Tag Archives: beach

10, no make that 11 things I’ve learned living on a Chilean beach

OK so we’ve only been “living” here for three weeks.  Three weeks in no way makes me a   “living at the beach” expert. But here’s what I’ve gleaned so far: (just a disclaimer. Jeff is against this post. He thinks this sounds like  complaining.  I hope he’s wrong).

1. Chile takes tsunami’s very seriously.

We woke up yesterday to the horrifying photos and videos from Japan. Our hearts broke for the people affected there.  We spent the day following the news out of Japan and also the tsunami as it traveled across the Pacific towards Chile.  At 7:00 pm we were told to leave our apartment.  At 1:00am we watched on the news from a coffee shop as the waves barely hit the beach.   Luckily, Chile had no damage from the tsunami.  But, we still weren’t allowed back until 11:00am this morning.   16 hours of evacuation for waves that didn’t even go past the sand of the beach.

At 4:00am when I was trying to sleep in our rental car, I was pissed.  But, after all the devastation in Japan, and the earthquake and tsunami in Chile last year, I’d much rather be evacuated for a non-event tsunami than experience a fraction of what is happening in Japan.

2. Staring at the sea never gets old.

I wasn’t sure if I would get used to the view and stop noticing it, sort of like when you hang a picture on your wall and after awhile you don’t even notice it anymore.   That hasn’t happened yet. Although there are times when I get super focused on something on my computer and forget to look up at the view.

3. I can still wake up grumpy at the beach.

This one is  kind of sad and amazing isn’t it?  But, I guess a sea view can’t cure all your problems or moods. I think I’m more relaxed here, but can still get over hungry, have PMS and get frustrated.

4. You don’t need a gym when you live by the ocean.

I have always been a gym rat. I made a big deal when we came here that I had to live close to a gym, and we do, but I still haven’t gone there. I’ve been taking long walks on the beach instead. I’m not sure if I’m getting as good of a workout, but for the first time in my life I don’t care.

5. Cinnamon deters ants, Raid gets rid of them.

When ants invaded our bathroom we didn’t want to spray insect repellent. We feared it would get into the rest of our tiny apartment. So we went natural and sprinkled cinnamon on the floor. That got them to sort of detour around it, then we tried soft soap, That slowed them down and also killed a few. After several days with a bathroom floor covered in cinnamon, soft soap and ants, we went with Raid.  It worked wonders, didn’t even smell.

6. The sound of crashing waves can make me less angry.

You know those relaxation CD’s that have sounds of crashing waves? I think I’m going to get one.   When I am grumpy (see #3) I find if I can concentrate on the sound of the waves I’m instantly relaxed.  We’ve had a couple of nights with drunken, screaming neighbors. I laid in bed trying to remember the words for “Shut Up!!” in Spanish.   Then I tried to concentrate on the sound of the waves between the drunken cackles. And it worked, I actually was able to fall asleep without trying to call the Chilean police to complain.

7. Sunsets are amazing

The sun sets here at 8:15.  Every night at 7:55 we drop everything we’re doing, walk down to the water and watch the sunset.  Several days we’ve been lazy and thought, “should we bother?” but we always go down and are always glad we did.  I’m hoping to continue this even after we leave the beach. We don’t need to see the sun drop into the ocean to appreciate it. The sun does go down every single day. Even on cloudy days, the change from light to dark is pretty cool.   I hope to be able to take 15 minutes out of every day to appreciate it.

8. When you live near sand, you take it home with you.

Not sure why this is a surprise, but there is sand everywhere in our tiny apartment.   No matter how hard I try to clean off before coming in, sand comes with me.  No matter how much I sweep up every day, it is everywhere.  I honestly don’t know how any is left on the beach if everyone is tracking this much in with them.

9. Cloudy days are still beautiful – and make me miss Seattle

Most mornings we wake up to clouds.   The silvery water and fog covered mountains in the distance remind me of Seattle and the San Juan islands.   And it makes me miss it. And I think that is a good thing.

10. Sea mist is great unless you’re trying to dry clothes

I love that sea mist that blows off the ocean and cools everything down. But, it makes it really hard to dry anything. I have a laundry obsession. When we got here, I couldn’t relax until I had a way to dry clothes. Jeff had to go out buy rope and fashion a clothes line for me, just to get me to calm down.   The clothes line is very functional, but the sea air is not cooperating.

11. I could get used to this.

We’re leaving tomorrow  to go to Mendoza, Argentina. I am pretty sure Mendoza will be amazing, but at the same time, I’m going to miss the ocean.

Finally serene in La Serena…

…but it took awhile.   We spent so much energy and focus on how to get us and all our luggage to La Serena, we didn’t spend any time figuring out what to do when we got here.

La Serena is a beach resort town with miles of beautiful beach and lots and lots of tourist apartments.

one of these places must be available during the busy season, dirt cheap and wired for internet right?

We bounced into town assuming that a perfect apartment would fall into our laps. We rented a hotel, got on the internet and started looking.    We learned several things quite quickly.

1. February is prime vacation month in Chile.  The tourist apartments are full.

2. Few tourist apartments have the internet.

3. Tourist apartments in a beautiful resort town are quite expensive.

4. The section of town with the expensive, non-internet tourist apartments is not close to the section of town with supermarkets.

