At the end of our time in Santiago we met up with a group for our tour part of the trip, and started a long set of bus journeys, travelling ever north. The local buses were surprisingly comfortable – plenty of leg room, reclining seats and snacks throughout the journey – with no train service and only expensive flights as an alternative, the buses had upped their service throughout Chile whilst still retaining the low cost.
We arrived at our first stop after seven long hours – La Serena, a small coastal town with beautiful post-colonial buildings and clear blue skies. It was only a short stroll to the beach, where we spent a couple of hours taking photos and walking along the coastline.
In the evening we headed an hour out of town to a local observatory to hear about the extensive astronomy research taking place in northern Chile and to view some constellations. It was a full moon, which resulted in a lot of light pollution, but we still saw a reasonable amount, had a look through a few telescopes and got some wonderful photos of the moon as a bonus. Standing on the top of the hill late at night, staring up at the stars was a great experience, although I’m not sure I’ll be able to pick out the constellations again on my own…!
Next up was a longer bus journey – 12 hours overnight. Rather, it would have been 12 hours if the bus hadn’t have broken down halfway through, with a swap between buses and an extra few hours on the trip as a result. We arrived in Antofagasta tired and with aching muscles, but with just enough energy left to have a short glance around the second biggest city in Chile and a gorgeous dinner of local fish and a quinoa risotto.
There was one final bus journey to go – just 5 hours this time, straight into the desert and finally a chance to crack out the flip flops!