La Serena

Arriving back in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, after visiting the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, I only had a short time to feed myself and repack my hunchback before catching an overnight bus to La Serena. I did make time to have an argument with the tour operator about the driver who accidentally took us off road on the way back to the border but I was wasting my time.

I arrived early the next day at my hostel in La Serena and was pleasantly surprised by both the city and the accommodation, BleuBlanc Hostal. Very pleasant after roughing it for the previous week. My main objective was to relax for a couple of days but it did not quite work out. On my second evening there, I went on a trip to the observatory at Mamalluca, which was fascinating. Unfortunately, this meant not returning to the hotel until after midnight.

I had to check out by midday the following day but my bus, for Santiago, was not leaving until midnight. I decided to visit the neighbouring town of Coquimbo, which has a large cross celebrating the third millenium. I walked there and back which was a total of more than 25kms. I did manage to sleep well on the bus journey to Santiago, though.

Click on a pic for a slide show.

 

Bolivia

After more than 4 months in Perú, I crossed the border into Chile. I stayed there, in the city of Arica, long enough to celebrate my birthday and to get ill. It was the worst case of sickness I have had, since I arrived in South America but a trip to a doctor and US$40 soon had me on the mend. I was well enough to travel to San Pedro de Atacama, where I stayed for just one night before embarking on a 4 day trip to Bolivia.

The trip was amazing. The scenery was stunning. The accommodation was basic, particularly on the first night. My travel companions were great fun, as was the driver/guide, Mario. The only downside to the trip was the driver who returned us to the border on the last day. Not only was he surly, unhelpful and uninformative but also a really bad driver. He reinforced that opinion when he took off-road, too literally, failed to make a bend and when he braked too hard too late, managed to unseat everyone except himself.

That incident did nothing to spoil the overall impression of the trip but the tour company, Colque Tours, were not really interested.

The first day started with being collected from the hotel and after passing through customs and immigration at San Pedro de Atacama, being transported by bus to the Chile/Bolivia border. After completing the entry process into Bolivia, we were assigned into groups and to our vehicles complete with drivers.

The vehicle was a Toyota Landcruiser and the driver was Mario. The group was made up of 2 young ladies from Italy, 2 young men and a young lady from Portugal and myself (the not so young man) from England. The others seemed to have no end of languages available to choose from and they all so spoke English except Mario. And so began my sojourn in Bolivia.

From the hot springs, we moved on to the similarly hot and very smelly, geysers.

After the geysers, we made our way to the very basic (not even a shower) accommodation, where we had lunch and a rest before visiting the nearby, Coloured Lagoon. We then spent the night in the basic accommodation, where it was as many as six people in a room.