Coquimbo and La Serena
Chile stretches more than 4000 km down the pacific coast to the very tip of South America. Our first stop is in the (relatively) small port of Coquimbo with it’s sister city of La Serena. The huge concrete cross, complete with lift, dominates the skyline as we approach. Gone are the dire mugging warnings of Peru, so we look forward to a day strolling around town. We have some sunshine for the first time in a while. We are told to expect a temperature of around 16C.
We decide to go first to the sister town of La Serena and jump on to a local bus for the 12km journey. It costs us one dollar each and it is great to be using local transport for a change.
Chile is known for its street art and this is our first example of many we see as the day goes on.
We have arrived in La Serena on a Sunday and most of the shops are closed. It has left the colonial streets of La Serena quiet and peaceful. We spend some time strolling around its avenues and squares in the sunshine.
Having caught the bus back to Coquimbo, we decide we have had enough walking for the day, and so make straight for the comfort of the ship. It gives us a chance to look around the port and we are heartened to notice that there are a number of wind generator parts waiting to be shipped somewhere and assembled.
San Antonio and Valparaiso
We have been looking forward to visiting Valparaiso and so find ourselves disappointed to discover that we will not dock there after all. Apparently, the port of Valparaiso has decided that it doesn’t want any more cruise ships to call, preferring the more profitable cargo ships.
This means that we will dock instead at San Antonio, further south down the coast. Valparaiso is now an expensive shuttle bus and an hour and a half away. Determined to get there anyway, we walk out of the dock to the local bus terminal and buy tickets on the regular service to Valparaiso for $8 each return … that’s a bit more like it! We enjoy the ride through the coastal hills in some comfort.
We could, of course, catch a different bus to Santiago, but that seems like too big a city for us just now. Valparaiso is another UNESCO world heritage city and is well know for it’s street art among other things.
Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas
We are now a long way south down the west coast of South America. Puerto Montt is at the southern end of the Chilean Lake district, the string of lakes which, further south still, become the Chilean Fiords as the South American continent peters out in a maze of mountain girt fiords on it’s way to the mythical Cape Horn. Already, Puerto Montt is in a sheltered waterway, away from the pacific swells which rocked us to sleep last night.
We are getting the hang of the local buses, and so catch one up to Puerto Varas which sits on the shore of the most southerly of the lakes. (Yet another dollar spent for the 15k journey). This area was settled by immigrants from Germany under a government resettlement scheme. The architecture reflects this german heritage.
We have come here hoping to see the famous snow capped cone of a nearby volcano, but alas the clouds hide the mountains and so a postcard will have to do.
Back in the less manicured Puerto Montt we go to the row of shops set up for the tourists, just down the road from the tender dock. The street alongside the port is somewhat run down.
And so we leave Puerto Montt and sail still further south and into the Chilean Fiords, that string of channels that eventually leads to Cape Horn, an area of mythical status in the annals of seafarers through history.
For us, this is one of the highlights of this journey. More next time!