San Antonio, Chile

Monday, October 16, 2017
San Antonio, Valparaiso Region, Chile
Mon, Oct 16 – San Antonio, Chile lies on hills and coastal dunes, immediately north of the mouth of the Maipo River and is crossed in two sections by estuaries.   It is the hub of the fishing area that spans the Chilean coast.  Its port is the largest in terms of freight handled and the busiest in the western coast of South America.  We thought Lima's port was huge, but this port was even larger.
In this central coastal area there is evidence of ancient habitation extending back about thirteen thousand years.  However, there does not appear to be a lot of architectural sites available for touring so we did not learn a lot about these ancients.
The city was 80% destroyed by the 1985 Santiago earthquake and then the port was shut down by the 2010 earthquake.  After the quake, only five of the eight docking points at the port resumed operation.
You might then ask if this is a major shipping and fishing port, why did we stop here.  It definitely is not a tourist area.  Well, you see the port of Valpariso is playing games with the cruise industry by giving away the prime docking sites to freight vessels, not cruise vessels.  It really doesn’t make much sense due to the fact that Valpariso just put in a nine million dollar port structure to make it nicer for cruise ships – now they aren’t giving them priority – the city depends on tourism – that is its major economic industry.   Oh well, we are in San Antonio.  
We arrived/docked at 9:01 a.m.  This captain is awesome - we seem to arrive right on time in every port.  We thought the other cargo ports we had come into were big - this place is huge!!!  Before we were allowed to disembark there was tanker that pulled up to refuel us.  It was interesting to watch it get closer and closer to us.  At first I didn't realize what was going on - we were watching from the top deck - and then Russ explained to me that it was going to refuel us.  As that was happening on the water side, we watched all the people disembark that were leaving the cruise; and then watched as the luggage was being put on for the new people - doesn't look like we are gaining as many as disembarked - we shall see later.
Everything I had researched told me that San Antonio was a nice quiet little town, but when we were given the talks on the area we were told not to wander into town, that there was a lot of crime in the area - we didn't know whom to believe so we took a shore excursion up to a winery in the hills about an hour out of the city.    It was a gorgeous drive, reminding us a lot of Highway 1 along the northern California coast.
I am falling in love with Chile, it is so pretty, so clean and so mountainous - those Andes run the length of this country.  The people are very friendly and we've been told the food is great.  Turns out, the wine isn't half bad either!
We arrived at the Matetic Vineyards and it was rather chilly that day.  You could see the fog hanging down below the hills below the vineyards.  We were given a tour and explained how they are using an "ecodynamic" system of farming.  One of the examples of this type of farming was: they take the removed cow horns and fill them with the manure from the ground and then they will bury these horns into the dirt all over the acreage and they will stay there during the fall and winter.  During this time the buried horns will leach calcium into the manure.  Come spring they dig the horns back up, empty them out, mix the calcium rich manure with water and then fertilize the fields with this mixture.  The calcium will then enrich the soil which will produce very healthy grapes.  We were given several other examples, but this is the one that I remembered.
Continuing on with our tour we were told that they don't crush their red grapes, they just let them ferment and the yeast in the skin assists this process.  Once it has reached the fermentation they want for that particular wine, the mixture is then strained and the clear liquid is placed in french oak barrels.   I asked why no white or other oak and she said that the french oak leaves a lighter oak finish than any other oak type barrels.  The skins and seeds from the strained wine is then returned back to the ground via a composting system.
Now, the white grapes are handled differently in that they are soaked for six hours and then crushed and strained and then yeast is added for fermentation because the skin is not able to provide sufficient fermentation.  
We then got to go through the small cellar, which is made up of rocks, which keeps the room naturally cooled.  I asked how many tons of rock it took to build the room (they were very large rocks) and she said she said she had never been asked that question and  had no idea but would find out for future tours.
We then got to go up and taste the wine, including getting to have a couple of chocolate cups with wine.  That was cool - the chocolate is shaped like a small shot glass.  We were not impressed with the reds, but really liked a chardonay they had, so we bought a couple of bottles and took them back to the ship.   You are each allowed to bring back on the ship a bottle from a winery tour without being charged the corkage fee of $18.00 a bottle.  
We were also told that this winery grows blueberries for Whole Foods and they also have cattle, horses, llamas and probably other animals too.  It was a gorgeous place and so reminded us both of the Anapolis Winery up above Salt Point on the California coast.  Russ later looked up the coordinates and they are located about as far south as Santa Barbara, California as north.
The trip back was just as enjoyable as the trip out.  Chile is a very long skinny country and so pretty much where ever you go you are seeing mountains in the distance or driving right next to them.  Gorgeous place.  When we arrived back we took note that the tanker was still filling the ship.  However, it was now riding much higher than it was that morning when we left.  Would be interesting to know how many gallons of fuel this ship takes.
Since we are in Chili, we go through security off the ship, not on the ship itself as we do in the countries, so when we returned the ship it was not noted that we had  brought any wine back from the tour.     We wished we had learned this earlier, we could have brought more back with us.  However, one evening at dinner we had taken our wine to the dining room and asked to have some of it, and the wine steward attempted to charge us the corkage fee for the bottle.  Russ told her that we had bought it on a wine tour through the ship - she said "I'll check on that".  We assume she did because we were never charged the corkage fee and thoroughly enjoyed the wine.
We met our new table mate, his name is Peter and is also from England.  We decided that the second half of our trip would be a great time to do the "anytime dining".  Our other mates, Wendy and Graham, also decided it was time to change.  Poor Peter.
We were told that about 500 passengers disembarked and about the same amount got on.  Wandering around over the next few days, it sure doesn't appear that many people boarded.  
One of the things we noticed over the next couple of sea days is that although we booked this trip as one whole cruise, it has actually been divided into two cruises.   So, all the classes we have taken on the first half are now being repeated for the second half.  Luckily the lectures that we are attending are still fresh and new; and as we have both discovered repeating a class is not so bad - you pick up more information the second time around.  Nice.
Another thing we noted is that our food on the Lido deck seems to be dwindling.  We assumed that they had restocked us.  Previously we have had 1% milk in the a.m. for our hot cereal, and now there is only 2% and full fat.  They obviously restocked because the milk is in a totally different carton - it doesn't open like our milk does; it has a hole in the top that you put your straw into and that is the only way you can get the milk out.  You should have heard the noise the first morning out of San Antonio - you have a bunch of sleepy people trying to put milk on their cereal or coffee and they can't figure it out - it was comical and messy; but we all eventually figured things out.
Some of the other things we are enjoying is the great cheeses that they are bringing on board - again, I really wish we knew what we are eating, but it is great.  We are liking eating up on the Lido deck because of the variety of foods, but I have to be extremely careful because nothing is labeled gluten free, so I pick and choose carefully.
We are having very, very rough seas - Russ told me that we are right along the Ring of Fire fault lines and the ocean is quite deep along the fault; whether this has anything to do with the rough seas we have no idea, but the explanation works for me.  The word rough is not a strong enough word to describe what we are feeling.  The only place you feel okay is in bed and it's not even 8 p.m.  Ugh!
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2019-07-18