My last day in Antofagasta, I meant to go to La Portada. It’s a stone arch in the middle of the ocean about 30 minutes outside the city. It would cost a fortune by taxi (I already asked about public transportation and there is basically no information online), but I figured it might just be worth it. Upon waking up, though, I found that there had been pretty bad rains the night before and the power had gone out. That meant time to study some more Spanish, uninterrupted, but it also meant that I wouldn’t be able to contact my Couchsurfing host in La Serena. I tried to do some work while waiting for the power to come back on (I was hopeful – and it even came on for about 5 minutes, during which I was unable to do anything worthwhile) but I ended up waiting until late afternoon with no progress. Since there are apparently no buses directly to La Serena (most of them that stop there use it as a pit stop before going on to Santiago), it was time to go to the bus terminal before I knew it.
I took a collective (holla @ me!) to the bus terminal, but when I got there I was really confused. The lady at the counter told me to pay on the bus, so I followed an employee to the bus. She had given me a seat number but some other old couple came and claimed I was sitting in their seats. I was promptly moved to an aisle seat (don’t get me started on why I don’t like aisle seats), and the old lady sitting next to me turned out to be crazy – she didn’t even know what city we were in. What?
I was nervous because I hadn’t paid – and when I did, I wasn’t given a receipt. Luckily, there were no problems. Except that once we arrived, those of us going to La Serena were dropped off at a random intersection outside the city center. I had no clue at all where I was, or how to get anywhere. Luckily, it was already 7:30 am, meaning there was a gas station open across the street that I was able to ask. (On the other side, there was a Chuck E. Cheese’s!). I walked to the Plaza de Armas (really empty) and lamented the fact that nothing is open in South America before 9 am. It’s intensely frustrating. Not to mention that I had no phone, no address for my Couchsurf, and no information about a hostel should I need one. It was a great morning, but for some reason I was more annoyed than worried. I think that speaks a lot to the South American culture that I’ve absorbed over the last two and a half months plus.
Luckily, right around 8:50, I found a café with wifi (few and far between – most cafes don’t have wifi, and the one I went in to ask had an employee that was extremely rude to me, ugh). I finished the travel research on La Serena that I meant to do the day before (and would have had I had wifi), got the address of my Couchsurf, and let my laptop charge (it had died from the day without power before).
The Couchsurf is probably the worst conditions I’ve ever lived in – in South America or otherwise. It’s a little out of the city (accessible by collective), but the house is old and falling apart. He has a huge dog and two small ones, and a horse. He’s a surfer and has a room specifically for growing weed that he sells to his friends. LMAO. The room he has for Couchsurfers has a door that doesn’t quite close, and two beds for three people for tonight, four when Dad gets here. He’s going to have a blast.
I headed to the city in collective, which was miles cheaper than the taxi I had to take the first time. I stopped by a travel agency, but apparently, due to the rain, tours are not possible until maybe Wednesday or Thursday. There’s not a whole lot to do in the city, so hopefully the weather conditions clear up. Cities in northern Chile are unprepared like no other for any kind of precipitation (hence the power outage from the night before and this canceling of tours), so the timing of my arrival is basically the worst I could have picked, ever.
Nevertheless, I walked to a museum on a Chilean president, Gabriel Gonzalez Videla, which had a tiny bit of English that helped me get the gist of what was going on. Apparently, La Serena developed closely with another city, Coquimbo, which is the namesake of the region and just a couple miles south. Just walking around the city, I found several public transportation stops to Coquimbo and other surrounding towns.
I also walked by a little open market, a long strip of park, and the beach. They don’t really have a beach for swimming here, but there is a structure that looks like an abandoned lighthouse.
Since there wasn’t much else to do, I ate some dinner and headed back. I thought the collective worked the same as a taxi but with more than one passenger, but I was wrong. Apparently, they have little stops where people wait for collectivos (or collectivos wait for people) that are organized, at least to get from the city back to the suburbs. Oops.
At night, I was able to just chat with Cristian a little. He spent 10 years in Tuscon, Arizona 10 years ago, so his English is really great. He is also a sort of free spirit, who surfs and smokes and just opened a pizza shop a couple months ago. His friends and dad came to just hang out at night, and I chatted with them a little in the broken Spanish that I know.