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Hitting the surfing jackpot

May 8, 2012

The waves in Punta de Lobos were among the biggest I’ve surfed in my life.

The power behind all that  moving water, the rocks and the giant seaweed, the currents, even the way you paddle out — by swimming across a churning channel of water with waves battering the rocks that serve to protect you from the whitewater, using the kelp to pull yourself up onto a flat bed of rock between two stone giants, and waiting for a good long lull between waves before paddling as fast as you can to make it out past where they break — is intimidating. Some waves ended up tumbling every single surfer duckdiving in the lineup, they were that powerful.

Someone about to undertake the rock jump

We stayed at Punta de Lobos for a  little over two weeks before driving south to explore the many breaks that we had heard of through word of mouth. The surfers in Chile are very friendly, generously sharing waves with us, as well as giving us detailed directions on how to get to some of the best waves in the country. We weren’t sure what to expect, since  we had never heard of most of the waves south of Punta de Lobos before arriving in Chile, but so many locals had told us that we had to check out this or that spot. It was the best kind of travel: we headed out with some directions we’d scratched out while talking to different locals, a map, and no expectations.

What we found blew our minds: point break after point break, with waves that ranged from head high to double overhead, and all of them so perfect that they made us feel like we were surfing at the highest level we’d ever surfed before.

We couldn’t believe this wave was empty!

We boondocked sometimes in oceanfront parking lots on the outskirts of towns, sometimes in the middle of nowhere, but always in view of incredible  point breaks. We lucked out with the weather, not getting one day of rain, although the rainy season down south was supposed to have been starting. We got a few cold, cloudy days, but many more warm, sunny ones. We got lots and lots of perfect waves. I still can’t believe how many amazing point breaks there are, and so close together. The locals were few and friendly. We kept pinching ourselves, marvelling at how lucky we were the whole time.

We spent several weeks exploring up and down the coast, surfing until our arms hurt so much it was sometimes difficult to fall asleep, and stopping to look at some natural wonders, such as the Iglesia de Piedra, a cathedral-like formation of caves:

We also visited some old, atmospheric hot springs baths that were built in 1876, the Termas de Cauquenes, for a relaxing soak.

We were sleeping in our van outside the hot springs, when we felt a gentle but persistent shaking of the entire vehicle. Michael thought I was moving around in my sleep, but then realized it was an earthquake. It was a 6.7 magnitude earthquake that had been centered near Valparaiso. Luckily, we were far enough away that it wasn’t dangerous for us at all. We were happy to later hear that there were no immediately related deaths close to the epicenter.

On our way north again, we passed back through Pichilemu for a short stay, to surf Punta de Lobos one last time, and eat our favorite oven-baked empanadas at El Quincho del Ross. Most empanadas in Chile are fried, and oven-baked ones are slightly healthier version that are harder to find:

After gorging ourselves on all those perfect point break waves along the coast around Pichilemu, we stopped in Valparaiso for a couple of days, a beautiful, bohemian port city with colorful houses and mansions perched atop several hills. We saw La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s house with breathtaking views down onto the city:

And countless walls filled with interesting graffiti:

Of course, since Valpo is a good-sized city, our ice cream radars led us to a cafe that serves some of Chile’s best ice cream, Emporio La Rosa. Among their tasty and creative flavors are Chocolate-Chili Pepper, Raspberry-Mint, and Orange-Ginger.

We also happened upon one of the most delicious and best-value menu del dia lunches of our whole trip so far, at a restaurant called Sabor Color. It was a three-course gourmet meal that was impeccably done, from the presentation to the flavors. We couldn’t have found better for the equivalent of $9 per person.

We drove further north, back to La Serena, where we got to surf a long, fun head-high beachbreak for one afternoon before discovering that La Berenjenita needed some work. She was leaking and burning oil. We took her to Manuel, a mechanic in La Serena that a friend from Pichilemu had recommended. Manuel’s been working on old VW beetles and vans for 20 years. He took La Berenjenita’s engine apart, cleaning and checking each area, and found that we needed to replace the piston rings in the cylinders, which requires ordering parts from Santiago.

Berenjenita’s engine, after being cleaned and painted to look like new

Manuel invited us to stay at his house for the three days it will take to order and receive the parts. We’re sleeping in our van outside his house, and he and his wife Boli cook us a big lunch every day. He treats us like his kids, and it’s pretty cool getting a genuine Chilean homestay experience, not to mention the fact that Manuel takes the time to explain every detail of what he sees and what needs fixing. We’re learning a lot about our little purple eggplant van.

The new parts should arrive tomorrow, and with luck, we will drive out of La Serena with La Berenjenita feeling better than ever, and ready to brave the roads towards our next destination, which is off the coast and at altitude: San Pedro de Atacama.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2012 6:29 pm

    Those waves are amazing!! I feel so nourished after seeing these pictures and reading about all the adventures, but wow we miss you guys! I can’t wait to show the kids all the the pictures.. they keep saying it has to already be close to two years that you guys have been away!

    Love Love..

  2. John Zito permalink
    May 8, 2012 7:47 pm

    that is just epic. waves, food, and automotive endeavors. why even move on from there?

    • May 9, 2012 9:56 am

      We keep asking ourselves that, but there are so many fun, new adventures to be had in different places. We definitely want to come back sometime again, though!

  3. Lois permalink
    May 8, 2012 7:49 pm

    Amazing Delphine! So incredible and so happy for the two of you.

  4. hector permalink
    May 8, 2012 9:44 pm

    i am smashing my head into my screen right now…hopefully not disturbing any of my cubicle mates. great pictures, guys!

  5. May 8, 2012 11:36 pm

    I must admit, that the photos and the discription attached, is breathtaking and so professional. I enjoy trying to place myself in any or all of these places. Some scare the heck out of me but I have been to Bogata and thats enough.
    Earthquakes, friendly V.W. mechanics, WOW, what comes next? Lower gas prices!
    I’m going to try and share this with Ian and Alex. I know they will be thrilled to see your adventure.
    I was up at the “LAND” today in a mist and cool weather. You must return in the summer.
    Love to have you visit again.
    “Uncle T”

    • May 9, 2012 10:01 am

      We would love to visit again, too. I still laugh out loud when we think about being tossed around on that giant donut on the lake, with Dave driving the boat. You’re right about the gas, the prices in Chile are crazy! Ecuador is much cheaper for gas, but Chile is so long, with so much driving, that we could really use the discount here.

  6. May 9, 2012 7:32 am

    What wonderful fun to follow you like this. The surfing looks amazing. The people you are meeting amazing as well. I love you so much. Momma

  7. Faith Magwood permalink
    May 10, 2012 12:05 am

    Dear Michael and Delphine,

    I did leave a comment. I did try to register for the blog. Nevertheless, I have not been receiving regular updates. Hope this effort is more successful.

    Sounds as if you are having an incredible time. You worked hard for this and saved hard for this so we are thoroughly happy it is working well for you.

    Once again, lots of love, Auntie Faith and Uncle Jon

    • May 10, 2012 10:07 am

      We’ll check that you’re registered and if you’re not we’ll take care of it. So glad you’re following along! Love, Michael and Delphine.

  8. Chris permalink
    May 12, 2012 11:42 pm

    Hey Mike and Delphine! I finally found you guys. It’s Chris from Brookly, Gates ave. Your trip sounds and looks phenominal!!!! Love that beard Mike! Keep that little lady smiling, it look good on her. Be well.

    • June 6, 2012 12:24 pm

      Hey Chris! So good to hear from you. How’s the block? Give our regards to Crissy and Cidney, Melissa, and also Camille for us!

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