solar PV – Wincayaren Hostal

solar PV – Wincayaren Hostal 150 150 vidacycle


We worked in collaboration with Jorge, from Parque Educativo Solar, to provide Wincayaren Hostal with a solution for their electricity generation. Jorge installed two solar panels on their roof, along with an inverter to provide AC electricity for the whole building. The two panels mean that that hostel’s electricity bills are zero due to surplus electricity generation being fed back into the grid*.

*the panels generate large amounts of surplus electricity during the day in Summer months, this is fed into the grid and causes the electricity meter to become negative. At night and on cloudier days the hostal does use electricity from the grid, however over time their net usage is negative on the meter, more electricity is being put into the grid than taken out so they aren’t charged anything.



Wincayaren is a lovely eco-hostel located in Linares, a charming city that sits at the base of the Andes. Find out more about staying there on the website:


Parque Educativo Solar Energy

Parque Educativo Solar Energy 150 150 vidacycle

Based nearby in Linares is Parque Educativo Solar, established by Jorge. What started as a backyard project has morphed into a full on Sustainability Education Centre, providing solar energy workshops and products for both local people and international visitors.


The Centre showcases a variety of low-tech uses of the endless sun’s rays, as well as simple installations using PhotoVoltaic (PV) solar panels to generate electricity. Wandering through the Park there are an array of indigenous trees like the Quillay, Peumo, and  Araucana, plus a circle of tree stumps surrounded by lavender for a moment of calm. See below for more info on the dehydrator, on-grid and off-grid solar systems and eco-toilet.


On-grid: This double solar panel installation is connected to an inverter (in the red box) that converts the DC electricity produced by the PV cells into AC for use in the house. Jorge generates all the electricity he needs in this way, and most days has surplus which he supplies back to the grid. This means he has no electricity bill and, after the law changes in the next year, the energy companies will be paying him for the electricity he puts into the grid.


Off-grid: There is a PV solar panel connected to a Dankoff slow pump which pumps the water up from his well into the storage tank above.

Dehydrator & Solar Oven: Jorge has made many of these dehydrators for people in the Maule Region, they effectively retain heat and provide ample ventilation for optimal dehydration.

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The organic seedbank is an invaluable store of seeds from organic plants grown locally.


The eco-toilets use Vetiver grasses to clean the water from the toilet after the solids have been removed.


and of course there are plenty of hammocks for relaxing…



experience 150 150 vidacycle


Andrew came to Chile for a few weeks in September. He spent some time in Santiago, then a few weeks working on a farm in the Andes further North and then 7 days at Fundo Meza. We wanted to give him a good experience of the life here so he helped prune the olives, walked up to Tabontinaja – the highest point around – and gained some knowledge of the wine-making process over at the neighbouring Gillmore winery. Thanks for all your help Andrew!




wonder hikes

wonder hikes 150 150 vidacycle

We recently did the one day hike, Cascada del Arcoiris, offered by Frank of Costa y Cumbre Tours. It was a wonderful day following a cowboy trail through the vast landscape of the Andes, the trail is a hidden gem with not a soul in sight and multiple huge waterfalls, one of which we swam in. Wildly remote and with dominating scenery this is an incredible journey – we recommend Frank’s tours highly. He specialises in journeys that are off the beaten trail and have a little something extra special, check out his website for more info and details of the many different hikes he offers. Hopefully we will head to the sand dunes in Constitución next.



winemaker 150 150 vidacycle

Andres Sanchez, the winemaker at Gillmore winery – our neighbours in the Loncomilla Valley, gave us the ultimate wine-tasting. We popped by just as he was in the laboratory determining the final blends for the 2010 reds before they are bottled in the next few weeks. It was such a treat to hear the award-winning winemaker talk about how these wines will taste after being in the bottle for a few years. The Carignan was very young and had some serious energy in your mouth, according to Andres this ensures it will develop a full flavour as it ages in the bottle.

It was also fun to see the science laboratory where the delicate blending happens.

The Cordillera

The Cordillera 150 150 vidacycle

Rising before dawn has its merits. In under two hours we had parked not far from the Argentine border and were high up in the Andes beginning our trek along the Maule River in the cool of morning. Above the tree line in a barren basalt landscape, the unusual spikey rock outcroppings have names likening them to ‘Muela de Diabolo’ the ‘Devil’s Molar’. Widely varying colours in the rocky landscape, reveal the degrees of heat and composition of volcanic origin.  Tufts of pampas grass cover the ground and little surprises of vibrant purple, yellows, oranges, pinks come from the wildflowers surviving in this dry antipodean mid-summer.

As the day heats up we’re cooled by the sound of the rushing Maule at our side as we snake ever higher along the path to find the ‘hidden waterfall‘  promised in the description on Frank’s website. Transplanted from a small village in Germany, our guide Frank is married to a Chilean and has established his popular trekking company in Talca (40 minutes from Fundo Meza). As it turns out there are several hidden waterfalls – some so huge their thunder reaches you before their clear turquoise and white froth registers. One of the beauties of this once molten basalt landscape is that it gives off no sediment and the waters run so clear.

By mid-day we reached the base of a most spectacular waterfall and Frank set out our picnic lunch amongst some large boulders.  The six trekkers enjoyed our break in front of this magnificent wall of water, listening to Frank’s tales of watching young Condors learning to fly from the top of the waterfall, being coaxed and overseen by their parents—who we suppose were ready to swoop and catch their fledglings if they faltered.

