International (Europe/Japan/Southern Hemisphere) 2022 Chile Trip Report - Nevados de Chillan

James

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Guess you have to have rotating sentries on the vehicle. Take turns eating. Or could drive around or just constantly re-park. Sad.
 
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Guess you have to have rotating sentries on the vehicle. Take turns eating. Or could drive around or just constantly re-park. Sad.

We have a driver who normally looks after the vehicle but we had invited him in with us for lunch this time. I won't be stopping at the restaurant tomorrow when we return to the mountains, we'll just have to keep going.....
 
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I'm back home safely to Granby and I bought a new laptop so now the blog can continue......

10th August
The fateful day.... Dave arrived in the morning and came to the hotel (Holiday Inn Express Concepcion) where Gary, Gordon and myself had been staying. Around noon we headed to the airport to pick up Tim and Jamie. Both arrived safely and had their bags in tow. Then we headed to the mall to grab some things are were on the road around 1:30pm. We had about 1.5 hours to reach Chillan and then stop in at the now infamous Motoneta 3 restaurant.

We arrived at the restaurant at 3pm and asked the driver Jaun, to come join us for some food. We ordered up two meat buckets and some drinks. Each bucket had steaks, chicken breasts, pork chops and then chorizo sausage and blood sausage, plus some salads and sides. It was quite the feast. Each bucket was only supposed and to feed 2 people, but there was way too much food for the 7 of us. We had a ton of left overs and we gave those to Juan and his family.

We were finished by 430pm and then headed outside. Juan tried to get into the back of the locked van but his key was not working. He went to inform the restaurant staff that something had happened to the vehicle. He opened up the side doors and that's when we discovered that we had been robbed. They had gone through our hand luggage and taken all of the easy to access electronics. That included laptops, cameras, GoPros, headphones, IPod. My laptop had my entire business on it and a lot of it was not backed up (my mistake and one I won't make again). That will be a lot of work to recover from that.....

The thieves had forced the rear lock and gotten in through the back of the van and must have been moving really fast as they only went through the hand-luggage. None of the suitcases or ski bags were touched. I had more electronics in there, plus a lot of ski gear. Surprisingly (and thankfully), I had $1,500 USD in cash (to pay our local guide) and my passport in a clear plastic next to the laptop and they did not take that. The took the laptop out of the sleeve and left the portable hard drive that was in there. That tells me they were moving fast and only wanted the obvious, yet expensive stuff. They should have taken the JetForce airbag that the laptop was inside, that was worth nearly as much as the computer.....

My partner Francisco who was in Las Trnacas, called the police for us (he has a lot of police connections in Chillan) and he drove the hour to come meet us. Then we had to go to the main police station and give interviews/statements. That took about 2 hours, so we did not leave Chillan till after 8pm. It was late when we arrived in Las Trancas and we were tired and distraught. Not a great way to start the trip and it would be tough to put that out of our minds.

Looking back, it must have been an inside job. I think someone from the restaurant must have called some friends after we arrived. There were several other cars in the carpark next to us and they were not targeted, so someone from the restaurant probably called up their buddies and said a van load of gringos had arrived. They obviously knew what they were doing, they would have been in and out very quickly and only took the expensive electronic items.

The hostess at the restaurant told us that this had never happened before, but then I found out later that a group of Brazilians had been ripped off there a few days previous to us so I think it's extremely suspicious. One of Francisco's police friends also said that thieves will also follow targets from the airport now as well, so that could have happened also. It would be a long time to be tailing someone (1.5 hours) and we took a lot of backstreets to get to the restaurant and the driver was not going slowly, so who knows. It was a crappy start to the trip but hopefully the skiing would help take our mind off of things.....

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Happy times! The group is together and our first toast. Little did we know we were getting robbed!


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One of two meat towers! Way too much food. This was always such a great way to start a trip but sadly I don't think we'll ever be able to go back there....


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Cheeky little buggers! You can see all the finger prints over the back of the van, trying to get in. This is the lock they forced.....


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Where they forced open the back door after the lock was taken out, it's now slightly dented.


