Chile Culture slider — 14 March 2016

puertosilla chile surfing

graphic source:  Turismo Virtual

Foreign and Chilean surfers already know about Pichilemu and the waves at Punto Lobos.  But there is another beach in this area with the same constant swell, yet almost no people: Puertecillo and Punto Topocalma. Puertecillo is the name of the village and Punto Topocalma (Topocalma Point) is the name of the beach and point.

The coastline here is starling in its beauty.  The road to the beach drops straight down from the heights of the forest.  So most people descend that with 4×4 vehicles.  Yet you can use 2-wheel drive.  Just make sure you park with one wheel on the sidewalk down in the village least you sink into the sand.  There is no parking here as there is hardly any town.  Instead there are a few restaurants, a Pentecostal Church, and maybe 50 homes tucked behind the black sand beach, situated dangerously at the level where a tsunami could wash over all of that, as it did in 2010. (If one comes, the cliffs behind the town are too steep to climb. So follow the Tsunami exit signs and walk up 1/2 km north.)

The beach here, like at Pichilemu, is black sand.  The surf break is at the point of Punto Topocalma about 1 km walk from Puertecillo.  The sand is soft, so walking in that will leave you legs feeling like rubber on the way back.  So lots of people use ATV vehicles.

puertosilla surf

Puertecillo is an upper-class beach.  In Chile the beaches are distinctly divided between working class and middle upper to upper class, as is the whole country.  The two rarely overlap.  It seems every person here in Puertosilla is a 30 year old quika (Chilean slang for upper class woman) with her quiko husband driving an expensive 4×4 quiko truck with a couple of well-dressed quiko children in tow.  Lots of these women and men are blond, which labels them right away as coming from the moneyed classes in this country of black-headed people.

The beach here, like a lot of the coast of Chile, is foggy at times, often for long periods of time. Go 10 km inland and there is bright sun. But it’s not cold, even in winter, as the ocean and the cliffs trap this area in a cool but not cold micro climate. The water is freezing.  You can swim in it from January to March without a wet suite.  Just do not think about it being cold and the cold will not bother you.  If you swim you will most likely be the only person in the water except perhaps for a topless European or two or maybe a completely nude Chilean female.  But it’s not a nude beach, as there are not enough people in the water or lounging in the sand to call it a beach at all.  So you have all that sand to yourself to run around naked if you want.

topocalma point

Chilean people as a rule do not swim.  There are few swimming pools here unlike, say, Arizona, where every single house has one, so every kid can learn. The ocean current is too strong so it is not safe to let your children play in the surf.  The only safe places to swim are in caletas (harbors) of which there are none on this lonely stretch of empty beach.

One odd thing about Chile is while the coast is so long, the people all pile themselves on top of one another in the same beaches.  From San Antonio north to Con-Con is one long densely packed stretch of beaches and the major cities of Viña del Mar and Valparaiso. But Puertecillo is all by itself with Matanza being another lonely coastal village that is not too far.

la cantina gourmet puertosilla

One wonders why there are no beach towns south of the port city of San Antonio all the way to Pichilemu. The answer is there are no roads, or at least any paved ones, except in Navidad. You cannot drive from San Antonio to Puertecillo.  You need to go inland via Litueche to do that.

Just a few years ago you could not get to the beaches at Topocalma and Puertecillo because there was no road. Plus you had to ask permission of the landowner who owns the forest. But now you can get there since 5 years ago developers ran electric lines across the vast Topocalma forest and build a quality, albeit unpaved road hoping to make money by selling lots, of which there are a precious few, like only 100. So it will never be crowded.

The Topocalma forest (Fundo) is a private land holding of many tens of thousands of hectares of Eucalyptus trees belonging to the family who owns the Paris department stores. (Interesting historical footnote:  in the 1960’s, long before the Communist government, Chile forced landowners holding more than 80 hectares to sell.  The goal was to transfer land from the land barons to ordinary people.  But over time the land barons have bought some of this back. The working class people who bought these, or who took those, did not always have a lot of success turning a profit on that, so they sold them back.)

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To get there you drive from Litueche on the unpaved, sandy, yet well-made roads.  Follow the new electric transmission wires as there are few signs as the hippies who long claimed this beach as their own have defaced many of those to keep the tourists way. You will not find this beach town name on Google Maps, but you can use that to orient yourself.

There are a few tourists here and a few more Chileans.  The only town of any size, Navidad, has 5,000 people. It is not close to Puertosilla and not visible.  No one lives in Punto Topocalma, which is just a name, yet, although a developer has built some well-constructed roads and is selling parcelas (lots) for $125 million Chilean pesos ($190,000 USD).

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Where to Dine, Where to Stay:  La Cantina Gourmet restaurant (phone +56.9.9374.2035) is open 9 months of the year.  They have several handsome rooms for rent. Like most businesses, the restaurant closes for the Chilean winter from June to August. After Semana Santa (Holy Week) at the end of March expect this and every other place in town to be almost empty, except surfers will still be there. The La Cantina Gourmet gourmet restaurant features top chefs imported from Santiago for the season.  Try the Robalo fish, which is native to these waters.   You might see some men fishing in the surf for those near the rocks at the north end of the beach, where a small stream runs out to sea.  At this restaurant you can lounge on the bean bag chairs surrounded by cactus or lay back completely on something that looks like a bed and watch raucous small children dismantle the furniture while their parents dine inside.  The restaurant also has a bar, Capitán Freí, down the street where you can enjoy gourmet sandwiches under a tiki light and a bon fire surrounded by a garden of succulent plants and native Chilean flowers.

 

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