April 9 – 13
Afternoon bus from La Serena to Caldera, where I arrive amid a breathtaking sunset. Everything is covered in pink haze. Caldera is a small mining town and port, home to Chile’s first railway and laic cemetery (because the miners had many religions and the Catholics would not accommodate infidel corpses on their grounds). There are services (bus station, shops, banks), but other than that, nothing much. The real gem lays some 5 km away (no public transport, but a constant flow of colectivos that replace buses), Bahia Inglesa, the English Bay.
Bahia Inglesa is a bit more civilized than Punta de Choros, just about. There are two or three restaurants open, but none of the two shops sells alcohol, and the one that allegedly does is always closed. Do you guys think I have a drinking problem because I assess civilization by availability of wine? Is the ability of facing the world sober a sign of adulthood? In that case, my parents must be the only two real adults I have ever met. Let’s not get too philosophical. People who don’t have normal vices have (in my experience) the really weird ones (does not apply to one’s parents of course) AAAAND alcohol is technically a solution (trust me, I have a degree in chemistry).
I am staying with Christian, who kindly picks me up at the bus terminal on my arrival. He lives about 50 meters from probably arguably the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. Turquoise and emerald-green water, white sand, bare black cliffs. Some Scotsmen argued that Scottish coast looks just the same. Yeah, on the one day of summer a year, I bet it does. Christian’s house comes with two big dogs, that are not actually his, they were living in the garden when he bought the place and didnt’s see the change of ownership as a good enough reason to move out. Why would they. Christian owns a third dog, a dachshund puppy named Arya (Stark), who, faithful to her name, tries to fight with the two big boys each time she gets a chance. She either has a Napoleon complex or a death wish.
The following days are spent on the beach (empty this time of year). The two dogs follow me everywhere. The first day I try to prevent them from running after my bike into the desert by throwing stones at them (I don’t carry enough water for everyone and I don’t want them to get exhausted and die). Well, I have never been able to throw anything away from me, and when the stones fly vaguely in the dogs direction, posing more danger to my own feet than to them, they look at me with an expression that clearly says: “What the hell are you trying to achieve, is this the best you can do?” I give up on both trying to scare the dogs away and the idea of cycling against strong wind and stop in paleontological park just 10 km out of Bahia Inglesa. The entrance is free and there is an old man guiding the tourists (spanish only), out of boredom and to prevent them from gathering fossils. There are many petrified bones, teeth, shells and corrals, and several reconstructed skeletons of prehistoric animals (copies, the originals are to be seen in the museum in Caldera). It’s a good idea for a half day trip, and the granddad is super knowledgeable.
In the afternoons Christian takes me and Julia, a girl from Austria who is also staying in the house, for short tours into the desert with his 4×4: Chorrillos beach, rock formations eroded to resemble natural pyramids, Caldera lighthouse. Bahia Inglesa is an extraordinary place: gem-coloured water (still freezing, but ok for a dip during the day), incredible yellow cliffs that turn golden in the sunset light, alternated with bare black volcanic coastline beaten by rough waves, a place where the ocean meets the desert. And on top of everything, fantastic fish and seafood. Just bring your own booze (pisshead’s advice).