Sunday 6th July 2014
Santiago to La Serena, Chile
We had breakfast in the hotel today, then out to the supermarket to buy some snacks for the bus ride today. We left the hotel in taxis to go to the main Santiago bus station and caught the 11:40am bus north to La Serena, a coastal town about 450-500km north of Santiago. Once we left Santiago and the snow capped mountains in the distance, we drove through mainly hilly and beautiful countryside for about 6 and a half hours until we arrived at the bus station in La Serena, an old city that was first founded by the Spanish in 1544, then destroyed by Indians in 1546, then rebuilt by the Spanish in 1549. Because it was the main staging post on the route north to Peru, many religious orders built churches and convents here to provide accommodation for their members. The town then became a very rich town due to nearby copper and silver deposits. It remains a very wealthy town even today and is now a popular place for Chileans to come to the beach in summer. Today being Sunday there were few restaurants open, so our leader suggested that we go to the supermarket and buy dinner, so we bought takeaway chicken and chips and a large bottle of beer. Others bought various things and we all came back to our hotel and sat upstairs in an open area and had dinner and a chat. Back to the room to bed early at about 9:30pm. Sunny today, cold early but only about 14-15C here. Luckily, for a pleasant change, we had a dimplex heater in the room and - yes - an electric blanket!
Monday 7th July 2014
La Serena, Chile
Up late today from our warm room for breakfast about 9:15am, after which we went for a very long walk in the sunshine about 3km down to the beach, then along the beach another 2km then back to the town where we had lunch in a restaurant popular with locals. We then went to the shopping mall and looked around the shops for an hour or so then walked back to the hotel. La Serena is a large town with about 200,000 people. It is obviously much busier in the summmer when Chileans come here for beach holidays, but in winter there are few if any tourists. We are staying in tonight just having a snack for dinner.
Tuesday 8th July 2014
La Serena (day) to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile (overnight bus)
Today we had breakfast about 9:00am and then went out to look around the old town of La Serena. We had planned to see all the historic sights - 4 churches and 2 museums - but it was quite cold today with no sun, so we thought it was warmer to look in the department stores and clothes shops so we did. Had lunch in a restaurant then back to the hotel in time to leave for the bus station at around 5:15pm. The bus left at around 6:00pm and we headed north out of La Serena towards Antofagasta and our ultimate destination San Pedro de Atacama, up in the Andes, east of Calama. The bus was very comfortable with plenty of leg room. A sandwich and soft drink was served late evening.