Volume 2 - Tom and Greta senior romantic South America Trip – 2009. Expect the unexpected when you travel. Visiting Emiliana vineyard in Chile
By Tom P Blake – Finding Love after 50
My partner Greta and I are on a trip to South America. First stop, Santiago, Chile. Because our time there was limited to 1 ½ days, we hired a guide to drive us around. We located Mauricio beforehand on the Internet.
He turned out to be gracious, fluent, knowledgeable, friendly, helpful and a family man, in his 30s with a wife and two children. He drove a very comfortable, air-conditioned car, which was appreciated in near 90-degree temperature.
On the first day, and a part of the second, Mauricio showed us around Santiago. For the remainder of the second day, we wanted to visit Valparaiso, a historical city, the most significant shipping port in Chile. Our visit there would include visiting a nearby city call Vina del Mar. Valparaiso is 75 miles west of Santiago, on the Pacific Ocean.
Mauricio insisted we stop on the way at a vineyard called Emiliana, in the Casablanca Valley. It's an organic vineyard, no pesticides are used. Instead, they utilize chickens, geese and peacocks to eat the bugs. It's a lovely little spot, reminding one of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys and they have llamas in a corral.
When Greta and I asked-in Spanish--to taste a particular wine, the young man behind the counter answered in perfect English. Turns out, Mike was a student from Northeastern University in Boston on a six-month study program.
We bought a bottle of Novas 2007, a blend of chardonnay, viognier and marjanne grapes. We walked back to the car, where Mauricio said, "Oh, oh, bad news. I left the lights on and the battery is dead."
Mauricio had jumper cables but there were no other cars around. Mauricio asked the employees but none of them had a car, they ride buses to get to work. He used his cell phone to telephone for help with no luck. We were 30 miles from Valparaiso.
Greta said, "If we're going to be stuck, it might as well be a romantic place like this."
Finally, a car drove in. Mauricio and the driver spoke in Spanish, but the man said he and his passengers had to go inside the winery.
Then, something almost surreal happened. Eight policemen driving fancy, green and white BMW motorcycles came single file into the vineyard with their red lights flashing. At the end of the convoy, there was an armored truck carrying sharpshooters inside. It was like a group of cowboys riding in from the old west days, but they were on bikes instead.
For a moment, Greta and I thought, "Wow, what a country. All these policemen are coming to help Mauricio charge the battery. I also wondered if they were going to haul us away, thinking that maybe we weren't supposed to be there. Here we were at this beautiful winery surrounded by grapes ready for harvesting, a mile off the highway, with eight police motorcycles parked under the shade of a tree.
Turns out, they were scouting the vineyard for three days later, when Prince Charles was coming from the UK with an entourage for lunch. The vineyard was closing on Sunday and Monday. Mike the bar man said, "We are coming into work the next two days to clean the place (it was immaculate already)."
The bikes and truck disappeared down a dusty road into the vineyards. One of the sharpshooters waived through a thick wire mesh window as they departed. It had been a bizarre scene we would not have seen were it not for the dead battery.
The occupants of the car that had arrived a half hour earlier returned to their car with a case of wine in their arms and a little wine in their veins. This time they jump started Mauricio's car and minutes later we were on our way to Valparaiso.
When traveling in a foreign land, tourists have to be prepared for any glitch-they are bound to happen-and simply be patient and go with the flow.