This February, we took a family vacation closer to home. Though distances are objectively measured in miles or kilometers, there is also a subjective distance—a distance felt due to time or unfamiliarity. And so our journey to the Maule Region was fairly short (only about four hours driving leisurely). On the other hand, though, I felt so far away from Santiago, a gigantic city with something like seven million inhabitants. The scenery, the pace, and the customs were surprisingly and pleasingly quite different.
For those of you who do not know, Chile is divided into regions. These regions were formerly called by their numbers; when I arrived in Chile about 20 years ago, there were thirteen regions. Now there are a few more, and they are mostly called by their different names. The region we traveled to is called Maule. Our first stop was a cozy city called Linares*. In the city proper, we strolled through the town square, where there was an arts and crafts fair. We also visited some nearby towns like Villa Alegre and Yerbas Buenas. Then out in the country, we went to a river called Río Achibueno, which had some natural swimming pools where my son and I swam and frolicked.
One day, we went to Talca, the region's capital. Historians are not certain, but it is believed that Bernardo O'Higgins, one of Chile's founding fathers, signed the Declaration of Independence here, as represented in the photo above. It was refreshing to learn this fact, not in a history book or museum, but right out in the square itself. It's these little things that happen on vacation that delight me.
After a few days of inland towns and cities, we picked up and drove about two hours to the seacoast. Constitución used to be a seaside resort, but is now an industrial city. It sits right on the mouth of the Maule River, where it empties into the sea. The main industry there is logging and papermaking. The entire stretch of highway between 5 Sur, the main highway, and Constitución, is littered with logging operations and plied by logging trucks.
We stayed at a cabaña, a sort of cottage within a complex. This is a great way to spend a vacation, because you have the convenience of hotel-like lodging with maid service television, and often a swimming pool, but you can buy your own food and cook it as you have a refrigerator and stove. There was a nice trail that led out of the complex, and we even saw a tarantula!
There is a saying that goes "Santiago es Chile", or "Santiago is Chile", and it rings true because so many things can only be had—can only be found here. However, it is refreshing to leave it all behind, and even forget it is there (if that's possible).
*If you want to hear a gringo's opinion Chile (He lives in Linares), you might like his YouTube channel!