samedi 20 février 2016

La Quadra: Volunteering in a wine domain

The end of our adventure together was approaching quickly. Geo was about to go home in order to replenish his accounts. I had other plans. I had found a sailing boat to take me back home accross the Atlantic. But the scheduled departure was not before the beginning of April. So the idea was to spend two more months in South America without spending too much money (or no money). One solution: WORK!
So I began to search for work in Chile and Argentina via a website called "workaway" which offers volunteering opportunities across the world. The work offered can range from grape picking to receptionist in a backpacker. The concept is that you work, generally 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, and in exchange you get food and accomodation.
What I wanted was a job in the countryside away from the backpacking atmosphere. I didn't wanted to take the risk to waste all my money in pisco sour and terremotos (exquisite chilean drinks :) ).

After a bit of investigation I found an opportunity in a beautiful place two hours south of Santiago in the chilean main wine region. The place was an impressive 19th century Hacienda surrounded by an amazing park of 4 hectares and a vineyard of 2,5 hectares. The job was to help the family living there to maintain the park and the vineyard. The job sounded perfect. What seduced me as well was that the idea was to be part of the family during the stay.
So I didn't wait and applied for the "job". A few days later I got a call from Amelie telling me it was OK, that I could start to work and live in La Quadra at the beginning of February. On the phone she was super friendly and enthusiastic. Great!!!

The Mansion
I arrived at 6 a.m. in the little village of Nancagua (closest village) after a night on the bus and a quick goodbye to Geo on the side of the motorway. Amelie came to get me a few hours later and drove me to my new home.
The family was not living in the mansion that had work underway but in a lovely house next door with a great terrace facing the vineyards.
Amelie made me feel at home straight away, we had a good chat around a coffee and then we went outside to have a look at the property and the things that had to be done. Amelie was funny and full of life, jumping around the park barefoot showing me the irrigation mechanism. I tried to follow her with my 4 hours of sleep in the bus, holding the shovel clumsily and trying to remember where I was and what I was doing.
For the first night nobody was home so I had some time to "land" properly and relax with a glass of wine on the terrace. It was really weird coming from a backpacking mode to suddenly being in a very nice house alone. It was a mix of feelings. I was happy and relaxed to stop moving all the time for a bit and get a working rythm but also quite desorientated by what was happening, Geo leaving, less money in the bank account, far from any other travellers and with an adoptive family. It was definitely the start of a new chapter.

View from the terrace
After this period of adaptation I started to get into my rythm. About 4 hours of work in the vineyard in the morning trimming the vine and removing weeds. A good lunch and then 2 to 3 hours of work in the afternoon, generally in the park in order not to get too burned by the hot summer sun. Then a little cycle to Nancagua for my blogging session before the pre-dinner drinks and a relaxing evening.

Psycho vine trimmer
I also started to know the family better. Amelie, Jose Miguel, the two girls, Maïté and Elisa and Sabine Amelie'aunt.

The family!
The entire family was speaking both spanish and french as Amelie was Swiss-French. I was practicing my Spanish with Jose-Miguel and relaxing in my mother tongue with the others, very easy...
It was a great pleasure to enjoy a glass of wine or a pisco sour on the terrace at the end of the day with this family. They didn't lie in the "workaway description" the idea was really to be included in the day to day life of the family, meals, drinks at friend's sunday bbq...

I had a great time staying there. It was good for me to have a rythm again, waking up every morning with some work to do and more importantly get a routine for a little while.

My own little house
The views of the park and vineyard were great especially at dusk and dawn. Photo credits to Amelie.

A big thanks to the Cuadra family for this great time in Colchagua.

Bonus Pic:

Getting mad with the good wine

dimanche 31 janvier 2016

Licanfly: Paragliding Festival

To finish off our time together (Geo was  returning back to France 10days later) we drove a bit more south to Lican Ray a beautiful spot in the lake district surrounded by forest and snow capped volcanoes. We had heard from Nico (a pilot from Santiago) that a paragliding encounter was taking place in Lican Ray over the weekend. When we arrived we saw that indeed a big part of the Chilean paragliding scene was there for the event. A great way to celebrate an end to this paragliding trip across the Andes.

View from the camping
At takeoff

The festival was pretty simple: fly during the day, party at night. A programme made for us :) .
It was perfect to enjoy the free shuttle to takeoff all day (thanks to the organisation).

Nico in flight with volcanoe Villarica in the background
Volcanoe Villarica with the lava flow

On one of the flights I had quite a lot of height over the lake so I decided to practice a little bit of acro. What maneouvre should I try? Hmmm helico is what I was working on so I decided to give it a go. I tried a first one that didn't quite worked. Then I got into the box and went for it another time. I entered a good deep stall and started the rotation. But I wasn't concentrated enough and let the outside of the wing fly too much. Classic error! The half wing surged big time, and collapsed, to end up wrapped aroud the other half of the wing. I looked at the lake (maybe 150m) and at the wing and decided to go for reserve.

As the reserve inflated the wing re-opened. I pulled the wing towards me, to be honest I didn't really looked at which lines I was pulling, I just tried to kill it. Then I was in stabilised descent, so I grabbed my GPS and held it over my head to try not to soak it too much. As I reached the water I was floating thanks to my airbag.
Really quickly some jet-skis and a boat arrived to help me. A few minutes after I was riding a jet ski towards the beach with my rescuer, a beautiful chilean girl. And my wing was foollowing in the boat. Finally I didn't really got time to be scared, everything happenned very quickly and I knew this could happen as I was practicing tricks. I just lost my camera and damaged my GPS, but well, this is the price to pay...
So first reserve in 12 years flying. Acro is definitely tricky and has to be practiced in the good environment :). It can quickly cascade!!

