After we were done exploring Humberstone we got out to the main road and stopped a bus going to Iquique (yes, we love it how here in Chile buses stop everywhere for you, in the middle of any road). In Iquique we found a night bus to San Pedro and realised it was going all the way to Tocanao, a small village half an hour after San Pedro. We had read this was a good place to go if we wanted to experience the real feel of the desert life, and since the price was the same we decided to go all the way. We figured we’d always be able to come back to San Pedro should we find Tocanao unsatisfactory.
We got off the bus in Tocanao at 10am and were shocked to see more dogs than people in the streets. There was only one accommodation place listed in the LP, so we headed that way. We could only find the cook. ‘The lady just went out but she’ll be back soon, you can wait for her’. We went into the back yard and waited for a bit, until we decided we’d better be more productive. We left Silviu there with the luggage and his audio book, while Boca and I left in search for food and maybe another place offering a bed for the night. After asking a lady in the street about accommodation we were sent to the Gonzales, a family who apparently hosted visitors. Of course they were not at home, so when we went back and realised ‘the lady’ was back not back yet, we decided we needed to feed ourselves.
When the lady eventually came back half an hour later, she found 3 strangers gobbling up bread and Manjar (a sweet similar to caramel that the Chileans love) on her coffee table in the back yard… Not a strange sight at all! We informed her we were looking for a bed for the night, and to our amazement (based on the morning sight we had thought there were no tourists at all in the village) she infomed us her place was completely full! She recommended another place, then told us to take our time and leave the luggage there while we check it out. Such sweetness, we thought… 🙂
We spent the next 2 hours walking up and down the small village just to find that the place we were recommended was full as well, and the Gonzales were nowhere to be found. Eventually we found a forth place, up on the way to the valley, and to our relief they actually had a room for us.
When we asked what we could do aroud there we were suggested 2 lagoons (reachable by car) and a valley (reachable walking). We decided for the Chaxa lagoon, about 20km away, with plenty of flamingos in sight and a supposedly gorgeous sunset. We found someone to take us there for 20,000 pesos (for the 3 of us), and we did not regret one cent! The sky was bright orange and the water and mountains around turned purple in the light of the setting sun. This was something we were seeing for the first time.
When you go there make sure you stay a bit longer after the sun sets, as that’s when the tourists leave and the complete silence sets in, so all you can hear is the flapping of wings as the flamigos fly from one side to the other getting ready for the night.
We went to bed that night not regretting at all that we had decided to come to Tocanao before heding to the more crowded and touristic San Pedro.