While most days during my workaway have been pretty consistent (that is, consistently weeding, weeding, with a little bit of other odd jobs thrown in), there have definitely been a few highlights. For the past two weeks, those have been Thursdays.
Last week, I was able to visit the museum in Santa Cruz. The museum is focussed around the archeological finds in and around this region of Chile, along with more general history of major players in the South American west—namely, the Incan Empire. However, it also spans to modern history, including Spanish colonization up to the 2010 Copiapó mining accident. The latter exhibit also includes a recreation of the underground barracks where the 33 Chilean men lived for 69 days underground after a cave-in at the San José copper-gold mine in the Atacama. It’s a highly recommended museum and it’s easy to see why—the exhibits are clean, modern, well-maintained, and in general it far surpasses the Museo Inka in Cusco (the capital of the Incan Empire!).
This week I got to know a bit of today’s culture and lifestyle in rural, central Chile. Since my host is celebrating his birthday this weekend with a huge party, we accompanied him to pick up some of the necessities for the weekend. The first stop was to get the wine. A whole lot of wine.
Mont Gras is apparently the third-largest vineyard and wine producer in Chile (full disclosure: I’m not fact-checking that, just going by what I was told). Look for it the next time you are perusing the South America wines—apparently they export to several different countries. We pulled up to the property and it was vast: stretches of vineyard that I can’t even quantify, a grand white complex with wood detailing everywhere, and a large courtyard complete with fountain and palm trees. Since our host planned to buy a lot of wine, we were treated very well (or maybe the service is just always that good—I’m a cynic).
The bad thing about tasting at 11 in the morning is that you feel a little like you have to be respectable and just taste. By that, I mean that no matter how good that third-of-a-glass of $90-per-bottle of cabernet sauvignon tastes, even though it’s been sitting in French oak for three years and has won international awards, you feel like you have to just sip it, voice your appreciation, and dump the rest in the bucket sitting on the counter. It hurts, but you already feel a little out of place when you are wearing the same raggy clothes you’ve been crawling on the ground in all week in a place as posh as Viña Mont Gras.
After the tasting, we headed to the market in nearby Peralillo. This weekly market is amazing. Everything is fresh and vibrantly coloured. While it’s not all that cheap compared to produce in other latin american countries, it’s definitely the cheapest I’ve seen in Chile. Here’s what I did buy, with prices in Chilean Pesos (with prices in CAD in brackets).
- 1 Kilo Strawberries = 1,000 CLP ($1.94)
- 1 Kilo Lemons = 350 CLP ($0.68)
- 5 Large Onions = 1,000 CLP ($1.94)
- 4 Avocados = 1,300 CLP ($2.52)
- 1 Bunch of Bananas = 500 CLP ($0.97)
- 1 Head of Lettuce = 250 CLP ($0.49)
- 1 Litre of Homemade Salsa = 600 ($1.16)
- Total = 5,000 CLP ($9.70)
Note: The photo above is just a sampling of what I actually bought—this list has the actual quantities.
Though I stuck to the food, there were plenty of stalls selling shoes, clothes, toys, housewares, and other random products. Also, there was the ever-present Chilean man with a loudspeaker performing some Spanish power ballads for tips. Peralillo is not a huge town (I believe about 9,000 people live in the town itself), but this market serves as a weekly event for people from many surrounding smaller towns and villages, so it was pretty busy.
Today marks the end of my third workweek here. We’ve booked our hostel in Santiago for next Friday, we think we know how to get back to Santiago. But, of course, there’s always more to come.