A Chilean Detour

San Pedro de Atacama

I cross the border from Bolivia to Chile in the middle of the desert and what really strikes me is the change in my surroundings. As soon as I cross the border all the sudden there are roads, traffic signs and crash barriers. I didn’t just enter a new country, I entered a new world. A world with infrastructure and yeah, I hate using the word development but in this case, it is hard not to.

Coming to San Pedro de Atacama, my dream is to visit the ALMA Observatory which is part of the biggest observatory in the world. Unfortunately, my bad or should I say non-existent planning results in no space available (I was not supposed to have gone to Chile but straight to Argentina after Bolivia). Apparently, the observatory is only open for the public during weekends and you have to book at least a month in advance. Well, one thing is for sure, this shall not keep me from stargazing in the Atacama Desert since the place is perfect for it. There are even places in Atacama where they never (I mean never!) have reported rain.

I sign up for a late night astronomic tour in the desert instead, and I’m in no way disappointed. Our host for the night is a sympathetic astronomic researcher from the university who during the night teaches us about the different stars, planets and signs of the sky. Outside, there’s a big amount of telescopes sat up for our entertainment and fun. What a good way to spend a Saturday night.

La Serena, Back at the Sea

I’ve been missing the ocean like crazy after nearly two months in the Andes mountains and the desert. Sadly, I’m facing colder weather the further South I go (it is about to get winter) which means it’s too cold to go swimming but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a day at the beach which is exactly the thing I do when I get to La Serena. At least the sun is shining. Perfect for a good long walk, and God, it feels good to hear the ocean again and watch the sunset over the Pacific.

Wildlife at Humboldt National Reserve

From La Serena, I do a tour to Isla Damas and Isla Choros. Two islands with an amazing wild life. They are both part of the Humboldt National Reserve.

From Punto de Choros we get picked up by a boat and after a short visit at Isla Damas, we sail around Isla Choros since it’s not allowed to enter the island due to the protection of wild life. All around the island, small penguins are walking around while sea lions are resting on the rocks. Big pelicans and other birds fill the sky around the island. Sadly, no dolphins show up this day, and we have to give up our search since the wind is picking up badly.

Valparaíso, Home of the Street Art

My first day in Valparaíso it’s just poring down. It’s seriously raining for 24 hours and somehow, I ended up in a hostel that smells like cat pee. Not the best place to be captured for a day. But when it finally stops raining and I’m once again free to walk the streets, I get to see why it was worth going to Valparaíso.

Before coming here, everyone told me to take care of myself, that the city wasn’t safe and a taxi driver even followed me from the bus station to the hostel even though it was right around the corner and I didn’t need a taxi. The streets of the city are just filled with chaos; vendors and trash everywhere, so much graffiti and colours. But somehow I end up finding the trashiness to be the charm of the city.

I love taking walks in the chaos, and most of all, I love all the street art. The famous writer Pablo Neruda who lived in the city and found a lot of inspiration here and who’s house I visit, said it well, when he said: “Valparaíso, how absurd you are… you haven’t combed your hair, you’ve never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you.” These words describe Valparaíso so well. Such a lovely chaos.

Santiago & Crossing into Argentina

After Valparaíso, it is time to visit the capital of Chile which is such a lovely place filled with fine buildings and green areas.

From Santiago I begin my favourite bus tour so far, going to Mendoza in Argentina. The scenery on the way is incredible. The beautiful autumn colours of the trees and wine fields together with the blue sky and the huge mountains covered in snow. I couldn’t think of a more beautiful setting. The trip last around 8 hours. During that time, you have to cross the crazy Andean pass. I guess it’s my lucky day since the pass has been closed for several days due to 2 meters snow but this day the sun is shining and the roads are cleared meaning that we can pass.

After a longer border crossing, we get pulled over by the border control and I find it hard not to giggle when the border control asks the sweet lady next to me what’s in her bag and she calmly answer, the word of God, and it is actually true, she got a bible in her bag.

The beautiful journey takes me to the city of Mendoza in Argentina which will be my home and workplace for the next month or so but that’s a story for next time.

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