15 Apr 2017

Winter is Coming

It is a little like when we headed south from autumn in Russia back to summer in Southern Kazakhstan, after which autumn chased us right across the Stans and finally caught up with us just before we left Uzbekistan and within a few days were well in the grip of winter. This time we arrived in Buenos Aires at the end of their summer and by the time we had crossed Argentina and into the wine region of Chile there were autumn colours in the trees. But now we are 500 miles north  and back into summer again. But other than a few days of rain the only real difference is how cold it is at night. Most days have been hot and sunny, and the sun does not go down until 19.30, but once the sun goes down it gets cold, just not quite as cold up here as it was further south.
 We have now finally stopped for a few days, camped on a beach within walking distance of a small town called Tongoy and I am taking advantage of a little cloud cover to bring the blog up to date.

After leaving the lake we headed for the main wine region, the Cochagua Valley. Just before we left we took Jenna and the grand kids out to dinner and noticed that the wine came from the Colchagua Valley and 3 weeks later we were here! We looked unsuccessfully for a while for somewhere to camp, then noticed a ‘wild camp’ on IOverlander that was not a wild camp at all, but the car park of a winery where they have allowed Overlanders to stay in their car park and turns out to be one of the largest winery’s in the valley, just outside Santa Cruz. By the time we arrived we were too late to do a tour, but they were quite happy for us to camp in the staff car park and as we went back to move the truck a French couple arrived in a Toyota Hilux with an identical roof tent and they came  to join us and had a very enjoyable evening together.
The following day the only English speaking tour available was at 10.30, which was a little early considering it included 5 glasses of wine, but it was an excellent tour, in a wagon drawn by 2 large hoses (Whiskey and Banana) and certainly set the tone for the day. Having decided that 5 glasses of wine (albeit quite small ones) was to much to carry on they were happy for us to stay another night, so we had lunch in their café, spent a very pleasant afternoon in the garden, drinking wine with a Chilean couple who spoke English. We showed them pictures of where we had been and he could not believe that the truck in the pictures was actually there in the car park and insisted on walking down to see it (and take a few photos) and could not have been more excited if it was a Ferrari!
That evening we decided to go the whole hog and eat in their restaurant, an excellent meal, with of course another excellent bottle of wine.
Next day was Sunday, and we were debating whether to go to the beach or head for Santiago, but first went to the bank in Santa Cruz for some cash. For the second time in the Americas the windows sign came up and the cashpoint shut down! It came up a few minutes later, but had eaten my card! So decision made we went to the beach.
The beach was not overly inspiring and a little windy so we staid the night and headed back to the bank in Santa Cruz. Thinking it would be open until at least 3 we stopped for lunch and arrived at 2.30, to find it closed at 2! However, there were still staff in the bank and eventually persuaded one of them to open the door, so that Chris could show him the text she had translated on the Ipad turns out he was the manager and went straight to the cash point, opened it and pulled out 8 or 9 cards with mine on the top, I showed him my driving licence and he handed over the card.
As that cash point was now out of order we crossed the road to another bank, which made no charge to withdraw (before eating my card the other cashpoint was going to charge £5 for the privilege, so double win.
From here we drove to a truck stop outside Santiago, 2 miles from the main distribution centre for Cooper tyres, where we had two new tyres fitted the following morning. We then spent a wasted afternoon looking for replacement parts after our accident, as we had been told by a number of sources that you could find any part for any car in a particular street Santiago – except that is a 1994 Land cruiser. We did find someone who said he could manufacture the wheel arch from the broken parts (we had collected off the road) but could not do it for a week, so having now seen enough of Santiago we headed out and stopped in another truck stop.
The next day we drove around Valparaiso and along the front at Vina Del Mar, which has a very nice beach, with nicely manicured gardens and tracks for walkers and cyclists, but very built up and the nearest camp site some miles in land and expensive, so we staid one night and headed north for 230 miles to where we are now and at last found somewhere we want to stay for a few days.
The 230 miles was mostly on motorway, but we did come off briefly to stop at a tiny fishing village and had lunch at the only restaurant. As we tried to decipher the menu on a chalk board with the waitress a woman diner handed a phone to the waitress for her son to translate for us, turned out the son worked for the Hyatt Hotel! Iv’e no idea where!
These are the joys of travel, the new experiences encountered on the way. At this camp site you pay separately for showers. I went to Reception to pay yesterday and was then accompanied to a row of showers and told which one to use, I knew I had 5 minutes so quickly went in and undressed and then realized there was no tap anywhere to be seen. As I considered what do do next there was a shout from behind the shower, followed by Allez?, I said SI and the water came on!

For those that don’t realise, the title ‘Winter is coming’ is from Game of Thrones, which Sarah would come out with in a northern accent at random intervals and since her mother told her she was born in a storm she now thinks she is the Mother of Dragons – you’ll just have to watch it -

Twin tents in the Winery Car Park

Our Carriage Awaits
and our guide ushers us up into the wagon
1000's of litres of wine  in the first stages

Its been almost 50 years since I left school and finally I see a bunsen burner in action!

These large concrete eggs are used because they allow air  through the concrete

and 1000's of Oak barrels where they stay for 18 months

Chris scales the wagon for the next leg

and finally the wine tasting

and buy 4 bottles of Cab Sav (I am going to try and bring 2 home - we'll see!

We say goodbye to Sarah and Romain

She may not look it, butChris was enjoying it really!

The brown leaves of autumn

Valporaiso from the beach at Vina del Mar

I find an old school chair for a beer in the sun at the camp site and a new friend

The little fishing village

Where we stop for lunch

Chris patches the duvet cover that had sprung a few holes

Bright blue skies and warm sunshine during the day, but we put the bottom room on (for the first time since we left the UK for New York), as it is cool at night and we plan to stay a few days

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