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Vicuña->La Serena->Calama

In order to catch the first bus back to La Serena, I got up earlier than ideal at 6:40. The front door was locked and the only way out was a key. I buzzed the inside door. Sophaelle’s mother came to the rescue. Even though I had already paid, I felt like I was sneaking out with an aid of an accomplice. Sophaelle’s mom open up the side door and gate.

When I looked back to wave goodbye, I caught a glimpse of the moon. It looked a bit different than the previous night. The full moon was still shining brightly but it was missing a big chuck. Holy cow it was a freaking eclipse. Why did the chick not give us the heads up last night?

Damn, no time to watch. I had to run to catch the bus but figured I could see more as the bus drove through the valley. Sure enough, I made it as the bus was starting up and heading out. Just as I sat down, the ayudante took my red 5 Mil bill with Gabriella Mistral’s not-so-beautiful mug on it. The tariff was 1800CLP. He gave me 200 in change. Seeing that he did not have any green 1 Mil bills in hand, I figured he had to collect the fare from the other passengers and would return soon with the rest of my change. This has been the case on many other bus rides.

Wait a second, he got off the bus. The bus slowly zig zagged the streets of Vincuña with more passengers hopping on. Usually the ayudante’s are quick to jump off and jump back on. Once the bus crossed the bridge, no more passengers got on and neither did the ayudante with my change. That Bastard! I was not pleased. If it was a few cents, whatever, but it was closer to $6. Yes, I have pissed away $6 many times in the past but it is much different when someone takes it from you. OK Keren. Inhale..Exhale.. No worries, you will get your money back.

The ride was tranquil. I missed the rest of the eclipse but was able to see the sun rise over the misty valley. Soon the bus slowly rolled through La Serena. I stayed on until the bus terminal since I had to take care of 2 matters. First, I chatted with the bus driver about the change incident, using my sweet approach (keeping the hardcore bitch in standby). He tried to call the ayudante to no avail and just gave me my change without any fuss. Like I said, no worries, I got my money back. Second, arrange my overnight bus for tonight. Done and done in less than a minute (or maybe a minute and 30 seconds).

On my walk back to my other hotel, Maygus, I passed through a park lined with marble statues. The statues comprised of naked women of different varieties and naked men with a fig leaf covering their delicates. What amused me about the male statues they were either engaging in battle (fighting over a woman?) or flexing (posing for the ladies?).

Once back at my home base, Gustavo greeted me. He had worried about me. I told him about my excursion as he poured me a cup of coffee. SInce I didn’t use my bed the previous night and I bus was not until 18:45, he said I could check out late.

The rest of the day consisted of napping, planning, preparing and packing. When you are on the road for such a long time, sometimes you have to take a day to be nerdy and productive. I crossed off plenty of to-do’s off my list. These matters did not really interest me in the least so I will not bore you by rehashing the remainder of my day.

Once the sun began to set, so did my time in La Serena. I walked to the bus terminal to get out any excess energy. The Calama bus was waiting. All the other buses advertised the time and route with a digital display. Mine was the ghetto bus that had the destination written on the inside of the windscreen with white shoe polish with a sign that you usually see on a store door with a manual clock that says “will be back”.

My final destination was San Pedro de Atacama which was an hour away from Calama, a big mining town. Based on the types of passengers that filled the bus, I would bet big they were all going to work in the mines. The appearance of the bus was gritty and so was the smell: sweat and cigarettes.

Being the lucky girl that I am, the man seated next to me was a non-smoker who favored showers and clean laundry. Whew! He kept to himself and within the confines of his assigned seat reading an English textbook that was probably at the 4th grade level. Periodically, he would ask for help understanding some of the words in the book. Since so many Chileans have been extremely kind to me in regard to my quest to understand the Spanish language, I was happy to pay it forward.

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