Getting Drunk and Lost Part 11 : Chile

On arrival in Santiago we booked a bus up to La Serena and waited a few hours people watching.
Our bus arrived at 5.30 and groggy and freezing cold we emerged into the bus terminal. We grabbed a surprisingly good coffee and one of the best empanadas we had in South America and decided to wait for the sun to rise before attempting to find our hostel. Setting off we found it quite easily and it was lovely. The guys let us have some breakfast and we slept on the sofa until the room was ready. The owners continually tried to chat with us but the Spanish Chileans speak may as well be a different language and it was a pretty difficult task to understand them! As we explored the little city we discovered sushi was massively popular. Works for me. However Les is of course still northern and decided we should try the deep fried sushi place. Now it wasn’t terrible, and he loved it, but I just think sushi like mars bars just doesn’t benefit from a fry. It got really sunny by lunchtime so we decided to go for a walk along the beach. It was beautiful but a bit weird with jeeps patrolling the sand and absolutely no one swimming. We decided we hadn’t had date night for a while so decided to find a semi decent restaurant. We actually found a gorgeous Italian place near the cathedral and had a fantastic evening and La Serena is a wonderful relaxing place. The aggro of Argentina was becoming a distant memory…

And what’s more the breakfast there was awesome. In fact food in general in Chile is really good. We decided to go to a sushi restaurant nearby that had great reviews. It didn’t disappoint; from beautiful watercolour art on the walls to incredibly tasty sushi it was a complete treat and definitely not backpacker standard. We continued the Japanese theme with a visit to the Japanese garden. Deciding to continue the fantastic day we were having we opted to open the wine we’d bought on the Mendoza tour. Sat in the hostel garden watching match of the day and drinking awesome wine- pretty lucky people!

The next day we were heading off to the Elqui Valley. We got a little minibus to a place called Vicuña and arrived mid day on a Sunday to everything predictably shut. Luckily we found a supermarket and got everything for a BBQ. We cooked LOADS of food and had way to much wine to accompany it as well as good company. Chile was still pr bing a lot of fun. The next day we headed out on a long walk but after getting lost in a graveyard and dealing with cactus forest we decided to cut it a bit short. We were supposed to go stargazing that evening but – incredibly rare in the Atacama desert- it was cancelled for being too cloudy. Instead we continued a theme and got some pisco sours.

The next day the clouds all disappeared and it was a scorcher. We rented bikes d went on a Elqui Valley trail. It was pretty much just us the entire time and the countryside around was breathtaking. Despite managing to miss most of the stops highlighted on the trail we obviously didn’t miss the beer garden. It was very cute and we couldn’t afford not to get the generously priced pitcher of beer. So we found ourselves a it more wobbly when we climbed back on the bikes. To continue a theme we stopped at a pisco making factory. We were the only ones on the English speaking tour and our guide was lovely. We rode back and had a hasty change before heading out for the rearranged stargazing trip. It didn’t disappoint. Despite quite a bright moon which always dominates the desert sky, by the time it got full dark the sky was full of stars. We each got a turn through a telescope and saw Jupiter, the moon, many colourful stars and best of all a supernova. Literally seeing history. I was enraptured.

Geek needs satisfied, we headed back to La Serena. There isn’t really a way of knowing when the shuttle minibus will go and we just set off for the bus station hoping we wouldn’t have too long to wait. As it happened the minibus had just left but spotting us with our backpacks it came to a holt a guy jumped out shouting ‘La Serena’ ‘La Serena’ and we were hustled on and set off before we could catch our breath. We had a bit of a wait at the next bus terminal before we were off on an overnight bus to San Pedro de Atacama. The bus itself was full of fellow backpackers and we settled down to the long journey, trying to keep up with Back to the Future in Spanish. I got a bit of a shock at 2am when we stopped at a bus station and Les got off to smoke and then the bus started moving! Luckily we were only parking elsewhere and I didn’t have to explain how I’d lost him in the middle of nowhere. We also discovered the s-town podcast which had me crying in public!

The next morning we arrived at San Pedro and it was a bit deserted, pardon the pun. Just lots of dust, stray dogs and tourists. After a quiet first next day we went sandboarding. The oldest by about 10 years it kind of showed as we huffed and puffed our way up the sand after each run. Les was quite a natural and once I got over my nerves started to get the hang of it too. In fact I might have got a bit cocky which ended with me getting very stuck in the sand and unable to extract myself. Les whizzed down to rescue me but my pride felt I’d been left too long and there were a few swears as he helped me up. After an hour we were knackered and happy to get in the mini bus and enjoy views of Death Valley. The name is a bit disappointing when you realise it was the Spanish mishearing of a native word. In the evening Les was determined to buy a poncho and finally settled on a quite flamboyant style which he claims he will continue to wear in the U.K.

The next day we had some time before the moon tour so we chilled at our hostel and got a bit competitive over some games of table tennis. The tour itself was really fun, walking over craters and into caves, kind of looked like mars rather than the moon! At the end we walked up more sand dunes until we got to the top. The view was amazing and our guide told us the ancient Andes people folktales about the mountains. We moved to another viewing spot for sunset which was stunning. The next day we had nothing planned as we needed to get stuff together for our three day salt flats tour. With conjunctivitis and a huge blister on my lip I already felt sorry for whoever had to share our jeep. Les also came down with a nasty cold and were a bit apprehensive about what we were told was a very cold very difficult couple of days!

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