Typically Santiago was covered in cloud when I awoke early to catch the tourist bus to Sewell. After Mendoza i was desperate to see more of the Andes and I was torn between going to Cajon del Maipo, which looked beautiful but difficult to get to and Sewell. I opted for Sewell because it was a ghost town and I wanted to see ghosts.
So I jumped in an uber which arrived quickly despite my worries of not having an uber available at that time on a Sunday morning and i waited outside of the Starbucks as instructed. It was cold and there were a couple of other tourist busses, none of whom wanted me to join their tour. Soon a man came and found me and he did want me on his tour, at least I think as the conservation was in Spanish and i didn’t really know what was happening. He addressed everyone in Spanish and soon we were off. I was a little disconcerted as I was promised and English speaking guide but I thought I would role with it.
The bus journey to the site was about three hours. We travelled to a town called Rancagua. Where a bunch more people got on the bus and also did our actual guide who did speak English. It was only when we arrived at the town that I realised I was the only person speaking English so she said everything twice just for the benefit of me.
There was another hour to travel to the town and this is where it started to get beautiful. As we climbed the most started to clear and blue skies appeared. The mountains for higher and we drove along the private road into the mine. This is exclusively used by mining traffic.
It was at this point that I realised Sewell is actually above a working mine, El Teniente. It is the worlds largest underground copper mine with over 3000 kilometres of underground tunnels. The whole operation is huge and it makes for an interesting setting with the industry set against the natural beauty of the mountains.
After driving past all of the mining operation we finally arrived at the town. It was finally abandoned in the 80s. Originally constructed for the minters and their families, and for a long time it had the best facilities in Chile, it became easier for people to live in Rancagua after the construction of the road in the 1960s, especially with the harsh environments at 2000 metres. Now it has been particularly reconstructed by the mining company and doing tours via the company is the only way to visit as it is all private property.
We were treated to a video of old footage of people living in the town and then started the tour.
There were three types of citizens in the town. The US who owned the company initially, it is now in Chillen hands after being nationalised, the engineers and then the Chilean workers. This Pool is in a building that was exclusive to the US workers.
After seeing the main building we were shown around the town. You can see how high up the town is in relation to the mountains. You might also notice a lack of roads and this is because there were none. At time of construction it was not possible to get cars up this high so the town centred around a main set of steps and this is where the population met and interacted.
I also took some more arty photos.
We were invited to look at how the miners would have lived in the 60s.
And walked more around the town. As you can see, much of it is still in ruins.
They also have a bowling alley.
And there is a museum. All is in Spanish so I didn’t really read much about the items. I did take photos of some pretty metals.
After which we headed back to Rancagua to have lunch. A late lunch as it was 4pm by this stage. I did think it was pointless but it gave me the change to talk to some people. I met Joselyn, a Mexican who lived in Valparaiso, and she offered to give me a tour when I arrived there the next day.
So after lunch we headed back to Santiago and I prepared to move on her again.