Hope Okere is an incredibly talented fashion designer and illustrator based in Brooklyn, NY. She has worked for the likes of Marc Jacobs, J. Crew, Madewell, Gap, Converse, and Tommy Hilfiger. Meanwhile, she continues to travel the globe whenever she can find the time. Recently she journeyed to Chile to explore the country and after reading what she has to say about her time there, we are all ready to head there, too!
Arrived in Chile
NYC is just starting to warm up and blossom into Spring after a long winter. Chile is in full Autumn, the warmth of summer still strong during the day, but the cold of winter arrives at night.
Jet lagged, delirious, and frizzy, I exit a 14 hour flight, and go directly to a majestic, sustainable, and organic vineyard named Viña Emiliana. We’re in the Casablanca region of Chile. We take a short tour of the vineyard to learn how organic grapes are grown; and we have good wine and food. Not a bad way to land half way across the globe.
A good friend of mine, Carolina, is living in Chile for two months. I have a break between jobs, so I buy a last minute plane ticket to visit her in her family’s Chilean home. Carolina’s grandmother cooks amazingly tasty meals, and it’s the best way to experience traditional Chilean food. Their home is in Viña del Mar, close to Valparaíso. Valparaíso, a fishing village turned artist community, is famous for its brightly colored graffiti murals. Based there, we plan a road trip up and down the central and northern coast of Chile. The goal is to see as many beaches as possible and visit a very special valley to taste Pisco and see stars. Carolina and I are both ambitious travelers, so I know we will have a rich and full experience on the trip. We have to remind ourselves from time to time to stop, relax, and soak it in. Having an outgoing travel companion (who speaks Spanish) is wonderful, because we meet so many lovely people on the trip.
Road Trip Begins
We fill a huge thermos of coffee, take our rental car, and travel south. We stop along the way to visit the house of Pablo Neruda, a Chilean Poet. Built around the proportions and framework of a ship, and located on the cliffside of a picturesque beach, the house was meant to feel as if you’re sailing at sea. It does! There are lots of unique collections inside: bottles, globes, seashells, horse stirrups, ship figureheads, etc. His bedroom is the most calming space in the house. Two adjoining walls are fully windowed and his bed faces them, overlooking the ocean. His love of life, people, and knowledge inspires his poetic nature; and his unique perspective on life is reflected in his house.
Pichilemu and Punta de Lobos
Our first destination was Pichilemu to see the surfistas! Our serene little B&B on Playa Infiernillo (Little Hell Beach), has a back porch directly facing the ocean. Despite the name, it is a beautiful beach with dark sand and orange and green rocks. The next day, we go to Punta de Lobos and spend the day watching surfers catch perfect, long waves, then run back, board tucked under their arms, ½ mile up the beach over rocks, down cliff faces, then jump in with enthusiasm to start all over again. The excitement shows in their movements, excited to feel the adrenaline rush from riding an epic wave again. The jump-off point was around two huge sea rocks that symbolize Punta de Lobos (meaning point of the wolves)--a fitting name for a spot with a fierce wave. Famous big-wave surfers like Ramon Navarro were surfing the day we were there. Ramon Navarro is also the environmental guardian of Punta de Lobos, his home surf break.
There is one thing about the environment that sticks out to me right away as something I’d never seen before. It looks like a snake at first and I stop in my tracks. I look closer, it is too long to be a snake, and has no head. Really, it looks more like a vegetable than an animal. Is it roots? But they are all over the beach, nowhere near a tree and has a yellow orange color. It is Cochayuyo (a kind of seaweed). It’s edible and gathered by locals each morning. So abundant, it covers the beach with its long arms (about 9ft long, but can be far longer). Apparently not the tastiest thing, it is rich in nutrition and very clearly a staple of the Chilean diet, and often used to make soup. I found it later dried and bundled in a shop; the smell is pungent, tangy, and moldy all at once. When dried, cut, and wrapped neatly, it develops a thin, frosty coating and the color changes from yellow to a deep rust. In that form, it has beauty to it.
Leaving Pichilemu, we head back north to see the sand dunes in Concón. After ‘the dunes’ we drive to Zapallar, a coastal village, for a night’s rest. In the morning we continue north with a quick stop at Totoralillo to see the white sand surf spot. Chile is visually stunning. As we drive along the highway we see vineyards, mountains, and ocean views. Surprisingly, the highway has its own little economy. DIY shops dot the edges of the road, selling everything from marzipan coated pastries to fresh strawberries, cheese in bulk, and fresh baked empanadas. The climate is hot and sunny by day and cold by night. Also, it’s colder in the south, warmer in the north, and hot more inland. It takes us awhile to get our body temperatures under control. We are either underdressed or overdressed.
Valle del Elqui
Our last destination, Valle del Elqui, is a hippie settlement somewhat famous for extraterrestrial visitations, surrounded by massive mountains, with an expansive view of the night sky. We went horseback riding, took a moon bath, visited a Pisco distillery, and learned about the stars in the southern hemisphere. Many of which I had never seen before, since they are not visible in the northern hemisphere. We took a picture of the moon through a telescope and read my tarot cards.
The tarot card reading was dark and complex and made me realize I still have challenges to overcome. Life is a difficult journey and there will be more obstacles that lie ahead. But I also have a lot of positives in my life, and in general the cards showed that my truth and my core are strong and happy. The 10 of cups, (community support, emotional and spiritual fulfillment) and the empress (truth and light). During the tarot reading, an earthquake shook our room. Powerful enough for us to stay completely stunned and silent during it. Life (and traveling) is often unpredictable and full of challenges. The best I can do is stay aware, present, and enjoy it regardless.
Pisco Sour is the drink of Chile, we had one with pretty much every meal. It’s made from Pisco (a strong liquor made from grapes), key lime juice, egg white, simple syrup, crushed ice, and a tiny bit of angostura bitters. Chao!
Hope is wearing the Paige Top in mint gingham.
You can follow her on fashion illustrations on Instagram at @hopengozistudio.