Wednesday, November 23, 2016: Santiago – Driving the Andes Mountains with Juan…
Today we are heading out-of-town to see some of the surrounding areas. Santiago sits at the foot of the Andes Mountains, so the four of us hired a car and driver/guide, Juan, to show us nearby mountains. Juan is a grandfather who speaks very good English although he has never taken any courses to learn it. All the English he has learned is from leading tourists over the last 40 years.
We spent a great day with Juan, a man full of information and obviously proud of his homeland of Chile. We learned much history, identified various plants (of course, we had Lana with us), asked questions about the animals of the area, and talked about his family, his deceased wife of four years and his new girlfriend.
We gradually drove higher and higher into the mountains. Just then we thought we should be about at the top Juan turned unto a side road, lowered the windows and turned off the air conditioning, explaining that at this point he needed the added power to the engine to climb the steep hills! And here came the switch-backs. One hairpin turn after another. In fact, while most places mark their roads with mile markers for identification, here they have curve numbers. In the steepest section, there were over 50 of these hairpin curve markers.
After coming down from the mountains, Juan took us to a local Chilean place for a four-in-the-afternoon lunch. I had a local corn souffle, Carol had beef stew (with beef, potatoes, corn, pumpkin, carrots and rice), Lana had chicken stew (same as the beef stew, only with chicken) and Dwight had a monster portion of Pot Roast (approximately the same amount I would make for a family of four!) It was all delicious.
We encountered this fox beside the road and got out to take pictures. After a while, Juan got an apple from the trunk of the car and rolled it over to the fox at which point the fox picked up his treat and trotted away.