La Serena, Chile... A local's tour of the surrounding areas
Sep 27, 2005
|Sigrid and her partner, from our hostel, were very interested to see how we would tackle the lady at the launderette. Actually when I woke up, the fire of the anger had gone - the lucky lady!
Ron thought that she might remember him for years to come, as the first time he went, he had to communicate everything with hand gestures. Later in the afternoon, he had lost the receipt. So a pretty memorable customer.
When we turned up at the launderette, she went smilinly to get the clean clothes, oblivious of what was to come. She obviously remembered him, and I asked her why she had forgotten about us when she closed the shop last night. She said that there was no more work to be done, so they closed. Even if a bag of clothes was still waiting to be collected? "Well, you were late," she said. No, we weren't! And had to explain to her, as a consequent of her action, we couldn't leave La Serena the previous night. As we changed the date of the ticket less than four hours of departure, we were fined 15%. For my shorter distance, this was only 800 pesos (which is still US$2!), but Ron's sixteen hours journey - 2400 pesos = US$12. Pretty hefty. She got defensive, and couldn't understand why she had to pay. Anyway, after ten minutes of Spanish dialogue going back and forth, she slapped the money on the counter. Victory!! And didn't have to raise voice and with crazy hand gestures. Very good!
Next on the agenda was meeting Agustin, whom I had met in San Pedro. He lives in La Serena, works nearby, and just got back from Santiago. Dressed up all smart for work and looking very different from the San Pedro days, he explained that he had another meeting now, but would be free for the rest of the afternoon.
To fill in the next hour, Ron and I went to try our luck again at the Japanese garden. This time it was opened, and we walked around the small tranquil garden, with the help of a small leaflet - which felt the need to explain every little thing. A little like my journal, I guess!! It was a nice quiet refuge from the city, a totally different environment almost. With the boundary of trees and shrubs, one could almost forget the garden is only a few minutes walk away from the main plaza.
After a quick coffee/tea with Agustin, we set off for the afternoon activities. First up was a quick stop at Agustin's house to change into something more "comfortable", then onwards to the beach town of Tongoy for a spot of lunch, "for the best seafood in La Serena". Shame I don't eat seafood!! But nonetheless the old fashioned waiter was able to modify the menu slightly for me, so there was something for me too.
There were possibilities of going to various beaches (think Agustin would like a siesta after a night of travelling on the bus), but we ended up going to Coquimbo, for another attempt at going up the Cross of the Third Millennium. The first time for us all.
This time, we made it well ahead of closing time, and found out, five steps beyond paying at the entrance, that we could also have a free group photo in front of the cross. Very nice!! Then up an elevator, to the first vantage point. A quick look at the surrounding landscape, and up the second elevator, to a vantage point higher up, in the concrete tube of the "arm" of the cross.
There weren't much up in the arm - more for viewing the surroundings. So it was entertaining to find a man complete with safety harness cleaning the windows. More interesting than the busts of past senior cardinals. The view was gorgeous though. We also managed to fit in a quick walk in the musuem, which had lots of photos of the construction process and explaining more of the project background, and then it was closing time.
Since Agustin hadn't been home for two weeks, he needed to stock up his kitchen, and provided us an opportunity to visit the Chilean version of Asda. Holders of the store loyalty card could get a discount on purchases of vegetables, meat and seafood that day. Think someone should pass on this idea onto Sainsbury's!! With offers on different days of the week, this was the way to ensure a steady flow of customers all week!
Back again to Agustin's for a bite to eat, and sampling some of the wine he gets from work. He is the general manager of "La Ruta del Vino" in the Valle Limari, which organises tours to the various wineries in the region to tourists. For more information in English and Spanish, see www.limariwines.com.
Then we were dropped off at our hostel at about nine, to pick up our bags. And maybe will be able to return the favour by giving him a tour of London, where he will be for a week of holiday at the end of November. And of course, taking him to the best South American resturant in town, with the best bottle of Chilean wine!
Late in the evening, Ron and I made our way to the bus station - where he will be heading north to San Pedro de Atacama, and I southwards to Santiago. However, we left a little late for Ron's bus, and I was anxious that he shouldn't miss it - since it was the last one as well. In my haste to reach the bus station, we entered through the car's way, and I followed the car blindly through a barriar crossing. Just in time for the barriar to come down, and hit me smartly on the forehead. But at least we didn't miss Ron's bus, though it ensured I got a good night's sleep from being knocked out!