Between a long delay for mechanical issues in Houston, and a massive traffic jam between Santiago and Colchagua, it took me almost 36 hours to get from Napa to the conference.
But once there, it was a whole different story: people from all over the world got together to talk about wine, tourism and just about everything else.I was also interested in hiking in Chile, and who better to ask than a bunch of people who were experts in tourism?
Remember that Chile is something like 3500 miles long, and runs from near the Equator to near the South Pole...so conditions are best described as wildly varied. Rainfall generally increases as you head East, towards the Andes, and South, towards Cape Horn. And you are always within 100 miles of the Andes, even on the coast. In the North you have the driest desert in the world, the Atacama. Trekking here is challenging, but the area is famous for its stark beauty--not unlike our own Southwest. And it has the beginnings of a serious tourism industry, including wineries! But I was near the capital, Santiago, at latitude 33 or so. Here the mountains are the highest in the Andes--Aconcagua is not far from the primary highway that runs from Santiago to Mendoza, Argentina, over a 10,000 foot pass. The Andes here are amazingly high, amazingly steep...and amazingly dry The landscape reminded me of an upside down Grand Canyon---steep as hell, but instead of going 5,000 down, it goes more than 20,000 feet up. There is something impressive about being at 10,000 and looking up at peaks that are another 10,000 feet above you. And the vegetation was cactus and drought resistant plants--no forests here. There is skiing here, being so close to Santiago, a city of six million people, but the ski season only lasts a few weeks. Last year, it was only six weeks long.
Further south, near Colchagua, I was told about a nice 4-5 day hiking route that follows the path of the Uruguayan rugby team that survived a plane crash in the Andes and then finally worked their way out towards Chile. Those of a certain age will remember the story...https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uruguayan_Air_Force_Flight_571 That may sound rather morbid, but the hiking was highly recommended to me.
And then further south, you have Valdivia and is many lakes and volcanoes Puerto Mont and its access to the ice fields of Patagonia, and finally Torres del Payne, which are not only legendary, they are now "epic" among a younger generation, and quite crowded with hikers.
As far as food and culture, we had lovely roast lamb, fabulous cherries, astonishing avocados, and great wine. What's not to like there? We also saw a cultural show that included everything from Polynesian dances from Easter Island to elegant horsemanship and Mapu native culture. it's quite a spectrum.
Hope the photos add a bit to the narrative. Here are the rest>: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yfqsbSLAWxThgtBJA
By the way, I did not see a single protestor in Chile--but Colchagua is 90 miles from Santiago, where the demonstrations have been massive. And the perspective I got from Chileans was determined by their political position. Those on the right decried the violence of the protestors, while admitting that the government and the economy had failed the lower classes in Chile. Those on the left were more concerned about the violence by the police and military, and explained that hundreds of thousands of protestors were being accused of violence, while only a tiny minority were actually involved. And everyone agreed that the media has not done a very effective job of communicating the story.