I am fully aware that those sitting in the MOD, in busy offices or 'working from home' who read the following statement will have no sympathy whatsoever and may think I have lost the plot. However……….travelling can be hard work and sometimes you need a break from finding rooms, working out which bus to take, identifying a place where veggies can eat and trying not to get ripped off. Hence we found ourselves spending 5 days doing very little in a place called Pisco Elqui. It is a pretty and peaceful (ish) village in the mountains about 1 hr east of La Serena. The trend is still desert, but the valley bottom is cultivated, wonderfully green and covered in grapevines and orchards.
We managed to find a great place to stay, and had a very large room, with a sitting room and a wooden terrace, overlooking the heavily vegetated garden. It has a nice un-crowded pool with a view to the mountains and all for about £35 including breakfast. Best of all, Jodie can eat well here. Booze is also cheap (so maybe the veggie food moves to second place).
We have done very little, so this blog will be brief, but there are three things worthy of mention.
On our first day we sat by the pool, drinking Pisco Sours and white wine, marvelling how hot it was so late. All of a sudden it was late and we were a little wobbly, but not so wobbly that we couldn't go out. We got all of 50 meters before stumbling upon a small 'local place for local people'. The clientele consisted of the, village idiot, (complete with missing front teeth, crossed eyes and dirty baseball cap) and the 'only gays in the village'. I think the two of us were no less strange to them as they were to us, so we got on like a house on fire. My Spanish peaked early on, and we jabbered away for a while, but as the beer flowed I found myself repeating the mantra "losienta, no eintendo" (sorry, I don't understand). After a few hours I could barely speak English. Jodie is able to speak Spanish a little better than I and, on this occasion, hold her booze better so she led the way after a while. It was not obvious that we were dealing with the only gays in the village at the outset but as I lost my power of speech one of the couple lost his inhibitions and morphed from a bloke in a pub to a complete mincer. The only thing more amusing was his partner who was obviously uncomfortable with public displays of affection and had to try to get his friend to keep his hands to himself. Meanwhile, village idiot wanted to chat to me in Spanish so accented that the locals found him hard to understand. This farce of a night-out lasted until I found balancing on my stool hard to manage. On returning to our hostel we found that we could not get the gate to open, and memories of a bad night in Newcastle came flooding back. I think it was the image of the faces of the poor couple that awoke to find me semi naked in their room after breaking their door down that sobered me up enough to allow me to climb over the gate and let Jodie in from the inside. We then amused ourselves with a little more wine, stealing next doors cat (which slept on my head), lying by the pool looking at the stars and giggling a lot. The following morning involved bad hangovers (I took two days to recover) and a large man in a neighbouring room looking at me with malice.
After our night gazing at the stars, we decided we needed a proper session with an astronomer. Luckily the hotel had a man that could come to us and teach us about the stars for a very reasonable fee. What a t*** he was. He had obviously devoted more of his life to taking mind altering drugs that he had to learning about the stars and it was very easy to understand why he had worked at a very big observatory, then a smaller one, then through an agent and now works on his own and charges £3 per person for a 90 minute session. Questions such as "where are you from" were answered with such tripe as "I am a man from this earth". I wanted to shout "what's on your f***ing passport idiot!" but felt Jodie would not approve. It took 30 minutes of enduring utter nonsense about CIA conspiracies and the Chinese circumnavigating the world in airships in 1840 before we got to look at the stars, by which time my body language was doing the shouting for me. We did learn some stuff him but, my, it was painful. To finish the night I asked him if any thing useful was going to come from Cern's 'big bang' experiment. He informed me that the big bang element was a cover for an army programme to transport people in the same way as the Starship Enterprise did, but they had issues with foreign bodies, much in the same way as in the film, 'The Fly' (where a man being transported gained fly like characteristics after a fly got into his transporter with him). Suddenly it all became clear. Our astronomer friend had been involved in such experiments but unfortunately a rooster had got into his transporter; without doubt he was 80% cock.
Finally, we knew that all is not well when we were jumped on by the staff when we returned to your hotel one afternoon, and had ear plugs thrust in to our hands. It was explained to us that the football club next door where having the annual party and it would be noisy. Fine, we thought, we will stay up late and it will not bother us. By 12.30 am all we had heard was a Casio keyboard tuning up and a few bad tunes being played so felt that it was safe to hit the hay. At 12.50 they got going. They stayed going until about 5am. At 10 am there were still people weaving around the streets with beer bottles in hand. Maybe it was arranged by the angry man from next door as a way to get revenge for our first night.
Next stop is Valparaiso, about an hour west of Santiago, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.