We took a bus from Mendoza to La Serena on Easter saturday. We kept being told that we should book our tickets days in advance as everyone is travelling during Easter, so we were surprised that there were only three other people on the bus with us. Argentina and Chile are separated by the Andes so we had to drive through them which was gave really good views. The driver could see we were impressed to kept stopping for us to take pictures, one of the advantages of there not being many passengers I guess.
Unfortunately, one of the disadvantages to there being so few travellers was the Customs check at the Chilean border. The Customs officers obviously felt compelled to search someoneīs bag and of course this happened to be Juliaīs! Now normally, at the borders the searching has taken all of 3 mins but this time Julia had to empty out three quarters of her bag and then explain in halting Spanish and with actions exactly what all her toiletries were for - including a spot cream - very embarrassing!
La Serena is a fairly large town by the coast with a nice main square and nice beaches. The best thing we did however was visit Mamalluca observatory in nearby Vicuna. Northern Chile is regarded as the best place in the world for study space because they have over 300 clear nights a year since the region is so dry; and because of this the best telescopes in the world are here. We took a night time tour and arrived at the observatory just before moon rise. Our guide was really enthusiastic and gave us a really fascinating tour including various constellation stories and brilliant viewings. We even got to see Mars and Saturn plus plenty of other pretty clusters and nebulae!
We didnīt stay for long in La Serena and headed north deep into the deserts of northern Chile to San Pedro de Atacama.