Three days into staying at San Pedro de Atacama and it was clear we weren’t going to find the motivation to play tourist here. I don’t know whether it was the hot sun or the overpriced shops, but our motivation had gone AWOL and we needed to move on. Our group of six were going separate ways, with two heading to Santiago and one to the north of Chile – that left T, A and I to slowly make our way to Valparaiso. Catching a night bus to La Serena, we arrived at this seaside town in the early hours of the morning and found a hostel with room for the three of us.
The Hostel Cosmo Elqui was one of those groovy, graffiti filled places that just made you want to stay there forever. Of course, we were too early to check in so we stored our big bags and headed down to the main part of town in search of breakfast. Coming across a massive supermarket the combination of hunger and tiredness turned the three of us into delirious messes. Stoked to be in the first proper supermarket since La Paz, we raced around admiring all the food and buying way too much stuff. They even had Bega cheese, which is made in Australia – I was in heaven! After an hour and a half of perusing the aisles (I know, I know) we paid for our mountain of food and headed back to the hostel to take over the kitchen. It’s funny how the simplest things in life, such as buying groceries can make you feel normal again.
We enjoyed our home cooked breakfast on the rooftop terrace of the hostel and made plans for the next part of the trip. We’d stopped at La Serena because of it’s beaches however the weather was grey and dreary so my hopes of laying out on a sunny beach were slowly fading. Deciding to catch the night bus the following night to Valparaiso, we went and booked our bus tickets and explored the little city of La Serena. It was a pretty little town with a very European influence. We wandered through street markets and found Lider, the Latin America version of Walmart where yet again we went crazy and bought too much food.
The following night we caught the bus to Valparaiso and arrived into this port city at the early hours of the morning. We had decided against booking a hostel beforehand because it had been so easy to just book once you arrive, however the sun didn’t seem to rise until late in Chile and nobody likes waking early so we were stranded on the street until one hostel opened their doors to us. The PataPata Hostel was a whimsical looking hostel that had a strong bohemian vibe; I instantly loved it. Luckily there was room available for us so we crashed out for the next couple of hours, tired from the bumpy night bus.
Later that morning we went out in search of breakfast and already I could tell that I would love this city. The streets were filled with amazing graffiti and cute little cafes and there was a vibe to the area that was welcoming and cool. We wandered up and down the steep streets and admired the place. It reminded me a little of Melbourne with the rich cultural feeling and the never-stopping trams. We headed back to the hostel for a while before meeting up with the walking tour that afternoon.
Tour 4 Tips is a company focused on giving travellers the best insight to a city for cheap. It is solely tip-based so you just pay as much as you like. A lot of walking tours run under the same concept and really are the best way to be introduced to city. We were taken all around the city of Valpo – which I learnt was a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and told all about the history of this famous port city. My favourtie part was the end of the tour when we were taken to Delicias Express, a hole in the wall bakery that sold over 80 different types of empanadas! I was in heaven! After much deliberation, I chose my empanada and waited for it to be freshly cooked. At 1,700 Chilean pesos it was a little more expensive than the regular street kind, but the warm, cheesy pastry was definitely worth it. This place was going to become a regular hotspot while we were in Valpo, I could tell.
After the walking tour we went to the supermarket and bought some wine and cheese and headed to another hostel to watch the sunset with some people from the walking tour. We had wanted to move to this hostel but it was booked out so pretending we were just looking at the rooftop, we settled in and drank to the beautiful sunset before sneaking out once it was dark.
The following day we wandered around the city, just enjoying being in this cool place. It had this laid-back, funky vibe about it that was addictive, I felt about 10 times cooler just because I was here. Again we weren’t doing a whole lot of touristy things, but it was nice to just be in the city hanging out. That night we went to a rooftop bar where I ran into my Danish friend I met in Lima and we all danced and drank the night away.
The following morning we had one final empanada and caught the bus to Santiago. This is my final stop in Chile before I head back to Peru and go north to the sunshine!