Flower desert

Sometimes, and especially when several years of the trip have passed, I prefer to see the photos or videos that I have to remember a bit how it was, and always with the help of the photos I manage to remember some details or anecdotes that I would otherwise forget. Except when it comes to Chile, and this trip in particular. I saw the flower desert on my first trip to Chile, which was also my first trip to Latin America, which was a dream come true for me. Perhaps that is why I remember all of them, even the smallest details, remained etched in my mind for the rest of my life (I hope that amnesia and Alzheimer’s do not reach me). In the first place, I didn`t plan to go to see the flower desert, even if some of my Chilean friends told me that it would be nice to go because it was estimated that it was the largest flower desert in the last 20 years and it is not known when a phenomenon like that will happen again. At the time everyone (myself included) thought that I would be there just spending some weeks and who knows when I`ll be again in Chile. It was not like that, but it`s part of another story, this text serves to try to describe in words the magic of the natural phenomenon called the flower desert (desierto florido in Spanish), something that with less or greater intensity happens every year in the south of the driest desert in the world, Atacama. It`s between the cities of Copiapó and Vallenar where the phenomenon can best be perceived. In an area that is the driest and most arid in the entire world, more than 150 species of flowers appeared, many of them endemic, marking the beginning of spring. Since we are talking about the southern hemisphere, it`s a phenomenon that happens in late August or early September. There are entire hills full of flowers of different colors, kilometers and kilometers of flowers within the Atacama. Obviously, a spectacular moment to be there for a human being.

 

But I tell you how I got there in the end. I was at a meal with the family of a friend of mine who, by the way, hosted me in Santiago and they insisted on convincing me that it would be silly not to take advantage of this special moment, and they showed me the photos of the flower desert, they told me where I had to go to see it well and enjoy it to the fullest … and I don’t know, there was also September 11 when in Santiago (historical reasons, date of the 1973 coup) there are violent protests and then they also thought that the best thing for me is to leave that day out of the capital to a quieter area. And nothing, suddenly I decided to follow the advice, not only from them, but also from another friend who advised me to go to Valle del Elqui, which is not so far from the flowery desert, that is, everything going north. But it`s again something that deserves a separate text.

The thing was that I arrived at Vallenar at around 5 in the afternoon, I checked in at the hotel and immediately asked them how I can go to see the flower desert. They told me that it seems to them that there was nothing left that day and that I should wait until the next day. Obviously, I am a very tenacious and persistent person (that’s why I fulfilled the biggest dream of my life at the age of 25) and I went to the center of the city and started asking around at the open market where to direct me if I want to go to the flower desert. In my mind full of everything but brain, I asked a lady how I could walk there. Walk. I mean, me walking alone into the desert. Now that I say it, it seems like either a joke or a suicide attempt, but I was very serious, I came there to see the flower desert and nothing and nobody was going to stop me from doing it. The lady, very nice and friendly, by the way, told me that it`s not possible to walk there, but that she had a contact with a lady who does private tours. The contact was immediately passed to me, she called her first to tell her who I was and the lady said that there is no problem there was another person interested to do the long tour the next day. And well, I realized that I had to stay one more day to do everything I wanted, but I was going to do it. I was on vacation so there was no rush. And  the next day the guide, the driver and another lady who was on the tour came to pick me up, we got into the truck and left. I can tell you something that I suppose you know, the most beautiful experiences you are going to have in this life are the ones that happened spontaneously and unexpectedly. Just like that tour. The guide was a woman who knew all the flowers and plants and their uses and colors and absolutely everything. She is a very wise person. Besides that, she, like the other people present on the tour, had a very good mood. It was a day full of jokes and laughter, as well as spectacular views and landscapes. Together with the guide, the driver Francisco and Ines, the other passenger, they were an endless number of jokes and anecdotes. Like a full day stand up comedy. I even remember the jokes! Amazing! We spent most of the day on the tour and saw so many different flowers, we had the opportunity to walk around, without clearly damaging the flowers, and admire the beauty and occurrence of nature.

 

Suddenly there were very dry and arid landscapes, with almost no plants and fewer colored flowers, and that is actually typical Atacama, and then, just behind the corner there was a hill full of yellow flowers, then one full of pink flowers … incredible, to think that you are in the Atacama and you see that is simply spectacular. For European readers, imagine Sahara full of flowers, it`s at that level.