- Matt
 
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August 11th - First Day on the Mountain

The forecast was calling for snow after a few days, so it was important to get the guys through their avi safety training before the storm hit. I wanted to show the new guys (Jamie, Tim and Gary had not been to Nevados de Chillan before, Gordon and Dave had) around the resort so they had their bearings and everyone was warmed up. For me, it was also a chance to look at everyone's skiing skills and make sure we had a compatible group. I also hired another guide, Manuel, a local guide who I had worked with before and knew well.

We started up the Otto chair and then headed over to the Mirador chair, the highest lift at 7,874ft. Then we had a nice long run down the groomer at Tres Marias, one of the longest runs in the Southern Hemisphere at over 10km's long. That dumps you all the way down at the bottom of the Tata lift (5,053ft) and then we headed up higher again, via the Wenche triple chair and Nono t-bar.

We finished the day with multiple laps in the Freeride Zone, really getting the legs warmed up.

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Gary and Tim, Tres Marias area.


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Dave, Gordon and Jamie, Tres Marias.


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Dave and Gary with two volcanoes in the background. The one on the left is active (Volcan Nuevo).


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Bottom of the Otto chair, an 18-minute ride to the top of the freeride zone.


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More Tres Marias area.


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Heading into the Freeride Zone, under the Otto chair.


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Wind-blown snow in the fun terrain of the Freeride Zone.


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Gordon in the Freeride Zone.


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Tim and Jamie


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Jamie and Dave in the intermediate zone next to the Nono t-bar/Cornicia area.


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Blue terrain.


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Manuel, our local guide, carving some nice turns on the groomers. He's level 3 Canadian cert.


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Dave, volcanoes in the background.



August 12th - Avalanche Safety Training Day

We'd spent the previous day skiing, getting the legs back and checking out the main zones in the area. Now we had to change focus to work on our avalanche rescue skills. We headed back over to the Tres Marias area and found a somewhat sheltered area in a small gully, out of the wind. We ran everyone through a progression for single burial, single rescuers and then had a break for lunch at the Tata area.

After lunch, we headed to a big open area for multiple burial practice. We had several scenarios that we ran through with some good progression from everyone and then finished with a 5 rescuer, 2 victim scenario lead by Dave. That was the first time he'd run through a large format rescue scenario as the leader and it was an eye opener for him.

That was a big day and everyone was pretty tired by the end of it. We had a nice dinner that evening at Olivas restaurant, about a 5-minute walk from our accommodation in Las Trancas.


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Our zone in the Tres Marias area, for single burial avalanche safety training.


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Protected gully from the winds. The snow above was well-anchored.


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Tim looking for the probe strike.


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Start of multiple rescue training. Tim and Gordon leading the way.


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Dave leading a 5 person rescue scenario.


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Digging out that last victim!


- Matt
 
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August 13th - Sunny but stormy!

Our first proper guided ski after our mountain orientation and beacon training was done. The sun was out but so were the winds. We had high winds so the upper lifts were closed, but at least we could ski. We were able to make it up as high as the Nono t-bar which still gave us access to lower half of the Freeride Zone. The mission was to find the softer wind blown deposits in the gullies. Thankfully they had not formed any slabs yet. What was surprising this year, was that with all the snow they'd had at Nevados de Chillan, some of the runs were a lot steeper than normal, with steeper rollovers at the start of most pitches in the Freeride Zone than I had seen in previous years. More caution might be necessary with fresh snow on them!


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Francisco is now looking out for a family of stray cats (they have a couple of stray dogs they look after too). Breakfast time for the kitties!


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The Nono t-bar, this is as high as we could get.


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Nice to be at least access the lower sections of the Freeride Zone. There was some soft wind-blown fun to be had.


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The Hotel Alto Nevados is down below, with the red roof, our favorite place for lunch.


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Wind city!


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Dave skiing some wind-buffage.....


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Some secret team meeting that I wasn't invited to......


- Matt
 
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August 14th - The storm is here!

Finally the pow arrived! Heavy snows in Nevados de Chillan with chaos on the road, so it took a long time to get onto the mountain with all the stuck and spun-out vehicles, but we made it. The snow was wet and heavy to begin with but dried out as the temps dropped. Visibility was tough at times but cleared up a bit in the afternoon. Stability was better than first thought as winds were lighter than expected.

Primary avalanche concern was new storm slab, but wind slab was minimal. When we could see, skiing was really fun. It was nice to not feel the hard snow underneath anymore. We started down low as the upper lifts were closed and we had some nice runs in the trees next to the bottom of the Wenche chair and then headed to the lower Freeride Zone later on. More snow was in the forecast......


