Snow Comes to Chile’s Capital in Big Way

A statue of Virgin Mary overlooks Santiago from Cerro San Cristóbal on 7/17/17, as the largest snow fall since 2007 covered Chile’s capital.

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Elias, Damien and Bri, this should punctuate the fact that the Chile, a country in the Southern Hemisphere, the part of the earth below the equator, is in winter while we are in Summer.  As you enjoy days by the pool or beach, the youth of Santiago bundle in gloves and heavy coats to play in a snow that rarely comes to this city that sits below the Cordón de Chacabuco, a mountain chain belonging to the Andes.

Read this article to learn why the sun hits one hemisphere more directly in one season than the other and why that changes.  Hint – The earth’s tilt doesn’t change…..

Easter Island

Easter Island is a very remote island off the west coast of Chile.  It takes about 5 hours to fly from Santiago to Easter Island some 2,300 miles away.  Imagine traveling by plane over the ocean about the distance between our country’s east coast and west coast and landing on a piece of land only 63 square miles in size. That is only the size of some of our country’s larger cities.  People go to this island to see the giant statues made by island people many years ago.

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The nearly 900 statues on Easter Island are found all around the island.  The statues are called Moai and weigh over a hundred thousand pounds a piece. The mystery of how they were made, why they were made, and how they were moved to their locations have enchanted visitors for years. The people who lived on the island told others that the statues walked to where they now stand. If you will notice from the picture you received in your box, the statue is only partly visible.  The head was the only part above ground; the body buried.  Do you think the bodies were purposefully buried or do you think the land changed and the bodies were covered as a result?

There are many really interesting articles to be found about the early settlers and the culture that developed.  The island, people, and culture are called Rapi Nui, meaning naval of the earth.  I encourage you to take a look at these articles as they are very interesting.  Some of the questions the sites will answer for you:  How did the first people get to this island and what was the island like when they got there?  Why and how did they build these statues? How did they move the statues that are so very heavy?  Where are all the trees?  Click here for an article by NPR.  Check this site to learn about the bird man.  This video portrays the loss of trees to be due to overuse of the trees – deforestation but other sites have claimed that rats that snuck on the boats that came to the island were responsible. They claim that the rats ate the roots of the trees and this caused the demise of the forests.   What do you think?

The island was created by the eruption of volcanoes and the triangular shaped island is framed by 3 main volcanoes today.  It has been said that Easter Island was only part of the land that had been there and that the other part sank.  Imagine how it would feel to see part of the land sink beneath the sea, especially when you are so very far away from any other land!

There are a lot of fun things to do on the island but it does seem to be a more “laid back” place to visit.  Surfing is excellent. There are many caves  to explore on the island – LOTS of caves.  In fact, it has the largest volcanic cave system in all of Chile.  Read this to learn more about the caves.

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If we were on the island at the end of January and first week of February we could enjoy watching and participating in the Tapati Festival, a celebration of the people and culture started in the 1970s.  It looks like fun.  Here is a site that tells you about the festival.  There are some nice videos on that site that show you the dancing competitions.  I liked the sledding down the hills.

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The Andes Mountains of Chile

The Andes Mountains stretch the length of Chile on the West side while the Pacific Ocean kisses the East coast.  The Andes mountains are very long and run through Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Argentina as well.   The average height of a mountain in the Andes is 13,000 feet.  The mountains formed when parts of the earth called tectonic plates came together.  These layers of earth move, sometimes toward each other. Like two passing ships, they both can’t travel the same path.  In this case, one layer had to go under the other.  When this happened, the top layer was pushed upward. Here is a short video that demonstrates this.  (One of the facts given in this video is that the Andes are expected to DOUBLE THEIR HEIGHT in next 4 million years.  I looked for back-up information on this and I am not comfortable with the number of sources for this.  What is not disputed is that the Andes are continuing to change, as is the rest of the world.)

Every environment effects the plant and animal life that survive within it.  The Andes mountains have very warm areas and very cold areas due to height (altitude) variations of the mountains and due to the closeness of some of the mountains to the equator (the widest part) of the earth.  In some areas glaziers are found up high in the mountains while tropical climates exists below. (Remember the mountain in Tanzania?)

The air is thinner, holding less oxygen, up high.  This can cause health problems for humans that aren’t usually at this height.  If you don’t live in a high area  and you go to the top of a mountain too quickly, you can get sick with what is called Altitude Sickness.  This is because the body is not getting the amount of oxygen it needs.  There are some animals and people who live high in the mountains and their bodies have adapted to the environment.  Mountain Shepherds survive at 17,000 feet because their bodies are accustomed to the height.

