I hope you enjoyed my first Travel Blog about the beginning of my adventure here in the beautiful country of Chile. If you haven't had a chance yet, check out my new coloring page and send me your unique coloring creation of Easter Island to share on my website with all my friends!
Journey to the Desert
After my visit to the island of Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, I headed to the northern tip of Chile, to the Lauca National Park. At over 300 acres, I was surprised at how many different plants and animals lived there! It has over 130 different bird species, including condors! A nice condor was very interested in my red air balloon as I came in for a landing. He flew next to me for a while and even showed me a nice place to land.
3,000 Year Old Yareta Plant-Photo by Pedro Szekely from Los Angeles, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Lauca National Park is very dry, but still has some plants like shrubs, tall grasses and yareta flowers. I took a hike up to some of the higher areas and even got to see some plants. These plants look like big lumpy green pillows! They grow very slowly, only fifteen millimeters per year. With a little gentle inspection, scientists have figured out that some of the yareta plants here are over 3,000 years old. That's older than the Parthenon in Greece!
There aren't many people still living here, but those who do come from the Aymara people still keep some of their traditions like taking care of llamas and alpacas, and playing beautiful Andean music like in the video below.
A little south from Lauca National Park, is the geyser field El Tatio. The name comes from an old Quechua word that means "oven". It is the world's highest geyser field at over 4,300 meters above sea level - that's two and a half miles! There are more than 80 geysers and some of them erupt up to six meters high. (Photo of El Tatio Geyser below by Diego Delso, [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons).
After that, it was time to fly over to the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world! I stopped in the little town of San Pedro de Atacama. This town is in the heart of the desert, and is one of the only towns in the Atacama desert where people still live. I was amazed to see so much life in the desert with many species of reptiles and cacti. I learned some fun facts I wanted to share with you from one of the local villagers. First, he told me that the desert region is where Chile's rich supply of copper is found. I found this short video by Encyclopaedia Britannica, that shows the copper mining process that I wanted to share with you. Then I learned that NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), has said that Moon Valley in San Pedro de Atacama looks like Mars on Earth! It is one of their favorite places to carry out expeditions. Woah!
As the sun went down, the Andes mountains in the east began to turn a very pretty shade of pink. That night, I took my balloon out into the desert, away from any lights from civilization, and saw more stars than I've ever seen before!
Atacama Desert-Photo By TravelCoffeeBook [CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)] via Pixabay
Street view of San Pedro de Atacama-Photo By Entropy1963 - Own work, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The Atacama desert is also where archeologists - that's people that study very old cultures - found the famous Mummies of Chinchorro, the oldest mummies in the world that are close to 8,000 years old! That's twice as old as the mummies in Egypt!
Check out the video for more amazing views of Chile and the Atacama Desert:
A Taste of Chile
After all that exploring in the deserts of Chile, my tummy was very empty and ready to try some tasty food! So in the morning, I headed back to Santiago to visit Mateo and Sofia to learn more about the culture of food in Chile. Just like Chile's wide range of climate, there is also so many different kinds of food to choose from.
For example, quinoa, a type of grain, is very popular in northern Chile and is the main ingredient for many of their dishes. Tropical fruit is a common ingredient in food from the fertile land just south of the Atacama desert, because it grows so well there. The Central Zone of Chile still has a bit of cowboy (huaso) culture, so traditional dishes like empanadas and other corn-based food is most of what you'll find from there.
No matter where you are in Chile, you're not far from the ocean, so fresh seafood is common just about everywhere. Eel, clams, and scallops are just a few of the fresh seafood that Chileans enjoy often. Farther south, in Patagonia, I'm told that the King Crab is unbelievable!
Fish Market in Chile-Photo By Olenska76, [CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)] via Pixabay
Chile isn't just rich with traditional flavors. Chilean food takes a lot of influence from many other cultures, like Italian and German. This is probably because Chile's economy relies on its international trade. For the last 30 years, Chile has imported from other countries nearly as much as it has exported. This is lucky for Sofia, because she's really fond of Italian food!
Even with all that diversity though, Chileans will tell you that the dish that most tastes like Chile is cazuela, or Chilean stew! This is Mateo's favorite dish. It usually is served with a meat - chicken or beef usually, but sometimes pork, lamb or turkey - and can also have potatoes, pumpkins, rice or noodles, green beans, carrots, cabbage, and garlic. Mateo and Sofia's abuela (that's how you say grandmother in Spanish) made some cazuela for lunch and invited me over to her house to try it out for the first time. My tastebuds were dancing with all the combination of flavors, wow! The cazuela was so warm and delicious that I had 3 bowls full! Here is a recipe of cazuela by Qué Rica Vida for you to make at home with your family to see how you like this traditional Chilean dish. Share your experience with me and what types of vegetables you used in your cazuela. It is especially tasty during the colder months.
Check out these videos for more images of Chile's amazing food culture:
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert! While I was visiting Mateo and Sofia, their abuela also made the most amazing Chilean Cocadas cookies! These sticky balls of coconut and flour are like macaroons, and are a tasty treat that's also fun to make. My tastebuds started dancing when their abuela told me that cocadas were made with honey-my favorite treat! One of my good friends in America made these delicious cookies with her family and sent me the pictures below so I could share them with you. She said she had a great time making them, especially rolling up the sticky balls! She loved the taste and hopes you can make them with your family at home too. If you do, ask your parent, guardian or teacher to send me your pictures and let me know how they turn out. I would love to see your pictures as well and hear how you enjoyed making and tasting these yummy cookies!
Chilean Cocadas Cookies
Recipe courtesy of Pilar Hernandez at Qué Rica Vida
4 egg whites
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups shaved coconut (unsweetened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (if you have a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance you can use white rice flour)
- Combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized pot and mix well.
- Cook over medium-low heat while constantly stirring. Remove the mixture from heat once it is thick and bubbling. This should take 12-15 minutes, but be careful to not overcook the mixture or let it turn brown.
- Next, transfer the mixture to a bowl to stop the cooking process and let it cool for 10 minutes. You will know when the mixture is cool enough when it is comfortable to touch and form cookies.
- Next preheat your oven to 350°F and cover a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
- To form the cocadas, take small spoonfuls of the prepared cookie mixture - about 1 1/4-inch wide - and place on the covered baking sheet. The cookies can be placed close together since they won’t rise in the oven.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes until the cookies look like they’re about to burn, to get a nice, crispy outside. Remove the cocadas from the oven and let them cool on the sheet before eating and storing.
- Disfruta (enjoy)!
After exploring the deserts of Chile, learning so much about this interesting country and filling my tummy with tons of delicious Chilean food, I think it is time for a siesta(that means nap in Spanish). So that's all for this week, amigos! Come back next week and I'll have some amazing tales of the Independence Day celebration in Santiago with a fun Chilean craft you can enjoy at home or school!
-Joy Sun Bear