Harrison Farm

for now, the only thing we're growing on this farm is kids - not the goat variety

Month: March 2013 (page 2 of 2)

The Myth of “Undertow”

At the beach in Vina del mar, less than 10% of the people are actually getting wet. These 10% are not swimming though. They just stay on the sand, but within reach of the waves.

When we got to the beach, we thought that this was because of the cold water. The water is cold, but by no means too cold to swim. Our Chilean friends (both of whom grew up within a few miles of this beach) said that the reason was the “dangerous undertow”.

They said there was a good swimming beach about a quarter mile away. So we (Marathon and I) ran to that beach.

At this beach also, no one was in the water. We got in and started swimming. We made it past the difficult area where you are in risk of having a wave break on you, and swam out to where the waves were just big humps, a perfectly safe area. Then we heard a whistle. We looked back and saw all the people on the shore staring at us. A little bit later, it blew again. This time we saw the lifeguard too. We swam back to the shore and asked the lifeguard what was wrong with swimming at this “swimming beach”. He explained that “we’re having a little more wave action than normal”. Disappointed, we returned to the original beach, beginning to entertain some doubts about the logic for disallowing swimming.

We then swam out at this beach too, just trying to swim all we could until authority ordered us back onto the sand. After a couple minutes, a lifeguard saw us and did so.

“Dangerous currents” appears to be an idea that the local government and lifeguards have put into the minds of all the people, so they would avoid as many liabilities as possible.

The “undertow” is the harmless affect of a wave running off the beach back under the next wave. It isn’t dangerous.

What is dangerous, but easily avoidable, is the Rip-current. This is caused in a situation of two underwater sand bars with a small space between them. When a wave comes in, a lot of water is going to flow back out of this space, instead of going over the sand bars. The high-speed current that results goes way faster than anyone can swim, and can carry a person up to half a mile away from the beach. The way to avoid this is to swim parallel to the beach, as to escape the narrow current. It’s like this: the rip current is a treadmill going faster than you can run. You could drown of exhaustion trying to run against it, or you can just get off.

This is a diagram of a small rip current. The beach at Vina del Mar clearly did not have one.

So, all of this leaves us wondering: how is it that this myth could keep so many people, for so many years, from actually getting into the water when they go to the beach?

Water Cuts

Santiago is a very dry place in the summertime. I think we’ve had one day of rain – and it was really more like a mist. There is no shortage of water though, because rain and melting snow from the mountains delivers a continual water supply. Individuals, the city governments, and businesses nearby water lawns, trees, and flowers like they have a never-ending supply.

But, despite the plentiful water resource, there have been at least three water cuts in the city’s water this summer, a couple of them for more than a day at a time. The reason for the cuts?

The mountains from which the water runs are dusty, gritty, sandy. Marathon took Carman and Sudoku to hike with a friend. There was little vegetation, no shade, loose dusty soil…. When they returned, the bottoms of their socks were black from all the dirt that had gotten in their shoes. In short, it was miserable. Nothing like a hike in the Appalachians, that’s for sure.

So, it’s from these dusty mountains that our water comes. It’s hard water, with a high mineral content. The cooler mountains get rain more often in the summer, which can cause flooding in the mountains which can cause some serious clogs in the water pipes. To prevent the debris from entering the system, they just close the intakes. Once the flooding has subsided and the water is flowing more clearly again, the water is turned back on.

So, three different times this summer, the city’s water has been cut off. But we never skipped a beat! Our apartment complex has a huge holding tank (underground, I think) that continues to supply its residents. We were advised to conserve water, which we did, but we were delighted that we never had a drop in water pressure. Long time residents here shrugged off the water cuts and said they’ve been through many without even realizing there was an issue at all. Makes our gastos communes worthwhile. That will be another post.

Concon and Tiltil

We ate seafood on Saturday night in Concon, the beach town just north of Viña. It’s smaller, slower, quieter, more family friendly. We were in Concon early, before the late dinner rush, so the restaurants were practically empty at 8:00.

