonder is, who of you will be the first to come visit? I am ready and waiting!