 

That day I was in a state of pure happiness and not even aware of the beautiful memories I would have, I was there with the guys, obviously making jokes, and that’s how the day passed. And even now, writing this I have a smile on my face. Already just seeing the greatness and power of a desert is impressive, but with flowers, it is magic. And I say that I don’t need photos to remember those moments, but I do have photos, and the one I remember the most is the photo where I am sitting in the field of flowers just being happy. I wasn’t thinking about anything at the time, I wasn’t just laughing “for the photo”, no, I was laughing because I was happy. It was one of many moments that made me fall in love with Chile, the most beautiful country that these brown eyes ever saw.

 

In the end, what else to say, but to thank everyone who convinced me to go alone from Santiago to the north. Guys, remember that sometimes it`s good to follow the advices! It was a unique and unforgettable experience. To prove it, just watch this video below and us in the truck listening to Despacito and enjoying the flower desert at the same time.

South of Chile: The Lakes Region, 2nd part: Frutillar and Puerto Varas: German legacy

Travel guide for Frutillar and Puerto Varas

General information: Both Frutillar and Puerto Varas are located in the Lakes Region, in the south of the country. Both towns are small, Frutillar has a little less than 20,000 inhabitants and Puerto Varas around 40,000 inhabitants, or almost double of Frutillar.

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Chile: Los Lagos Region 1st part: Chiloé Island: myths and legends surrounded by wild nature

Chiloé travel guide:

General information: It’s the largest island in the whole country, with about 170,000 inhabitants, called “chilotes”. The island is located in Los Lagos Region (literally The Lake Region). Basically, it’s an archipelago, but most of the population lives on the Big Island of Chiloé, that I visited. There is also situated the capital of Chiloé, Castro.

How to get there?

For now, you can only go by plane or ferry, but very soon the construction of the bridge will end so the island will have easier access, although as I will explain later it’s very nice to go by boat. I think it would be very practical to rent a car on the big island and then go visit the other islands. That’s what I missed and that’s why I’ll definitely come back, because they say that the smaller islands have beautiful landscapes and few people visit them, so it will be a paradise for those seeking tranquility and unspoiled nature.

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Chile: Valdivia: the beginning of the deep south

Valdivia Travel Guide:

General information: It has 150,000 inhabitants, it’s one of the largest cities in southern Chile and the capital of Los Lagos Region. It was one of the first cities founded in Chile, in the sixteenth century, by the conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, which in the end also gave the name to the city. It’s quite easy to locate in the city because it’s not big. The city, like the whole region, has a strong German influence, because of the immigrants who start arriving in the 19th century. You can see it in the architecture, but also in the fact that Valdivia is the beer capital of Chile, with many famous types of beers. (both craft and industrial)

Tourist attractions:

1) botanical garden: I think it’s the biggest and the most beautiful botanical garden I’ve ever seen. Actually, it looks like a giant and indomitable forest, which sometimes allows people the luxury of exploring it. From the city center you have to cross a bridge to go there, it’s a kind of island, called Isla Teja, which the river separates from the rest of the city on both sides. It’s really beautiful and quiet, I felt the need to explore it alone, so I escaped to my companion and I went alone, it was a unique experience.

2) street art: There was not so much graffiti in the streets, but I loved those that were there because they were so different from their surroundings that it all made a beautiful contrast. I loved that several of them had as a topic something about the culture of indigenous peoples.

3) Architecture: The center of Valdivia reminded me of Europe. There I see a mixture of Spain and Central Europe and then suddenly there are things that don’t fit and that’s why you realize that you are in South America. Perfection is boring and believe me this is much better than perfection in the Western sense. There is a bit of everything and a touch of originality.

