This was the best part of the trip for me. It was great as you’ll hopefully be able to see in the pictures. But first, I have to add the details that may bore you but things I want to remember.
We rode to Chiopio and decided that we were going to rent a car so we could ride up the Andes Mountain to see a national park called Nevado Tres Cruces. So, we get off the bus and the rental car place is closed for lunch. We decide to get food ourselves. I don’t know if I have written this before but the Chileans love “completos” which are hot dogs! They put heavy doses of tomatoes, avocado, and mayonaise on them. I had not had one yet but Mom and I decided to go for it. Glad I tried it but won’t be having another one. Here’s a picture.
After lunch the rental car store opened and we rented a car. Well, actually, a truck. They told us it was necessary to have a truck to drive up the mountain. That seemed OK until they started telling us there were 2 extra tires in the back, several empty gas tanks we needed to fill because there was nothing or noone out there, chains for the tires, and a shovel in case we got stuck. I looked at Dad and thought this may not be such a good idea. Apparently, this mountain road is not totally paved or well marked. There are many mining side roads that you could also get lost on. There is no cell service so we needed to have a satellite phone. Lots of bad possibilities that could occur. Especially since we are not a camping, outdoorsy family. We really wanted to go but after talking to a guide and the hotel owner, we changed our minds and went to plan B.
We drove about an hour over to the coast to a small town called Caldera. We found a hostel run by a lady from Denmark. She and her family lived above it, and she had been in Chile for about 25 years. She suggested we drive over to Bahia Inglesa for dinner and gave us some restaurant names. Bahia Inglesa was a beach town too but it had a different feel to it. We really like it a lot.
The next day we set out for plan B which was going to the national park called Pan de Azucar. This was the best decision. We drove north to the park and the first thing we wanted to do was find the penguins that live on an island close by that we had heard about. (These parks are not like ours as far as signs and selling stuff like tickets, shirts, souveniers, etc. They don’t do it.) We enter the park and stop at the entrance building. The guide tells us the boats to the penguins are only about 100m from us. We return to the car and the only thing we see is some restaurants- so we try to ask them about how to see the penguins. The couple we see don’t speak English but we figure out they are going to check with a fisherman at his house (located right behind the restaurant) but he was asleep. We were out by the car in the parking lot when a park truck came by and told us to yell into an open door on one of the fisherman’s house. So we did. He came out and told us the price. We said we’d like to go now or as soon as he could take us. He didn’t speak English either but it’s amazing how people can still communicate. He got the boat ready for our excursion. In the meantime a mom and daughter were dropped off by a cab so we asked them if they wanted to come with us. They said yes so we all got in for the best ride ever! We saw pelicans like crazy! Then we saw the cutest penguins ever waddling around. There was a baby sea lion and then 2 larger ones basking in the sun. Lastly, the best part, was the dolphins swimming all around our boat. I took a video but unfortunately it won’t load. My picture doesn’t show the total amount of them and how close they really were. It was totally amazing!
So glad we didn’t take a chance on getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. It was a great excursion!