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May 18, 2009

Santa Cruz to Santiago: Our last full day in Chile

Filed under: Chile 2009, Travel — anotherheader @ 5:27 pm

Inside the baths at Termas de Cauquenes

Inside the baths at Termas de Cauquenes

“No Nintendo, No Nintendo,” Becky kept saying.

“Why would Becky be saying that?” I thought.  “Does she like Play Stations better?  I never knew she had such a strong preference.  And why would she take so long to tell me?  Is this a ‘sign’?”

A resting duck at Termas de Cauquenes

A resting duck at Termas de Cauquenes

My thoughts were racing and they weren’t going in a good direction but when Becky continued with “In the casita, por favor,” I was confused even more.

“She wants a Play Station in the casita?  How can that be, there isn’t even a TV?” my thoughts continued to run.

Colors from the light passing through the stained glass at Termas de Cauquenes

Colors from the light passing through the stained glass at Termas de Cauquenes

Next I did what I always try to do in situations like this.  I rolled over and woke up.  Normally this doesn’t work.  This time, though, it did.  Looking over with bleary eyes I realized that Becky had answered our wake up call and was saying “No entiendo” or “I don’t understand” to the person on the other end of the phone.  “In the casita, por favor,” was her request to what she figured was “Where do you want breakfast?” coming from the other end of the line.  She didn’t want a Play Station after all and another existential crisis was narrowly averted.

With that, are last full day in Chile had begun.  Along with the breakfast arrangements, Becky asked about the checkout time.

“Any time you want,” was the answer.  We were the only guests at Casa Lapostolle at the time.

A lounging dog at Termas de Cauquenes

A lounging dog at Termas de Cauquenes

We didn’t have much on the agenda for the day, so that sounded good to us.  Soon, though, the open offer of “any time” was warping into “any day” and “any year.”  Our casita would be an easy place to stay.  Then the thoughts of Nick, The Wonder Dog, waiting impatiently at home for our return, pushed away the thoughts of staying and moved us out onto the road.  It was really hard to leave the best place we have ever stayed.

Our goal at the end of the day was the Santiago airport where we would spend the night before our early morning flight the next morning.  Becky picked out a couple of places of interest to visit on our way north.  They looked hard to find, given our poor maps and a consistently misfiring BeckBeck system.

“Trust me,” the BeckBeck system commanded.  Later the system would insist that the “Trust me” was a joke.  But ever gullible, I took it on faith at the time.

Once we pulled ourselves away from the high thread count sheets and gentle wine country breezes of the casita, we rolled easily out of the Colchagua Valley and onto Highway 5 heading north.  Our plan was to visit the old mining town of Sewel, a UNESCO World Heritage area, and maybe the hot springs at Termas de Cauquenes.  Both of these locations were east in the foothills of the Andes above the city of Rancagua in Chile’s Central Valley.

Termas de Cauquenes

Termas de Cauquenes

Our directions to both locations were poor and our maps were sketchy at best so when we pulled off the highway in Rancagua it looked like navigation could be problematic.  The BeckBeck system does what it often does in this situation—it guided us on a route to see every obscure housing development in the metropolis.  From a sociological perspective it is pretty interesting to see how other people live and it was without doubt off the beaten tourist track, but it wasn’t getting us to the day’s destinations.  Politely I mentioned this to the BeckBeck system.  The system immediately fell silent and went into shut down mode.

“Not this again,” I thought.  “I really have to send the BeckBeck back to its maker.”

DSC_1146Somehow we made our way through the rather large town of Rancagua until we found one of the rare signs that pointed to our destination.  Before long, we were on the highway and heading up the hill past the roadside shrines to souls lost on the highway.  Next thing we knew we where at the entrance to Sewel.

“How do we always get to where we are going when we never know where we are?” I asked the BeckBeck system that had rebooted and was happily navigating once we knew exactly where we were and there were no turns possible.  I received a sideways glance from the system indicating that there would be no answer forthcoming.  The steam coming out the ears of the unit indicated another shut down was eminent, so I left it at that.

Just because we were at the gates to the road to Sewel didn’t mean that we could go in.  Our guidebook had mentioned tours but hadn’t mentioned that tours are required to enter and see the old mining town.  The guard at the gate turned us about firmly.  With all the navigational foibles, we now have a heightened interest in seeing the old mining town.  Unfortunately, a visit to Sewel will have to wait until a future trip to Chile.


It was now time for Plan B.  Remarkably, there was a Plan B this time and we headed to nearby Termas de Cauquenes.  Termas de Cauquenes is a hot spring resort set by the river near Sewel.  After a pleasant lunch on the large patio on the edge of the central courtyard, we explored the grounds.  An early 19th century retreat, Termas de Cauquenes was built for those who sought to take the waters of the curative mineral springs.  Aside from the restaurant, the resort offers rooms and hiking trails along with the thermal baths.  We did not research this thoroughly, but it looked like the baths were mostly individual marble tubs in small private rooms.  An attendant would fill the tub with the hot spring water and you would enter and soak.  Since it wasn’t the risqué experience of Freidrichsbad on Baden-Baden (, Becky wasn’t interested.  Even then, Termas de Cauquenes appeared as a quiet and restful place to stay.  Perhaps we would be able to spend the night on a future visit.

Back on the road, we had only a little trouble finding our way back to the Santiago airport.  While our car was being refueled, one of the friendly attendants took down Becky’s credit card number and made a few additional charges of his own with the card number.  We discovered this later and the card company is reversing charges.  Oh well.

Termas de Cauquenes

Termas de Cauquenes

It was dark by the time we returned the rental car.  Becky, ever helpful and apparently inspired by the friendly gas station attendant, offered our flash light to the Hertz agent who was searching for damage on our rental car.  To me, this was like offering a pen to a traffic cop who is writing you a ticket.  Why encourage him?

A memorial shrine to souls lost on the highway outside of Rancagua

A memorial shrine to souls lost on the highway outside of Rancagua

Fortunately, no damage was found and we were soon in our cocoon at the hotel’s Holiday Inn.  Early in the following morning, we would leave.  It was early enough that there was still time for one last Pisco Sour and at the hotels bar.  We sure will miss these.

Termas de Cauquenes:


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