La Región del Huaso: Doñihue, Chile

Last Saturday I had the chance to go to Doñihue, which is a small town south of Santiago and west of Rancagua in the VI Region. This particular area is called La Región del Huaso. A huaso is a Chilean cowboy, and he looks something like this, pictured below before dancing the cueca, Chile’s traditional dance.

A huaso and china (woman from the country) ready to dance the cueca.

Anyway, we went to Doñihue because it’s the only place in Chile where chamantos are made. A chamanto is a woven poncho word by the huaso. In the above picture, the huaso is wearing a manta, which is slightly different because it has a simpler design and is faster to make. Every chamanto is different, and they are worth more than US $3000 because it takes the chamantera (weaver) around six months to weave it. The woman we talked to said she could weave about 7 mm in 8 hours of constant weaving!

The chamantera working on her unfinished chamanto

After learning about the chamantos, we visited other people in Doñihue who have small businesses selling different products. We visited a woman who grows hydroponic lettuce and sells yummy jams made from her orchard of peach trees.

Yummy homemade things for sale

Showing us the roots of the hydroponic lettuce

We visited a man who makes aguardiente, which is a fermented alcohol made from grapes and contains around 55% alcohol. By itself it just kind of tastes like rubbing alcohol, but this man makes different mixtures with manjar (Chilean milk caramel), maqui (a wild berry found in Chile), almonds and cherries. I tried the manjar which I didn’t like because I don’t like manjar, and the maqui, which was so good that I bought a bottle (at around US $3.00 I couldn’t say no!).

Barrels of fermenting grapes for the aguardiente

Then we went and visited a man who makes chicha, which is another type of alcohol made from grapes that has significantly less alcohol. It’s kind of like hard cider and very popular around Chile’s 18 de Septiembre celebrations. He mixed it with toasted wheat to make a drink called chupilca, which was surprisingly delicious. (Thanks to Marmo for reminding me of the name!) The most impressive thing about this place was the fact that this man’s bodega had been built in 1900! It has survived four major earthquakes, including last year’s, which was very damaging to many houses in Doñihue.

Chicha with toasted wheat

Me, under the grape vines

It was interesting to visit a part of Chile that is so close to Santiago yet so completely different. It’s not very touristy (or at least it wasn’t when we went) and it was refreshing to be able to talk to real Chileans about their lives.

The only unfortunate part of the day was what I chose to eat for lunch. I was recommended the pernil, which is a very traditional Chilean cut of pork. I was under the impression that it was like baked ham. No. Not at all. It is a giant leg of pig. If you don’t believe me, check it out below. Besides being ridiculously gigantic and super hard to eat, the worst part was that it still had the skin and you could see hairs on the skin. At least now I know that I do not like pernil. Never again.

Not baked ham.


13 thoughts on “La Región del Huaso: Doñihue, Chile

  1. Hahaha, never again! Those “perniles” can taste nice, with merkén, mmm!
    Something curious, in Central Chile, chicha is made with grapes, and here in the South, we make chicha with apples! Is really good, you should try it some day. Muy bonitas las fotos!

    • I’ve heard that chicha is made with apples in the south. I would love to try it! I love apple cider, so probably I would love chicha made from apples.

  2. I have seen perníl before, anda s you know, I don’t eat meat, so I’m not trying it, but htat one you got looks particularly unfortunate. I love this trip! How mucho f it was coordinated beforehand? I’d love to do it myself. Also, I’ve eaten caquis from the wild before. Is the aguardiente purplish? Great post!

    • Thanks! We set up the tour through Acquabambi, which is a centro de eventos in Doñihue that does the tour. Kind of strange that a centro de eventos does this tour, but it was really good and the guides were VERY knowledgeable. I will send you more info via email when I get back from the beach. The aguardiente is actually clear, looks just like water.

  3. You don’t like manjar!??! *horrified* …. just kidding.

    Pork with hair on it, huh? Somehow I don’t think that would fly in gringolandia with our health department. You’re brave to try it though!

  4. Ooh, that was not a nice picture – especially for me as a vegetarian. Ha!

    Everyone seems to be visiting wineries lately or places where they make alcohol. It must be the time of year.

  5. Hi Abby,
    I am an Australian living in Santa Cruz Bolivia. I used to teach English too and, like you, now have my dream job. I study weaving and was wondering how you arranged to visit with the chamantera. Can you just arrive in town and go to studios where the weavers are at work or do you have contacts there?


  6. Pingback: A Day in the Life « Abby's Line

  7. Hi Abbey, we really enjoyed your blog as our family will be going to Donihue this March 12 th for a wedding. What hotel accomadations can we expect to find there?

    • I’m not really sure. Doñihue is a really small town, so I don’t think there are any hotels there. However, it is quite close to the city of Rancagua, which should have hotels. Sorry I can’t be more help!

  8. Olá! Foste direto de Santiago para Doñihue? Podes sugerir qual transporte mais adequado para um passeio de 1 dia? qual preço médio das chamantas? desculpe as perguntas mas não estou achando muitas informações a respeito do lugar! Obrigada, Simone.

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