So, after Abby and I took our famous detour to the little hamlet of Pelequén, whereupon we saw the lovely onion-domed church and marveled at our inability to get off the train at the right stop, we set to the task at hand, which was actually seeing Chimbarongo.
Chimbarongo, I am told, means something about mist, which would explain (vaguely) the working of wicker, as this is done when the plant is moist. It's a town that is famous for working and selling mimbre, or wicker, which seems to take on many forms, from split-reed looking things to sticks. Basically, if you can bend it, you can build it, or so it would seem.
We were spat off the famously fancy bus with a (likely foreign) six-foot and change black man in shmancy clothes sprawled across the leather seats in front of us, who was as surprised to see us as we were to see him. I then (ever the chatty cathy) asked a lugareña (female person from the town) a) where the best wicker was and b) what there was to see in the town. Turns out, the best wicker is beyond the town (headed south), and on the east side of the highway. The prices, I was told, were higher there, as well. As I was not really planning on buying any wicker, and having no idea how much either cheap or expensive wicker would cost, this did not present a problem. The goal was the BEST wicker, you see.
First, a quick spin through town:
(a lugareña, on a quick Monday-morning pedal, and no, this is not the same lugareña I asked directions from)
Detail of the "famous" artesan making wicker basket in the town square, which was rumored to be cute. And cute it is. Go to Abby's post for a better picture of this.
But the real prize in the plaza is that the benches have wicker seats! How cute is that? If Pomaire had a plaza, I bet they wouldn't make the bench seats of terra cotta. Win!
The little cactus that could:
Much care is taken to protect the lugareños from falling palm fronds. The sign reads: Danger, falling fronds. (wind, rain).
Finally, we ate a lackluster lunch, as it was a holiday and I don't eat meat, which generally ruins everything, and they don't call our daily bread a marraqueta in Chimbarongo, I was told it is called pan francés. Off we trudged, over the pasarela (pedestrian walkway) to the wicker-selling portion of the world.
Business is slow, or you could say dead, due to a variety of factors, including "la crisis."
But the wicker bicycle/tricycle plant holder is alive and well, in its many forms.
Customers! And a brief glimpse of what I would soon dub "ball of sticks," which was my favorite item of all, but which, sadly, I did not buy.
More balls of sticks, which I love, for no real reason. They came in all sizes, and if I had maybe one more square meter of floor space, I might have considered buying one or several. Ball! of sticks! Cheap! Even the big ones cost less than $15, and I was eyeing a smaller set, that were more like $3.
In the end, I did not buy a ball of sticks, nor did I buy this couch, though it looks like someone else did.
I also did not buy these wine barrels, though I did take a good sniff or two. I'm guessing they're from Cono Sur, which seems to have a winery (wine processing plant?) here.
I did, however buy a pote (tub) of honey, and a box of sticks, which is more practical than the ball of sticks, as you can put things in it. Don't worry, this only partially runs afoul of my admonition not to buy more storage solutions.
Having breathed our share of dust, varnish and wine mash, Abby and I walked (like you do), along the side of the highway, marveling at the blue skies, and wondering what they might sell in the nearby town of Tinguiririca. How could a town with a name like that not have something excellent to offer?
And then we got on the bus, were shuttled through to the driver's area for a good hour while we were interviewed by the driver about life, the universe and everything, and finally got seats in the oh, passenger part of the bus.
There's a long story here about how the bus was overweight and we were caught in an endless loop of bus-weighage that made everyone want to poke their eyes out with a stick, but I had a good hold on my box of sticks, and so did Abby, and so we just waited patiently like good Chileans. But I don't have any pictures of that, so instead I'll show you the entrance to this tunnel, which I think is darn pretty, even if I'm pretty sure that that government entity no longer exists. At least we still have the tunnel.
And as my spinning instructor said yesterday: Colorín, colorado, este cuento se ha acabado (and they all lived happily ever after (except he said it about the class, strangely)).
Deets: Ideally, take the metrotrén from Estación Central to San Fernando (about 2 hours, 1700 pesos, or about $3.25 at today's rates), and then a bus from there to Chimbarongo, which I'd price at less than 1500 pesos (but I'm guessing), and less than 30 minutes. We took a bus back from Chimbarongo direct to Santiago's San Borja station (near Estación Centrál), which cost 3,000 pesos, and probably should have taken less than two hours, but due to the bus weighage etc, it was a heck of a ride. Box of sticks optional.