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Thank you very much for the information, Wink and Jose. I thought this may very well be the case but wanted to confirm. Never mind us - I feel sad for the people in these towns losing such beautiful historical buildings and, of course, their homes and crops. We are in Chile for about six weeks total and have many other places to see - of course we wanted to visit this interesting region, but not if it isn't feasible.
Wink, thank you very much for your recommendations...will definitely look into the areas you mentioned =) Andrea