We parked near the beach, walked across the street and up the stairs too…I don’t remember the name of the restaurant! But we ate outside on a covered deck that looked out over the sea. Just lovely. Reasonable prices too.

by flickr's JalilArfaoui

On Sunday we headed back to Santiago via Tiltil. We went through some small, bedroom communities, then into agricultural areas. The terrain was hilly/mountainous, dry and dusty. We passed tomato farms, olive groves, and “tuna” farms. “Tuna” is what they call cactus fig, or Indian fig, the fruit of a type of cactus here. So, we saw rows and rows of cacti. You don’t eat the outer flesh – it is thick, tough, and has occasional spines. The inner flesh is like cantaloupe in flavor and color, but not texture, as it filled with hard black seeds. The seeds would be nearly impossible to separate from the flesh, so though hard, you just eat them. They’re not bitter; they just add some crunch to your otherwise cantaloupe-like treat.

We stopped for lunch near Tiltil in the middle of nowhere at a restaurant called “No me Olvides” (Don’t Forget Me.) The restaurant was big, and it was packed. It reminded us just a bit of Cracker Barrel. It just had a nice but informal feel to it.

Sudoku and I are on the right, waiting for our table to be ready.

Our friend Goyo helped our server move tables around.  Carman's is following behind.

Our friend Goyo helped our server move tables around. Carman is following behind.

There was a small gift shop in the front of the restaurant, and looking out the big picture windows of the dining area, we were greeted with a grove of avocado trees, the first I’d ever seen, and they were loaded.

by flickr's avlxyz

by flickr's avlxyz

We had some distinctly Chilean (or at least Latin) dishes at No Me Olvides. Quesadillas – pastry stuffed with ground beef, olives, bell peppers, boiled egg, and a bit of cheese. Pastel de Choclos – a warm, creamy, sweet dish, with a base of creamed corn (“choco”), with a bit of chicken and some finely chopped veggies. The dish was served in individual bowls, like an individual serving of pot pie. It was piping hot and just delicious – not spicy, but sweet and creamy.

pastel de choclo by flickr's Ryan Greenberg
pastel de choclo by flickr’s Ryan Greenberg
satisfied customers

satisfied customers

(Chilean food is not at all spicy. I, personally, could go for more spice, more flavor, more…something. I think the Chileans could too. The most popular restaurants around seem to be Peruvian.)

Traveling back through Tiltil, we pulled into a small street lined with vendors to purchase some oilves and olive oil. In addition to its olive production, Tiltil is noted as the death place of Manuel Rodríguez; we paused long enough to see his memorial and made our way back to Santiago.

Vi̱a del Mar Рthe Pretty, the Surprising, and the Ugly

A few more details about Viña del Mar:

The pretty – Viña is know as the “Garden City.” There are flowers everywhere. Water trucks slowly drive along, watering the trees and grass. It seldom rains here in the summer, so they have to work for all the green they have. And work they do. As you enter the main city block, you can see this on a hillside: a clock of flowers. It works! Pretty, huh?

The Surprising: The first night, as I mentioned, we went to Diego’s Pizzeria. A couple of restaurants down was a Pizza Hut. As we walked past the American Pizza chain after our Chilean pizza meal, we gringos stopped dead in our tracks. Looking into the big picture windows of the crowded Pizza Hut we saw two flamenco dancers, dressed in traditional flamenco dancing garb, complete with swirling skirts and wide high-heels going to town, dancing, stomping, and clapping all around the restaurant. It was mesmerizing. A man was in a corner playing a…was it a guitar? A woman was singing heartily beside the guitarist, and the two dancers did their thing. Right there in Pizza Hut of all places! It was awesome. When the dance ended, we asked if the flamenco was a traditional Chilean dance. Goyo laughed. No, it’s Spanish and is not typically seen in Chile. He suspects it’s more common in Mexico.

The Ugly: As we were walking to the cars, some folks were partying on their open balcony. As we passed on the sidewalk nearby, someone yelled, “Do it now!” (in Spanish, of course.) Sudoku looked up to see the contents of a bucket of beer rain down. Andrea and Javier got the biggest splashes on her head and his shirt, but Sudoku got splashed in her eye. Which burned. Plus, she and they smelled like beer. The partiers were scolded by other passersby, making threats to call the police. Goyo complained to the condiminio’s establishment. But we were tired and smelled like beer and just wanted to clean up and go to bed. So we did. Goodnight, Viña.

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