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Travels in Chile (Part 2) Lago Rapel 2020

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After the weekend of the adventure of wine tastings and backyard barbecues with Sebastian and Caro, it was time to say goodbye and head onto our next destination and exploration!

Lilo, Martin's father, came to pick us up in Santiago and we headed out on our ninety-mile journey southwest to Lago Rapel. The car ride was a Bocelli blasting picturesque drive through snaky winding roads. People in Chile drive very fast and pass each other on one-way roads like no other.

My nails were digging in the back of the car-seat in anxiety, as Lilo has a bit of a lead foot. Along the way we ventured up to a row of local fruit stands off the side of the road where a woman was selling local fruits and vegetables. The specialty and local favorite in the summertime is fresh strawberries and watermelon. They are the sweetest and juiciest fruits you'll ever taste. We stopped to pick up fresh bread and as luck would have it, the bread had just come out of the oven and was tossed out of a big basket which was covered with a blanket to keep it nice and hot.

Pan amasado Chileno

There are quite a few different types of bread in Chile. The three that we got accustomed to while we were there was "The Marraqueta" a thick and doughy bread, my favorite and "The Hallulla", a thinner almost pita-like consistency and pan amasado. In the morning that was our go-to breakfast of champion travelers, hot Marraqueta with an avocado spread and queso fresca, Lilo's famous fresh juice and of course a cup of energy-boosting instant Nescafe coffee.

We make our way into Lago Rapel, Chile

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Lago Rapel is an artificial lake created by a dam off The Rapel River and runs about thirty miles. Lilo's home is on top of a high hilltop overlooking its beauty. This summer, in particular, the lake was low as there hasn't been much rain. Any given year the lake can be completely filled to its maximum capacity or when there are electric shortages in surrounding towns they use the dam to produce energy and the lake goes lower. Everyone in Santiago, that goes to Lago Rapel, always says, "The lake is low this year will go somewhere else" or "Let's go to Lago Rapel the lake is full." That doesn't stop most of the residents from taking their boats out and partaking in water sports, as well as leisure rides on jet skis and sailboats.

Every day people were out on the water enjoying the nice weather, and we even got to take out the boat a few times and explore the lake. The water was a little chilly, but we still jumped in and it was quite refreshing in the heat. The hotel and resort on the lake were bought by the military at one time and is now a summer home getaway to many military servicemen and their families. Lilo is neighbors with many of these high ranking military men and we even had dinner with one of the generals of Chile from many years ago. They had such wonderful families and were very inviting and kind. We ate lots of parrilladas (bbq variety's of meats, seafood, and poultry) and had plenty of red wine. These dinners happen every night in Lago Rapel, neighbors coming over and hosting at different homes each night. It's a beautiful tradition and Martin and I say Lilo has most certainly found his"blue zone" in Chile with his community of neighborhood friends.

(Martin) Our little nook in a community called Punta Verde in Lago Rapel, Chile has been a summer home for our family growing up since I was about 12 or 13 years old, I don't really remember well. I have so many great memories here and a good majority of our neighbors are still around and we are all one big family. Some new neighbors are really cool too we even have a couple of generals of Chile vacationing right next door. There's probably around 10-12 houses in our little community and all the neighbors arrange BBQs every night or lunches at so an so's house tomorrow or the next? Monday night at my dad's, Tuesday night dinner and wine at our other neighbor's house Ivan and Thursday night, paella night at another neighbors house.

Also, geez, this group parties hard! Dinners start around 9 pm because the sun doesn't set till around 8:45-9 pm at night. Everyone starts coming over or were going over to their house depending on the invite. Amazing conversations, wine being served, Piscolas (pisco and coca-cola, the Chileans love their Coco-cola), pisco sours and then even more wine.

The wine of the summer that everyone had cases of, was oddly enough called, Diablo by Concha y Toro, this would go by the cases. After dinner, the wine keeps flowing and they start singing and dancing with all their friends and neighbors. It's a blast.

One night in particular, while the wine was flowing, we were playing music on Spotify and our neighbor, Kike, started playing old music from the 70's or probably later and everyone started singing along. Then, we asked everyone one by one what was their favorite song from their school days and Spotify had them, and everyone was singing to the top of their lungs. Dancing, crying, singing ballads, it was a beautiful night. Granted Ashley and I didn't know any of these songs but watching their group interact was amazing. They really do have a good time together.

Side note: While they partied we had a day trip planned the next day. We got up.

