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Manquehue: Place of Condors

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November 2007. My boyfriend’s first birthday since we first got together. I wanted to plan something different, something special. We were still college students at the time, so money was not a resource that we had. What was availabe, then? Time and energy, the usual resources during college years. So I decided we would celebrate his birthday by hiking across one of the hills surrounding the valley of Santiago, the Manquehue.

Manquehue is a word in Mapudungun, the language of our native people. It means “place of condors”. This mountain is 1,638 meters high. It is only an hour’s drive from downtown Santiago to the starting point of the walk. It was as a sunny morning of November, still spring in Chile.

As it was a week day (skipping lessons is other thing that you can do during your college years, I really miss that now), we were the only ones hiking. One important note: it was our first experience of hiking, and Manquehue is a good starting point for beginners. The walk was beautiful and green, and silence was our companion.

Another important tip: study the way. We didn’t, and ended this first journey on a small hill next to our desired objective. This meant we had to walk back down and up again.

Finally we arrived. It took us 3 hours to get to the top (normally it takes two, if you study the route). I’m a bit of a slow walker, but that didn’t matter, because we were in love (now I will surely get some comments about my slowness!). To our surprise, while we were enjoying the amazing view of the valley of Santiago surrounded by the Andes and crossed by the Mapocho River, a condor passed by.

The end of the story: this boy is now my husband. Maybe the encounter with the condor was a “buen augurio” (a good omen) for this happy ending.

MEET THE LOCAL: SARA JOIKO

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