Our next stop is at the top of a cascada where we can cool off in the small pool that swirls around before sending its water over the edge. Not as dangerous as it sounds! We finished our hike traversing over a field of basalt back to the van. Our route home was back down the newly completed (two months) Paso Pehuenche, that crosses over the Andes between Chile and Argentina from Talca. 

Altos de Lircay National Reserve

Altos de Lircay National Reserve 150 150 vidacycle

The Altos de Lircay national reserve is one of the finest in central Chile, and is just a 2 hour drive from Fundo Meza. The reserve boasts 12,163 hectares with multiple trekking routes,  exhilarating mountain scenery, and a strong Conaf infrastructure for camping sites, route details, and registration. The 2 treks below are just a sample of the vast array that the park has to offer

Travel: Altos de Lircay National Reserve can be reached by car or bus. It is 125 km from Fundo Meza (a 2 hour drive). Alternatively, you can get a bus from Talca bus terminal to Vilches Alto, where the final stop is the entrance to the reserve. The bus costs between 3,500-5,500 pesos depending on the service you take, and takes 1hour 30 minutes from Talca. Return buses to Talca depart from Vilches Alto at 0700, 0900, 1200, 1400 and 1800, but it is best to check at the Conaf hut what time the final bus leaves, as this schedule can change.

Accommodation: There are several camping sites throughout the reserve. When you enter, ask for a map and details at the Conaf hut. There are also a limited number of hostels in Vilches Alto, at the entrance to the reserve, if camping doesn’t take your fancy.

Entry fee: Most national reserves and national parks in Chile have a small entry fee, to be paid when you register with the Conaf at the park entrance. They are usually extremely helpful and readily offer advice on routes, camp sites, and weather conditions, so be sure to ask plenty of questions! Altos de Lircay costs 3,500 pesos for a non-Chilean (2,000 for Chilean national), and 600 pesos for a child.

Useful links: Altos de Lircay park website:

Conaf website:


Visit Greater Chile

Visit Greater Chile 150 150 vidacycle

A few photos Katherine and her friend took whilst travelling further South in Chile, a wildly different landscape from the Central Region and just as beautiful.

Mountain Trail

Mountain Trail 150 150 vidacycle

This route takes you up the highest southerly peak that can be seen from the main house, weaving along disused logging roads through the verdant pine forests. Emerging from the pines, you traverse the ridge with excellent views to the west, and then dip back down into the forest and across the creek.

Walk Statistics

Distance: 10.6 km

Time: 4hrs 10 mins.

Ascent: 428 m


Beginning at the main house, walk towards the beehives, through the olive trees. Cross over the fence to the right of the stand of trees that is next to the beehives. Once on the other side of the fence, turn right (West), and follow the small path running along the fence-line downhill. When this path branches  in two, take the left turn that levels out and widens, leading you into the pine trees, rather than continuing on the small trail downhill. (NB this trail running along the fence leads down to the creek, where there is a refreshing swimming hole and sandy bank. Good to remember for when you return from your walk!) This path curves around the perimeter of the hill. When you come to a branch in the path on your right, follow this downhill to the creek.

Cross over the creek at the stepping stones and walk up the bank on the other side. When you come back to a clear path, turn left and follow it until the path branches in four. Take the left hand trail, and cross the small stream that feeds into the pond that is on your left. Climb up the bank, and turn right at the broad path. Follow this path through the pine forest, continuing straight on until you emerge onto a dirt road.


Turn right along the road and continue straight. Eventually the road leads you past a disused quarry on your right. The quarry is in three main sections. Follow the road until you reach the end of the third section, and the space along the road narrows again.

Here there is a sharp left turn that takes you off the main road and back into the pine trees. This left turning can be easily missed. As a marker, at the end of the quarry where you will turn left, there is another, more visible, path that branches right. If, having passed the quarry, the dirt road begins to climb steeply, then you have missed the turning and gone too far.


After turning left off the dirt road, follow this forest trail through the trees, as you begin to ascend the westerly hillside. Turn right at the first and second forks in the road, continuing your ascent. After this, when you come to a T-junction, follow the road to the right and uphill. At the second junction, leave the road and continue walking straight uphill, due East through the trees. (If you turn left at this junction, the road curves to the south and then ends at a steep ravine, where you can go no further.) When you come to the edge of the planted pine trees, there is a narrow track that curves around the cleared cliff-face, then leads you back into pine trees on the eastern face. This is the best view North, looking down into the Valle Botacura. Here it is possible to leave the track and cut straight uphill, through the thick bush to the peak, for views south and west towards Huerte Maule.

Then return to this narrow track.


When the track re-enters the pines, continue walking east until you come upon a dirt logging road again, which leads you along the ridge with clear views to the west and back at the hilltop you just climbed. Turn left on this road, following it downhill. Passing the first junction, continue straight on, downhill. After the road makes a hairpin turn, take the first left that leads you off the dirt road onto a grassier track. Follow this path downhill through the pines, until you re-emerge on the dirt road. Turn left onto this dirt road, and follow it around the hill, to where you first emerged onto the road in Stage 1 (before reaching the quarry). Turn right, and walk back along this path through the pines, across the stream with the pond now on your right, across the creek as before, through the trees and up to the property fence. Here you can either walk back up to the beehives and cross the fence, or turn left and follow the fence downhill to the creek. At the creek, if you walk about 100 meters upstream, there is a pleasant pool for a refreshing swim, and sandy bank to dry off in the sun.

Visit Maule Region

Visit Maule Region 150 150 vidacycle

Loncomilla Valley is located in the Maule Region, Region 7, in central Chile.


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