When we made it to La Junta, we planned on continuing south to a town called Puyuhuapi just 44km south, but then we read about a little village called Raul Marin Balmeceda. Our Lonely Planet book, which only had two, short paragraphs about this village of 200+ people, told us that it may be possible to spot dolphins, seals, and sea otters in this long isolated coastal town. Just recently, a road had been completed connecting the town to the Carretera Austral, just a few kilometers from La Junta where we were. After a quick stop in La Junta’s tourist information office, we were convinced that Raul Marin was our next stop. The deciding factor: We learned we could get a ferry from there to Chiloe island.
Instead of hitchhiking again, because the town seemed way too remote for that, we got on a “bus” aka a minivan along with 10 other passengers and settled in for the 3 hour ride. The town was not completely what we expected. For starters, it was actually on an island. Our bus took a 5 minute ferry crossing the Palena River to get there. Secondly, we didn’t expect to see dolphins from the beach right behind our campsite on the first night, but we saw them every day we were there.
The next day we took a hike around the island. We didn´t expect the dense, jungle-like forest we walked through or the dunes at the other end of the island. We also didn’t expect to see sea otters and more dolphins while walking on the deserted beach behind the dunes. We didn’t expect that the weather would be so warm, and that we would be able to see snow covered mountains while we were soaking up the sun on the beach. Other things that we didn’t expect: to see penguins, to eat in a restaurant that was actually someone`s living room, to see giant beetles 4 inches long, to have to wait 12 hrs for our ferry to Chiloe to show up, and overall to be so happily surprised with our decision to come to Raul Marin Balmaceda. I would definitely recommend spending a couple of days in this remote town if time allows on your trip and here are a few of our tips:
- Be prepared to wait if you are planning on taking a ferry. There are no set arrival times.
- Buses to the town are infrequent. They leave 3 times a week from La Junta and 3 times a week to La Junta. Ask in the tourist information offices for times/prices.
- Make sure you take a walk on the Chucao Interpretive trail. It leads to sand dunes and a beautiful, remote beach where you can spot dolphins and other wildlife.
- Dolphins are also usually playing in the water at the town`s main beach around sunrise and sunset.
- Try to bring food from La Junta, as the supermarkets in Raul Marin have a limited selection and are more expensive. Same goes for restaurants in town.