Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Coal Miner's Cocktails; Two Aussies on Vacation in Chile Open a Bar and the Rest Is History

Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Coal Miner's Cocktails; Two Aussies on Vacation in Chile Open a Bar and the Rest Is History

Article excerpt

Byline: Cas Garvey cas.garvey@dailymercury.com.au

POURING gin he's distilled himself over cubes of ice for a weary traveller in Puerto Natales, Chile, Matt Oberg is a far cry from the mines of the Bowen Basin and hometown Mackay.

But it's a reality he and girlfriend Kiera Shiels have been living the past three and a half years, with their tiny bar fast becoming known.

"Two Australians on vacation tossed their day jobs to distill whiskey and gin at the end of the world. With bonhomie to spare, their bar caters to locals and travellers alike with a rotating menu of gorgeous cocktails", The Lonely Planet guide raves, listing Last Hope Distillery a 'top choice' in the region.

So how did a former Mackay North student end up running his own bar in a small Chilean town?

"When we came up with the idea of building a distillery in Puerto Natales, we had no experience in any aspect of the idea," Matt says.

"We'd never distilled anything, never brewed anything, never built anything, never owned our own business, never lived in a foreign country, never even worked in a bar and we didn't speak Spanish. We've learnt almost everything as we go."

The couple's original plan was a year-long South American holiday.

"We wanted to learn another language, see new places, climb mountains, experience living in another culture, meet different people and ultimately challenge ourselves to a much greater extent than we had been," Kiera writes on the couple's blog.

"We decided on Santiago, Chile, as our first destination for a number of reasons including that we could learn Spanish; it had a major international airport from which we could fly almost anywhere; it had a climate so varied that it was less than 2 hours from beaches in summer and ski slopes in winter; it was relatively safe; and it had the most number of industry contacts that we knew so we'd have the best chance of getting jobs."

A month after arriving in Chile, Matt and Kiera ventured all the way down to Patagonia, Chile's southern-

most region, to explore its landscapes - and climb more mountains -before the weather turned too bad for winter. …

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