Dispatches from Chile: First Glimpse 2014...I arrive in Santiago on January 9, 2014, my 7th excursion to Chile since 2006.
The Andes Mountain range about 50 miles north of Santiago.The Andes mountain range is about 4,500 miles and spans seven countries along the entire western coast of South America — Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina...forbidding terrain to say the least. The highest mountain in the Andes is Mt. Aconcagua, visible from the farm of Susaan Straus and Ricardo Ceriani in Nogales, where I am staying.
Santiago is growing by leaps and bounds-I don't remember seeing these buildings in photo at left in 2011. The Gran Torre Santiago (Spanish for "Grand Santiago Tower") is a 64-story tall skyscraper. In 2011 it became the tallest building in South America and in 2012 the tallest in Latin America.The modern architecture co-exists with the traditional. Normally, the trip from the airport to Nogales is superhighway all the way. We made a wrong turn so we took the scenic route through Santiago back to Ruta 5. It got my visit off to an interesting start.
Scores of new developments like Los Manzanos sprout along Ruta 5 north of Santiago. My host Ricardo says the roofs have solar panels that heat water. Visibility has been limited for over a week due to large persistent fires that roar through the dry grasslands dotted with espina trees. Susaan explains the 'Three Thirties" that are perfect conditions for grass fires: "temps over 30 degrees C, winds over 30 mph, and humidity under 30 %". The humidity Thursday was 4%!
Route 5 (Ruta 5) is one of the best maintained roads in the world.
Route 5 known locally as Ruta 5 is Chile's longest route, 2090 miles long. It is part of the Panamerican Highway, stretches from the Peruvian border to Patagonia. It is the commercial lifeline of the country. Thousands of tractor trailers and trucks of every conceivable size bearing produce, wholesale and retail goods, construction material rumble down it night and day. The state is in the process of widening the road in one of the rockiest stretches north of Santiago, a huge project that will take over a year to complete.
Traffic is halted for several hours a few days a week as crews dynamite rock formations at the sides of the highway. The loudest noise around my guest quarters at Chilefarms in Nogales is usually the rooster who claims provenance to the little hillock on which the farmhouse sits. I can deal with that.
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.