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Whoops! Gotta put those chains on amigo! Carnage on the roads up the ski area.....


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Plenty of fresh snow down at the Tata area. A sign of good things to come......


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Gary and I on the Wenche chair, trying to climb higher.


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The ridge under the Wenche chair is always good for a couple of runs.


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Visibility and contrast is always the challenge during storm skiing on a volcano.....


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30cm's plus on the deckometer at the Hotel Alto Nevados whilst we were having lunch.


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Short but steep tree run, next to the Wenche chair.


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Gary taking the drop.


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A different tree zone, on the other side of the Wenche chair. Jamie heading into the forest.


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Gary enjoying some open turns above the forest.


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Gary heading into the trees......


- Matt
 
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August 15th - The storm continues

The powder tap was turned on! The snow quality had improved as temps dropped. Stability was good overall. The upper mountain was still closed due to high winds unfortunatelyt but we had better visibility early and we managed quite a few laps down low, skiing similar areas to the previous day.

After lunch we tried skinning up into the Tres Marias area and we climbed for about 45 mins but got shut down due to the wind and decreasing visibility. Skiing back down was tough with little visibility up high. It did get better as we got back down lower but unfortunately, the juice was not worth the squeeze. It snowed all day though, so hope was increasing for the next day. We had a lovely meal at the Chill'in restaurant. with their huge menu, great service and tasty food.

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Heading up the Tata lift. We had to start the day down low as the road was blocked and we couldn't get any higher.


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Fun little face above the bottom of the Wenche chair, with treed options to the left and right.


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We had a couple of fun laps on the ridge below the Wenche chair, before it was completely tracked out.


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Dave


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Manuel


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Gary


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Manuel dropping the hip on the open face below lower Wenche chair.


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Dave


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Gary


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Gary



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Gary skiing a nice chute underneath the Otto chair.


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Heading down to the bottom of the Tata chair and over to the Refugio chair for a skin up into the Tres Marias area.


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Reasonable visibility at the start of the skin, that would change as we got up higher so we had to abort mission after about 45 minutes.


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Pow pow off the side of Tres Marias.


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Tasty dinner at Chill'in restaurant, about a 10 minute walk from our accommodation. Lamb shank for me.


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Eatin good in the neighborhood!


- Matt
 
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August 16th and 17th - Here endeth the storm!

On the evening of the 15th, the winds blew an absolute gail down in Las Trancas and it rained hard all night. We woke up to find the internet down plus the online ticket sale portal was not working and I could not get in contact with Manuel via WhatsApp. I wasn't confident that the resort was even going to be open. Only Jamie was keen to ski, so we went for a drive to see if Manuel was even still waiting for pickup at the side of the road. To his credit he was still there, even though we were 45 minutes late. We headed up to the Tata area and Manuel found out that only the Tata lift was running and that would leave very limited terrain, so Jamie decided to take the day off. No skiing for us.

On the 17th, the storm was over and we all headed back up to the mountain to see what we could find. The resort had had a massive amount of new snow here but unfortunately towards the end of the storm the temps rose and it turned to rain up high. That set up pretty hard and only left a thin soft layer, not the epic powder day we were hoping for. With the better visibility, we were able to get in a lot of laps but there were a lot of eager skiers and boarders skiing aggressive lines without much care for others. There were too many people skiing on top of each other for my liking. Often we just gave way and let them go....

Unfortunately there was an avalanche caused by a cornice collapse (in the Cornicia area, surprise surprise!) with one person caught. It was caused by someone getting too close to someone already standing near a cornice, remote triggering the collapse. That person went for quite the ride, from the top of Cornicia down into the gully. Thankfully they were unharmed with only one lost ski. It could have been worse, glad they were ok.

We finished the night at Olivas restaurant and a mighty Tomahawk steak for only $23. Bargain! For the 18th, the sun was forecast to be out all day, so we hoped to put the skins on and go touring away from people....

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The zone above the Cornicia chairlift is very popular, requiring only an easy traverse to get to. The rock in the middle is called Elephant rock and above to the right, the large cornice that loads up above several cliff bands. Below is a sizeable gully/terrain trap. I never ski terrain to the right of the rock, left is safer and we enjoyed a few laps in there.


