Tag Archives: photos

San Pedro first day

Note this post covers the 11th – 12th of Feb

Bus Journey

Because of the flooding and landslides in Peru that happened a couple of weeks or so before we were supposed to go up to Maccu Piccu, that part of our planned trip had to be cancelled. Instead, Fran and I figured we could visit some parts of Chile we hadn’t been to. The advice given was to visit the desert in the north, by going to this small town called San Pedro de Atacama.

After looking into flights, we decided that we would take the bus up to San Pedro (and the plane back to Santiago) because they were so expensive.

The bus ride up to San Pedro takes about 17 or 18 hours in total to do, which is about 1,100km non-stop. We’d booked ourselves onto an overnight “Salon Cama” bus, which is a two level job, with wide seats that fold down almost completely horizontally, the idea being that you can sleep comfortably on them if you want.

My issue was, I have incredible trouble sleeping in moving vehicles – this applies seemingly to buses, cars, airplanes, boats, everything. So while Fran managed to sleep a good portion of the night only slept maybe 2 hours if that. By about hour number 15, I was incredibly over it, and because of the fact that if we stopped somewhere, it was only for a few minutes, it was quite hard to work out where we were at any given time, and how far away from where we were going. The bus had a toilet on board, and my nightmares will be haunted by it for quite some time to come.

San Pedro

San Pedro de Atacama

Finally arrive in San Pedro in the morning, but with no indication at all where the hotel was. Google maps failed us on this one – it had only shown San Pedro as having two streets, and clearly there were more than that.

After doing a quick scout around, and worked out the street and some street numbers and fully laden with bags, we start walking in what we thought was the right direction to the hotel, in the searing heat. It doesn’t take too long to for us to pass the boundary of town, and basically we’re heading out into the desert. Eventually we get tired (and more than a little suspicious of our progress), and flag down (one of the two in town) a taxi that was passing us. He tells us our hotel is in the opposite direction to where we are heading, and he takes us there.

Church, built circa 1641

We check in, and wander into town. The plaza is really nice, and there’s this awesome little old church, which apparently whose first recorded congregation was in 1650 something. It was full of very old and cute paintings and statues. I liked this one much better than the grandiosity of Coquimbo.

We had an incredible lunch at a cafe in town, both amazing Salmon dishes, and some drinks and dessert. We wander around some more, and eventually book some tours for the next day. Because we mis-calculated, we realised we only really had one day and evening to do anything in San Pedro before we had to leave, so we filled it chock full of activity. It’s was going to be a very very busy time. Since the first tour was starting at 4am, and was going to be right up in the Andes at very high altitude, we went to the markets to I could get a warm sweater, and Fran could get some sunglasses. Utterly knackered by this stage, we head back to the hotel and off to bed.

Coquimbo Cross

Note this post covers the 10th of Feb

Next morning we went up to the utterly massive cross they’d built recently on a high hill in Coquimbo. They’re big on religious symbolism in South America it seems. The cross itself was very impressive and imposing, and the view from up near the top inside it was spectacular.

At the base of the cross, before the elevators to take you up to the viewing area in the horizontal beams, there was a very large and ornate church, and a museum full of jewellery, goblets, fine robes and art, including giant paintings of the last couple of Popes (the current one really does look evil). The thing that struck me about this was all the people living on the hill around the cross, were in a state of total poverty, living in buildings which were often no better than shacks. Personally, I found it incredibly distasteful. My cousin later mentioned the same thought to me – I was glad I wasn’t the only one who felt that way about it.

Keeping things reverant

The party gets started

Note this post covers the 8th and 9th of February 2010.

After the markets and icecream, we spent much of the afternoon just sitting in the sun, eating, catching up on emails, uploading photos, that sort of junk. It was really quite plesant and relaxing.

We then had an invitation to have drinks (mainly of vodka) at Laura’s house that night; we got dropped over there, and then went down to the local bottle store, which we were told is set up as a front for the local drug-running mafioso, and because of this, and their not caring too much about making money, prices are kept, shall we say, quite low. A wonderful night was had by all four of us, and the conversation in half English / half Spanish flowed very well.

