Ramal Talca-Constitución

In Chile, there are plenty of amazing places to visit—and sometimes getting there is half the fun. If you’re going to Constitución from Talca, you can take the Ramal Talca-Constitución train, also called the “Buscarril”. This is one of the few remaining narrow-gauge railways in Chile; its route mainly follows the Maule river west until it reaches the Pacific, which is where Constitución is situated. The train takes you through the mountains and forests as it follows the river; you’ll see several remote communities as the train stops to take on passengers at tiny stations and even at the gates of peoples’ houses. As the train gets closer to its final destination, there will be more and more people getting on with huge baskets and bags of bread, fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, and anything else that they’re going to sell at the market in Constitución. Half of the people in the train know each other as they all regularly ride this route, so there’s plenty of conversation and laughter.

The train departs from the Talca train station at 7:30 am and 4:30 pm. There is another train that leaves for Constitución a bit earlier than that, so you may be told that the train has already left; you can specify that you would like to take the Buscarril. You can buy the tickets (less than $3000 CLP) at the station counter, exit the station onto the platform, then turn right and go all the way down to the end of the platform, where the Buscarril is waiting. The trip can take anywhere from 3.5 to 5 hours, depending on how long the train stops at the Gonzalez Station. There are a few restaurants and vendors there, so if the train will be stopped for a while you can have a late breakfast and enjoy the views.

When you get to Constitución, make sure to walk through the daily market, where vendors sell fruits and vegetables, fresh fish and shellfish, a huge assortment of spices and herbs, fresh-baked bread, clothes, tools, basic electronics, dishes and other home goods, mote con huesillos and fresh ceviche, salsas and sauces, and more, all quite cheap. I even saw someone selling paint in reused 1-liter Fanta bottles—the Chilean genius for enterprise is in full force here.

In your explorations, also stop by the Plaza de Constitución. In the summertime there are frequently vendors all around the plaza with jewelry, chocolates and baked goods, spices, herbs and oils, and toys and various handicrafts. Also, make sure you visit the beach and walk along the river. The city is located at the point where the River Maule runs into the Pacific, and used to be a significant naval port in Chile.

Whenever you’re ready to leave, you can either take the same train back to Talca—it departs from Constitución at 7:15 am and 4:30 pm—or take one of the numerous buses that will bring you to Talca in about 2 hours. These buses leave throughout the day, so if you just show up at the station and ask around for when the next bus leaves for Talca you shouldn’t have to wait too long. Bus schedules are not usually posted online so it’s hard to say when the service stops for the day, but you should be in good shape as long as you get back to the station by about 6 pm—service between cities on popular routes like this one rarely stops before then. Enjoy more scenery and camaraderie on the way back, and arrive in Talca in time for supper and the sunset.

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