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Heading up the Enlace t-bar.


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Dropping in above the Cornicia chair, taking a line to the skier's right of the Elephant Rock.


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The bottom area rolls area and gets very steep. It was well anchored though with the rain/subsequent freeze locking up the snowpack. I'll post some POV video of my run through that zone, later.


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Our first run was between the two rock outcrops.


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Heading out for our next lap, further down the ridge, trying to get away from the hoards!


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Quick stop for a quick photo. We kept going further down the ridge.


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This sparsely treed face was great, decent snow and nice steep pitch.


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Of course we had another group start to ski down on top of us, before we were able to clear the zone. We thought we'd gone far enough away but another group had followed us....


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First time skiing this line and it was great.


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Getting out involved a steep traverse/sideslip down through the trees to the gully and then a ski through the gully, out towards Tata.


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The cornice collapse and subsequent slide. A local (friend of our guide) had been standing near the cornice when another group had approached him, causing the cornice to collapse and the skier to be taken down from the top, into the gully. Thankfully they were ok, but a ski (brand-new) was lost. It could have been a lot worse and did not need to have happen, in the first place.


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That crown was close to 6ft high at the top.



View attachment 20220817_154316.mp4
Gary getting a little airtime in the Tres Marias area....


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500g Tomahawk steak from Olivas Restaurant. $23 for this hunk o' meat. Awesome!


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Gary making sure all the meat is gone!


- Matt
 
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August 18th - Last day of skiing for session 1 and we saved the best till last!


The weather gods finally smiled on us and the sun was out so we finally had the visibility we were after. There had even been a couple of inches of fresh snow during the night, which improved conditions greatly. The Otto chair was running so we headed up high to check out the conditions. It was looking great! We skied several laps into the Pirigallo Valley with a couple of inches of fresh snow and great light, it was a great way to finish the trip.

Finally the group got to ski the amazing sidecountry lines that Nevados de Chillan is known for. The wind was ripping but stability was good, with plenty of steep lines in play. We had a blast. We finished our day with a beautiful skin way up high in the Pirigallo Valley, a great way to finish the trip. It was a nice 30-minute skin, with no one else around us. I think the juice was well worth the squeeze. We finished the day with a lovely meal cooked for us by chef Manny, back at our accommodation.

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Somewhat of a queue. A lift line here is maybe 3-minutes and they are rare.....


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Down into the Freeride Zone, the wind was ripping but hadn't formed a wind slab. Skiing was great!


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Gordon, ripping some nice GS turns into the Pirigallo sidecountry.


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Dave, also enjoying the conditions!


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Manuel, throwing up some spray for the camera!


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Gordon, skiing another line in the Pirigallo Valley.


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Skiing one at a time, over a steep roll, down to our safe spot.


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Fun, isolated ridge at the end of the valley.


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Skiing a sweet face, below the Pirigallo Chutes.


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Dave


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Tim



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Manuel finding the sweetspot! Great turn on the ridge.



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Aftermath of Manu's turn! Great snow spray.


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Skinning up into the upper Pirigallo Valley. I love heading up that way, hardly anyone ever skis it. I like the lack of pressure....


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Getting a little snow/wind blast.


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Volcanoes.


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Shrine


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Gordon


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Tim


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Obligatory band photo shot in front of the resort. From left to right: Matt (me), Tim, Jamie, Gordon, Gary, Dave. Thanks to Manuel (local guide) for taking the photo.


That was it for the skiing for session 1. Next up, our cultural day on the way back to Concepcion.


- Matt
 
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August 19th - Cultural day and return to Concepcion

We finished with a lovely cultural day back in Chillan at the beautiful @vinasantaberta winery for a private wine tasting and a beautiful paella for lunch. The sun was out (first time having the cultural day on a sunny day, normally we take it when it's too stormy on the mountain so this was a nice change) and we had amazing views of the mountains. We finished with some souvenir shopping in the Chillan markets, before heading back to Concopcion for our last night. A great way to finish the trip!

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The Santa Berta Winery!


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There are a few nice carvings inside the chapel they have at the winery!


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Chapel inside the winery


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Team inside the tasting room


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Jamie, Susana (she works at the winery and conducts the tours in English), Gary, Gordon, Tim.