Pisco Elqui

Pisco Elqui Plaza
Pisco Elqui Plaza

On Wednesday, we went for a trip up to Pisco Elqui valley with Paulina. That is where the local spirit, Pisco, is made; it’s very strong grape liquor and is a little bit like a brandy.

To get to there, we had to take two busses, firstly to Viqua, then from there to Pisco Elqui. The busses were of the small and rickerty variety, and filled to the brim. We had to stand up in the second bus for some of the way, as we barrelled down the road at well over 100km/h in the heat.

We passed through small and picturesque village, and finally reached Pisco Elqui after a couple of hours. We wandered around the town plaza, and through the small markets and around town for a bit.

After a while we got hungry (and not just a little overheated), so we found a neat restaurant a distance away from the main part of town. It was called “La Esquela” (The School), as it was apparently converted from an old schoolhouse. We ate Pastel de Choclos, which I hadn’t had myself in many years, and for desert, this crazy traditional drink which was peach juice, with dried peaches floated on top of a bed of wheat grains. While very tasty, they were also huge, and we couldn’t finish them.

Pastel de Choclo
Pastel de Choclo

Dessert drink
Dessert drink

After eating, we walked down the road, through to a set of cabins owned by our Aunt and Uncle, and down to a riverbank at the bottom of the property, the idea being to get away from the heat; maybe dip our feet in the water or go for a swim. However recent heavy rains had apparently changed the shape of the river considerably making this unfeasable, so we just rested in the shade for until it was time to go on the distillery tour at 5pm.

Although it was entirely in Spanish (and the guide punctuated every sentence with ‘ya’ which I found funny), the distillery tour was pretty cool. Pisco is a liquor made from a particular kind of grape, and then distilled and aged. It tastes a bit like a rum I guess. Pisco Sour is the most common cocktail made with it, and the ones on offer here were much better than any I’d had back at home.

Coqiumbo at night

After arriving back in La Serena after our Pisco trip, we had a quick dinner and were then told that we were going to be driven out to Coquimbo for a few drinks, with our cousin and aunt and uncle. After a very slow trip driving along the beachfront road (traffic was horrific); we made it into Coquimbo at maybe 10pm or something like that.

Downtown Coquimbo was pretty lively, there were a number of bars around the central area filled with people, street performers in the plaza, and a bus with the label “Tourist bus” on the side; a double-decker lit up affair with an open roof, music blaring out, and people dressed in various costumes (barney, mickey mouse etc) dancing on top of it.

We found one street that had been blocked off to cars, with bars down one side of it, and filled with tables and chairs. Three of the bars had bands set up in front of them, and each band was taking turns at doing their sets. We managed to find a table in the crowd eventually, sat down and ordered a round of mojitos. One of the bands was seemingly playing traditional classics and every body in the crowd was happily singing along:

After some incredibly tasty nibbles including palm hearts, cheese bits, amazingly tender beef, and spicy sausage, and another round of mojitos (darn those two for one specials, haha), we were treated to some latin beat freestyle rapping curtosey of one of the audience members and his friends:

All in all, an exhausting, full on, and fun day had by everyone.

Of Beaches and Birthdays

Note: This covers roughly the 5th of Feburary

Beach

After having another big sleep in (I think jetlag is still accounting for this). We get up and are fed again (Empanadas I think) and are taken down to one of the beaches near La Serena. The weather is lovely, and the beach is very nice, but because the water was unusually warm, there were hundreds of jellyfish floating around. Most were dead, but there were a couple of live ones, and one of them managed to sting one of our cousins on the back of the leg. Nothing dangerous, but enough to itch annoyingly.

Paulinas Birthday

Caaake

That night was our cousin Paulina’s 27th birthday. For celebrations there were to be drinks and nibbles at one of our other extended cousin Laura’s, house. We met a bunch of people who seemed to remember us from when we last saw them. (I might have been either 6 or 16 at the time, I don’t remember which). There were a couple of people who spoke some English, but they were quickly distracted. After several drinks (which just kept on coming), it became very hard to try and follow the multiple conversations going on at once. In the end I just gave up and started taking photos.

Soundday / Barrytown

So for our last day in fair Christchurch before Fran and I headed off on our grand South American adventure, there were two things to take care of: Soundday and an overnight trip to Barrytown.

