Friday, 11 March 2011
Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta ...
... Chilean towns, counting down the coast from the Peruvian border ... stuck in my head for 50 years because that's where I always started revision and for some reason we were always studying South America. Not much of anything else stuck in my head, (ultra short attention span) but those three names did.
I'm now looking at their names on our departure gate at Santiago's
rebuilt airport - the old one copped it in the earthquake (they still
operated - out of tents; resourceful Chileans).
La Serena is further south, just below the Atacama desert and where
we'll get off the plane to go up the Elqui Valley.
Giorgio meets us at the little airport. Attentive readers might remember we last met Giorgio in Sicily. But here in remote northern Chile is where he spends 80% of his time.
For the last 12 years he and his cousin Aldo have built a splendid wine
estate where you'd think only cactus would grow.
We were total supporters from the start. And over a welcoming lunch in a beach restaurant in La Serena, Giorgio makes a kind speech about how we were their first customers and he'll never forget that.
It was Anne Linder who did that for us. Our Head Buyer. It's really nice
she is with us today showing off her 'baby'. We go up to Falernia's
first vineyard. They are picking Sauvignon Blanc, the pickers
covered head to foot against the sun and wind.
Vines and people very hardy here. The tractor driver is 84. Says he'd rather be on his tractor than home with the wife.
The vines are irrigated of course - it doesn't rain here during the
summer. The main water channels were put in by the Inca hundreds of
The Spanish arrived here in 1545 and that was the end of all that. But the channels are proving very useful nowadays. Thankfully the daily wind from the cold Humbolt sea has sprung up.
The indomitable Yves is out in the sun composing his pictures. He wants
to capture the rows of green vines running off into the wild and
completely barren hills we see before us.
As we climb the valley it gets narrower, the mountains get steeper and
more arid. I have always thought they resemble the mountains of the
The Upper Elqui Valley by the time we get to our destination;
Pisco Elqui, is a narrow cleft and the sun is shut out below though the
mountain tops glow red.
Pisco Elqui. The green line of trees above the village is the water channel dug by Inca. Still working.
Posted by Tony Laithwaite at 1:35:00 pm