New year’s eve 2011: Chilean Southlands

Posted: December 5, 2012 by jennroig in Chronicles, English, Miscellaneous, Photography, Travels
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
(cc jennroig) Villarrica volcano

(cc jennroig) Villarrica volcano

I’m lucky. Since 2009, I’ve got to spend my New Year’s Eve in 3 different locations. So, on December 31st, 2011, I was visiting an old friend in Loncoche, his home town in the Chilean Southlands.

I agreed with Gustavo, my friend, to arrive there very early on the 31st. That means I took a bus from Santiago to Loncoche. I remember the bus company, Cruz del Sur (Southern Cross) with prices insanely cheap… for someone coming from Europe anyway.

It was a long journey, at least for my standards. It takes around 9 hours so it’s convenient to do it in the night. It was chilling when I got there, and Thank God Gustavo was at the station to pick me up and drive me to his home the incredible distance of… 3 blocks.

Loncoche is a cute town, similar to a lot of little neighboring towns you’ll find in the region. loncoche  (3)Wooden houses with gable roofs, for the long snowy winters, and never more than two floors, to prevent extra damage from the earthquakes. A main square, with a fountain, benches and trees, little shops and local markets which struggle with the big retailers like Wallmart and Cencosud. The heritage from Prussian settlers is quite visible in the architecture, the military, the culinary, and people’s features. As it is the Mapuche heritage, which main symbol is the Araucaria,  also the national tree.

Haunted house

Haunted house

As every small town, superstition and legends abound. In this case, as in the whole Chile, Catholicism has deeply influenced the social imaginary.

The legend attached to this old, burnt house refers to a doctor who built it to live in one side, and have a little clinic in the other side. The doctor was an obstetrician and a surgeon. As part of his job, he delivered babies into this world, but also practiced secret abortion to wild girls or rich girls who didn’t want to show her shame. One day a fire triggered, as a punishment from God himself. The story is not clear regarding the fate of the doctor and his family, whether they burnt inside the house or could save their lives. But the curse remained alive in the town’s memory, so nobody has ever dared to restaure the building to use it again. Rumors tell that sometimes late at night, it’s possible to hear the whimpering souls of so many murdered babies.

(cc jennroig) Loncoche's old train station

(cc jennroig) Loncoche’s old train station

Another ghost is the local train station. That’s another Pinochet’s big fuckups. As you learn from Chilean history, Chile had working railroads since 1851. Throughout the first half of the 20th Century the country developed its railroad network, to the point of connecting the country to the regional Transandino network. However, by 1989, almost the entire network had been dismantled. Today, the train stations are sources of more legends and local tales of ghosts.

Pucón

Pucón

Loncoche is very close to Villarrica and Pucon, two touristic spots in the area. Both towns are located on the banks of the Villarrica Lake, with a great view to the Villarrica volcano. In the summer, people visit the lake to take baths -considering the temperatures of the Pacific Ocean waters, taking baths in the lakes is not as crazy as may seem. In the winter, people go to ski in the slopes of the volcano, covered by the snow.

By the way, loncoche y villarrica (10)the Villarrica is anloncoche y villarrica (25) active volcano, the same as the Etna in Sicily. So, it is not odd to see a thin column of smoke rising into the sky.

Then, the New Year’s Eve

Chileans are very familiar and conservative people. It was nice to spend that date enjoying some family warmth. By that time, I hadn’t been with my own folks for 2 and a half years. It was highly rewarding to eat some mom’s food for a change.

Oh, in terms of food, Chileans have their own vocabulary, different from any other Latin American slang. For instance, Palta is guacamole, manjar is a sort of thick, dense fudge, and durazno is how they name the melocotón (peach). Any case, don’t miss the “pebre”, it’s delicious!

If you plan to spend a season, or just going there for a while, get a dictionary or some local guide, otherwise it can get messy and confusing. Chileans in general are quite hospitable people and are nice to foreigners, but just do it for the sake of good understanding.

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