The next four or five blog posts were written over the past month while we were on our housesit. I wasn’t able to post them at the time of writing due to our lack of internet. I will schedule them to post every few days over the two weeks so that you guys can catch up on what we’ve been up to and what’s happening next. . .
Since summer vacation doesn’t end until March 1st down here, vacation rental prices were still outrageous. Israel and I were sitting in our tiny, city apartment in Mendoza trying to figure out where to go next when I stumbled upon this housesitting opportunity on the coast of Chile. Housesitting is a fantastic way for budget travelers to find lodging, to see new places, and to live like a local. The trick with housesitting is: you have to be flexible about dates and places to travel and flexibility is definitely our strong suit. The only problem is that housesits are hard to find, especially in South America and particularly for families. We found this one through a Facebook travel group that I’m in. It was a bit of an emergency sit, since her scheduled sitters didn’t quite work out. We had to be here just a week after we agreed to do the sit, which is why we cut our stay in Mendoza a week short.
We knew we were heading for adventure when our directions to get here were: take any bus going north and ask the driver to let you off at km 178, then jump across the highway guardrail and wait for her under the tree. Lorraine, the homeowner, met us on the side of the highway driving an old, beat up, paneled, white van with the back seats removed. If someone in the States told me and the kids to hop in the back of this van and sit on the mattress we would have run screaming for the police. But this is Chile and she seemed like a nice person.
We are in a tiny town about 3 hours from Santiago. The nearest store is about a mile away from the house, Lorraine drove us there first to pick up groceries and to introduce us to Sarah, the shopkeeper. The town is really just a village with unpaved, dusty, dirt roads and a handful of shops, which include a couple of mini-supermarkets and two hardware stores. The village is growing though, with an increasing number of vacation cabins being built for Santiaguenses looking for a summer getaway. There is a bigger town some miles down the road with a sandy beach, but since we don’t have a car, it’s too far for us to walk. Public transport in rural Chile is not as common as in other South American countries. Taxis are expensive and difficult to find and buses don’t stop just anywhere along the road like in Ecuador.
The house is really a cozy, weathered, cabin on about an acre or two of oceanfront land. Upstairs, where the owner lives, includes a kitchen, bathroom, and open living area that is lined with windows and french doors that show off the fabulous view. Downstairs there is a bedroom and a bathroom with a separate entrance that she uses as an AirBnB. There are also spacious decks off the upstairs and downstairs that face west and south. Lorraine strives to live as close to nature as possible while minimizing her ecological footprint. She reuses wood and all kinds of junk in clever ways, like using old crates as bookshelves, old tires as steps and planters, mattresses as dog beds, or a piece of driftwood to hang pots and pans from in the kitchen. She has a fantastic irrigation system set up to use grey water from the sinks, bathtub, and washer to water her garden. Water is a precious resource down here (as it is everywhere), not only does it have to be trucked in and stored in a cistern, but this part of Chile is quite arid, and receives very little annual rainfall. Staying here has made us think more about our impact on the planet and what we can do in the future to minimize our carbon footprint.
We’re here not just to look after the house, gardens, and AirBnB, but to care for her four rescue dogs. The owner is a true friend to wildlife and is off filming a nature documentary in Africa. We stayed with her a few days while the dogs became accustomed to us and we became a part of the ‘pack.’ Dogs are cared for much differently in Latin America, with most never using a leash or being held back by a fence and these dogs are no different. While there is a fence that surrounds the property, it’s more of a suggestion to them, and a barrier they can easily get through. Since they aren’t walked on a leash, we have to be careful where we take them. They have no respect for cars and will walk directly in front of them, so we must not take them into town. We stick with exploring the rocky beach and hiking in the pine and eucalyptus forest while walking them on their twice daily walks.
Our internet connection is extremely limited, so we have passed the time with long walks along the beach and through the woods. The boys make art from shells and other interesting things we find along the beach. The boys have been building Legos, working on school, and exploring outside. We play card games, dominoes, and read lots of books. It’s like camping, but with electricity, a shower, and a washing machine. The view here is something I just can’t get enough of, I’ll take the rocky coastline with constantly changing tide pools over a boring sandy beach any day. Staying in this rustic hideaway, with my desk looking out over the Pacific amazing view makes me feel like a real writer, this is the type of place where Hemingway would feel at home. The beauty is truly inspiring, but is probably better served for someone with true creative vision, not just a family travel blog. Nonetheless I will enjoy it while I have it.