Last Sunday, I went with Cami and her host family to Pichilemu, Punto de Lobos, and Bocalemu. A bohemian surf town with houses of every color lining the narrow, muddy streets, Pichilemu was our first stop. Although the weather was not ideal for sun bathing, in fact it was about 55 degrees with a bit more than an ocean breeze, we walked down the black sand beach, admiring the bright red, orange, and yellow fisherman boats and the arch of the coastline, eventually blending into hazy mountains.
The beach walk got chilly quickly, so we ambled around the town, noting a strange juxtaposition between Pichilemu’s winter desolation and the countless fully functioning fish markets. On some corners, fish hung from their tails, mouths gaping wide and on other streets, the carcasses were stacked high, waiting to be sold. The smell was pungent, of course, but not strong enough to deter an appetite for mariscos.
Before satisfying our seafood fix, we went to the most famous surf spot in Chile. We drove out to a cliff that hugs a cove called “Punto de Lobos.” Every December and February there are international surf competitions in these treacherous waters. The cover is a labyrinth of rocks and ferocious currents that can be deadly to novice or veteran surfers alike. Preferring dry land to a wet suit, Cami and I watched as two surfers crawled down the steep and slippery red clay path towards the ocean. The surfers fought against the current for some time before finally propelling themselves past the rocks. We stuck around long enough to see one surfer get up on their board as a crest of brilliant turquoise water collapsed behind her. When the wave broke, the water looked as if someone had either poured bright blue food coloring or shoved a blue glow stick beneath its surface.
On the opposite end of the cliff is a famous view of tremendous rocks covered by thousands of pelicans in the winter (behind Cami, above), and in the summer, sea lions. The birds flew around the rock, stopping to rest before swooping towards the waves for lunch.
Following their lead, we reluctantly left Punto Lobos and its incredible 8 meter waves to go eat “Sopa Pescada Marina.” The soup had huge clams, mussels, and white fish stewed in a garlic broth. The shellfish were steaming and the warmth of the soup was a haven from the cold weather. As we ate lunch, Cami and I talked to her parents as much as we could in Spanish. I have found that conversations with people in Spanish typically start well, if they start at all, but after 10 minutes or so I start to lose interest and get tired of concentrating so intently.
After lunch, we went to another small town called Bocalemu. Bocalemu was not nearly as classically cool as Pichilemu, nor as awe-inspiring as Punto de Largos. It’s a tiny fishing town with clear economic hardships. Cami’s host dad explained that the fishermen in this town live off of their catches, but it has become harder and harder for them to make a living as many local fish species have been exhausted. Along with the paint crumbling from houses and boats, the incoming thunderstorm and the disturbingly high population of emaciated, wandering dogs complicated the beach town ideal.