Hi friends! Or as they say here in Chile, "¡Hóla amigos!"
They speak mostly Spanish in the Republic of Chile, where over 17 million people enjoy different climates and landscapes across the longest (north to south) country in the world! I am super excited to be visiting Chile because it is on a continent that I have never visited before-South America! Chile shares borders with the countries of Peru, Bolivia and Argentina and also has territories (lands) in Antarctica and Polynesia-making it the only tri-continental nation in Latin America with territories in America, Antarctica and Oceania. Wow!
Torres del Paine National Park-Photo By Turismo Chile
Normally on my explorations, my red air balloon takes me to the country's capital city to begin my visit. Here that would be Santiago, Chile. This time though, I was taken to a beautiful island near the middle of Chile called Chiloé. Chiloé is the second largest island in Chile, right behind Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. It is famous for its palafitos, or houses built on stilts over water.
As my red air balloon got closer to the island, I could see that the coast is covered in them! There are so many houses in so many different and beautiful colors, I could just sit in my balloon over the ocean and look at them all day! I learned later that the houses on stilts were mostly built so the people of Chiloé could avoid their homes from getting damaged in floods, and it's also a good way of keeping out vermin like rats.
Palafitos de Castro in Chiloé-Photo By Christian Córdova (Flickr: Palafitos Castro) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Five Regions of Chile
Chile is 4,329 km (2,690 miles) long and close to 180 km (112 miles) wide. Chiloé is part of the middle region - the Central Zone - of Chile. Chile hasfive natural regions, each with it's own climate.
1) Norte Grande (Far North) - Chile's desert region has high coastal cliffs and mountain ranges, along with the driest desert on Earth!
2) Norte Chico (Near North) - This is the semi-arid region, which means it is still desert, but it does get a little more rain than the Far North.
3) Zona Central (Central Zone)- Here is where Chile has a climate like the Mediterranean, with lots of shrubs growing here.
4) Zona Sur (Southern Zone) - You'll find tropical rain forests in this region (like my home in West Sumatra!), growing in the moist temperate climate. Temperate means not very hot and not very cold. (Map of Chile-Photo By Burmesedays [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons).
5) Zona Austral (Austral Zone) - The zone farthest South is mostly islands, and has a subpolar climate. Subpolar means it has short, warm summers but long, very cold winters. You may even see a glacier!
I got to visit the Chiloé National Park, and it was wet and temperate, so I felt like I was back at home in West Sumatra! The animals here are very diverse; there are blue whales and sei whales, Chilean dolphins and Peale's dolphins, sea lions, otters, and two types of penguins, Humboldt and Magellanic. In fact, this is the only place where the Humboldt and Magellanic share a nesting place. When I was talking to one of the guides there, he let me know that there are many more animals in Chile, like pumas, alpacas, vicunas, foxes, condors, and flamingos!
The only word I can think of to describe Chiloé is magical. There is so much history, culture, and beauty here that I thought the best way for you to experience it is by watching this video:
As much as I enjoyed the beauty of Chiloé, I wanted to get to the heart and soul of Chile, so after a couple days I headed north to the capital city, Santiago. Like I see in many countries I visit, there were already changes that I noticed in the language. Although people in both areas both spoke Spanish, the people of Chiloé and the people in Santiago had different dialects, or ways of speaking. Spanish became the dominant language of Chile in the 16th century when it was conquered by Spain. However, most Chileans will tell you they don't speak Spanish, but Chilean Spanish, which is Spanish with a touch of the old languages of the land, like Mapuche. This means that there are some phrases or expressions that are called "Chilenisms" that are unique to the Spanish here.
Santiago, Chile-Photo by Turismo Chile
Santiago is right between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains. It is in the Central Zone, so the weather is much like the Mediterranean with only a little bit of rain between October and May. In fact, from just about everywhere in the city you can see the beautiful, snow-covered Andes mountains! I landed my red air balloon right on top of Cerro San Cristóbal, a hill in the middle of the city that let's you look all the way around. What a sight! It was there I met some new friends, Mateo and Sofia. They were hiking Cerro San Cristóbal with their family and were very excited to show me all of Santiago.
Mercado Central in Santiago, Chile-Photo By Almonroth (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
After they were done hiking, I joined them at the Mercado Central, a giant fish market in Santiago. The history of the market is amazing; it has been there for nearly 200 years in one way or another. Chile, as a country, exports more than $2 BILLION of fish per year. Now, that's A LOT of fish! They also export copper and copper ore, but that's not as delicious. In the Mercado Central, the fish was very fresh, some caught that day, because Santiago is only 30 minutes away from the ocean.
Do you like ice cream? Well Mateo and Sofia sure do! Santiago is filled with ice cream shops, and my friends introduced me to something called helados de fruta, which is like ice cream but without the cream! Yum!
Sculpture Park in Santiago, Chile-Photo by Alastair Rae [CC BY-SA 2.0] via flickr
I decided to stay in Santiago for a few days. There were just too many parks and museums to see! One of my favorite spots was the Santiago Sculpture Park. It is a beautiful outdoor park filled with all kinds of interesting artwork that you can't see anywhere else!
I learned that Chileans love futbol (called soccer in some places), skiing, surfing, and rodeo! In the south, Mateo said, basketball is very popular, since it can be played indoors during the long winters.
Rano Raraku, Easter Island-Photo By Turismo Chile
After a couple days in Santiago, I wanted to check out the famous Easter Island - originally called Rapa Nui (rah-PA new-ee), far off the coast of chile to the west. Rapa Nui is famous for the giant stone statues called moai. Many people only get to see the heads of the statues, but in fact they have huge bodies under ground!
Legend says that the first settlers of Rapa Nui came on large canoes from thousands of miles away. Wow, they must have been very brave to travel on such a small boat when they didn't know what was waiting for them! When they arrived on the island, each family would create a giant moai. They believed the statues would protect the family. Check out this fun video about how the statues might have been moved across the island:
Unfortunately, as amazing as these statues were, Rapa Nui's story doesn't end very well. The families on the island grew too large, and were constantly fighting to see who could make the biggest moai. With too many people on it, the island's natural resources were all used up, and all the trees on the island became extinct. After that there were many years where the island was dealing with very dark times, with lots of fighting over what little food there was on the island. In 1722, Europeans arrived, and many of the island's population were taken as slaves. Eventually they were released and went home, but they brought new sicknesses with them. In the late 19th century, Rapa Nui became part of Chile.
It's a sad story, but an important one. I think we can all learn from what happened on Rapa Nui, and try to be more respectful of what Mother Earth gives us to use. If we take too much from Mother Earth, then just like Rapa Nui, there won't be enough left for everyone. Can you think of an example of respecting your environment? I'd love to hear what you think! Send me a message on my Contact Us page with how you think you can show more respect to your environment.
Here is my new coloring page that shows my visit to Rapa Nui and some of the moai I got to see. Some moai were painted in bright colors. Try showing how you would paint your family's moai if you were to make one! Please ask your parent, guardian or teacher to email me your coloring pages so I can see how you colored your family's moai and share it with my friends on my website!
Here are a couple more videos from Turismo Chile to show you how amazing and beautiful Chile can be!
My friends at Kids Travel Books have some great books if you want to learn more about Chile at home as well.
I hope to see you back next week when I'm going to visit the driest desert in the world and share the amazing food here in Chile!
Chao (that's how they say goodbye in Chile), friends!
-Joy Sun Bear