Enjoying pisco sours before the barbecue, in Rodrigo & Margarita's house, Curacavi
La Valle Curacavi lies just outside Santiago; a verdant gem of a valley nestled between two mountain ranges, separating Santiago and the sea. I started my life in Chile here, among the lemon groves and budding wineries. It was so different then. Very much “campo;” I even had chickens and a duck I helped raise. Campesinos scared the bejeezus out of me shooting at jackrabbits who stole their vegetables in the night; tarantulas took refuge in the warmth of the tiles in my room as temblors shook the coast range; I had adventures with gas califonts and exploding tins of condensed milk in a farmhouse kitchen with a 12-foot ceiling. And I took a bus each day into work, into the frigid cold of winter, into the dictatorship.
Juan and Rodrigo prepare the barbecue
But now, I have returned, many times; to this magic valley that pulls at me with all its might. Its gentle people, fecund earth, soft evening colors that melt into velvet hills, and its incredible wine.
Enjoying the bounty of Curacavi
We used to bring our empty bottles and fill them from trucks that pulled up from the wineries, huge wooden barrels in their rusty beds. Now, there are overpasses where dusty country roads used to be; formal “wineries” in the place of our decrepit old barrel trucks.
But some things never change, like our friends Rodrigo and Margarita, who have a small parcel of land with six horses, where every Friday they do therapy with children with cerebral palsy and other physical and mental challenges. There is a wheelchair ramp and wooden stairs the children use to climb onto the horses.
Friday is a national holiday – “Virgen de la Carmen” (none of my friends knows the story, but they are happy to take the holiday); we barbecue local meat and drink wine and take in the warm winter sun in la Valle Curacavi.
Sole chatting with local fishermen - they caught flounder!
And then Sole and I head to the coast, just the two of us, to the tiny town of Isla Negra. It is dark when we arrive. We set up a gas stove on the terrace of a small hotel (with 4 rooms) overlooking the sea. In the dark, among the stars, we share a bottle of wine and talk into the night, just like we did so very many years ago. Life is good.