Well, the best laid plans...
We, Lena and I, had wanted to go to Salamanca and Illapel for a road trip in one day. However when we got to the bus station, surprise! surprise! it became apparent that to travel to Salamance alone would take about 3 hours one way. And since it was already 1:30 pm, our plan crumbled. However, upon walking back, Lena suggested that we travel to Cón Cón which is famous for its seafood and beaches.
Cón Cón is only about 45 minutes north from Viña. You can take a micro to get there (make sure you sit on the window side as the bus drives up the coast and the view is lovely). Also, take some sunscreen because the windows are hge and offer n protection.
The bus was crowded and, as per usual, Lena and I had to sit apart. Taking buses is always interesting in South America. Often times, at stops (paradas) salespeople will jump on, totally encouraged by the driver, and try to sell their wares. After a few minutes, if they are unsuccessful, they will hop off. Sometimes the driver won´t even continue driving. He´ll just let the person ramble on until they become discouraged enough to leave. This particular occasion, a man jumped up and pulled out ¨silver¨bracelets to sell. Now my question is not why he thought they would sell. If they no one ever bought them, he wouldn´t try to sell them. No. My question is what tourist schmuck actually buys a piece of jewlery on a bus?
We arrived at Cón Cón after a long discussion with the driver about where to get off. He let us off right by the beach. The path down to the beach yeilded gorgeous views with lots of greenery and something that looked like a mountain. Lena swears it was only a hill but...
Anyway. The beach at Cón Cón is so different from Viña. It´s a lot cleaner for one, but that´s probably because there are barely any people there. The dock comes before the beach. There were fisherman about with their boats, several pelicans, and some stray dogs which are abundant in South America. Lena pointed out a restuarant that looked a little shady to me - I suggested we look at the other places before making a decision -- However, she was hungry and I didn´t care all that much so we went in.
It was a cute enough place. The decor was like a Friday´s or a Ruby Tuesday´s with regard to having paraphanalia all over the walls (Although this stuff was not faux vintage, but actual wood carvings, handmade sail boats and such). OUr waiter began by telling us how ¨tips are good for me¨ and then proceeded to ignore us for fifteen minutes. Then he came over and asked for our order, finding it inconceivable that we weren´t ready despite his failure to give us menus. Lena and I decided to share paella.
It came in this huge pot and looked great. But at closer inspection it became apparent that the mussels weren´t properly cleaned and were full of sand, and that the shrimp were cold. I ate maybe a half a bowl, maybe. That is, after we received bowls, which happened about 15 minutes after we were served the meal. Then the waiter tried to secure a large tip by telling us he didn´t have any change. So we left 300 pesos (which is not a great tip) that we foudn at the bottom of our purses. Lesson to be learned? Don´t go with the first restaurant you see...
After the disastrous lunch, Lena and I walked over to the stable on the beach to rent horses. Since neither of us had ridden before, we assumed that a guide would accompany us. Especially since Lena told the manager we had never ridden. But that was an incorrect assumption. Instead, he helped us up on two horses, said "ya!" and the horses were off, trotting towards the ocean. I was laughing hysterically because it was so hilarious, but I was also scared for my life (and my digital camera that i had tucked under my arm). The fear particularly grew stronger when the horse decided to charge into a crowd of children on the beach....
I think the manager realized we had no clue, because he came out to bring us back to the stable. Lesson: Get a personal guide who speaks English and will definitely be with you.
Then Lena and I combed the market which was, sadly, mostly crap from China. The kind you find in the dollar store. However, I did manage to buy a mapuche keychain for my precariously loose house keys.
All in All, I liked Cón Cón. It's super small, but very charming. And there are always the horses on the beach.