I’m very excited to present the first guest article on Chilling in Chile! Lindsey from Lindsey-and-tom.com approached me via email and asked if I would be interested in exchanging posts. I agreed (of course!), so this is the post she wrote for me:
Old Spanish forts sit on either side of Rio Valdivia as it spills into the Pacific Ocean. The small orange boats of local fisherman, only slightly larger than canoes, mix with the larger commercial fishing vessels loaded with nets as well as the local ferry which ponderously crosses the river divide every hour. At one time lookouts would have been carefully watching from the strong walls for any sign the boats passing below meant to harm the great city of Valdivia a few kilometers upriver.
Now Niebla and Corral, the communities that have grown around the forts, use the old stone buildings as a draw for tourists during the summer.
I called Niebla home for the month of May. Through HelpExchange I made an agreement with a local resident to work around his house in exchange for food and a room. Through this arrangement I was able to explore the small sea town and visit her sister city across the river as well. Being autumn Fuerte de Niebla was actually closed for renovation after the beating of the summer tourists. Luckily, there is more to these small towns than a few old stones.
I happened to be in Niebla during one of its biggest festivals – La Feria del Mar. Four days in the month of May for the last thirteen years the local school gymnasium has been decorated with a giant blue plastic seahorse outside the main doors while stalls of local goods, dancing, and recipe competitions take place inside.
The opening ceremony was the most interesting part. Several pairs of boys and girls were dressed in the traditional finery worn for dancing the cueca, the national dance of Chile. Every major event in Chile is celebrated with the cueca. Girls wear brightly colored dresses with large skirts while boys have ponchos, and black leather shoes with large silver spurs to accompany their outfits.
My favorite moment was the last dance of the event when the children split up and each grabbed a random partner from the audience. Everyone they grabbed knew the cueca, and knew it well. It was amazing to see these businessmen and women suddenly dancing each step filled with grace and attitude.
With most everyone either out fishing or curled up inside during the fall rains the Feria was a nice chance to see and speak with the local community.
The two times I hopped aboard the ferry to go explore across the river my focus was less on the people and more on the place. The southern side of Rio Valdivia holds coastal forests, a national park, large colonies of sea lions and even dolphins!
Taking the time to walk through the forest or go watch the animals on the beach was a nice change from some of the standard tourist activities of museum going or city walking (not that I don’t love doing that too). A chance to slow the pace and open one’s eyes is needed every once in a while.
Both visits to Corral I returned to Niebla refreshed and happy. I was ready for the hours cutting firewood at the house and the breaks I would take to visit the more populated city of Valdivia.
To anyone who visits Valdivia, or any city for that matter, if you have the time take the chance to visit the small towns around it. Each is full of their own histories, stories and cultures that get eclipsed by their larger neighbors.
I am very pleased to be trading guest posts with Sune and Dirk! If you would like to read more about the adventures that I, and my boyfriend, undertake please come visit us over at Lindsey-and-Tom.com