Venessa PaechLonely Planet author
Thorn Tree member and Chilean resident vnrose is well known in our community for providing helpful advice to travellers.
We asked vnrose how Chile is faring post-earthquake, from a local viewpoint.
It isn’t easy when your two claims to fame as a country are General Pinochet and a couple of the largest earthquakes on record. Although, on the whole, it is nicer to be remembered for a natural disaster than a national one. Anyway, the latest of these big quakes made news around the world.
Unfortunately not all of the news reported was accurate. Two thirds of the country was still standing, indeed chugging along, but you would not have known it. People cancelled their planned visits to Torres del Paine, San Pedro de Atacama and Easter Island – places which never even felt the quake. The tourist industry took a body blow in March. Fortunately high season had just ended or losses could have been greater.
Everyone has their earthquake story.
Good manners dictate that you listen to others and they listen to you. It is a basic way of dealing with the trauma. Some of the stories are quite funny in hindsight. Like my friend’s 90 year old mother who was ‘rescued’ from the pavement in front of her building in Valparaíso by some men in a bread van and deposited, in her nightie, safe from tsunamis, on a hilltop but without any idea where she was.
It took them hours to find her.
Some are never going to be funny, like another friend in Concepción who ran out of her building only to have it collapse behind her, leaving her worldly possessions reduced to her pyjamas.
Nightwear plays a big part in earthquake stories.
The thing is, this is Chile. Chileans are forged in a narrow space between the Andes and the Pacific. You can throw any disaster at them and they bounce back. They don’t know how to give up. It just isn’t in their DNA. This was a disaster which crossed the social and economic lines. Some lost their homes and others lost their livelihood. The more unfortunate lost a loved one. But that means everyone is pulling together to rebuild as quickly as possible.
So what is the situation for visitors now?
As far as the average tourist is concerned, Chile is open for business. It has been for a while now. What is needed is customers.
The pristine views in Torres del Paine are there waiting, as is the unique Atacama desert. Easter Island is calling. The skiing season will open in June. The Colchagua valley lost a lot of wine and some iconic old adobe houses, but most vineyards have been running wine tours since March. In the Casablanca valley they never stopped. Flights and ground transport are working normally.
Think of it: the determined travellers will have the place to themselves. All the people who never look at a map have cancelled!
Oh, there are aftershocks. They are part of the game. But let’s face it; if something didn’t collapse in the original quake it isn’t likely to now. Structural engineers have been crawling over everything like ants for two months.
The best thing you can do for Chile is come. Come and see for yourself. If you were welcome before, you are even more welcome now.
[Photos: Courtesy, vnrose]