Today I spent the day with my host mom visiting with her son, who is grown up and lives about 1.5 hours outside Santiago in a town called Rancagua. At least, that’s what I was pretty sure we were doing; I’m still doing a lot of nodding and smiling, especially with Ana Maria, who talks really quickly and mumbles a lot. We took a taxi to the metro, then the metro to the Universidad de Santiago stop where there’s a bus terminal, then a bus down to Rancagua. Ana Maria’s son Pablo met us at the bus terminal there, Ana Maria went to buy us return tickets so we wouldn’t have to worry about it in the evening, and we hopped in Pablo’s car and headed out.
I thought we were going to go to his house, or maybe to a nearby restaurant, but we just kept driving and driving further south. Pablo asked me all the usual questions (how long are you staying in Chile, where are you from, what do you study) and pointed out various things along the road: fields of all kinds, giant coolers where they flash-freeze fruit so they can export it, the Andes all along one side of the country and the coastal mountains on the other. Also, apparently that region of Chile is home to the largest underground copper mine in the world, with something like 1500 meters (or miles? I don’t remember) of tunnels. Eventually I figured out that this weekend there was a festival-type thing going on in this region of Chile to celebrate the wine harvest. Not what I was expecting, but still, cool!
The festival was in a town called Santa Cruz, and I swear as we were driving in I saw a highway sign that said “Santa Cruz Lololol.” I couldn’t get a picture, though, or find it on our way back out, but it was there! I’m sure of it!
ANYWAY. We parked and headed over to the festival, which was packed. It was around 3 PM, and I was starving, so we hit the food tents first. They had all sorts of things — empanadas, kebabs, barbecue, fresh fruit juice, and a very excitable taco stand called ¡tacos exóticos!. I had an empanada with meat, onions, olives, and (unexpectedly) part of a hard-boiled egg, and then Pablo gave me some of his anticuchos, which are basically kebabs where you pull the meat off the skewer and eat it with bread. For dessert we got mote con huesillo, which is like peach juice with a dried peach and little pieces of what I think might have been corn or wheat? (Wikipedia says it’s wheat.) I could not believe how refreshing it was — as soon as I took the first sip, it was like the day was suddenly five degrees cooler. SO GOOD.
After lunch we wandered around the festival a bit; there was live music from various regions of Chile, a tent full of gorgeous handicrafts made of wood, silver, copper, leather, wool, and what looked like wicker or some other basket-weaving material, and a stage with young people dancing cueca, a traditional Chilean style of dance. There were people everywhere — locals, tourists, families, couples, big groups — but I managed not to run into anyone, so that was good. We then got to the wine part of the wine festival, where for the equivalent of $8 you got a cup and four tickets to try different wines. All the local vineyards had set up booths with bottles of their wine, and you could go to any one you wanted and exchange a ticket for a glass full of wine. I’m not talking about a small tasting portion, either — it was like what you’d get at a restaurant if you ordered wine by the glass. I tried a red wine first, and confirmed that I don’t really like red wine, then traded that for a glass of really good chardonnay. One glass of wine is plenty for me, so Pablo used the third ticket, then gave the fourth to a random person. We wandered around the festival a bit more and found booths where people were selling cheese, chocolate, jam, and other little gourmet food things. Then, after hanging out in the plaza for a bit, we headed back up to Rancagua so Ana Maria and I could catch our bus to Santaigo.
All in all, an even-better-than-I-thought-it-was-going-to-be day! I wish the other girls on my program could have come — I think we would have had a great time shopping and exploring. As it was, I had a great time with Ana Maria and Pablo, and got to see a piece of Chilean life and culture I might not have seen otherwise. Good stuff!