T HE B EACH If we thought yesterday was long, we were in for a big awakening today. We met Luis again at 9 AM to start out to the coastal cities via Isla Negra, which is neither an island nor black in any way. We got much more sense of Santiago’s rush hour today because we drove through much more of it on the way north and west to the coast road than we had going north and east to the Andes. It would be difficult for a stranger to drive the Santiago streets at any time, but rush hour would be suicidal because six-lane highways become one-way on five of them and the opposite direction on the sixth or one way all the way across or many other variations. If you did not know what you were doing, you would end up heading in all the wrong directions. On the way from Santiago to the coast, we passed through two big valleys which are very productive agricultural areas, the Andes Valley between the Andes and the Coastal Ranges and the Coastal Valley between the Coastal Range and the bluffs of the Pacific beach area. The majority of the cultivation was grapes. The fields are kept very green through drip irrigation. In addition to the vineyards, there were many, many more fields of fruits and vegetables, citrus fruits including oranges and lemons, peaches, nectarines, pears, melons and more asparagus and artichokes. The purpose of visiting the little coastal town of Isla Negra was to see one of Pablo Neruda’s justly famous houses. Isla Negra looks like beach towns all over the world with sand streets, lots of T-shirt shops, outdoor fast food places, pastel buildings, cacti growing everywhere, barefoot folks in beachwear, and a tangy scent in the air. However, we had forgotten one thing, one very important thing; this is a Pacific Beach in summer! So there was no sunshine but there was plenty of fog and cold air. And here we were in shorts and light shirts. We were colder on the beach than we had been in the Andes yesterday; we had dressed all wrong for both places!
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