From Atacama to La Serena

(Fragmentary thoughts)

Accross the desert on the mesmerising road.
Forgot the turn off for the aeropuerto.
Lost in Calama, endless lights on red, squeezing, honking traffic.
Telegraph poles, wire tangles, exotic street trees, low houses in bright dusty sunlight.
Big black haired Aztec schoolgirls in too short check skirts and woollen socks.
We zig and zag through insalubrious streets and packs of dogs

image

No map, no connection.
Alison asks a guy with not a clue in a clueless area of town.
Then a clued up lady draws us a mappa mundi of the road to the aeropuerto.
It is a good map.

image

The Great White Teapot is returned to its stable none the worse for our company.
Air conned airport cool modern relief after the motor mayhem.
Sandwich and coffee in a Costa with paper Chile coloured decorations.
The little private planes in the bright afternoon sun on the desert runway outside the window.
We miss the baggage drop, go back to find it.

image

The flight, the desert, desert, desert.
And the mountains, mountains pinking and sinking into indigo.
Candy floss Aconcagua with puffs of cloud.
Then down down down to Santiago.

image

A short walk past taxi touts and
Unaccustomed water to the The Holiday Inn.
The future is now cool cats in the slick bar.
Nadal still twitching and obsessive on a big screen in the bar.
The room, big bed, view of a car park. No stars here mate.
Unusually an Afro girl serves us quiet efficient
A good dinner.
Out in the chill dawn, not as wrapped up as the Santiaguenos.
My straw hat incongruous conspicuous.
Back through taxi touts, to and fro to find internal departures.
The short air bus trip to La Serena.
Chile’s innate lumpiness again in evidence.
A ladder off the plane onto the runway.
Real flying like in the old movies.

image

The drive through the valley of big cactus dry hills.
The Big Yins with snow on them, looking over their shoulders.
Vineyards and olives and mobile phone masts against the blue.
A new road winds through blasted rock to a reservoir to a tunnel.
To Vicuña, bustling with its German tower.
We cross a one lane bridge enter the grid of streets.
Low houses coloured and graffitied. Ugly telegraph arrangements.

image

The square is busy, Latin music most elegant trees.
Stone tables with inlaid chessboards. A wedding cake church.
A modern bandstand, concert stage, whatever.
To the supermarket for lunch things. Rolls, cheese, apples, water.
Strolling we meet Gabriella Mistral all white on a mustard plinth.
Local girl made good and Chile’s upbeat flag is everywhere.
Always the huge hills peep out above them.

image

Up to the narrow Elqui Valley. Up and up and winding up.
Tiny villages, picturesque, lovely Spring colourful flowers.
Narrow cobbled streets, horses winding up the road somewhat perigloso.
Always the steep high barren hillsides closing in.
The narrow band of cultivation clawed from the hills.
To Elqui Domos.

image

A soft spoken New Age man speaks of ‘special energies of the valley’.
‘Powerful magnetism’ clearly a physics free zone.
A steep climb with suitcases to the cabin.
Some kids having fun in domes music.
The cabin is spare looks OK.
The hills tower over it.
Claustrophobic.
No wifi.

image

Back to admin dome, nice decor grey tiles, wooden mobile curtain, sky charts.
‘Wifi only in admin’. Toilet paper as before. Cold water. Disappointing.
Dinner’s very good but Alison’s adversely affected by energies and throws up outside.
Our New Age guide kindly brings Rosemary to soothe.
Night falls. Too many lights from street and cars.
The window blinds are stiff and difficult.
A nearby party loudly beats until four.
Cold showers.
We check out.
Early.

image

We drive back down through the pretty villages.
Down and down past the vines and barren hillsides.
The further down the more is growing, flowering.
The spring flowers bright colours.
Montegrande is warming in the sun and stirring.
In the little plaza fruit sellers and jewellers set up shop.
Alison chats to the jeweller and buys a pair of silver earrings.

image

Down again to the main valley.
Then to Molle very tranquil.
People on horses followed by a dog.
We stop for empanadas at an airy plainly decorated cafe.
Bright red spring flowers.

image

On down the main road bigger villages roadside stalls.
Developments for sale for rent for all.
It’s busier more built up.
To La Serena back past the airport and on to the town
Through narrow, busy back streets.
Army barracks like a child’s toy fort with red and white battlements.
Stop at a hostel to ask the way to the Faro.
Wend our way through the one way streets low coloured houses.
Down to the wide long Avenida del Mar with lines of big thick palm trees.

image
Stop at the Faro.
Lots of folk out.
Sunday outings to the seaside.
We walk along the front.
Get to a big hotel with cabanas.
Ask to see a room.
Looks OK.
No claustrophobia here.
Just a fine sea view.
We check in.

image