When I first arrived in the little town square of Puerto Octay, a small town in the south of Chile in the region of Los Lagos, and put down my enormous suitcase, I was a little confused. The sun was already setting in the town of 2500 inhabitants and I must have looked very lost, because an older woman came straight up to me and smiled. Speaking slowly she asked me how I happened to end up in Puerto Octay on a beautiful Saturday night like this. I think my bright eyes, tall figure and tourist guide gave it away and I must have looked like the cliché tourist. With my Spanish knowledge from school, I tried explaining to her, that I was looking for the farm Rancho Espantapájaros, where I would be working and living the next couple of weeks.
“Ah”, she said happily and smiled at me. “That is not very far from here, not even 3km away! Come with me, I´ll take you there!” She started walking towards her car that was parked in the town square and I decided to follow her. On the way, she kept talking to me about how unusually cold the winter had been and finally dropped me off at a neat looking farm surrounded by endless fields and with a big restaurant in front of me. I waved the woman – Camila – goodbye and walked towards the restaurant, where Nicholas (the manager of the farm) greeted me accompanied by Señora Marlis (my housemate).
Relieved that I had finally made it, I told the two about the long trip that I had had. Nicholas decided that this called for a big dinner. He was reading my mind and I could not stop marveling once I saw the main dining hall of the restaurant. It was a big, rustic room with wooden walls, a grill on the side, a big buffet and many tables lined up in the room. I knew right away that it was not very likely for me to lose weight while being on the farm, and only one gaze at the desert buffet made my mouth water. Up until today, I am sure that the restaurant staff thought that I was addicted to “tortas de manjar”. They are probably right.
The mother of the farm owner, Señora Marlis, turned out to be the best housemate that I have ever had. Every Sunday, she made me breakfast and I could ask her anything about Chile´s political and economic past. I loved spending the nights at the fireplace with her, debating about books that we both had read. The work on the farm was not easy. The three farm workers showed me how to take care of 500 sheep and 300 cows and I tried my best when we drove around with tractors filled with hey to feed the animals. I learned many new words that are very typical for the region and helped fix the fences on the field on a cold day, while the workers were always singing happily.
A couple of days after arriving, they gave me “Gitana”, a horse from the farm with whom I could explore the countryside around the Osorno volcano for hours and hours. There was also a small dog, that apparently belonged to nobody but that followed me every time I went for a walk or a jog in the fields. I could keep on talking about my experiences during my farm stay in Chile forever, but I wanted to mention some important reasons why I believe, a Farm Stay is a great choice:
– You are (in my case for the first time) in a very rural area and you can feel the difference to being in a city especially when it comes to the fresh air.
– You meet completely new people that come from all different kinds of educational backgrounds and age groups and to whom you would normally never have contact.
– Within a short amount of time, you gain a lot of expert knowledge about stockbreeding and agriculture. I am very happy that I can now finally name many plants on the side of the road.
– There is no such thing as routine on the farm, as there are new tasks every day and each day brings its own individual challenges (for example after a storm)
Why Chile, you may ask?
– I already had the honor of visiting some countries in Latin-American, and what really stuck out to me is how hard-working and ambitious Chilean people are. Those that I got to know worked non-stop and always had a smile on their faces and nice things to say.
– The landscape is incredible. Chile is one of the most diverse countries in the whole world, stretches out over 39 degrees of latitude and measures around 4200 kilometer from north to south. It does not matter where you are – in the capital, in Patagonia in the south or in the world´s driest desert in the north, you will be in awe.
– They have the tortas de manjar. I insist that you try them; otherwise, you will be missing out in life.