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Published: November 13th 2018
So our first Chilean road trip did not start off well. About two and a half hours into the drive, as we drove down the main street of a little town called Litueche, the alarm sounded...except well, it wasn't an alarm, it was an "uh oh she's barfing", and it was said very matter of fact, although I can't quite remember who said it, but pretty sure it was Steph's mom who was sandwiched between the two girls car seats in the back. And I turned around and well, I can spare you the growing details (let's just say some people in the car may never look at fishy crackers the same), but my eyes soon confirmed that yes, poor Maelle was barfing. And so we quickly pulled over, got her calmed down and a change of clothes, as cars slowly drove by wondering what exactly these gringos were doing...and after some time we finally managed to get everyone back into the car, and slowly crawled the last hour through the winding hills, and grinding traffic (mostly because of the less hill worthy cars we were following) with the lingering smell of vomit permeating the air in the car. As we
Infiernillo Beach, Pichilemu
...sure beats a car that smells like vomit
approached the coast, the skies were grey, and when the town of Pichilemu crawled into sight, I think we were all a bit uncertain as to why we had left sunny Santiago and the comfort of our house early that morning for a long, winding drive with two small children.
Pichilemu is a little surf town about a three hour drive south west of Santiago, with black sand beaches, and a wide open, end of the world feeling with wind and crashing surf pounding the shore. We had heard a lot of good things from Chileans and expats alike, so were excited to get away from the city for a few days and see another part of the country...and were quickly left wondering why we had come. The town was not much to look at with the overcast skies, and when we arrived at our complex we found a cramped place that was in need of some extra cleaning, and several things that didn't at first work (heating, hot water, the promised direct tv, the burners on the stove). Things did turn around that afternoon somewhat as we went into town and found some food (excellent ceviche!) and then
Beach walk to breakfast
Walking is better, as Maelle doesn't barf when she's in the carrier
a small festival going down by the main beach with local breweries serving beers (you mean I can just walk around with these, this is great!) and bouncy castles for the kids. And after spending some time on the beach with the kids playing in the surf and building sand castles and eating chocolate covered strawberries sold by beach vendors walking by, everyone was in a better mood as we headed back to the house for the evening.
I should mention that on holidays, and it was a holiday Thursday when we arrived, Chile definitely shuts down to an extent you do not see in Canada. So anyway, that night, Maelle, who had been suffering from a cold ended up having a rough sleep, and we all spent much of the night waking up to her crying, and then after an excessively early wake up, we were all a bit irritated. We then realized that well, there was no coffee (or consequently, way of making coffee) in the house, and we decided to pile back into the vomitmobile to try and find some, and maybe some breakfast...which resulted in an hour long drive around town looking for somewhere that
My little surfer girl
Was very impressed with dad's skills
was actually open...Steph at one point thought she saw a guy in the distance with a coffee cup, and there was, but it was styrafoam and given Chileans' penchant for drinking instant coffee, we proceeded on. And as we did the clouds opened up and it began to pour rain, and our irritation increased as we again regretted our vacation choice given that it was supposed to be sunny and 25 in Santiago that day...and there was food and coffee there...
I should put something in context. I probably could have called this post "adjusting expectations" as while Chile is not a poor country, it is still considered a developing nation. It's easy to forget sometimes as we live in Santiago, which is a city of 8 million people and there is a lot of wealth...and a lot of disparity too...and as expats, we are lucky enough to live in one of the nicest neighbourhoods in the country. The first night at our Airbnb in Pichilemu, we chatted with the super in the complex where we were staying and he reminded us of that (this guy was super nice, and helpful, and kept talking about how much he loved
Legendary Calgary Flame or Competitive Woman Surfer?
Canada, and had also been in a coma for TWO YEARS! WHAT!)...and that while there is lots of money in Santiago, there is not a lot in many of the other small towns in the country...I think that when I heard it was a surf town we were heading to, I was expecting something along the lines of a Tofino, and was maybe a bit taken aback when it was a bit more hardscrabble than I had expected.
Things did then though start to turn around. As we proceeded south of town towards Punto de Lobos (Wolves Point!) we finally found a hipster breakfast place named Curcuma that was opening and proceeded to have a long and delicious breakfast as the rain came down outside. And after I escaped for a run down the wide open black sand beach in the rain in front of the crashing waves, and I started to realize why people really loved this place. After as Maelle and Steph napped, Zoe, Marie and I snuck off to go and locate this brewery that I'd found online and despite the directions being a bit sketchy, as the sun broke through the clouds we found this little building on a dusty road by the beach that read "Cerverceria del Mar" and the Belgian owner took us through his brewery and told us the story of his beer called Viejo Lobo...and I'm sorry this guy had it figured out and it was definitely the coolest brewery I had ever been to. He had spent 12 years playing with the recipe of the beer, and it was a Wheat Saison beer, and each batch was named after a different week and a related story written on the bottle (I bought beers from batches Semana 52, 23, 32), as due to his brewing process each was slightly different. And it was by far the best beer I've had thus far in Chile, and look, I want that guy's life of making beer by the beach and surfing every day. And we then figured out that there was there was a women's pro surfing competition going on in town, so once everyone was up, we collected the kids and headed down the beach to watch that...which was incredible, watching these five girls do a best wave competition in 2 to 2.5 meter high waves...I mean, I'm not a good surfer, but I have surfed enough to appreciate what they were doing...and I could feel my adrenaline pumping as I watched these girls drop into these big powerful waves breaking off Punto de Lobos... Zoe was also so adorable as she said she wanted to be a surfer girl too, and played around in the sand with the other kids and collected shells. Also one of the surfers was named Leilanie McDonough, but it sounded like Lanny MacDonald and that made me giggle. ("Lanny MacDonald, mucho power!" the announcer would shout, and I was like Heck Yes, go Lanny!)
The next day again broke sunny, and after another delicious breakfast and a few hours spent at the house for Maelle's nap, we headed back towards the area of the surf competition and hit the beach, and I paid 5,000 pesos (about $10) to rent a board and surf poorly in the little waves in the cove...hey I have now surfed on four continents...and the kids loved the beach, and Zoe was so proud of me as I walked out of the water with my board, that I actually felt like I could surf. We decided to head back that night to beat the traffic back to Santiago...which we didn't, as I think everyone had the same idea...but it was beautiful to see the countryside this time during that day's golden hour, with the sun setting over the hills, as we passed the eight hundred road side strawberry stands on the way back to the city (well look, if we don't stop at this one, we can catch the next 764).
And so, despite the rough start to our first little Chilean vacation, things ended off well, so well that we have just booked to go back in January as the place is incredibly beautiful with a great, laid back surfer vibe. And if I learned anything, is that you can't go looking for what you already know, but try to anticipate the excitement of finding something new and unexpected...and to maybe bring our own coffee and possibly coffee maker...and oh yeah, to definitely not to give our 1 year old any fishy crackers on the windy road heading into Litueche.
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