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This cheese platter was an absolute work of art. It didn't quite look like that when we had finished with it....


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You had me at wine and cheese....


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$5 USD gets you a very nice bottle of wine!


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Susana's brother cooked us this amazing paella! Yum!


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Susana did not hold back on serving us the wines. I think between Gary, Tim and I we had about 5 bottles.....


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The first time I have been able to see the view of the mountains. That's Nevados de Chillan right there! Normally we take the cultural day when it's storming too much on the mountain, so normally it's rainy and grey down in Chillan. This view was amazing!


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Finishing off the day with a little shopping at the markets in Chillan. Then we had another 1.5 hour drive to get back to Concepcion.


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Gary bought a lovely poncho for one of his sons.


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- Matt
 
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20th and 21st August - Exploring Concepcion and watching a football game

I kept it very mellow on the 20th and said goodbye to the group before they headed to the airport (about 4-minutes away from the Holiday Inn Express where we were staying). Then I went across the road to the mall with Gary to buy another football shirt (Liverpool FC, my boyhood team growing up in the UK, they are much cheaper buying them in Chile, than in the US). A guest for session 2, Rob, arrived in the afternoon from Chicago. We had a nice dinner of empanadas at a local restaurant.

On the 21st, Gary, Rob and myself headed out for a little explore around Concepcion and to watch a local football match. Unfortunately Concepcion is still an absolute mess in the city center from the riots of 2019. There were burnt out buildings, boarded up and smashed windows, graffiti everywhere. It was pretty depressing.

What was not depressing was the football match we went to see at the Estadio Municipal, home of Deportes Concepcion (I had bought one of their shirts at the start of the trip). They were playing the top side San Marcos de Arica, the top side in the Chilean 3rd division. It was a fun game, with the Deportes captain being sent off after only 5 minutes, brawls, a missed penalty and an angry but passionate local crowd. Unfortunately the local team lost 0 -1, but still a great game. VIP tickets were only $15 a seat. A bargain!

Gary headed back to the US that afternoon and then it was just Rob and myself traveling up to Las Trancas on the 22nd, for the start of session 2.....

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Plaza Peru, not much happening before noon on a Sunday....


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The Catedral near the Plaza de la Independencia was covered in graffiti and all barred up. The Plaza was also surrounded by wooden hoardings, it was all a very sad state of affairs and quite depressing....


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Tribunales de Justicia (courthouse) was also covered in graffiti..... I don't think I have much desire to spend more time in Concepcion, which is a real shame as this is the first time I've not enjoyed visiting a local city during one of our trips.


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This was definitely worth it though!


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Deportes Concepcion's newest greatest fans, Gary and Rob!


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I always try and buy a local football shirt as a souvenir during my trips, the more obscure the better. Deportes Concepcion are one of 3 professional football teams in Concepcion and play in the Chilean 3rd division. They play at the 30,000 Estadio Ester Roa and that ground is shared with the two other Concepcion teams I believe.


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I had bought this shirt before session 1 started, not know anything about the team and as luck would have it, they had a home game scheduled at the end of session 1.


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Don't worry, we got there early and there were a lot more people than this.


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The two teams line up, San Marcos de Arica is in the light blue and Deportes Concepcion, in the lilac.


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Handshakes before kickoff.


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Let's go the mighty Lilacs!


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Time for some handbags! A little scuffle as the captain of Deportes was sent off. Not sure exactly what he did, but it fired up both sides. Straight red after only 5 minutes. Whoops!


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Deportes were down to 10-men, but they rallied and were the more aggressive team. After 15-minutes they won a penalty! Unfortunately the striker skyed it over the bar! Chance gone.....


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Missed by a mile, terrible penalty!


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Then in injury time at the end of the first half, San Marcos had a corner which Deportes failed to clear and a San Marcos player slotted it into the lower corner, against the run of play. Deportes ran themselves ragged in the second half and were the better team, but ultimately failed to score and lost the game 0-1.


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A very entertaining game and for a 3rd division game, the standard was pretty high and the local crowd (estimate at 8,000) made a lot of noise and showed a lot of passion. For $15 for a VIP (very comfy seat, out of the sun), this game was awesome. Strongly recommend!

That's it for session 1. Let me know if you'd like a re-cap of session 2 as well....

- Matt
 
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