This week I took myself on a little ‘Christmas’ holiday to explore more of Chile. I packed myself off to Pichilemu, a small coastal town south of Santiago, which is renowned for its long flat beaches and steady flow of perfect waves for surfing. For a girl who loves the sea, this it seemed like the perfect getaway from the slightly oppressive heat and bustle of Santiago.
Pichilemu is about a 3 hour drive from Santiago and the buses run frequently. It is an easy journey across the sun-scorched plains of central Chile with some impressive views of both mountain ranges that run down either side of the country.
I arrived in Pichilemu at about 3pm and headed to find my hostal.The town, a favourite with surfers from across the country, is peppered with hostals and guest houses. After a little research I had found myself a delightful place just a few minutes from the beach, but still nicely hidden away from the main part of town full of restaurants and tourists.
Hostal Dolegant is a small, quaint house with no more than 10 rooms of only 1-3 people. The price in a dormitory was only £7 a night, with a complementary breakfast included and access to the kitchen space for cooking if you wish. There was one other girl in my room the first night and after that I had the room to myself. I also have to say that it was the comfiest bed I’ve slept on in a while! The hosts were just lovely; so kind and welcoming, and ready to help me with anything I needed, including pointing out where I could rent a bike and recommending some good places to go. I thoroughly recommend this hostal if you visit Pichilemu.
I headed to the beach as soon as I could, walking along the promenade to find a more sheltered corner. Pichilemu beach is very long and flat, which is what lends itself to being such a good surf location, but it also makes the beach quite windy. On my first attempt to find a good spot I quickly discovered that the wind causes the sand to whip up across the beach, which isn’t very enjoyable! However, at the far end of the beach there is some shelter from the wind against the bank. This is also where the surf shops are for renting boards and wetsuits, plus a few little cafes for tea, coffee, and snacks. One peculiar phenomenon I have witnessed here in Chile is that there are people who patrol the beach offering snacks and drinks, shouting their offerings in curiously musical tones. When I was in Vina del Mar, there was one man who had made a little song out of “bebida bebida, solo una lucita, bebida bebida, refrescita”.
Although the sun was shining without much cloud, it was a lot cooler than Santiago due to the sea breeze. It became pretty cold in the evening, and I found myself putting on jeans for the first time in about a month. The sea itself is also pretty cold – possibly more so than in England….!
On Tuesday I was keen to go to Punto de Lobos, a short way from Pichilemu and a renowned spot for the surf enthusiasts. I rented a bike and cycled down the highway about 30 minutes – it was not very far. On the way, I passed a small gallery of shops and cafes and was delighted to find a vegan café, Curcuma, with an array of different smoothies, brunch and lunch options. I of course stopped for a browse and enjoyed a delicious Banana and Strawberry Smoothie. When I made it to Punto de Lobos I simply sat an admired the view for a while, watching the surfers take on some serious waves and pulling some spectacular stunts.
The beach at Punto de Lobos is considerably more sheltered and so it was the perfect spot to spend the rest of the afternoon reading and enjoying the sun. A word about the sun in Chile – it is powerful. More so, it’s also a bit sneaky and tends to do its work without you really realising until you suddenly find yourself glowing a healthy tomato colour into the evening… I cycled back to Pichilemu in the early evening and ended up paying only £8 for 6 hours of bike rental. Pichilemu is definitely cheaper than Santiago!
Wednesday was Christmas Day, or at least that’s what people kept telling me but nothing special happened other than me opening the stocking my Mum had sent to me, which was a little treat. Chileans don’t really seem to do anything particular for Christmas; most shops and restaurants remained open and largely oblivious, except for perhaps reduced hours, and I don’t even think the majority of churches had a particular service. After chatting to various family members, I headed to the beach and decided it was time to test out my surf skills, which are amateur at best. While I only managed to stand up once or twice, I had a lot of fun out in the waves. They weren’t too big too be impossible, but big enough to give you plenty of chances to have a go. Unfortunately, I only lasted an hour and a half before I lost all feeling in my toes and had to abort due to fear of frost bite. Two hours later and I was still cold, sitting in the full sunshine in jeans and a hoodie! Not your average Christmas activity, but a pretty awesome way to spend the day. I headed back to the beach at about 6pm and watched the sun go down, which was beautiful.
Surfing really took it out of me, and after a slow start on Thursday I headed back to the vegan café for some brunch before enjoying the beach for the rest of the day. The trip was a perfect get away, relaxing on the beach with plenty of sun, sea and sleep! A great way to escape the hustle and enormity of Santiago, which can become a bit oppressive after a while.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to New Year celebrations. I’ve been told that Chileans do actually get a little more excited for New Year than Christmas, so there may be some fun activities to be enjoyed this week.