Before we left Santiago we met some other “overlanders” who had arrived during the night. It shows how international the world is becoming. In a large old Toyota 4×4 there was an Canadian/Danish couple and in an old Brazilian VW T2 a German/Brazilian couple. Both looked with envy at Passepartout since you can stand up in it and do not have to crawl out of bed via the side or rear door. Based on advise of the “Toyota couple” we are now here in Punta Choros near the light beacon enjoying the view down to the sea and the village. The sun is low and shining directly into the camper.
Our first stop out of Santiago was at a very efficient oil and filter change service station on one of the back roads north of town. Since I had a spare oil filter there were no problems. From the oil pit I could inspect the underside of the camper. One bolt holding the carter plate up had come off and also there were serious scratches on the underside of the gearbox. Not much that can be done about that now.
After driving back to the coast on the RN5 (toll road) we followed it for a while before turning off inland again on the D71. We were a bit low on gas and the Shell station at the turnoff was out of diesel. The teller was set to 0 so if we did not find diesel in the next 100 km we would fill up from the spare jerry can. Fortunately we found diesel after asking around in one of the next villages. We drove on till Combarbala where there is a star gazing observatory. We bought a ticket in town and drove up the mountain to camp on the parking lot of the observatory. At 21:00 they opened up for a tour. We were the only visitors. The guide spoke no English so we nodded understandably to her rapid Spanish explanations. At one point she realized we did not get the message and asked a colleague who spoke a bit of English to come from town to explain more what we were looking at. In an open air theater we were staring at an incredible sky full of stars, galaxies and invisible black holes and he pointed out the different zodiac patterns. Through the telescope we could see more details but unfortunately no planets nor spiral galaxies, which we had seen so clearly in Oman desert.
The “Toyota couple” had also told us that most of the smaller inland roads going north are now surfaced. So we drove some nice small roads up through the mountains. Further in they become “ripio” but not too bad. We started to hear a familiar banging noise: this time the left hand connection of the torsion bar had broken off . We still had some 68 km of rippled sand road to go till the next town. The road climbed over a pass of 2000 m.
We took it very slow and had to often drop into first gear to make the hairpin turnings. Having the broken joint banging against the drive shaft did not help. At 18:30 we limped into a large junkyard full of cars and trucks. There should be a welder (told by a Shell station guy). This man in his white overall had the broken parts removed and welded back together in no time.
Relieved. At 19:30 we drove on and since they said it was “as good as new” we continued to our planned destination in the famous Pisco valley. In the dark we found the campsite down by the river. A bit shaken from the days adventure we decided to stay 2 nights to recuperate. On the rest day we tested the car repair by driving up and down the valley over the corrugated sand road. Nothing broke. To celebrate this, we stopped a Pisco distillery and took a tour (in Spanish of course) and tasted some strong local brewed pisco (35 to 45 degrees proof).
Today we drove cautiously back to the coast and made a stop in La Serena to have the breaks checked ( the dashboard warning light had been on for a long time). All tires were removed and the brake pads checked. They were worn but still in good condition. Reassured, we drove on further north on the RN5. To our surprise we did not have to pay any toll (yet?). After some 80km we turned off and drove back to the coast. Initially over a surfaced road and then over a sand road to the small fishing/tourist town of Punta Choros. From here excursion boats depart to the “Pinguino de Humboldt” National Reserve. The “Toyota couple” had seen whales on their excursion here recently as well as the endangered Humboldt Penguin. We hope for the same tomorrow morning. We drove up the dunes/rocks next to the boat landing towards the light beacon. Again a beautiful spot with a nice view of the rocky coast. Around us are some type of cactus which you can see on the photo’s.