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Published: April 6th 2016
Our bodies had been telling us they needed a rest for quite a while now, so instead of pushing ourselves ever onwards we did the sensible thing (I know, unusual for us!) and booked a week of R&R at the seaside. We were both so ready for it. Unfortunately, there was one last price to pay and that was getting up at 4.30 am for a 6.00 am ride to the airport. We breathed a sigh of relief when the transport arrived to collect us on time (it's a bit critical when you have a plane to catch) but then our minibus driver spent a further 45 minutes riding around the still-asleep town of San Pedro trying to locate the last person on his list. We had to admire his tenacity; very few of the streets had signs on them and it seemed that the last traveller had moved hostels several times as the bleary-eyed people who answered his knocks on the windows and doors explained. She was eventually located, another young woman travelling on her own, who was grateful he had tracked her down. Fortunately, Calama airport is very small and our flight desk stayed open for us to check
in when we arrived, with time to spare.
Our LAN flight dropped us back in Santiago where we had arranged for the daughter of the owners of the B&B we had booked to stay in to pick us up. The Cinque Colori B&B was located in a tourist seaside town called Algarrobo, about an hour's drive from Santiago, and we travelled through vineyard country to get there. We were surprised to hear a Canadian accent greet us. Francesca's parents, Hugo and Yolanda, had moved from Chile to Canada in their youth and had their family there before returning to Chile when the political situation was more settled. Francesca was about to travel in her parents' footsteps by relocating her own family to Canada in a week's time. History repeats itself ....
The Cinque Colori was a relatively new, purpose built establishment built on a hill overlooking the beach. That was reassuring as we kept coming across signs telling people to head for the hills should a tsunami hit. Hugo was there to greet us and showed the two of us to Room 3, of only five. We had a wonderful view over the sea and, as only Maria
the housekeeper lived on site, we were asked to treat the house as our home. So we did. Most of the other visitors stayed only one or two nights so me, Steve and Maria were the only constants for seven blissful days. The property was large and full of knick-knacks (not to my taste but it takes all sorts) and there wasn't a TV in the building. That was a bit of an oversight but turned into a blessing as we were 'forced' to read, relax on the deck listening to the wood-heated spa burble away at the side of us, explore the gardens, walk to the beach, the (thankfully) very close one-and-only restaurant in the area, eat, drink and be merry. It was lovely. The beach was clean and well used but the seas were rough and the waves were too high and too strong to venture into but the sound of them crashing on the shore was super to fall asleep to. We spent most of our evenings watching the sun set from our balcony over a glass or two - lovely.
Every couple of days new residents would arrive and we would have other people to
chat to. One Canadian couple had just done the bus journey from Argentina to Chile, the one that we were going to do in the opposite direction before various flight changes left us without enough time to fit it in (it takes 24 hours). We had been disappointed at that change to our itinerary as the scenery is supposed to be spectacular. Mr Canada said that indeed it was, but only for about 15 minutes of the journey after which it became intolerably tedious. So tedious, in fact, that they had abandoned the bus after ten hours and got a taxi the rest of the way, at phenomenal expense. He was unrepentant however; he said he would have hired a helicopter if one had been available, just to get off the bus! Maybe we didn't miss too much ..... Interestingly, he said we were the first British travellers they had met in their travels this time round, which he found as unusual as we did. Normally, you can find us in most parts of the globe. There were next to no Germans either, that we noticed, but quite a few French, though I wondered how many of those were French-Canadian
as South America is not too great a distance for them to travel to.
Anyhoo, we had a lovely week of doing not much at all. The most exciting thing that happened was when the Chilean equivalent of the Red Arrows flew across and 'painted' in the sky with their contrails. The images were really creative and they flew incredibly close together to spell out words in the sky, or aimed almost directly at each other from opposite sides it seemed. Oh, and then there was the night we went to La Toda Costa restaurant somewhat later than usual and couldn't see one foot in front of us on the way back up the pitch-black short cut home.
The first few days we were in Algarrobo were the final few days of the Chilean school holidays. Although we were at the quiet end of the beach the difference was remarkable once everyone went home. The traffic warden had literally no cars to patrol. The restaurant went from having no room to spare to having no customers at all, and the beach just emptied, apart from the stray dogs who had no-one to play with them. Hugo told us
that the dogs looked so well because they were fed by everyone in the town and this happened across Chile, not just in Algarrobo. So, we had not just the B&B to ourselves but almost, it seemed, the whole of Algarrobo! Maria and I spent some time teaching each other our respective languages - I'm not sure 'I would like a scrambled egg today please' will ever come in useful but you never know! We could have used Maria in the restaurant which only had the menu in Spanish so we had some interesting meals there. We could generally figure out that we were having, for example, a fish or a chicken dish, but beyond that was often a mystery. It was much better when (Lo?)Renzo the waiter came back from his days off as he had spent some time in Canada and could tell us what the dishes were in English. No more spicy hot curry for us after that! We occasionally tried some delicious empanadas from the shack on the beach - at least we had enough Spanish to know what was inside them!
We spent our final night in Algarrobo drinking the bottle of wine that
we had been given in San Pedro. For some reason Steve decided it had been OK for us to fly it on the plane from Calama to Santiago but it was far too heavy to carry on the bus from Algarrobo, so drunk it must be! I did my best not to mix 'the hop and the vine' but Steve thought it was an old wives' tale and turned to beer when the wine ran out. Unfortunately, as a result, his last night in Algarrobo was one of heartburn and hiccups!
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