“Why study plate tectonics, when you can simply live in Chile!”
—My own quote … should be famous 🙂
Once again a Chilean volcano has let free the mantle’s fury. This round of ash and lava is letting loose near the resort town of Puerto Varas on the edge of Chilean Patagonia. The current aggressor is the Calbuco volcano – fortunately located on the far side of llanquihue Lake, away from the main population centres.
The last big eruption is this area caused flight delays as far away as Australia – so the world is watching.
I love southern Chile. I love Chile. In fact the iconic volcano – Osorno – we have on our home page is a close neighbour to Calico, across the lake from Puerto Varas!
Chile is a ridiculously long, thin country, stuck perilously to the mighty Andes and hanging on for dear life along the Pacific’s mighty Ring of Fire. From the ultra-dry Atacama desert – replete with copper mines – in the north (despite current floods), through the central (almost Mediterranean) wine regions around the capital, down to the volcanically active mid-south and onto rain-socked or wind-swept Patagonia, Chile is alive.
Half of Chile’s 17 million people live in and around the Capital, Santiago and even that major city has had to resist the mantle’s movements. Valparaiso – the old port of Santiago and last home of poet, Pablo Neruda has survived many fires. In 2010 Santiago was shaken by a category 8 earthquake. It resisted well, all the while collecting money for the tragic quake in Haiti.
1200 kms south I lived and worked on the Island of Chiloe just south of Puerto Varas. For nearly 18 months while living and working I learned about the formation of Patagonia. I loved Chiloe so much I was proud to take little Finn there from Peru, for the Christmas holidays in 2013.
The area is magnificent, the people respectful and kind and the food… well, it was traditionally cooked in the ground, mixing potatoes, seafood and meat. I enjoyed the fishing and the views of smoking volcanoes on the mainland.
The most famous character from Chiloe’s mythological traditions is the ugly Trauco – one look and a young lady can fall pregnant (though the story is in fact far more nuanced). The people of the island of Chiloe are resisting the construction of a bridge from the mainland to their fair island and the main argument is cultural. But I cannot help but wonder if the opposition is a little more practical – who knows when the next major earthquake could knock it down?
My dear friend Rolando – born and raised in Chiloe was a young child when his community of Ancud was destroyed by a tsunami caused by the largest earthquake recorded in modern times.
In the last two years, Chile has overcome two more factor 8 + earthquakes, numerous eruptions and severe weather of every type. And the country’s administration is arguably the best in the hemisphere.
Now in her second (non-consecutive) term as president, Michelle Bachelet must feel more like a director of emergency-response than the head of a national government.
Obviously I do not want minimize the value of lives lost through such acts of God, but Chile does an exceptional job in building for, and coping with, its young and vibrant landscape.
I love travelling in Chile and will argue it is home to some of the most magnificent landscapes anywhere on earth.
The population accepts mother nature with both resignation and pride and despite Chile’s similar colonial history to its neighbours, Chileans speak in a district accent and certainly have their own identity.
Among the many tools of nation-building, Chileans maintain a volunteer fire service. In a country built of wood, alive with earthquake and volcanos, this really impressive, but perhaps no longer entirely effective – but it does unite a nation.
I hope no lives are lost in the latest of eruptions – but I certainly love the photos of our earth continuing to evolve, but as the inhabitants of Chile have had to do…