A quick one day getaway to Pichilemu, Chile

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Lilo's next big place for us to see was the surfing capital of the world, Pichilemu. Surrounded by lush green forest and miles of beautiful, rocky beach stretched across the Pacific coast, Pichilemu is a sight to be seen! Pichilemu in Mapuche language means, "Little Forrest". A little history for you, Pichilemu was inhabited by Promaucaes, a pre-Columbian tribal group, up until the Spanish Conquest of Chile. They were native fishermen and hunter-gathers who lived primarily along the Cachapoal and Maule rivers. The remaining Promaucaes were assimilated into Chilean society through a process of "hispanicisation" after the conquest of Chile. Pichilemu now heavily relies on tourism and forestry for their bulk economic growth.

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One of the most captivating beaches of Pichilemu is "Punta De Lobos", which is attracting more national and international athletes who get the courage to surf the Break Points of their cold and choppy waters. Many colorful beach shack hostels surround the cactus covered cliff tops and wet-suits were strung up on the clotheslines as we drove down the dirt road that leads us up to the restaurant where we had lunch.

Lilo took us to a great little local place called, Casa Cuesta which is a seafood restaurant on the coast. We had a bottle of red wine called Las Muelas, Carmenere which was smooth and complemented the octopus dish also known as "pulpo" very well. We sat outside and felt the salt air and sunshine on our faces, it was such a beautiful setting! We only spent a couple of hours there as it was a couple of hours away from the house in Lago Rapel and wanted to get back before sunset. It will be a memory in our hearts forever and we look forward to going back to Pichilemu another time soon and spend a few days there to really explore!

© Bless the Nest 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Back to Lago Rapel, for some rest and relaxation

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We spent a couple of days enjoying Lago Rapel and Lilo's home base. Lilo built two waterfalls in his pool and quite a little paradise in his back yard. We made pisco sours and sunbathed, had bbq's, and just relaxed at the house. We even got to know a little dog whom we called "Perro" who lived next door, an adorable little dachshund. She loved to come over and visit us at the house and we'd always hear her come in from her nails clicking on the tile floor. She was our little furry buddy and we enjoyed her company and she enjoyed our scraps of meat. It was just the R & R we needed.

One night Lilo brought us home a delicious dish called, Pastel De Choclo. It was made by a woman who bakes dozens of them daily for locals in the area who want a nice home-cooked meal. It's essentially a beef and corn casserole cooked in a deep dish clay pot, almost like a pie. Its the ultimate comfort food for the soul. So yummy, I told Martin I will attempt to make this dish at home for us.

4 Wheeling up the Hills of Lago Rapel for Sunsets

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Right before sunset, one of Martin and I's favorite things to do would be to take the four-wheeler and drive it up to one of the mountains that overlooked the lake and watch the sun go down. It was panoramic heaven, the colors, the view and we shared it together.

(Martin) This used to be my favorite ride growing up and I would always do it alone. Most of the paths are all dirt roads to get to the houses and there are some areas off the beaten paths that lead to the peaks. I was so happy to finally show Ashley my little spots high up in the mountain top to see the sunset. Right off the main roads, there are some hidden paths. You will see dirtbike tracks; as well as footprints and horse poop along the dry uphill mountain, paths only the locals would really know.

The deep trenches from the rain behind us

Some parts were pretty dangerous and rain made these deep trenches that would make the steering pretty hard to maneuver and the tire would get wedged inside them. Ashley would get scared in some of the uphill areas that required some fancy moves to get past big rocks, plants with thorns and trees. She would get off and I would go up the steep parts solo, then she would jump back on after I passed the "dangerous" parts. It's quite the adventure going up and down the various hills to get to the mountain top. But once you get there it's just breathtaking. No one is around and you can see a 360° view of the lake, barren desert lands and mountains in the distance. I am so happy I was able to share this spot with Ashley.

© Bless the Nest 2020. All Rights Reserved.
The top of the mountain view in Lago Rapel

Another uphill sunset adventure —we encountered horses

One sunset ride, in particular, was very special as we were driving up the mountain and we saw a family of wild horses gallop past us with a beautiful little baby foal. Just as quickly as we saw them, they disappeared in the trail of dust they left behind. It was just for a few seconds, but it is a memory in our hearts we'll carry forever. Sometimes on our sunset rides, we'd go get hot dogs and carrots at a local market to feed the street dogs and the horses that looked hungry or old. That was a difficult part of the trip for me, to see all of the stray animals. There would be German Shepard's, Labs and every mix of dog you can imagine on the side of the road and we wanted to rescue and feed all of them. That is the way of life there, and those dogs are very smart and can get by, but it'd be nice to see them all get loving homes.

We hope you're liking our adventure thus far.

Lago Rapel mornings with Coffee

The following day we were getting ready to go to Francis Mallmann's restaurant in Alpata Valley. Follow our next blog, Travels in Chile - Part 3 - Alpata Valley in Santa Cruz here.

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