20140214-180853.jpgWineries!  La la la, sing a happy song!

Well, here I am, halfway through my challenge to write, every day during the month of February, about something that I love about living in Chile.

Who would have thought that I would wait SO long to write about wineries?  Well, I did say that my posts would be in no particular order, but it seems quite appropriate to use the halfway milestone AND Valentine’s Day to write about one of the things that I love the most.

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I’ve written about wineries in Chile before, and the fact that they are one of the big reasons that I decided to stay here.  You really can’t go very far outside of Santiago and you’ll hit a wine region but, go even further, and you hit even more wine regions.

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So far, I’ve visited many of the major valleys, such as Elqui, Casablanca, San Antonio, Maipo, Rapel, Colchagua, Curico, Maule; and have many more to explore.  I have a trip planned to Cachapoal in a week, and after that, the next on my hit list is Aconcagua because I’ve tried some very nice wines from Errazuriz and Von Siebenthal.

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Not only are the wineries great because of the wine, although that’s obviously a BIG drawcard.  The Chilean scenery is amazing, the wineries themselves are unique and beautiful, the people are lovely, and it’s sometimes just nice to get out of the city and explore.

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It’s even better to share the experience with other people and enjoy it together, which is what led me to start my new project, “Chile Wine Trails“.

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So today, a day centred around love, I am using the occasion to pay homage to one of the things I love most about living in Chile – it’s beautiful wineries!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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20140208-165828.jpgThe official name is “taxi colectivo urbano” (or “urban collective taxi”), but you’ll hear them widely referred to just as “colectivos”.  These little black cars, with special plates and placards on the roof, are spotted all over the towns of Chile, even some quite small towns, and can be easily mistaken for a taxi by poor, unsuspecting tourists.

They are, in fact, a form of public transport.  They have a designated route that is listed on the placard, and they wait until they have filled the car before they start out, dropping people off along the way, sometimes deviating slightly from the route to drop people at their front door.

Now, I can’t say exactly that I “love” the colectivos themselves.  Many are in pretty bad shape (a seatbelt is a luxury item), and I often get stuck in the middle of the back seat, between two synthetically-clad, fat people on a hot day.  Not pleasant.

But I do love the concept of the colectivo.  Many people in Chile don’t have the means to own a car, and live in areas that are not easily accessible by “normal” means of public transport, like the metro or the bus.  The colectivo provides a relatively quick and direct way of getting where you need to go, at a fraction of the cost.

20140208-165818.jpgI use them to get to some of my English classes that are remotely located in a business district on the outskirts of Santiago.  They take me through places where I would otherwise not dare to venture on my own, not even on a public bus.  My fare is around $1,500 pesos ($3), for what would usually be a $15,000 peso taxi fare.  I see the poorer parts of Santiago, parts that many Chileans don’t often see themselves, and it’s a reminder that I am actually in South America.

The drivers don’t usually say much, but a few of them have gotten used to me, and I’m easily recognisable, so they often already know where I’m going when I turn up at the colectivo stand.  The guy above even wanted to make sure he was in the photo!

They can be particularly useful in small country towns, where other public transport is scarce and people need even more help to get around.  I used them to get to wineries in the Colchagua Valley where it would otherwise have resulted in an expensive tour or taxi fare.

They are unique to anything we have in Australia, and provide a valuable service to the locals, which is why they have their place on the list of things I love about living in Chile.



20140204-171315.jpgVendimia!  Vintage!  Harvest Festival!

I had SO much fun last year, and the first festival of the season is just one month away. The biggest, held in Santa Cruz in the Colchagua Valley, will run from 7-9 March, and the other regions will soon fill the calendar in the weekends after that, finishing in early April.

I managed to make it to at least four last year, Colchagua, Buin, Pirque and Casablanca, plus a couple of private ones at wineries and restaurants. Hopefully I can get to as many this year, and maybe fit Curico into the mix.

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Folk dancing (cueca), live music, grape squashing, traditional costumes, local produce, great weather, country settings, good friends, lots of delicious food, and wine, wine, wine!

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It’s the best time of year to be in Chile, and one of the things I love most about living here.