Monday, July 8, 2013

Some coastal towns of Norte Chico, Chile

In lieu of taking route 5, the main highway in Chile and also the one termed “The Panamericana”; we are going to stay on route 1, the coastal road as much as possible. Leaving Algarrobo, we passed through the pretty towns of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, where we stopped for lunch and let Winston run on the beach. Due to the geographical topography of Chile, the coast road is really just a narrow strip with the ocean on one side and the 5,000 foot (1,200 meters) mountain range directly to the right. Our stop for the night was at Quintay on the Playa Grande beach. It was very quiet with only some houses in the distant. Unfortunately, the road is really steep entering to the playa and we have to leave the same way but we have the place to ourselves and Winston gets to run. There is a small shrine set into a nearby cliff and several cars come by with people laying small bunches of flowers and gifts around it but after sunset, which because we are on the west coast is magnificent, no-one ventured down the steep road and we had a quiet night. The next day was much the same. The coastline is very similar to Route 1 in California with lots of sandy bays and rocky inlets. The big difference is the coastal range which is very high. Where the mountains reach the ocean, the road steeply veers inland and then equally steeply heads back to the ocean. The following night we stop at Maitencillo. This is a more upscale town set in a wide bay with a beautiful stretch of sandy beach. There are a few hotels and some very nice homes overlooking the ocean which we surmise is probably busy in season but now is very quiet with most of the houses boarded up and only a few residents walking by. The evening is clear and we pull out our gas barbeque to cook dinner. Watching the sun set as our steaks sizzled on the grill and Winston ran and chased errant gulls who dared to venture too close was great fun. Our third day on the road was disappointing. We left Route 1 to go inland onto highway 5. We had read about some supposedly beautiful thermal pools at Socos. We were hoping to stay at Termas de Socos for a couple of days and soak in the thermal pools but the campground is only open December through April and although the hotel was open there was no place to park the motorhome and dogs were not allowed inside the hotel. In addition Lonely Planet has it wrong. The place is not beautiful and the thermal spa “pools” are really just indoor baths, some with Jacuzzi style jets so they qualify for “whirlpool” status. We were told we could use the baths if we wanted but after looking at them it didn’t seem worth our while. We do want to shower however so we go back to the main road and stop at the Copec gas station. This is a big truck stop style station and offers excellent hot shower for 500 pesos (about $1.00). The showers in these stations are serviced and clean with individual small private rooms consisting of a changing area and shower room. There is a lady who takes the money and then cleans the room afterwards. This is as good a place as any for the night and after nightfall was surprisingly quiet.

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