Walking from La Serena to Coquimbo

On the second day, I decide to do some serious walking. Martin told me the night before about how he had wandered quite a distance along the esplanade. I really feel like moving, so I decide that I will dedicate today to following his footsteps  to Coquimbo, maybe eat some fish at the port there and then walk back. My body is also telling me to stoke up the fire to see if I can get rid of this “cold” that just keeps hanging on, not going anywhere….

I head towards the lighthouse of La Serena where the “avenida maritima” begins- it is a cloudy morning, the sand on the beach is dirty brown, waves the colour of dishwater slop lazily up against the shore. Here I turn left and start my walk to Coquimbo, which is about 13 kms away. In the distance I see the giant cross that sits atop the cerro of Coquimbo. It is a distant marker, shrouded in the usual morning fog. It feels good to walk and to lose myself in the physical action of walking. My feet are moving me along the esplanade, along the fine line between the sounds of nature and the sounds of human life. There are coffee shops and ice-cream shops lining the esplanade that are getting started for the day. As I walk past each one, sounds build up and recede, constant waves of pachangeo and casual conversation.

I step past a billboard featuring a blonde woman in a yellow bikini, looking longingly at the camera… The tagline says “I see you, I get thirsty”. Part of me laughs at the cliche. The other part is not finding it very funny at all. The large-busted blonde glamazon, so far removed from any woman I have seen around here, looks seductively to the passerby. She is offering something….Not just a cold beer, or sex for that matter. Her body, her eyes, encapsulate the notion of everything that one cannot have. She is the grass that is always greener on the shadowy, nasty side of capitalism. In a country full of dark, ebony-haired , full-hipped, round, South American goddesses, the billboard promises the opposite, that which does not exist.

This makes me think about my own life and the restlessness that is driving me right now. I live immersed in endlessly repetitive cycles of putting energy into projects, allowing the energy to build up as I work on projects (hence the restlessness), discharging that energy (usually through travel), taking me finally to a state of balance…only to begin again, onto the next thing…and it is my desire, always for things that i don’t have, that pushes me through these processes of build up-discharge-balance. I know that I am simply aligning with the main impulse driving this “dominator” culture that I am embedded in (McKenna). What is the antidote? Is there one? How do I escape the thirst?

Continuing along the avenida, the morning fog starts to lift in the distance, revealing the cross, bringing my destination closer. I stop for a while at a skatepark, watching kids on their skateboards rolling up and down waves of cement, over and over, practising their moves.

A couple of hours later, I get into Coquimbo and head for the port where I am hoping to eat some fish. As I walk along the port, a woman in a pirate outfit approaches me and asks me if I would like to join the Pirates of the Caribbean cruise…I look over and there it is, a pirate ship. I hear a very loud and annoying voice over a loudspeaker announcing its’ departure- step right up!!! I try to get away as quickly as I can… After lunch, I take a spin around the town before heading back again…. as I walk back to La Serena, free flows of thoughts begin to be replaced by thoughts of pain.. but it’s ok. It’s only the start of my trip…there’s plenty of time and walking to be done before the camino..

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