Travels in Northern Chile
Travelling from Santiago, we have mostly followed the coastline, missing the popular destinations of Valpariso and Vina del Mar and staying in more off the beaten track. Whilst we followed Pan American Highway 5 that runs the length of Chile, we ocassionally veered off onto secondary "sealed" or dirt roads. A highlight was an ecotourism capsite down a sandy steep track in a secluded bay that was close to heaven. An afternoon spent reading on the pebbled beach with the crashing waves, seagull cries followed by chilled Chilean chardonnay accompanying the chicken bbq and a stunning starlit sky…it was difficult to leave the next day!
We continued with the Pacific Ocean to our left and mountainous desert scenery becoming less green and lush and more sandy, cactus and rock filled. The odd glimpse of snow peaked mountins and the cooling long descents into river valleys breaking the uniformity.
La Serena and Coquimbo was the destination of our rest day, the former a more "sophisticated" beach holiday resort with an attractive central plaza, pedestrianised shopping area and beachfront lined with hotels and restaurants. A 10km cycle path (almost) links the 2 towns and Coquimbo is built up from the fishing industry and more low key. Heading out of Coquimbo on Hway 5 and in sea mist we had an ascent of 575km over 14km – a thoroughly enjoyable ride, starting with rolling hills and then the ascent, in such thick mist that one couldnt quite grasp the extent of the climb, or where the road twisted and turned up and over the pass. Where there´s an up there´s always a down and as we descended it was like a different day, beautiful and sunny and a tailwind! As in any day, the exhiliration and moods change as the terrain or winds change and we turned off the highway onto a jutted dirt track, it was straight into a headwind…I wasnt having fun anymore…..
And then what a characterful spot – Puente de Choros is known for its fishing, eie seafood and scuba diving (in season, rather chilly at the moment) – and we were staying in a very comfortable campsite with each site with its on en-suite (a few tents to a site)!
We were continued on relatively unchartered territory following the coastline and avoiding Hway5, we had sand that defeated the best of the cyclists, sealed roads that were better than many tarred roads, and jutted rocky gravel roads, leading us into a valley that has mined for centuries, and our destination ghost town El Higuero…not a wise idea to visit the cemetry with its graves looted for valuables, leaving remains visible….This definitely classifies as the weirdest campsite to date!
The route took us further into the mining valley, passed abandoned mines and functioning mines, attracting some curious looks from the miners and families. There were some monster climbs (I chose a 4 wheel option for most of these) and then some amazing descents (exhilirating back on 2 wheels) back down to the coast and more beautiful, but very windy beaches…Tres Playitas…only a few could brave the chilly waters…and have I mentioned the wind….
Posted By Natasha Barker