This sucks. What? There’s a beach behind me?  Who cares.

It was like showing up in Daytona Beach, Florida during spring break and trying to rent a cheap apartment.

Worse of all, our hotel only had instant coffee!!!  Since we were spending all our money on the hotel, we couldn’t even go out for real coffee.

You expect me to drink instant? But were from Seattle.

Between freaking out about how much money we were spending in hotels, choking down instant coffee, and searching for apartments, we barely even glanced at the beach.

We knew we had to do something drastic.  So, we went to McDonalds.This was the first McDonalds we’ve been to on the entire trip, not because we’re only eating local food, more because McDonalds was weirdly expensive in Argentina.

That Big Mac and fries did wonders to reset my travel barometer.   A little culinary visit to the USA and I was ready.  Not only was it delicous, it left me a little sick and ready to get back to really “being” in Chile.

After that magical trip to McDonalds things really did start to fall into place.   Jeff found one last Via packet (Starbucks “ready brew” coffee) hidden in his suitcase.

We found an apartment that was almost affordable, we rented a car, bought groceries, and most importantly, bought a French press.

thank God
breakfast in our new apartment

And then we finally noticed the beach.   It’s funny how easy we get caught up in the details and “problems” of traveling.  When I emailed my friend Dan complaining about the high cost of apartments here I said, “The problem, is we’re in a Chilean beach resort.”  His reply was  “I wouldn’t define being in a Chilean beach resort as a problem.”    And he was right.   It’s so easy to get bogged down on what isgoing wrong we look right past what’s going right.

Salta to La Serena – maybe rain isn’t so bad

I hate rain.   I don’t like thunderstorms, drizzle, sprinkles, mist, or showers.   So, after 2 months in Salta during the rainy season, a Chilean  desert sounded like a good change.

Everything started well enough.   Our landlord Bernardo drove us to the Salta airport.  Getting Jeff’s bike suitcase into the car was hard.

That's so not going to work.

But it fit and after some hefty luggage overage charges we flew to Iquique, Chile without problems.  When we landed we weren’t allowed off the plane until someone came through the aisles to disinfect us with a can of insecticide.

I find it hard to believe this really did anything bug-wise

Iquique is in the NW part of Chile. It is on the ocean, but is also on the outskirts of the Atacama desert, the driest place on earth.

The beach was beautiful and the town was full of brightly colored houses against sand dunes.  Being an old mining town it felt like the old west.

We stopped at the bus station and asked about leaving for the city of Antofagasta the next day.   There were many buses with quite a few seats on each one.  They weren’t sure if all our luggage would make it on the bus which caused me hours of anxiety, but Jeff assured me that with buses leaving hourly, surely one of them could take our luggage.

That bus looks great, can't wait to take it.

We left the bus station and got an Iquique beer.

Jeff tired of hearing me worry about the luggage.

The next day we got to the bus station with all our luggage and what do you know, all the buses were sold out.   Why didn’t we buy the tickets the day before when we were at the station? Good question. This is why we can’t be on the show Amazing Race.

Another day in Iquique would have been fine except we had a non-refundable hotel and flight out of Antofagasta for the next day.    I stayed with the luggage while Jeff went on a reality TV type “challenge.” Find us a way out of town.  Two hours later he returned with Chilean cell phones for both of us and a rental car. Maybe he could be on Amazing Race.

Plan B

The drive from Iquique to Antofagasta was amazing.  For seven hours we had the coast on one side and dry desert on the other. Besides a few small mining towns along the way there was no signs of life. No trees, grass, tumble weed, birds, nothing.  This desert never gets rain, N-E-V-E-R. Entire years go by with no rain. After 17 years in Seattle and 2 months in Salta during the rainy season, this seemed like a great place to live.

The first two hours were breath taking. Driving this close to the water for hours reminded me of Caramel, CA.  I was ready to move here.

Hours three and four were still beautiful but, I realized that perhaps no plants and animals lived here because there was no rain. And land without plants or animals is kind of stark.

We stopped for lunch in a tiny little mining town where this stray puppy sat by our table. He would have been cute no matter what, but after 4 hours driving in the desert without any sign of live he was especially adorable.

Desert puppies are especially cute.
Wait is that a bird? No, just a piece of paper.

After six hours of driving I half expected a spaceship to land next to the car.  So much land without plants and animals started to feel like the surface of Mars.

could you ever get sick of this view? Yes, after 6 hours you can.

It started to feel like a highway treadmill, no matter how long we drove there was just blue ocean on one side, and dry, brown sand on the other.  Once in awhile we’d see a small town flash by in the rear-view mirror.

It’s amazing to see these small towns and some really really poor people living with an amazing view, but hard hard landscape.

Then at almost the end of the drive we came across this cemetery.

Is that a cemetery on the right?

We drove right by it at first and had to do a double take. It was shocking to see this cemetery with all wooden grave markers in the middle of nowhere.

It was a far cry from the elaborate cemeteries we had seen in Buenos Aires.  It was eerie to see these wooden, weather beaten graves in the middle of such  lifeless desert.

Then, after 7 hours, we made it to Antofagasta,  We made the flight the next day and landed in La Serena. We both were relieved to see some grass near the runway.