While known for its volcanic mountaintops, the true treasure of Chile lies not in the peaks – but rather a secret far below. It’s no wonder that some say the country acquired its name from the Quechua word for “the deepest point of the Earth”. Earlier this summer myself and four close friends took a day trip down the the San Jose Mines for a few hours of relaxation – only to have our vacation extended to ten unforgettable days. It’s certainly something to ponder for that next family trip or honeymoon…
See: GHH Fahrzeuge’s new LF-10/11 underground mining LHD with a new efficient drive system. Best viewed from the north boulder, this humming mass of steel and wire is the ideal location to grab a few drinks and have a quiet picnic with friends.
Eat: Lemon Garlic Shrimp Fettuccine with an Avocado and Radish Salad made special and then transported in a six-person wicker-style Edwardian Hamper and Potluck Container.
Drink: Bottle of Batič Chardonnay Riserva 1999 — served before dinner in tin travel cups with a compact cheese plate from cooler.
Do: San José Copper–Gold Mine’s biggest asset is that (for now at least) it’s a fairly unknown travel destination with few rules and a limited population of locals. It’s also extremely dark — and so we took advantage of the location by putting on an after dinner show of fireworks that we purchased in the city earlier in the day. While beautiful, it was the sonic concussions of said joviality that ultimately sealed our fate.
See: The blinding and coarse rubble billowing outward at a fantastic speed before permanently snuffing out any possibility of sunlight – an epic show of nature’s strength. Both a spectacle and dangerous, the experience will surely thrill those seeking a Burning Man-esque adventure.
Eat: Naturally-chilled, lightly dusted remains of Lemon Garlic Shrimp Fettuccine. The stiffness of the now-congealed sauce perfectly compliments the earthy flavor of gravel which hangs in the air, slowly filling our lungs.
Drink: Warm half-full Coke Zero found in dirty crevice (split five ways). A welcome treasure!
Do: There’s nothing more urban millennial than the “escape room” experience – especially when the situation arises in a seemingly organic way. In our case, the first challenge was caring for my friend Steve’s severely broken leg. Can’t say we were the best doctors but we certainly tried our best!
See: While every great tourist attraction has its day-one Eiffel Tower hotspot, a seasoned visitor might be more interested in knowing about the b-side locations. And if you’re lucky enough to spend more than a day in Chile’s San José Copper–Gold Mine, you quickly get to know all the Conciergeries and Moulin Rouges. For me, the ultimate day-three location is Excrement Nook. Located in a quiet, secluded corner of the 540 sq ft mine shelter, this is the perfect place to untether your bowels from the burdens of spoiled shrimp after hours of puckering your cavity from fear of embarrassment. Cleanse your body and mind!
Drink: Urine, cooled.
Do: Day three was all about the group activities! We ran the gamut from “Keep Steve Alert” all the way to “Taking Shifts Screaming Into The Small Vertical Shaft”.
Days Four & Five
Eat: Small, soft lump found between several stones. Possibly an insect (free protein!) Or possibly some leftover shrimp (a classic feast!)… Absolutely delicious.
Drink: Urine, warm.
Do: Mourn Steve.
Day Six & Seven
See: Like the Northern Lights in fall, they say that day six is the best time of year to observe the tar-black abyss of the San José Copper–Gold Mine as it gazes back at you, seemingly sentient with malice. If able, also try to check out Linda’s veins, pulsing with silent deception.
Drink: Urine, warm.
Do: If group dynamics are starting to wear you down, a fun one-person exercise is to mentally picture every life-event that led you to this moment. In doing so, you will be able to properly identify which of your current companions wronged you in a way that resulted in your current situation. Also: Body modification is all the rage. Take a large stone to your knuckles in an effort to remind yourself that you’re still human.
Do: If traveling in numbers, it’s high time you split off into groups for fun day trips. For example, Jacob and Jennifer began digging hurriedly at the crumbled entrance while I enjoyed some down time with Linda and Steve – recently freed from the confines of mortality.
See: While a bit of a trek, the view atop the sharp mound near the crumbled entrance is a great location to view Linda and Steve in their slumped form. If you catch this majesty at just the right time of day, you’ll notice that their faces are actually smiling and quite relieved. Sometimes they even wink — as if to say “I’m glad this happened.”
Eat: Jacob, no longer afraid.
Do: WHERE’S JENNIFER?? WHAT AGENDA DOES SHE PURSUE IN THIS FOREVER DARKNESS?
See: It was both a relief and bittersweet when me and the gang finally heard the sounds of the rescue excavation. Who knew so much can happen in so little time?
Drink: Blood, quickly and discreet.
Do: Just like Vegas, what happens in the San José Copper–Gold Mine stays in the San José Copper–Gold Mine – and so our final day was spent agreeing on keeping any and all misdeeds amongst our group so that only the darkness would truly know us. A good vacation brings friends together, and thanks to those ten days I’ve never felt closer to my fabulous group.