Soundday

Sleepy Age
Josh from Sleepy Age

This was one of those big gigs put on in Hagley Park, by Fabel Music / RDU / City Council. There were a whole bunch of act including P-Money, Don McGlashan etc, but we were there pretty much for Sleepy Age, who were one of the first acts. We had been allocated a number of backstage passes, but as per the usual story there weren’t as many as there was supposed to be, so we did the old trick of sending someone out with two passes, and bringing someone in, and then using that pass for the next person. Once you are backstage and it looks like you’re supposed to be there, nobody ever asks any questions 😉

Once backstage, there was a variety of food, watermelons, egg and bacon sandwiches, beer, red bulls etc. This was very welcome at 10 in the morning, as I’d had very little sleep the night before (hur hur), and even less to eat.

Will being buddies with Don McGlashin
Will being buddies with Don McGlashan

Sleepy Age played an excellent set, and I managed to get some decent photos and a bit more video (which will have to wait before it can be uploaded)

We hung around for a bit longer – it was a nice sunny day, and frankly very pleasant just sitting around, but the later bands were quite boring so we decided to leave, and pick up the rental people mover that we had hired for the purpose of going to Barrytown.

Barrytown

The idea behind the Barrytown roadtrip was to see F in Math and The Show Is The Rainbow play the community hall there. It seems like an odd place for a gig, and it is, but other big bands have played there, like Trans Am (who I saw there with Dan G and Marc) and Shellac etc. Bang Bang Eche were also supposed to play, but Zach ended up having to do something else that weekend instead.

There was a bunch of people who had said they were keen to come, and some of them couldn’t make it in the end, but we managed to get Fionn, Netta, Hollan, T’Nealle, Fran and myself all in the people mover by about 8pm. By this point we were already about 2 hours behind schedule if we were to make it to Barrytown before the acts started. To top this off, supposedly it had been arranged back at CALH, that we were to be bringing the PA for the gig, but had never been entirely confirmed.

It’s probably about 11:30pm by the time we finally arrive in Barrytown, seemingly not quite as lost as we thought we were… and the hall is completely shut, and there’s just a bunch of people drinking outside the pub. Oh, looks like the plan has gone completely awry. A couple of people check inside the pub to see what’s going on, and Darren (aka TSITR) is there just having drinks while a busload of German backpackers are in the middle of a pimps and ho’s night. It turns out that a) the promoter of the gig did nothing at all, so the hall wasn’t open, and nobody knew about the gig, and b) we were supposed to be bringing the PA!

Luckily we had borrowed a very small PA and thrown it in the back of the people mover. So it looked like the show could go ahead! Oh, wait, no microphone. Damn. Still the Barrytown pub looked like a fun place to have a drink. Along with Darren, F in Math was there, along with Polka Dot Dot Dot (for some reason). A bit later on (and after spending $10 on wedges, chips AND a jug of beer), the barman rocks up with a mircophone, which apparently he’d found by phoning up all his mates to see if they had one. The show was ON!

Darren
Darren Keen aka The Show is the Rainbow, doing his thing

Darren played, and then F in Math, only about 3 songs each, the backpackers didn’t quite know what to make of it, but it was spectacular.

Fionn and T’Nealle jumped on Facebook on the PC in the bar(!) and invited everyone they knew to the Polka Dot Dot Dot show that had just been organised about 30 minutes prior.

We all wandered down to the beach at about 2am, as it was still wonderfully warm out (probably about 20 degrees still) and hung out there for quite a while.

As Netta had work the next morning, we had to head right back to Christchurch without sleeping, and it was my job to drive the return leg, despite having been up for ages by this point, and not really slept the night before. Oh dear.

None of us had really eaten anything either, aside from the wedges, but very much to our surprise and delight, Greymouth has a 24-hour bakery called the “Do Duck In” which had delicious pies and pastries, which we gratefully shoved into our eager faces at about 3:30am.

The drive back was uneventful, aside from that the crazy Japanese CD player would only play 2 discs from all the ones we had, and both happened to be Australian country bands, and that I’m pretty sure I fell asleep at the wheel at least twice, depite stopping a few times for quick power naps. Frankly, we’re probably lucky to all still be alive…