27.08.2014 - 27.08.2014
The transfer picked me up at 8.30am and since none of the other transfers during the week had showed up time I wasn’t stressed about this transfer to be in time and had a calm and relaxed morning. BUT then the receptionist phoned up to my room at 8.20am and said my transfer was already here waiting for me! WTF?!? And that didn’t make me stressed or what??? Aaaaah, shit! But then I told myself to take it easy… if they had said 8.30am I then had 10 more minutes to get ready. So without stress I went down to the entrance at 8.30am. The guide, Angelica, welcomed me and we walked out to the transfer that was waiting for me. Obviously I was the only one doing the tour today. We started driving on Carretera Panamericana (Pan American Highway 5) and it would take us 3 hours before we got to the actual vineyard Viña Santa Cruz in Colchagua Valley. Pan American Highway is a network of roads that all together is about 48000 km. The Highway links North and South America together and reaches from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska (USA) to Ushuaia in Argentina except for an 87 km long section between Panama and Colombia where the rainforest is to prevent cut back of rainforest, drug smuggling and spreading contagious diseases.
We drove on Pan American Highway for a while and passed agriculture of peaches (blooming), cherries, grapes, alpha-alpha and wheat among others. We also passed two main rivers; Maipo River and Cachapoal River. The Maipo River is the largest source in the region for irrigation and drinking water while Cachapoal River has an important role for the O’Higgins Region. And suddenly a high security prison showed up in the middle of agriculture and blooming fields. It just didn’t fit in the surroundings. An area with Adobe houses showed up beside the road and Angelica told me that those “clay-houses” were common back in the days in Chile, but are nowadays being replaced with modern houses since Adobe houses can’t stand against earthquakes that well. We also passed haciendas that were introduced in Chile by the Spanish conquerors that built enormous haciendas to mark their status. When we drove by the village Lajuela she told me about the local straw hats that are handmade here that can cost up to 100000 CLP (100 Euros).
Eventually we arrived in Valle de Colchagua (Colchagua Valley) and this region has been prized for its world class produced red wines and the wineries are lining up, one by one, along the roads in the valley. In Colchagua Valley it’s typical to grow the red grapes in the central parts while the white grapes are grown closer to the coast. Ruta del Vino (Wine Highway) is very popular to drive in the valley since it is meandering from vineyard to vineyard. Back in the days guests and tourists could ride onboard a train along a railroad starting in Nancagua and passing through the vineyards, but since the last strong earthquake in 2010 the railroad was destroyed and no reparation has started yet to rebuild the railroad again. Best time to visit vineyards in this region is considered being from late September to May, and the harvest months are Mars, April and May. Chile was the only country to avoid the Phylloxera epidemic during the late 19th Century that was ravaging in the rest of the world (especially in Europe) and therefore the vineyards in Colchagua Valley are hundreds of years old. This could very well be one reason to why the wine from this region has been rewarded worldwide.
When we came onto Viña Santa Cruz land it felt like getting into another world. The road leading up to the main building was lined by vineyards like Petit Verdot, Malbec, Marlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère. From the main building the visitors can take a funicular up to Cerro Chamán (Chamán Hill) with historical flashbacks where they celebrated Chile’s native people’s heritage and cultures like Mapuche, Aymara and Rapa nui cultures. Like a moai within the Rapa nui culture they believe that a piece of Viña Santa Cruz’s soul is mediated through the wine produced on the vineyard. The Aymara culture is being celebrated on the vineyard because of their faith and ideologies while the Mapuche culture (Mapuche – people of the land) celebrates because of their heritage and knowledge about the land.
There are more than 140 hectares of land planted with grapes and the yard has 46 full time employees whereof 30 work only out on the yard. During the harvesting which takes place during the autumn (Mars-May) hundreds of workers are temporarily employed helping out harvesting the grapes. All the grapes harvests by hand early in the morning to preserve the characteristic aroma in each grape.
The tour on the vineyard ended with a wine tasting: Rosé, Carménère and Cabernet Sauvignon.
After lunch in the city Santa Cruz it was time to pay a visit at Colchagua Museum that was just on the other side of the wall from the restaurant where we ate. A museum to preserve, cherish and spread knowledge about the Chilean cultural heritage. Unfortunately I didn’t get much time to spend in the museum and it felt like I almost ran through it but one of the most interesting objects in the entire museum was the Fénix 2 - the capsule that rescued the 33 trapped mining workers deep down at 700 meters after the strong earthquake in 2010. The dramatic rescue operation was followed by media over the entire world and got known as “the Big Rescue”.
Then, after a long day it was time to return to Santiago and after another 3 hour drive I was back in the hotel. Now it was time to start packing the bags again for tomorrows travel to Easter Island and the mythical moai.