The bus journey from Santiago to La Serena was very scenic, unlike the deserts in Australia the deserts here have cacti growing everywhere, like something out of a western movie. The drive took us up the coast so most of the time we could see the sea out of the window. By the time we arrived at the bus station in La Serena it was getting dark and Matt took the map to direct us to the hostel we wanted to stay in. 2 hours later and in the pitch black we decided to take a taxi! Gem wasn´t too happy when the taxi that pulled up already had people in as the guidebook warns not to get in a taxi with people already in it. Matt quietly reminded Gem that this particular scam takes place in Bolivia so not to worry. When we got to the hostel the guy who checked us in noticed Gem was still a bit panicky and gave her a nice pat on the head and said, "it´s very safe here, you know"!
We woke up refreshed the next morning and went out to explore. La Serena is much quieter than Santiago and there were more local people selling sweets and goods on the side of the road. However, the plaza was like a shopping centre at home, escalators and perfume shops etc. We went for a cheap meal above the market and watched a one man band wooing the crowd below by the fountains. We had local fish and chips which although different to home was very nice and they even gave us a free shot of lemon tasting liquor.
The people here seem to see tourists less than in Santiago and even though our Spanish is not getting any better they are very accommodating and seem happy to have us in their country.
On our last day we went to the beach and relaxed, it wasn´t very busy as it was a week day but there were still locals taking their kids for a dip after school, nice to see. We had a juice and enjoyed the view of the mountains and the sea before returning to the hostel - it was quite a walk!
We decided we would go to the cinema in the plaza that night to watch Bond (Matt couldn´t miss watching it in the cinema as it would have been a first). It was good watching it with the locals, we laughed at some bits where they didn´t, must´ve been lost in transalation!