We had made arrangements to visit the Parral District north of Concepcion, to attend the Cauquenes branch and have a meeting with the district Self Reliance committee. Sunday morning we got up early for the two-hour drive.
It is the time of year for stands along the side of the road selling Mote con Huesillo, the boiled grain, syrup and sun-dried peach drink that Chileans love. We passed them all by.
In Chile there are two main mountain ranges, the Andean cordillera and the cordillera de la costa, between the Andes and the coast. We were driving the Ruta de la Costa, the main highway between Route 5 and the Ruta de la Playa, the coast highway.
We shared the highway with these horse-drawn carts.
Quirihue, halfway between Concepcion and Cauquenes
Driving into Cauquenes, a town of about 38,000 in the Maule region of Chile.
We attended the Cauquenes branch. The Parral District presidency was also in attendance. All adults and youth gathered for a meeting to answer questions about the Perpetual Education Fund. Being far from population centers and academic institutions, many members in Cauquenes feel left out of the opportunities available to others. We brought materials for those in Cauquenes and Parral who are more interested in self-employment.
Following the meeting, we located the only hotel we could find in Cauquenes, the Hotel Maule, with what appeared to be a 1930's facade.
Inside was rather quaint, but clean.
The decor had undergone numerous revisions over the decades. The hotel boasted quite a few rooms, and a gated estacionamiento (parking lot) down the street and around the corner. The concierge said many foreign guests stay at this hotel, which includes a dining room.
All was forgiven when we found the king-size bed was comfortable, and that we were the only guests in the hotel. Otherwise the walls were paper-thin, and it might have been a different story. Poor Elder Kennington needed as much rest as he could get. He was sleeping a lot lately, following a sore throat and cold symptoms, and several days with red cheeks, which we found were apparently caused by the Parvovirus 19, a usually childhood illness called slapped cheek disease. It is taking him a long time to recover.
After the nap we drove 40 minutes to Parral due east, passing across the Rio Cauquenes. The Cauqui were an indigenous group given that name by the Inca, and called Cauquenes by the Spaniards.
The soil is drier here than it is farther south. We passed pastures of horses . . .
. . . and sheep. There is a thriving wool yarn industry in Cauquenes.
We remembered it was Christmas season because of Santa sitting on an ancient combine.
The Parral district chapel. Parral is about the same size as Cauquenes, and more rural. More people here wear the native huasa dress, especially the men, who wear the wide-brimmed huasa hats.
After our return trip to Cauquenes and a night's sleep in the Hotel Maule, we picked up a set of four missionary sisters to take to the desayuno, zone breakfast provided by the Member and Leadership Support senior missionaries, the Scholes. The landmark to guide us to their house was the Iglesia San Alfonso, St. Alphonsus' Catholic church.
The missionary sisters' casita along the sunwashed streets of Cauquenes.
The Scholes live in this two-story mansion, the top floor of which they don't even use. Elder Kennington kept reminding me to be thankful for our tiny apartment in Concepcion.
They even have a dining room with a table and chairs.
Elder Scholes, who is now the Cauquenes Centro branch president, Hermana Scholes (not in this picture), and the young hermanas making pancakes, fruit salad, whipped cream, and scrambled eggs in their giant kitchen. It was the best breakfast I've had in a long time.
There was a great group of about 16 elders and hermanas enjoying breakfast. Elder Scholes says that no matter how much food they have, it will all be gone.
Monday morning we drove back to Parral in order to take Ruta 5 to Concepcion. We passed these beehive-shaped dryers surrounded with leña, firewood, and clouds of grayish-white smoke. We could not smell anything, so we don't know what was being smoked or dried.
A pretty tree-lined avenue outside Parral. Parral is notable for the main highway which runs through it, making three 90-degree turns and passing by the rodeo grounds.
The main plaza is beautiful this time of year.
Elder and Hna. Mora, who serve as counselors to the Concepcion Mission president, wanted us to stop by and visit their home, which is decorated for Christmas. Their son attends BYU Idaho, and they miss him a great deal.
Elder Mora is a retired carabinero who plays many musical instruments in the carabinero band, as did his father, grandfather, and uncles. His display of firearms and woodwinds is a sight to behold. He also collects vintage cameras.
Back in Concepcion, Bro. Verdugo, the Institute director, gave us this gingerbread house made by his multi-talented and very thoughtful wife.
The Christmas ferias continue one after another in the main Concepcion plaza. I couldn't resist these puffy wool felted angels. Jon Snider, don't be afraid. Just imagine they have noses and mouths. These cost $4 or $5 mil each, about eight or nine US dollars.
Also these felted nativity scenes.
I had to get this one for the Joseph figure and the wooly sheep. This set cost $12 mil pesos, about $20 at the current exchange rate.
At our choir practice, Hna. Solange banished these lovely gringa sisters to the side of the chapel. Since they are all over 6 feet tall, they not only block the view of all the shorter sisters, they block the congregation's view of the screen where a video will be shown. They were good-natured about it. The extremely tall gringo elders, of course, are likewise lined up along the sides of the regular choir seats. The performance is December 20th.