Day 7/Part 3
When we finished lunch, Elena told us that we were going to be the only ones on the tour and that she was going to be our tour guide. How in the world did we manage to get a private tour? The Wine Gods must have been smiling down on us! She introduced us to Alex, our driver, as we piled into the van.
The vineyard was located about 30 minutes south east of San Pedro de Atacama. Elena was extremely chatty, and fortunately she spoke English, but occasionally, she would forget a word, or speak in a way that was hard to understand. I had to really concentrate, but she kept us entertained with all sorts of facts and interesting tidbits about the local area. At one point, she pointed toward Alex, and said something in Spanish.
To me, it sounded like she was telling us his name, but it didn’t sound like Alex, so I thought that maybe I had misunderstood her when she had first introduced us to him. “I thought you said that his name was Alex,” I questioned, feeling confused.
A startled look crossed her face. “His name is Alex. I was trying to think of a word in English, but I couldn’t remember what it was, so I said it in Spanish and pointed to it. I was hoping that you would understand what I meant when you saw it.”
I laughed, “Oh—I thought you were pointing to Alex.”
“No,” She paused and pointed again. “One of those….what do you call it?”
“Pierre and I answered in unison, “A speed bump!”
We all laughed, and then she translated the miscommunication to Alex, and he laughed along with us. For the rest of the day, anytime one of us saw a speed bump, we would point to it and yell, “Alex!”
Immediately after we arrived at the vineyard, we walked around the property and Elena explained the process of growing and harvesting grapes in the desert. Of course, it was off-season so nothing was growing, but it was still very interesting to learn about the inner-workings of the operation.
After seeing the vineyard we headed to the nearby town of Toconao, which is where the grapes are processed and made into wine. Production isn’t happening at this time of year, but both Alex and Elena explained the machinery to us. I was surprised to learn that they only had one hand operated corker to put the corks into the bottles. Just one!
When we finished viewing the wine making facility, we walked a few blocks to the center of town to see the church and bell tower. Located in the square across from the church, the bell tower is freestanding, which is apparently a unique feature for a church in this region.
The church and tower were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1951.