We had a very long day travelling from New Zealand to Chile. Our flight left Auckland at 19.30 and after a 11 hour flight arrived in Santiago at 15.00 the same day!
At the workaway our host was called Cecilia, Ceci for short. Her dogs are South-American Aquita Long Coats and look like huskies. We had a lot of fun times here in two weeks or so. Once I gathered fruit from all over the farm and made a fruit salad with Elliot. There was a cat called Banana suffering from an illness but still cute and playful. Mum & Dad pretty much forgot about schoolwork but Elliot and I were doing some work around the farm like digging trenches to plant roses in although Mum did the planting. I watered half the plants one morning.
We had a cake day where we made two chocolate and courgette cakes and two big Linzertortes full of blackcurrant jam and with walnuts instead of almonds – really tasty! We kept going to beaches – first El Yeco beach, then Mirasol, then Algorobbo twice, almost always with the dogs. There’s Lulu who’s grey and white then her parents Gala and Hugh, suffering from arthritis. Once Dad and Carole (another workawayer) took her to the vet – she went in the trailer of the small truck very reluctantly (she wouldn’t come out the truck once they got back).
One day we went out for a day off in the un-insured truck and went to the old house of dead poet Pablo Neruda – he had a shell collection, his desk came out of the sea, he had a horse statue with 3 tails etc. He sounds lucky and rich and all his poems were in Spanish, sold in the gift shop. We had a very informative audio guide tour. When we went to a beach with dunes behind it the same day a chap was stealing some sand to take home, shovelling it into bags!! Naughty.
Ceci made quite a bit of beetroot soup while we were there – very good, and also tortillas whch are a potatoey, eggy, oniony omlette. When we were playing we always made our teddies treehouses in the lemon trees by our accommodation. We were very sad to leave on the overnight bus, our first ever bus with a little TV on the ceiling! We didn’t have a TV each though and couldn’t decide what the TV played.
As Jessica’s summary has indicated, we were heading to a workaway on a small poultry farm in the Casablanca/Algorobbo area of Chile, west of Santiago. After two bus journeys we met our hosts Ceci and Alvaro at a bus stop on the outskirts of the small town of Casablanca. We picked up another volunteer in the town centre, and then headed to our new home. We had a lovely little cabin on the farm a short distance from the main house. Although it was very hot during the day, the nights were very cold when we first arrived – we used a wood-burning stove to warm the main room, and made use of the hot water bottles and extra blankets provided. Our host spoke excellent English, and was able to help out with our questions on Spanish pronunciation and grammar. Jessica was the most active in this area and learned a lot – she’ll do well in languages at school!
After a couple of days, whilst still getting over the jet lag, we were settling into our initial tasks which included gardening, harvesting lemons, distributing feed around the farm & taking care of the 3 dogs…
The main highlights of our time here were:
- With our hosts away overnight, Nick and Carole (who could speak Spanish fluently) taking one of the dogs, Gala, to the vet in Casablanca. This was more difficult than it might seem as Gala was in a lot of pain and wouldn’t get into the back of the pickup truck. So we had to improvise with long wooden planks as a ramp, a blanket, and lift her in…. She was getting better a couple of days later after being on pain-killers and anti-inflamatories.
- Walking the dogs nearly every evening in the very barren countryside surrounding the farm. The first and last parts of these walks were always challenging, on account of 2 of the neighbours dogs who went completely crazy (fortunately behind sturdy fencing) trying to get at the Aquita’s – and vice-versa. After the first day, having only one leash, we found some rope so that we could keep all 3 dogs clear of these two ferocious beasts…
- Dismantling and then replacing of an access ramp to a ‘containerised’ house, followed by some plastering, painting and a little tiling repair for it’s eventual purpose as an AirBnB rental.
- A baking day, much enjoyed by the kids! After looking through Ceci’s extensive recipe collection, Linzertorte and Chocolate Courgette cake were on the to do list. These worked out really well!
- Sharing meals and cocktails – in return for their hospitality, we treated our hosts to Somerset Pork (in cider), and Boeuf Bourgignon. We experienced our first Pisco Sours here, Chile’s national drink (also Peru’s), hand-juicing countless tiny lemons in the process, and Nick created a refreshing take on a Pink Gin adding both lemon and (a little) cucumber juice. Lemons and other citrus are quite a focal point on the farm…
- Ensuring the ducklings (from a few days old to a couple of weeks) had food and water in the evenings (they are thirstly little creatures!).
- The owners dealing with a rogue dog that came onto the property and was known to them for taking ducks and chickens. The less said the better..
- Walking the dogs in the evening – sometimes locally and a couple of times down to a nearby beach. The beaches were all west facing, so we experienced some beautiful sunsets.
On one of our days off we borrowed our hosts pick-up and went to Isla Negra to visit the poet Pablo Neruda’s house. There was an audio guide (in English) available which was very informative. On Ceci’s recommendation we also visited Las Cruces and the beach here; the wind providing quite a chill even though the sun was very hot.
We were here when the 2019 protests in Santiago started (resulting from a subway fare increase in Santiago), but were fortunately well away from trouble areas. The ongoing situation, which continued to affect the main cities well after we left Chile two months later, eventually caused us to stay an additional week at the farm as the transport system was crippled by both a daily curfew and road closures (our replacements unable to get to the farm, and ourselves unable to travel on) and some areas were still considered unsafe.
During this time, it was interesting and extremely useful being with Chilean hosts who could explain what the protests were all about (and how the government was reacting – or failing to react!) so we could understand a bit about the reasons behind them. We had planned to go to Valparaiso, but the situation there remained too volatile, so we needed new plans. During our last couple of days on the farm, we managed to secure another workaway, this time on the island of Chiloé. Quite a way south, this fitted in well with our aim of eventually getting down to the Torres Del Paine national park.
After our second week at the farm, the situation had calmed and we took a bus to Santiago. However, we arrived in Santiago on a day of new protests which almost doubled our journey time. We were blissfully unaware of the cause of the delay until seeing the news on the TV in the bus station whilst waiting for our connection. That evening we took an overnight bus from Santiago to Puerto Varas. This was also a lenghtier journey than planned (protests causing road closures), but it was a comfortable ride and worked out OK.
Arriving the following morning in Puerto Varas, we took a taxi to our new home for a few days.