Friday, July 12, 2013
By the time we left Valle del Encanto it was two o’clock in the afternoon and after checking our maps and guides, we decided to get back on Route 5 but then take a loop road around the coast to Tongoy. Located on the coast, we hoped we would find parking for the night and a nice stretch of beach for Winston. When we arrived at around 5pm, we encountered this amazing red beach. Yes, red, with so many different sea birds most of which we couldn’t identify either on the shore or floating in the water. We stopped off at the naval guard station, which serves as a tsunami evacuation center and chatted with a very kind officer (he had all kinds of medals on his uniform) who told us he was in charge of the station. He pointed out some places close by on the beach where we could park overnight and also offered the kitchen, bathroom and shower facilities for us to use in the station. He also told us that the beach is red because certain currents in the ocean which trap a type of algae which then gets swept by the tides into the bay. This also explained the wide variety of sea birds who feed and I have to say some of the most enormous pelicans we have ever found. After parking, we walked Winston along the beach to the fish market on the pier. This is where the numerous fishing boats come to sell their daily catches either to restaurants, buyers from the nearby large city of La Serena or to individuals – like us. We purchased some crab, a kilo of cracked and a kilo of claws (4lb total) for a mere $17.00. With dinner taken care of, we wandered back to the motorhome, photographing some of the incredibly large pelicans which were perched on rocks and rooftops. Unfortunately these were the highlights of Tongoy. The town is very poor and very dirty. The beach is completely littered with trash, old fish netting and whatever else the tides swept in. Too bad really because with a little money this could be a beautiful bay. We parked by the beach, close to the naval station and it was ok except for drunks passing by hassling us for money until we closed the door for the night. After that it stayed quiet. The next morning, I got up early to walk Winston. Watching the ocean changing colors in the reflecting sun is splendid and I never tire of watching. In addition, Winston gets to run and play before too many people are around. But again, the walk along the beach appalled me; there is just so much garbage, what a shame. Instead I watched the ocean and the thousands of birds milling overhead waiting for the fishing boats to return. Feed time in paradise for them. Before leaving we went back to the wharf and purchased some freshly caught Chilean Sea Bass that they obligingly filleted for us. We have dinner for tonight. Tonight we hope to be in Vicuna, the main city in the Elqui Valley but to get there we need to pass the large city of La Serena and shop for groceries. It is a long drive but with luck we should make it.