Monday, 28 December 2009
Sunday 27th December
We managed to find a strange little oasis campsite in the middle of the scrubby desert last night - surrounded by full grown trees and grass it must be a natural spring of some sort. Really good facilities (apart from the table football - it was just too difficult to play on the uphill team) and some rather over-enthusiastic dogs.
Got up reasonably early this morning and headed into Playa los Choros. We're about 550km north of Santiago - Playa los Choros is about 20km from the Pan American highway right on the Pacific coast. The reason for the visit is that there's an offshore nature reserve with penguins (Caroline's favouritist) just off the coast here and tours are run out to the reserve.
We get on the first boat of the day and set out over a remarkably calm sea. Part way out to the islands we see our first dolphins - an entire pod complete with young all frolicking about right next to the boat. It looks like they've just been fishing.
Further into the islands are rocks covered in basking sealions and even the occasional sea otter (though the little beggars won't stay still for the camera). An then... PENGUINS! Apparently there are only 12,000 pairs of Humbolt penguins left - most of them seem to be here. They're cute little things and quite incredibly agile working their way up and down the cliffs. There are also cormorants, gannets, guillemots, pelicans and other assorted - a veritable fauna bonanza. But not so cute as the penguins according to Caroline.
After recovering our land legs we make our way back to Vicuña and book into an amateur observatory tour for tonight. We'll do one of the professional ones when we're further north.