Kate Gutmann is a student at Ohio State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Kate is currently studying abroad and participating in service-learning in Valparaíso, Chile on a Summer Study + Service-Learning program.
I can hardly believe that as of yesterday I’ve been here for one month already! That means I am half way through my journey. I still have so much to learn and I’m running out of time. I’m very excited to stay in the Viña and Valpo area this weekend and have free time to just explore, get lost, and make mistakes.. its the only way to learn! Its always an adventure here.
This past weekend, nine of us traveled to La Serena. If you are going on this trip anytime in the future I highly recommend taking the short journey there. But as always, nothing every goes as planned. As we were leaving for the bus (we always take TurBus), my friend realized she lost her ticket. Turns out here that if you find a bus ticket you can return it back to the station for the money, it doesn’t matter who purchased it. After some headache, the bus driver just told her to get on the bus and we would figure it out as we went. I learned from this experience that is very hard to try and talk in Spanish when you’re frustrated and in a hurry. Luckily it all worked out!
On a lighter note, when we arrive we stayed at the most homey and cozy hostel ever – Hostel al Arbol. The people who ran the hostel were very nice and it was more like a house than a hostel. As you walked in you were greeted with a warm fireplace and smiles from everyone. All of the other travelers in the hostel were from all over and all spoke English. I really enjoyed my time spent talking with them at the table and learning about their lives. Our beds were also AMAZING. The most comfy bed I have every slept in and always warm. We also got free breakfast every morning that consisted of bread (of course), jelly, butter, coffee, and juice. Each of us were served individually by the nicest woman ever, Isabel. Probably the best part about the hostel, we could all sit together, hang out, and watch some American TV shows (That 70’s Show, Friends, etc). You don’t realize how much you’ll miss the simple things like this until they’re given back to you!
On our second day in La Serena, we went to a place to learn how Pisco was made. It was interesting because I didn’t know that it originates from wine and turns in to pisco after going through a fermentation process. After our Pisco tour we went on the most amazing tour ever- we went horseback riding through the mountainous Pisco Elqui. This was unlike any other horseback riding tour I’ve ever been it. We rode for almost three hours and the guide let us just take free reign of the desert; “You see this desert, its all yours”. Since I previously had horseback riding experience I truly enjoyed being back in the saddle and being able to enjoy myself and get to know the Chilean horses. If anyone is going to La Serena, look up Mundo Caballo and look for Marcelo! He really knows his horses and is passionate about what he does.
The last day that we were in La Serena we took a tour to Isla Damas. I realized how much faith we put in the people here and how different their culture here. Everyone here is much more patient and welcoming than in the states. Our tour guide picked us up from our hostel and took us on the tour but also showed us parts of his personal life. On our way to the marina (about a two hour drive from the hostel), he pointed out all of the different wildlife around that area. We even stopped to watch some men herd about two hundred goats up the mountain side! We also saw llama/deer type animals and donkeys on our way. When we arrived to the marina and saw the boats we were all a little bit scared of taking them on ocean. I don’t know what I was imagining that we would be taking to Isla Damas, but we ended up in what I would call an over sized wooden canoe. On our route to Isla Damas, we were able to see the dolphins, penguins, native birds, sea lions, and otters! The tour guides were very knowledgeable about all of the animals. They even had a “flute” that the dolphins would respond to and come closer to the boats. On our way back, our tour guide took us to a lady’s house that grows olives. She sells these olives and also makes homemade olive oil. It was a little house in a small town that without being with a native, we would have never known about. Even though I did not try the olives (not a fan), everyone else said that they were the best olives that they ever had. Although it was a bit cold this day, it was still an amazing experience I will never forget.
Overall, La Serena was beautiful and I got to spend more time with the friends I made here. I would love to travel again to another city to get to know more of Chile but I am also excited to get to spend time here with my host family. Until next time – besos.