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Published: January 4th 2014
Finally we left the drier than dry dusty desert landscapes behind, and took direction towards the coast. Even though, the coast is also desert in Northern Chile, but at least there is the fresh ocean air instead of just dust. We boarded a bus to the town of Copiapó (which btw is where those 33 miners were trapped and then rescued three years ago), but never made it there, because in the course of our bus journey, it became apparent that regarding our plans to visit Pan de Azucar national park, it would make much more sense to get off in the town of Chañaral instead. Only we worried a bit whether we would find a place to sleep in that small town arriving quite late in the evening, so we decided that once the bus would reach Chañaral, we would see if the town looks like it has any hotels, and make the decision based on that. We knew nothing about Chañaral based on our guidebook, but our concerns were absolutely unnecessary, as it turned out to be quite a tourist town with lots of hotels, and we found a quite nice place to sleep within 10 minutes.
morning we had a ride to the national park arranged by the B&B. The park consists of a beautiful seaside with lovely rocky beaches and an island a bit further on the sea, which is inhabited by Humboldt penguins. We had plans to take a 9km hike our Rough Guide mentioned, but never really figured out where that was in the park, or whether it actually even existed, so we ended up having a very chill day walking along the beach, and taking a boat trip to the island. It felt great just to be by the sea after all that desert, and we saw lots of cute penguins, sea otters, sea lions, jelly fish, and possibly few dolphins from a distance.
We didn’t stay in Chañaral much longer, but moved on already the next morning to get to La Serena, where we planned to spend New Year’s Eve, and visit another island of penguins. La Serena is a beach town too, even if bigger than Chañaral, and it could have been an ok place to spend New Year’s. We didn’t however like our hostel, and as La Serena didn’t seem so exciting either, we decided to move on
to spend NYE in a big city. But first we spent one day on the beach and a second visiting Isla de Damas. The beaches in Chile are very beautiful with bright turquois water and great waves, but unfortunately there is also a cold ocean stream which makes the water colder than what we have in Finland in the summer time, so no swimming for us, but at least enjoying the sun with books on the sand.
We had some suspicions that our day trip to Isla de Damas might be much of a repetition of our penguin spotting trip in Chañaral, but luckily that wasn’t the case. Isla de Damas had much more dramatic landscape, more turquoise waters, more wildlife, and most importantly, we got to observe a pack of dolphins jumping around next to our boat, which was probably the highlight of the day J The next day we then left for New Year Eve celebration in the capital of Chile, Santiago.
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