Among the animals that thrive in the Andes are Chinchillas, Lamas, Alpacas and the Andean Condor.  Chinchillas are native to the Andes.  Their ability to move quickly and jump up to 6 feet makes them more adapt to the mountain.  Their fur is the second thickest fur of all (first is otter).  They live in herds.  They take dust baths to get clean.  My daughter, Anna, had a Chinchilla when she was young.  We enjoyed watching him roll in the dust to get clean.

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The Andean Condor is one of the largest flying birds in the world.  It has a wingspan of ten and a half feet. Because they are so heavy, they need to live where the winds are strong so they can soar longer periods.  They can live up to 75 years and reproduce very slowly.  A couple of Condor have only one egg every other year and then both parents have to care for the young one for a full year.  Here is a video showing you a Condor.  In this video you will find out why Condors throw up.

The wind can blow hard and nearly constantly in the high parts of the mountains.  The types of plants that can live up high must be able to stand the winds, the cold, and the dryness of the environment.  I found the Llareta plant to be most interesting.  This article is a good one to read for information on the plant’s very unique characteristics. Can you believe that some of these plants are 3,000 years old?   People of the area have used it for fuel and for medicine.  They use it to treat colds, diabetes, altitude sickness, and topically (on the skin) for wounds and soreness.  (If you think it is unusual to use plants as medicines (Medicinals) you are in for a wonderful discovery as medications often come from plants.)

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The Andes are beautiful, creating a wonderful backdrop of photos of Santiago, the country’s capitol.  We would have to make a trip to see some of the people and small towns in the mountains.  People have lived in the mountains for thousands of years and they are working to protect their culture in the changing world.  Today mines are found in the mountains where gold, cooper and other minerals are dug from the earth.  The presence of the mines can cause disruption to the long standing communities.  I love history so I would be anxious to see some of the older towns and get a feel for the long rooted culture.

World’s largest, make that the second largest, swimming pool in the World!

We can’t miss going to this HUGE pool! Watch this video for an overview of the pool at the San Alfonso del Mar private resort, about 62 miles west of Santiago. The pool holds 66 million gallons of water, water filtered after it is pumped from the Pacific Ocean. The salt water pool is 115 feet at its deepest and covers 20 acres.  This longer video will give you more awesome views and facts about the lagoon.

Are you interested in the technology involved in building this type of pool ? Crystal Lagoons, a Chilean Company, invented the processes that make these huge man-made bodies of water possible. The company has been busy. A pool in Egypt opened in 2015, breaking the wool record for size at 30 acres and it is slated to be dwarfed by a pool in Dubai in 2020 with a planned size of 90 acres!.   If you want to know more about the technology that makes this all possible watch this video.

What’s so great about a tree?

This beautiful tree is the Chilean Wine Palm.  It is endemic (unique to) a small area in Central Chile. If we don’t spot one on our own, we can see it at the Jardín Botánico Chagual, a botanical garden in Santiago. This tree is a very slow growing tree, taking nearly 20 years to become a tree rather than what appears to be a shrub. It can take 18 months for a seed to germinate. Obviously patience is key. Bri, Damien, and Elias, if you start a seed now, you might see a trunk for this tree when you are in your late 30s!

I learned a lot about this palm by reading this BLOG post. The tree can get up to 80 feet tall but if you see one that tall it is probably 100 years old. The trees are at risk and protected by Chilean law. Collection of the sap is limited as it comes from cutting the tree down and collecting the fluid that runs from the upper part, sometimes yielding nearly 80 gallons. The sap can be used to make a wine or can make a sweet syrup.

Mercado Central

The Mercado Central is an indoor experience market that we shouldn’t miss. This building has been in Santiago since 1872 and is filled with vendors selling fresh produce, meats, candies, souvenirs, and fresh seafood – live crabs, lobsters, mounds of oysters and a variety of fish.

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Live music entertains us as we get closer toward the center of the building. Imagine wandering through this huge wrought-iron building listening to the music, smelling the fresh fish, hearing the beautiful Spanish language and eating ice cream.  There are restaurants and fast food vendors in the market and we could stop to try Locos or Chilean Abalone, large edible sea snails.

 

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See Santiago from the 62nd floor!

The Sky Costanera , the tallest building in South America, stands tall in Santiago, the capital of Chile.  At 300 meters (nearly 1000 feet high) you can see the surrounding area from the 62nd floor.   The beautiful city is framed by the majestic Andes Mountains. If you get there at the right time you can watch the sunset and the colors of the city change right before your eyes.  Take a look at the short clip to see the building and the views.