11th October 2015 by emmadurnford

11th October 2015

We are very sorry to be leaving our oasis in the desert today but we have more adventures ahead. We drove (or were driven) for over an hour and half through the Atacama Desert to the airport at Calama. Although we had not been that far into the desert in the day, to be honest I do not think we missed that much. It is vast and looks the same for mile after mile - virtually impossible to capture on camera. In fact the best views and ones that proved how big this desert actually is were when we looked out of the airplane window. I think it would be excellent to hire a small plane and fly low for some aerial photography (note to self - check lottery ticket on our return).

We were headed for the coast, Santiago - the capital of Chile and then onto Valparaiso on the coast. As usual we were met by a guide and driver at the airport and after a quick but good lunch in an unusual restaurant (all the waiters wore massive hats and looked Mexican?!) we headed to Vina Matetic vineyard for some wine tasting. It’s a hard job but somebody has to do it. We had a private tour around the organic vineyard which uses a complex system of raising the vines using a sort of homeopathic system of natural fertilizers. After nearly 2-weeks of high altitude locations, salt pans and deserts the lush greenness of the valley was overwhelming. There were orange and red flowers everywhere as this is in effect Spring. This is a view of the vineyard and the verdant green - it almost feels like England.

Then, my favorite bit of the tour - the top four wines produced by the vineyard were served up with a plate of nibbles consisting of different cheeses, strawberries and biscuits. What a pity that we were still full from lunch. My favorite wine was the 2012 Syrah (winner of wine of the year) and incidentally the most expensive. We were disappointed that we would not be able to buy bottles due to our luggage allowances and then very surprised to learn we can actually buy it in the UK from Majestic wine stores... 10 minutes from where we live. I realised that I had virtually finished all 4 glasses (they were only quarter full) and Colin had discreetly left a bit in each glass. Apparently you are only supposed to sip a little from each glass - what a waste.

Onwards to Valparaiso and for the first time in almost three weeks we are on sea level. What a novelty to be able to walk up a steep hill and breath normally - I feel really awake at the moment. We have an apartment on one of the hills in Valparaiso and the view at night over the bay with all the lights is stunning. However, I think we are both feeling a bit of a culture shock having left a peaceful village atmosphere in the desert with silent nights to come to a big city which feels rather edgy and certainly noisy with traffic. It is surprising how relaxed you can be with little or no noise. I think this is a place we will have to work on... lets see how tomorrow goes.
You are obviously a woman of impeccable taste! And I'm with you on the finishing the glass off too (in fact I would probably have finished my husband's off too in the unlikely event he hadn't drunk it.) I spent a very enjoyable time reading through your account of your South American travels at he weekend. What memories you are making!
October 12th, 2015  
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