So, I’m not one to shell out a few quid for a travel guide whenever I plan to travel to another country. Apart from not being able to afford it and admittedly being lazy to read guides sometimes, I tend to leave it to avoid the disappointment that ensues when I leave that country without getting the chance to visit the place I read about. Plus, there is such a huge appeal in discovering unheard-of gems, being led to places you never thought of going to or winding up where you’ve wanted to go without much planning involved.
Such destinations were Rodillo and Inca de Oro, both located…not far away, roughly 2 hour bus ride from Copiapó; both unheard of by yours truly upon arrival but have now made it to my recommended list.
Like most families in Copiapo, my host family owns a small beach house (the dream!) where they spend their week-long break that is Fiestas Patrias. Rodillo is a small and quiet community a few kilometres away from the town of Caldera. It is literally made up of beach houses and nothing else – to get food and bare necessities, you need to drive or hitchhike your way to Caldera.
As tempting as the waves sound, it is not exactly prime destination if you want to bathe or swim. I’ve been told it is dangerous to tread even in the shallow parts given the unbelievably clay-like sand that could apparently devour a human being. Also, arriving in winter means not being able to enjoy a dip in the recommended potholes (yes, they’re the only ones on offer), due to the ice cold waters but we manage to compensate the trip with a 5 km walk along the coastline, a walk that’ll lead you to spectacular landscapes and views.
And then we have Inca de Oro. This was the most spontaneous trip I’ve ever been on since arriving in Chile. My roommate/another volunteer from the program and her school invited me to join them on their school trip to an observatory. I’m not gonna lie, one of the main reasons I chose the North of Chile is because of the Atacama desert, famously known for being the driest on earth and having the clearest skies for some stargazing. Needless to say, I was as ecstatic as her 10 year old students… possibly more.
If Rodillo seems like a far-flung destination, Inca de Oro’s existence is even more unfathomable – a small town whose entirety can be traced a kilometer away for being so small. Located deep within the desert, they say climate can be cruel as temperature soars during daytime and drastically drops at night which was indeed the case as I saw myself sweating like a pig en route and then looked like one as I relied on my layers of cosy knits to survive the night.
The highlight, however, has got to be my #dreamcometrue observatory trip. I have no words to describe it. My best attempt so far, as I described it to my sister was “It was like Imax, except it’s real.” I just gazed in plain awe at the sky dotted with stars and even a traceable arm of the Milky Way. Tears may or may not have welled up at some point. I’m so lame. Here’s to ticking another in the bucket list without being entirely sure how it happened.