4) the rivers: the Valdivia River and the Calle-Calle river converge in the city and because of that the city has beautiful path next to the rivers. You can simply sit on the bench and enjoy the day (I had a day without rain)

5) the market: You have to go to the Valdivia market, not only to buy fresh food, or homemade jams, or crafts at the fair next to the market. No, the peculiarity and attraction of the Valdivia market are the animals that come there, either to rest or for the vendors to give them food. And they seem to be used to attention of the people, they don’t get upset when someone approaches them and takes a picture of them.(or a selfie) There is everything: birds that I don’t even know what species they are, but the main attraction are the sea lions, flopping in the sun. I saw something similar in Coquimbo, in the north of Chile, but there they are not as included in the “life of the city” as in Valdivia, where they are practically living with the people. I think it’s great, and from those experiences I can see why Chileans are so friendly with animals. In Europe we don’t have that, this kind of animals we can see just in the zoo and that is something very exotic. And here they are in the street, so used to human presence. Sincerely, a friend told me a long time ago that in Chile it’s like that, but I didn’t trust him, I thought that he was just trying to show off or something like that and I didn’t listen to him. The same reaction I receive from my European friends when I send them photos: “What? So close? But didn’t you find it dangerous?” First, I have to confess that by seeing these giant animals I wasn’t indifferent, but like everyone else behaved as if this was the most normal situation in the world, then I relaxed too. I recommend the same. Relax and let yourself be carried away by the magic of a different world but no less beautiful than ours.

Personal observation:

Valdivia is a really beautiful city and I think it would be really nice to live there, despite the constant rain. It’s so beautiful that I think I could take it all and that I would still consider a reward to live in such a beautiful city. One day in Croatia I met a Chilean from Valdivia, and at that time still not knowing how beautiful the south was, I asked her why she had left her country and why she considers Croatia a better choice. She began to list so many things and in a very aggressive and energetic way that I thought that she came from hell. When I first met Chile, I realized that her reasons were actually simply different perspectives and expectations. Something that bothers one person, another loves it and vice versa. But already arriving to the south seriously I couldn’t understand her. If I had the privilege of being born in the south of Chile, I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. It’s a very special part of the world, and Valdivia is the city that, in my opinion, marks the beginning of the deep south. This is where the landscape becomes truly magical and you don’t know if you are dreaming or what is happening. At one point I just felt like I was in another world and I didn’t expect it. I just wanted to go on a day trip and that was it. Never in my life did I think I was going to see landscapes like that. It reminded me of the US national parks I had seen in the movies. (yes, that kind of unknown it was for me) But the road to Valdivia (I went by car from Temuco) was better than any movie. Also, I had never imagined such landscapes in South America. It will be due to prejudice or ignorance, but I just didn’t imagine anything similar. I spent incredible moments there. My admiration was total when every 20 km I saw houses where cheese and homemade jams were sold. On the side of the road, to fill the sensation of being in a pastoral novel, there were sheep and cows eating the grass calmly. I know that obviously living there is not so idyllic always, that there are problems and that the Chilean state and the system aren’t perfect, but nothing is perfect in this life, no system and country. However, there are few places with nature as wonderful as in the south of Chile. Therefore, I still think that living there is a privilege, despite everything.

Chile: Araucanía: part 2: impressive volcanoes and lakes

Araucanía Travel Guide:

General information: The region is located in the south of the country (although southern Chile is a relative concept) and it has approximately one million inhabitants. The capital is Temuco and the currency is the Chilean peso as in the rest of the country. In terms of language, the official language is Spanish, but Mapudungun, one of the chilean indigenous languages is also used. I visited the region several times, so I went to different places: I visited Temuco, Capitán Pastene, Lumaco, Lautaro, Villarica and Pucón. In the previous article I spoke about the commune of Lumaco, to which Capitán Pastene also belongs, and of Lautaro. In this article I am going to focus on Villarica and Pucón, the tourist centers of the region. The only place I will not talk about is Temuco, because, although I had my accommodation there almost always when I went to the region, I never got to know the city, only surroundings. Sometimes it´s just like this. I always was telling my friends that I was going to Temuco and then I returned without knowing that city, but knowing everything else around. Typical for me.

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Chile: Araucanía: a multicultural region: part 1

Araucanía Travel Guide:

General information: This region is located in the south of the country (although southern Chile is a relative concept) it has approximately one million inhabitants. The capital is Temuco and the currency is the Chilean peso as in the rest of the country. In terms of language, the official language is Spanish, but Mapudungun, one of the Chilean indigenous languages is also in use. I visited the region several times, so I went to different places: I visited Temuco, Capitán Pastene, Lumaco, Lautaro, Villarica and Pucón. In this article I will talk about the Lumaco department, to which Capitán Pastene also belongs, and of Lautaro.

How to go there?

The ideal is to go by car, because the connection between towns is not so good and you lose a lot of time if you go by public transport.

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