The last couple days there’s been a heat wave in Valparaiso, and I’ve been soaking up the sun, living my best life in the long-awaited warmth. Unfortunately, now I’m sunburned because I did not take the proper precautions while soaking up said-sun, but it was definitely still worth it. It’s only supposed to get hotter in the coming months; even though it’s November, summer will soon be here in full-swing. Since Chile’s in the southern hemisphere, all the seasons are flip-flopped. What we think of as the dead of winter (December, January, February) is actually the Chilean summer. Although it’s going to be a little weird celebrating Christmas in the heat, I’m definitely looking forward to the continuation of this warm weather.
This weekend I went hiking with one of my friends, and, while we obviously did not bring sunscreen, we enjoyed a nice climb to the top of a hill and even had a little picnic. The hill (or small mountain) we climbed up is called Cerro Mauco, and, although it was a little bit out of the way, it was beautiful. It was nice to see some of the more traditional ways of Chilean life which are now disappearing, especially in the cities, of course. For example, we saw several men in traditional Chilean cowboy clothing, hats and all, on the horses, just going about their day. There were also tons of houses with chickens and horses out front – something you definitely don’t see in Valpo. It was really cool to have that little glimpse into the past and see a part of Chile that I wasn’t previously aware of.
Regarding our hike, we got a little bit lost but along the way I learned a little more about Chilean culture because, as it turns out, my friend’s mom is a sort of plant expert. She lives in town called Rancagua a few hours away from where I live, and, although my friend studies here in the same university as I do, she’s from the same pueblo. She taught me about all the different plants we saw along the way, explaining to us which ones are safe to eat and even pointing out which ones can supposedly help treat cancer. She actually ended up gathering several bundles of the cancer-treating plant to sell in Rancagua, so it seems that so-called homeopathic treatments are fairly popular here – the only difference being that you can buy them from your neighbor instead of from an over-priced store with fancy labels.
Despite the heat of the day, it was nice to get outside of the city for a bit, breathing the not-polluted air and enjoying the quiet tranquility that lies right outside. I got to explore yet another part of Chile and spend the day with good company, and, for me, that’s a day well-spent. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to my second trip to the south of Chile to Pucón. I’m definitely excited to get some more hiking in and take a break from the grind of the academic life, and I know the south and its beautiful landscapes will be just as incredible as it was the first time around.