We're told they ran screaming from the beach, scared of tsunamis. They said it was scary in the city too, but worse by the ocean as it was centered only a few miles off shore.
But we were miles away.
After three weeks in La Serena we were ready to bust outta town so we hopped a bus to the much touted Elqui valley east of here and totally missed the earthquake. Dang it.
Anyway, it was a multi-stop ticket so we could get off and on as we wanted...in theory anyway.
To picture how dramatic the valley is, picture the mountains as a cake. Then cut out a very narrow slice and put in it's place a few vineyards clinging to the slopes and a string of small pueblos.
That's the Elqui. Well actually, that would be a canyon, but in places it truly is almost that steep. It's narrow, steep and long. Bob's guessing instead of the 90 degrees of a canyon, it's more like a 60 degree incline.
It would make an awesome ski resort if there were any snow.
The pueblo's called Pisco Elqui and this valley is where they make Chile's national drink, Pisco Sour.
We sat in the plaza watching families enjoying the balmy summer evening with the mountains on either side of us almost close enough to touch. We hated to leave--and actually wouldn't have if we hadn't committed to another week at school.
But getting here was more of a challenge than we'd planned.
We got off the bus at Vicuna first, a quaint little village where we had lunch. We sat in the plaza watching people getting ready for some kind of a dance competition--take a look at the picture of the guy using a bed frame for a ladder--and the many craft stalls. At one they were serving Cacoa, the fruit of the cactus. You cut off the top and dump a ton of sugar into it, stir it up and eat it with a spoon. Adults only get a shot of Pisco Sour with it.
After a couple of hours of pure wandering we headed back to the terminal to catch the bus on to Pisco Elqui. We got on, sat down and I immediately fell asleep. Bob's looking out the window admiring the countryside when he notices the river's on the wrong side of the bus.
He wakes me up.
Aye! Caramba! This is not good. I tell the bus driver we want to go on to Elqui, not back to Serena, so what does he do? He pulls the bus over, points across the road and says, pointing, over there, 15 minutes, tops. Or something like that. Did I mention that Chileans speak the worse Spanish in the world? Even other Chileans can't understand them. Anyway, we get off the bus and we are truly in the middle of nowhere.
There is nothing north, nothing south, nothing anywhere---only grapes. Lots of grapes. We sit on the side of the highway with the grapes for about a half hour before we see a bus.
Wow, a bus finally. Let's flag it down. Ok, we wave to the bus, it slows down and stops for us but it's not the right one.
Ok, another 15 or 20 minutes and we see another bus. We wave cheerfully but the dang thing comes at us at such a tremendous speed, then opens it's door as it whirls past us, and nearly knocks us down. We literally jump off the highway into the dirt and weeds to keep from being roadkill.
And the damn thing wasn't even ours. We were so pissed at that driver. He could've killed us the dang idiot. We were shaking in our boots and I couldn't say if it was anger or relief.