Monday, April 2, 2012

La Serena: well, there was a beach & the mall...

It had been pretty hectic for the past weeks when I was leaving San Pedro de Atacama and definitely hadn’t got enough sleep. I even didn’t have time to have dinner before I got on my bus to La Serena from San Pedro – but I did manage to take a hot pizza with me :D The bus left San Pedro at 7pm and was to arrive to La Serena at around 10.30am so at least I could have some sleep there. What I hate most about night buses (well, in addition to people making noise or the too strong air con or heating....) was waking up at the crack of dawn when the bus is arriving to a city you have no idea about. At least now I could chill until 10am. And the bus was pretty comfortable (Tur Bus) and I had made sure I got a cama seat which stands for a bed, i.e. an almost fully reclining seat. They also offered a snack in the evening and breakfast in the morning. The movies they played on that trip were hilarious though - I gotta love the South American twisted sense of humour / lack of tact: first it was the Unstoppable, a film of a runaway train, and next the Speed, the bus terrorist classic. I would have liked to know what they played after that, perhaps a movie about a  bus crashing into a Chilean ravine? :D

I had a decent amount of sleep before I arrived to La Serena. Again I hadn’t made any hostel reservations but I had figured from the map that there were a number of decent hostels within walking distance from the bus terminal and it wasn’t hard to find good accommodation now during low season. Only needed to walk about two blocks to find one. I settled in the small private room I was given and rested for a a moment.

La Serena is a small city on the Pacific coast and I’d heard it was quite pretty there. And it was nice but really nothing special. Am I getting a bit jaded? Like most towns it had nice parks and tree-lined avenues, and the center of the city was full of all kinds of shops & restaurants. There was a beach too and I walked there on my second day but it’s a bit too cold already – there was only a couple of people fishing and a few people walking around here and there. Like I’ve heard about the coast town the sky was cloudy mornings and sunny in the afternoons.

Almost no people at the beach - it was sunny in the afternoon but not particularly warm

Actually what I enjoyed about the town the most was the shopping mall. That tells a lot about how (dis)interesting the place really was. But I do like shopping so it wasn’t bad for me. I even had my hair done – the first time on the trip!

Shopping is more fun with some frozen yogurt!
Of course La Serena has lots of tours to offer for the bit more energetic travelers – one of the top ones is a visit to Valle del Elqui, which is famous for its Pisco distilleries. Unfortunately I was all toured out. After so many towns with their “must see” and “must do” things I was just content in doing nothing special. So I figured it’s just best to move along so I got myself a bus ticket to Valparaíso. This meant that I would spend yet another night in the bus (since I didn’t feel like wasting a day sitting in the bus) but I consoled myself with the fact that it would be the last one in South America!

Bus tickets have been quite cheap in Chile by the way, or I’ve been strangely lucky with the top bus company Tur Bur: the San Pedro to La Serena cama (the sleeper) bus ticket was 34.800 pesos – normal price was 49.600; from La Serena to Valparaíso it was 11.900 – normal price 26.700; and the one I would four days later take from Valpo to Santiago was 2.300 – normal price 3.900. This meant that top company Tur Bus was cheaper than all the cheap bus companies… It always pays off to ask around for the prices!

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