After having such a great experience in Antofagasta, we arrived in La Serena not expecting this city to compare. However, we were picked up from the bus terminal by our host, Gabriella, a 29 year old traveler and diving instructor, who brought us back to her father’s house in the San Joaquin neighborhood. Alejandro welcomed us with beers as he finished preparing a delicious lunch of white fish (reinata), potatoes, and salad, which we washed down with white wine, before rounding the meal off with chocolate ice cream and coffee for dessert.
After lunch we walked to the grocery store to buy a few things to take with us to visit Gabriella’s mother in Valle del Elqui because things are more expensive there. Her brother, Fernando, dropped us off at the bus stop on his way to the university where he studies IT. We arrived at her mother’s place, a comfortable, simple hippie home with a lush garden in Montenegro at 9 pm. For dinner we warmed up a few neopolitana empanadas (ham,cheese, and tomato) and bread with Mexican pico de gallo. We drank red wine and got to know Sara until it was time for bed.
The next day we took a bus to Pisco Elqui and walked around the small town, stopping at a hostal that Gabby’s friend owns. We walked back to her mom’s house just in time to pick up another couchsurfer from France who has been living in eastern Canada for many years. One afternoon we caught a ride to Horcon where we browsed a tranquil artisanal market. That night after drinking several hand made pisco sours, we walked down to the river to star gaze. Everyone saw a couple shooting stars, except for Lisa who doesn’t have enough of an attention span. The next morning we said our goodbyes to Sara mom and got on the bus back to La Serena.
Alejandro picked us up at the terminal and took us directly to the grocery store to buy things for the asado (barbecue party) he was hosting that night. Lisa wanted to make a traditional dish from the States so we bought ingredients for green bean casserole. Later that afternoon, Gabrielle took us to the coast, and after seeing the lighthouse, we walked along the massive, peaceful beach front. That night, a few of the Fernando’s friends came to the house. It turns out, of his friend’s family owns a vineyard in a nearby valley called Demalsco. We sampled some incredible reserve wines as Alejandro manned the grill and prepared steak, turkey sausage, langostinos, and blood sausage.
The party went until 7am, but we had to wake up two hours later to catch our bus to Santiago. In the morning her dad insisted on making us a full breakfast of eggs, bread, guacamole, cheese and ham, before driving us to the bus terminal, and accompanying us inside to ensure we found tickets. During our stay, we mentioned to the family that we had tickets to go to Isla de Pascua (Easter Island), and they informed us that Gabrielle and Fernando’s older sister, Macarena married a Rapa Nui man and lives on the island. After we left La Serena, Alejandro followed up with his daughter Macarena, and arranged for us to stay with their family on Easter Island.