Chile: Oranges & Avocados

Day 1/Part 3–

After leaving the rental place, we headed to the grocery store to pick up food and water for the next few days.  Not long after getting on the road, we spotted a little fruit stand along the highway, and we decided to stop.  We only speak a few words of Spanish, and the people running the stand only spoke a few words of English, but somehow, we all made it work. We ended up buying a big bag of oranges, two cokes, and two empanadas.

Pierre, ‘Orange’ You Glad that we Stopped Here?
The View from Behind the Fruit Stand–

I don’t want to make the process seem as simple as…we walked up to the stand and placed our order.  As you might imagine, it was a bit more complicated.

I saw the cooler, and asked, “Coca-Cola?”

The lady responded, “Queso?”

“Queso?” I parroted.

She pointed to homemade wheels of unwrapped cheese in the cooler, “Queso?”

“Oh–no, queso. Coca-Cola and un empanda.”

She brightened and asked how many empanadas that I wanted by holding up one, then two, then three fingers.  Then I assumed that she tried to tell me what kind were available, but the only thing I understood was ‘empanada queso.’

Pierre doesn’t like hot cheese, so I replied, “No—no empanada queso. Carne?”

“Si, carne!”

Now we were getting someplace.  I happily gave her my order and held up two fingers as an insurance policy, for her to understand that I wanted two. “Dos empanadas con carne.”

She smiled, indicating that she had understood my weak attempt at speaking her language.  She walked over to her kitchen area, and then bent over her stove top to heat up my order. 

As we waited, an older man motioned for me to follow him to the edge of the stall. He pointed toward avocados in mesh bags that were hanging from the beams near the ceiling.  He said something that I didn’t understand, so I asked, “Avocados?”

He smiled and pointed to the hillside.  When he saw that I didn’t understand, he pointed to the avocados and then swept his hand across the trees in the foreground, and then continued until he was pointing to the trees that were growing half-way up the side of the mountain. 

“That’s where these avocados are grown?” I guessed out loud.”


Once again, he pointed to the trees on the other side of the highway.  It occurred to me in that moment, that I had never seen an avocado tree before. I could tell that he was quite pleased with our exchange, because he was grinning broadly.  We stood side-by-side for a few moments and silently looked out over the trees together.  He tapped me on the shoulder and pointed up the mountain, and then motioned what I understood as ‘over the mountain.’

“They grow on the other side, too?”

He didn’t reply, either because he didn’t understand me, or he just wanted to get to his punchline. He made a motion like he was climbing up and over the mountain using ropes, and as he was ‘climbing’ he was ‘picking’ avocados.

Avocado Trees—Lots of Them!

He carefully watched my expression, and as soon as I started to laugh, he joined in laughing heartily.

The woman who had heated up the empanadas had finished her task, and she approached us and handed me a brown paper bag that had been folded down neatly at the top. 

I was excited to taste the ‘fruits of my labor’—an empanada carne.  After getting back into the camper, I unfolded the bag and pulled one out.   I took a big bite and wailed, “It’s filled with leeks!”

Pierre laughed at me, and of course, I saw the humor as well.  The dough was folded neatly around more leeks than you can imagine, one hardboiled egg, and three black olives (that still had pits).  It was an odd combination, but not horrible. We laughed about it for hours, and on a side-note, the oranges were delicious.

We got on the road much later than we had planned.  The sun goes down early, because it’s winter here, so we drove for several hours in the dark.  With about 45-60 minutes left to our destination, we decided to pull over and find a place to stay for the night. One problem stood in our way—there wasn’t a single exit where we could pull off.  It was the strangest thing—we drove for miles, and we didn’t go past an exit.  Finally, we saw an exit, and we pulled off, not knowing what we’d find.  We found ourselves in a tiny ramshackle village, next to the ocean. 

We drove around until we found an access road to the beach. It was a dirt road littered with pot holes, and there was a significant drop-off to our left as we wove down the tiny road to the beach.    At the bottom, we saw two other campers parked together, so we pulled in next to them. I know “three’s a crowd,” but it looked like they were already settled in for the night, and we hoped that they wouldn’t mind the company.

We fell asleep listening to the waves crashing on the beach.

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