Re-packing with Dennis and Nico
On the last day we got the chance to borrow a tandem from another french travelling guy, Ludo, that we met at the festival. Flying tandem was something that we always wanted to do during the trip but that never worked for different reasons so we were really happy to give it a go.

Thanks Ludo!

jeudi 28 janvier 2016

Road trip in the Chilean lake district

After saying good bye to Fred, who was going to Santiago to drink one last terremoto before flying back to France, we took the road south. We had a meeting set up in Temuco with some of Geo's friend, an odd and funny "couple", Anibal a 24 years old guy and his best mate Dennis an English born Chilean gentleman of 89 years old.
As soon as we met them in the Temuco bus station at 10p.m. the tornado started. They already had a plan for the night, drive straight to Pucon (one and half hour) and spend the night in a camping there. So off we were, our little troup on the road on a wet night with music out loud in the car. Dennis was well awake and delighted to be able to speak a bit of his mother tongue with me. I was very impressed by his energy as even if he totalised more years than the three of us united he was the most enthusiastic and animated.

The team in Pucon
In the morning we visited Pucon. It was rainy and not really what we were looking for. Another of these money sucking touristy towns full of tour operators and fancy coffee shops.
So we decided to leave the place and take advantage of the car we had to go an explore this beautiful lake district.There started our little road trip in Mapuche territory.

We had a great time driving on the dirt roads through araucaria forests. Finally we arrived at the termal baths of Rio Blanco. A beautiful place in the middle of nature on the fringe of the national park Huerquehue. We rented a cabin there and headed straight to the baths. Just the perfect weather for it, a little drizzle that make you feel cozy in the baths.

The baths are just perfect, very natural, two pools with gravel at the bottom right next to the river. Nothing fancy, no concrete, just great nature around.

We finished our journey under the sun stopping by a few other lakes on the way, eating sopaipillas (a bread including pumpkin in their dough) with pebre (condiment made of coriander, chopped onion, olive oil, garlic) a great day.

Bonus Pic:

lundi 25 janvier 2016

Altos de Lircay y Siete Tazas

After Santiago and Valparaiso we needed some nature! So we jumped into a bus towards the south and more precisely the city of Talca. The plan was to go hiking from the national reserve of Altos de Lircay to the national park of Siete Tazas.
Once in Talca we took a day to get sorted and buy the supplies needed for the three days hike.
The next morning at dawn we took, the bus that drove us to the park's entrance. After a quick check of our cooking stove by the park rangers (big fire risks) we were ready to go. The first day's hike was easy and it was really nice to walk under dense forest. We hadn't seen trees since the north of Peru and there it was mediterraneen climate trees!!

After two to three hours walk we got to the first camp site. We decided to leave the bags and hike up the mountain to go see El Enladrillado which is a massive basaltic plateau (very very flat) that is said to be a runway for alien spaceships.

Coming down we set the camp at the camp site and had a great evening and night. We just heard a sort of crazy horse that passing right by the tent in the middle of the night, weird!!!

The next "morning" we left at 12:00 thinking that we had not much walk before reaching the next camp. As we packed everything we saw some clouds racing up the valley. As we got to the big lava valley we were completely under the clouds.


After a quick picnic we got to a ridge where we were supposed to have a breathtaking view over the volcanoes and the big mountains. But there we couldn't see more than 2 meters forward.

Luckily we had a tablet with a GPS and some maps. Without that we were in a very bad position and even with it we managed to get lost and had to scramble up some very instable rocks. Dangerous stuff in the rain. Really we set off way too late! Even if it is for a short walk the rule is to leave early and if it is short you will arrive early. On the top of that I left my waterproof poncho in Talca, we hadn't seen rain in a month and a half :) so I had my Cashmere jumper as only technical raincoat.

Finally we reached the top of the moutain and got a little bit of a view. It was already really late (about 19:00) and the wind was hauling.

We carried on walking a little bit and found a corrie that was protecting us a bit from the wind. But still some strong turbulent wind gusts were entering. Anyway Fred couldn't go more and it seemed the sensible option to pitch the tent there before nighttime. Geo and I ran up to the top of the mountain to get a view before sunset.

The Corrie
Wild horses

The camp site
As we pitched the tent the clouds came back big time along with the wind. Our one skin Bolivian tent with only 4 pegs was going to get its baptism of fire (or water).

Finally we got a massive thunderstorm during the night. We didn't sleep much but the tent held down well. We had some water inside but we managed to pass the full night without having to pack half way through.
In the morning we left in the clouds again, so no more luck for the view. It was hard work! Apparently it only rains once a month during the summer, it was for us.

Morning view
Tired but we keep the spirit up!

Coming down we enterred once again the impressive forest before getting to a huge lava valley. This morphology is unique and very hard to navigate through as it is always going up and down with big rocks and shrubby trees. It is hard o keep track of a path.

Finally after a long a wet walk we got to the siete tazas park. We were absolutely soaked and knackered. We found a nice little room and tried to dry all of our stuff. We had a very nice evening by the river as a reward.

The next day it was only a bonus, a walk along the river to go see the famous Siete Tazas.

Yum yum

Bonus Pics: