Saturday, July 26th 2003 – Day 158

Saturday, July 26th 2003 – Day 158

It was a nice journey. I was lucky to get the last seat (number 41 beside the toilet). It was a Friday evening and a lot of people were traveling. I could put back (recline) my seat without effecting people. We got dinner and a drink from the tie wearing steward and I took a sleeping tablet which helped me to relax. They also gave us nice blankets to keep warm. It was long journey but I did not miss anything as there was nothing but desert outside.

The movies they showed were the worst ever. First, “Ernest in the Army” and then Ernest Goes to Africa . Who actually pays to go and see or rent these movies or worse, who makes them. These are silly, unfunny and play to stereotypes. Jim Varney the actor who can only make silly faces died in 2000. Seems he suffered from depression and dreamed of becoming a great dramatic actor. He was only 50. He made NINE “Ernest” films.

They then showed a worse film called “the Presidents Man” starring Chuck Norris and his son. It was made for TV.

Anyway, It was a nice ride. We got breakfast in the morning and lunch at 1.00am. Filled a gap as there were only 2 stops down South. We were stopped by Chilean customs (like all buses) and had all our bags searched again by hand. This delayed us by 1 hour. The bus was full.

We arrived in La Serena after 19 HOURS. We passed through Northern Chile, which is home to the driest desert in the world called the Atacama Desert. The region known as the “North of Chile” occupies an area equivalent in size to two thirds of Italy. It stretches from the highlands of the Andean Altiplano over the golden sands of the Atacama Desert as far as the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

We came close to the village of San Pedro de Atacama which I have been to before. See my previous stories here and here. I also started my three day trip to Uyuni in Bolivia from here.

It was 2.30pm and I wanted to get here earlier. I now had to decide whether to stay or go to Santiago by nights bus. I decided to deposit my bag at the station and decide later. I walked into town. The town has a big reputation for its buildings and 29 churches but I was not impressed.

“Important both historically and economically, the beachside city of La Serena is one of Chile’s oldest post-Columbian cities. The region’s silver, copper and agriculture were so important that the city had its own mint. Today, La Serena maintains a colonial air, although it is threatening Vi?a del Mar’s supremacy as the premier beach resort. Apart from a string of beautiful beaches, attractions include a handful of museums and a number of nearby quaint villages and vineyards”. taken from Lonely Planet.

I got some stuff (fruit) from the supermarket and enquired about tours. I had wanted to visit the Elqui Valley and visit a pisco distillery, one of Chile’s most famous spirits.

As the Elqui Valley is known for its mystic energy and clean skies I also wanted to visit to the Mamalluca Observatory, 70 Km from La Serena and not far from Vicu?a, where visitors are invited to watch the stars and attend a lecture from professional astronomers who will explain all the phenomena visible from this observatory.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

La Serena – Chile (26-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

La Serena – Chile (26-07-2003)

It seems we in the middle of winter here at the moment and it was cold and cloudy. I decided not to visit Vicuna by bus (I would have if I had arrived earlier and was not in a rush to Santiago – I was interested in such things). It was a pity but I walked back to the bus station and bought a 11.20pm overnight bus to Santiago. About seven bus companies offer this route and competition is fierce. The ticket from express Norte was 7,000 CP (8.60 Euro). Another cold journey but I had gotten the front seat which has extra leg room. We also got blankets and hot tea.

It takes seven hours to get to Santaigo and we arrived at the San Borjas station (there are 5 major bus stations in Santiago) at 6.30am. I had checked out accommodation options on the NET in La Serena and I wanted comfort and luxury for my last three nights in South America. I had stayed in only one other proper hotel (in Lima) during my five and a half months. I wanted TV and comfort. I found a hotel only 2 minutes walk from the station and close to the metro. I walked there in the quiet dark streets and got the three nights for 55 US.