The bus arrives bang on time and Ercio is there to meet us. As we pull into the bus station I realise that my timings have gone awry and I either have to chop a day off Ercio's tour, or trim a day from our stay in La Serena and, whisper it, change our bus tickets!
Ever game for a laugh, I vote to change our bus tickets - it works like a charm and three minutes later I am the proud owner of tickets for the 16.30 bus on Tuesday afternoon, with not a frisson of conflict in sight.
We are taken into the dunes for breakfast. The entire 360 degree view has nothing man-made in sight, bar the road, and the silence is deafening.
We then drive through the dunes and to Bahia Inglesi for a lovely fish and rice lunch - possibly the second best meal since leaving the uk, after Cosme in Lima, and on to a bizarre rock formation on the beach just north of Bahia Inglesi. This small outcrop was formed in the larva chamber 4km underground when quartz bubbles formed and were captured in the cooling rock. The only other place where this can be seen is in Afghanistan apparently!
Next it's inland into the desert and off road up to an ancient rocky valley where rock art from c2000 BC is evident. We scramble up to the highest painting and wobble down ooh-ing and aah-ing at the next and the next painting. People, llamas, the decapitator and other symbols are evident across the rocky outcrops along the valley.
Next we race across the desert to a family run mine for a photo opp back across the desert and then to a huge strip mine that eats away at the landscape. The scale of the place is mind boggling. Even the size of the tyres the tippers use are taller than me laid on their side!
Back home for day one of the Olympics 2016 and hot showers before an early start before driving into the mountains, peaking at 4,100m from a sea level start. Could be a challenging day!