Friday, July 26, 2013

Parque Nacional Pan de Azucar

After leaving Caldera, we followed route 5 to Chanaral and then took a minor provincial road Pan de Azucar National Park. Meaning “Sugar Loaf National Park”, it was founded in 1985 and covers an area of about 43,000 hectacres. It is well known for its diversity of sea life primarily the Humboldt penguin which breeds on an island off shore and varieties of cacti, although since it is winter we are not sure what we will see. One thing, with it being off-season we won’t run into many tourists. The road is fairly well maintained and along the way, we started to see a few different types of cacti, some really tall and others more shrub-like and close to the ground. One that interested us looked like a soccer ball, round with medium sized white flowers – very pretty. There is supposed to be a charge at the entrance but when we passed, the ranger station was closed up and no-one in the time we were visiting the park asked us to pay any fee. It crossed our minds that maybe the park is closed for the season, which will mean the campgrounds will also be closed, but we press on. Worse thing is we will have to park on the beach. As we drive we pass a few gorgeous white sand beaches although some had the access road closed off and signs indicating that fauna renovation was underway. Our destination is Caleta Pan de Azucar, the main settlement where there is a couple of campsites with facilities. However again, due to it being winter the only campground open is the one owned by CONAF at Playa Piqueros. With ecology in mind the place operates on solar power. The problem is, it is winter and the cloud cover sticks around most of the time so, no sun, hence no power. It also meant no hot water for showering, brrr!! On the positive side, the place is clean and quiet and each site has its own palapa with a table and benches and a large barbeque pit. However at a cost of over $20.00 for the night, we decide to stay only one night and then “wild-camp” on one of the beaches. Another positive is we have great views of Isla Pan de Azucar where Humboldt penguins hang out and Winston gets a lot of time playing on the beach. Tom barbeques chicken for dinner and we eat early as the sun sets as after dark this place will be pitch black. The next day, we doubled back to check out one beach, Playa Refugio, which other overlanders claim to have “guerilla” camped at. Unfortunately, it looked to us that people were living there in tents and the beach was filthy with mounds of trash so we headed a little way back north to another small cove which had no name. It also had no signs indicating we couldn’t park there and it was clean and trash-free. We found an almost level spot so with just a minimum of effort, one block under each of the left side tires achieved the desired result. We spent the day, checking out some of the walking trails and climbing to the top of a rock to check out some sea lions but tomorrow we will head north again. Although the park is pleasant, it is probably a lot more interesting in the summer months when everything is open, as long as you can stand all the tourists, that is.

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