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La Serena – Isla Damas Visit

This trip to an animal reserve was the highlight of our visit to La Serena.

La Serena itself is the second oldest city in Chile. This was the first town in Chile where I thought I could be back home. Everything here is familiar there is the same type of cars, fashion, food and prices that I would expect in a well off town back in the UK. It was easy to feel comfortable here, which felt unfamiliar. With the money also comes the arrogance and envy something I did not miss. Overall people were very kind and helpful.

The bay to access Isla Damas is a 2 hour drive out of the city across the desert. We stopped along the way when we spotted some desert foxes and llamas.

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When we arrived at the port we found our boat, Argos II.

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On the way out we were very lucky as we spotted a whale, we saw its tail and then appear on the right hand side of the boat. It was exciting as well as scary as it could easily overturn the boat to if it wanted. We did not manage to get a good photo.

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After the whale we headed over to where the sea lions bask, much easier to get a clear photo.

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We spotted a marine otter as well having a snack.

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All the penguins spotted were Humbolt penguins which are found down the coast of Chile and Peru. The number of Humbolt penguins has been declining due to a combination of over fishing and changes to the environment; they currently have a conservation status of vulnerable.

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There were also a number of different birds.

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This was a great day trip for the city and not too expensive.

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Exploring Chile – Pucon 

Well mixed feelings for Pucon. I fell in love with the place at first sight. On the road in it was impossible not to feel the presence of Volcano Villarica. It was enormous, and breath taking, and always in eyesight and just spectacular. 


Pucon itself was a little quiet town, built entirely of wood and surrounded by countryside. My idyllic location, horse riding or trekking offered at every corner and hot springs available day and night. John however felt it was a tourist honeypot which was kind of faceless and had no real history or depth to it. I guess it was sort of in the middle of these two views. It is a far cry from the culture and feeling of Bolivia that’s for sure but that’s what travelling is about after all. 


We hired some bikes that afternoon and planned a 4hr bike ride to see a waterfall in the area, but after John’s bike chain slipped off 3 times we turned around and went back to the bike place for a rethink. By then there wasn’t enough time to get to the waterfall and back so I kindly and graciously gave up my bike (……….) so John could go for a cycle to the river and I forced down an empanada and ice cream instead. Tough times. 

We had booked a trip to the Termas Geometrias at sunset. A hot spring bath system inspired by Japanese baths but fully using naturally hot water from the ground. It was an hour away from Pucon, we got there at 8pm and had 3hrs in the most amazing array of hot baths imaginable. There were cold natural plunge pools and hot pools of differing temperatures ranging from 35-45 deg centigrade. We got to soak in the hot pools as the sun went down, then got treated to an incredibly clear starry night before we had to leave this paradise and go back to real life. I slept all the way back in the bus and barely made it up the stairs to our room before I pretty much passed out from relaxation. Amazing experience! 

Our hostel was lovely and was also a cafe in the daytime, so after a lazy morning we scoffed down homemade bread and scrambled eggs then set off looking for something to do in the day. We’d booked a volcano climb (John) and horse ride (me) for the following day so had been warned by the volcano guys not to do anything to strenous before the 6hr ice hike the next day. We pottered around the town but there were so many places advertising horse rides I couldn’t help but jump on a short one to see a different waterfall as the option was there! 

This was a 2hr starter in preparation for the 4hr ride the next day. Was a bit of a cattle drive with 10 of us in a line to the waterfall. But the ponies were well looked after and happy and that’s my only criteria for horse rides really. 

We got an early night as one of us was climbing an active volcano in the morning. However we woke up at 6am to an overcast cloudy day and really unfortunately John’s volcano climb was cancelled as it would be unsafe to climb in that level of cloud. He was pretty devastated. I set off for my 4hr pony ride at 11am but it was still overcast so I knew there’d be no views of the volcano at all on the whole trek. 

I got to the stables and met Kim, the guide, who is taking a year out from studying veterinary science in Belgium and was so enthusiastic and excited about her job guiding it was infectious! I was asked about my riding experience as she explained they usually tack up a few horses for options depending on the riders. As I said I had about 20yrs experience and had recently broken in a baby her eyes lit up and she pounced on this little bay cutie stood next to me. A 5yo mare who had taken the last few riders on a bit of a ‘ride’ during their treks and needed someone to handle her properly as she needs the experience and miles to improve her trek pony status but was a bit of a handful at times. I glanced at this dosing sleepy girlie and saw how similar she was to azalea from La Paz and immediately fell for her. 


The ride was 4hrs, I’d been searching for another 8hr marathon like San Pedro but couldn’t find any so settled for 4hrs. It was a beautiful ride that took us clambering over rocks, ducking under branches and scrambling over streams (just an average ride with Wendy on Dartmoor!). Sadly the volcano stayed out of sight for the whole ride, but the rest was beautiful. Plus that naughty little girl behaved impeccably and even did her first trek gate! 


After I got back from my ride we met with a Chilean couple who we met in Brazil who popped to Pucon from their home town of Temuco to catch up with us and have a few days on the beach of the lake (one of the many reasons I could have stayed here!). We had some yummy pizza, got jealous of their impending year travels to Australia, had a walk along the beach then went off to bed for the next bus ride and the next city. 

Pucon was definitely a highlight for me. I’m planning on coming back one day for a longer time riding in this area.