Chile is a remarkable country in that it is over 4,000 kms long but only averages about 177 kms wide from the Pacific coast to its border with Argentina along the Andes mountains. The long north-south stretch makes for an incredibly diverse geography with many different ecosystems and weather systems depending on where you are. The super short east-west axis means that no matter where you are you’re never very far from the sea or the mountains… and after some time in the mountains we decided it was time to head to the sea, only a short drive away across the length of the country.
We first arrived near sunset and it was a beautiful sight. The huge surf was pounding at the end of a long, uninterrupted beach, with the sun glowing a beautiful orangey-pink beyond. At this point we were still getting to know Poncho, our funny beetle, so we were also happy that he had made it across the country and to the coast without any issues at all.
The first place at which we ended up near the town of Curepto had wonderful beach camping facilities that they had just finished building about twenty days before, and it was all for free! We made friends with Jose, the man in charge of maintaining the facilities, and he was even kind enough to make sure the showers were unlocked for us to use and to make sure there was potable water for us, which was always quite a challenge to find in middle Chile due to extreme water shortages. It was such a nice place with a nice vibe that we spent a couple of days walking the sandy beaches (the black sand was too hot for bare feet!), driving the dusty local roads, and just enjoying the beauty and tranquility of it all.
We even headed into the local town of Curepto to send some mail, two big gringos wandering the streets at the height of the day, back and forth, and asking about half the town where the post office was. We finally found it out back behind a small auto repair/accessory shop where a man and his daughters were selling headlight bulbs and other knick knacks. We paid to have the letter shipped, and we even got a receipt, but we’re skeptical that it will ever arrive in Canada given just how improvised the whole operation seemed. Everybody was very kind and friendly though, and we capped off our experience with a super delicious seafood empanada and beer at the home of Jose while entertaining his toddler.
On one occasion we followed a gigantic truck with a camping topper down a long road, criticizing the ridiculousness of the size of the rig as it took down trees all the way and was way too big to let us pass. Once we were able to get around the truck and pulled up to a beautiful beach, again with great camping spots, Elliott proceeded to back Poncho the beetle directly into a sand hole and got us stuck! Ironically the big truck pulled up and immediately helped us push out our little beetle, which made us feel a little ashamed yet also very grateful at the same time. Once that was finished after a matter of about 3 minutes, the truck trudged down along the beach, and… got stuck itself about 20 metres away! The young couple inside took it in stride though, and with their three kids cackling at the hilarity of the situation they dug themselves out for over an hour to no avail… the truck was just too big and too heavy to get out of the loose sand. In Chile, as in many countries, help was just a phone call away, and after the man chatted with somebody on his cellphone for a few minutes a tractor appeared out of nowhere and helped to pull them out of the sand. For the rest of the night they stayed on the same road we did, showing that even without a 4×4 our little Poncho can get us many of the same places that other people can get to!
For the next week or so it was much of the same… making our way down the coast from town to town, camping out on the beach with nothing but friendly smiles from locals. Sunsets, sand, big waves and cold water (meaning swimming wasn’t an option unfortunately) were what made up our days, with a visit to to the nearby towns for groceries and empanadas now and then too.
Sometimes we had misty mornings…
And sometimes there were crowds…
But we were always warm and cozy inside our tent.
One evening as we were cooking dinner a smiling man greeted us and invited us up to his “Casa Atipika” the next day for showers, laundry, or whatever we needed. He seemed so kind and his offer so sincere that we couldn’t help but pop by the next day to say hello. It turns out the man, Arnuad, runs a really cute hostel/cabins that he built from the ground up, and he welcomed us with open arms. We had access to the promised shower and laundry (it was glorious), and after an impromptu run for fresh strawberries for the next morning’s strawberry jam, we spent the evening with his mother from France, two German volunteers, a guest from Brazil, and an entire family of friendly people over a lovely dinner and great conversation in multiple languages. Everybody got something a little different out of the evening, including the content of the conversation, but it was a very lovely evening and a real highlight of our time at the coast. Breakfast the next morning was more of the same, with fresh strawberry jam to top it all off. We tried to pay Arnaud with money or labour, but he simply wouldn’t accept anything and sent us on our way with a hug and a smile… with an open invitation to return from Arnaud, we very well might be back again near the end of our trip!
But for now we are headed further south, with a couple more east-west bounces across Chile likely too, and our time at the coast has given us the rest and relaxation we need to face what comes next!