Driving Day 59: Copiapó to Tongoy

Waking up in our dingy hotel was not the most enlightening of experiences, however fortunately we had the open road ahead and we were all keen to move on in our penultimate day before reaching Santiago! So, by 8.30am, we were eagerly packing the van and preparing to leave. Unfortunately though, there were other forces at work conspiring to keep us hostage…

The owner of the hotel, a miserly old man, had switched off the electricity supply to our chargers despite being perfectly convinced the night before that it would be OK for us to charge up. He then remembered the previous conversation and allowed us to turn the chargers back on for one last hour. However, when we were ready to leave, he refused to move his car which was parking in the SRZero, and there was no reason for this he said, he just didn’t feel like it!

We thought that perhaps this was because we hadn’t paid yet, so we hastened over to the office to settle our bill. On doing so, the woman demanded we pay $50 for the electricity we had used! Again, we had agreed the night before that we wouldn’t have to pay because the amount is so small; somewhere in the region of $5. But the woman was insistent we pay this extortionate price, and it was only after we showed her the local electricity price per kWh, and the meter reading of how much we used, that she finally gave in and gave us the electricity for free.

However, we still had the issue of a 2 ton pickup truck halting the exit of the SRZero. Finally, and I mean an hour after we had asked for the car to be moved, the owner hobbled over and performed the required action. This was by far the most torturous and laborious process we had ever had to charge the car and leave, and by the time we were back on the road it was 2 hours later than scheduled.

Nonetheless, we aren’t ones to dwell on the negative experiences of the past, and the beautiful drive that ensued soon put all memories of the previous night and the morning far behind us. The only notable thing from today’s drive was the vegetation change. After being in the most barren of deserts since the border of Peru and Ecuador, the green was returning, albeit slowly. Every few kilometres brought about an increase in low level grasses, cacti and shrubbery, and while the vegetation was still relatively sparse, the greenery was a welcome change.

By the time we reached our destination in the small seaside village of Tongoy around 400km further down the Pan-American Highway, we were beginning to see the occasional tree as well! It is very rare that you will find a group of male engineers talking about trees and flowers with such excitement, but after so long in the desert, you can forgive us!

Tongoy was not what we were expecting at all. Our previous experiencse with small seaside towns have been mixed, with most having some sort of industrial bent to it. Even Mejillones which we enjoyed a few days ago had big industry and power generation on it’s fringes, however Tongoy was completely different. This is what you really would hope for in a small seaside village; a wide open bay with a beautiful untouched beach, a small peninsula with charming houses and small hotels overlooking the sea, and an abundance of small traditional fishing boats bobbing away in the gentle swell. The air was warmer than we had experienced for a while, and fresh with the salty tang of the sea, and the whole pace of life seemed slower; perfectly matching the tranquil surroundings.

We quickly found our hotel after asking directions from a few locals, and after discovering that it was located right on the beach, and had a comfortable lounge with fast Internet directly looking over the sea, we were eager to settle in for the night! Priorities were addressed first though, and we put the car on charge with the help of the owner; a sharp contrast to our experiences the night before!

As it turned out, the circuit at this hotel was unable to support the fast charging of the car that we have become accustomed to, and so rather than the car being fully charged at 7am, it would now take until 2pm the next afternoon. Given the fact that we would still arrive 2 days early for our commitments in Santiago, we were not phased by this delay in the slightest. In fact, we welcomed the opportunity it would afford us to catch up on work and relax in these beautiful surroundings before we hit the bustle of Santiago.

With this in mind, we took our time sauntering down to the local restaurant where we were treated to a fresh and delicious seafood dinner. Soon after this, we found ourselves falling asleep to the gentle sound of crashing waves just outside our bedroom window…paradise!

5 Responses to “Driving Day 59: Copiapó to Tongoy”

  • Charles H Schulmann says:

    Dear RGET ,
    we also welcome the greenery again , while surprisingly some of the older civilizations did quite a bit of farming in this region and there is an established Marine Laboratory which is funded by the Chilean Government . However , Tongoy was the gateway for some of the copper mines in the
    region , it is predominantly a tourist town .
    Certainly it makes sense that engineers would start to take cognizance of
    their environment particularly when the perceptions of renewable energy
    has become so important to provide eco friendly solutions – we ALL have
    to become a lot more proactively conscious of our environment .
    We wish you all the best from Ladysmith – South Africa ,
    Charles and friends .

  • We are looking forward to welcome you in Santiago :)

  • Charles H Schulmann says:

    Dear RGET ,
    the photos and videos are superb – thanx for sharing them with us !
    What was those step like engravings on the side of a mountain in the
    seventh photo taken from Paranal to Copiapo ?
    It is difficult to tell from the photos but the sky at ESO seems clearer
    and more blue as if “ on a clear day you can see forever ” – we noticed
    these sort of changes in the colour of the sky , when you were in Canada
    nearing Vancouver .
    The eighteenth photo of the succulent plant thrusting itself through
    the crust of the parched parchment of an earth gives hope that even
    against all the odds we have a chance – thanx again for pointing
    it out to us .
    We wish you all , our best regards from Ladysmith ( Kwazulu Natal )
    in an overcast corner of South Africa , Charles and friends .

  • Rodrigo says:

    Dont forget to try “empanadas de ostiones” or “empanads de camarones”.
    Please tell where in Santiago I will be able to see you ?.

    Have a nice days in Tongoy


  • kyle says:

    I think you should had offered the grumpy hotel owner a ride in the car — would have loved to see the reaction on his face. When he declined, then give rides to all the hotel staff who have to put up with him every day!
    Thanks for keeping the posts updated. Stay focused until the end.

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